I’m starting a little serial short story writing to get myself through the winter. That means I’ll be telling you stories piece by piece. Here’s the first installment called “Lake Nipigon, grey and wild “. Enjoy and feel free to share…
The 1994 Jeep Cherokee swayed left to right like it had wide hips or was a river boat. I had forgotten my pillow in a pine box hotel room three hundred kilometers back. My arm was numbing where it rested against the door and the skeletal highway refused to give in. It just laid straight out and flat, forcing it’s way through miles of burned, black forest.
My dad tapped his fingers against the steering wheel. I wanted to be everywhere except on that highway in that Jeep on that day. I kicked my foot hard against the car door, but my dad didn’t acknowledge it. I was a teenager.
“We’re going to drive up to Lake Nipigon,” my Dad announced that morning. It was a day’s drive North of where we were. We would have to head up around the Great Lakes instead of sneaking between them at the Sault St. Marie border crossing like we normally did on our trips home to Cape Breton. I loved how Sault St. Marie slumped its ugly industrial shoulders against that massive intersection of the Lakes like it couldn’t care less. The minute I learned we weren’t crossing there, I donned a sneer of protest that I intended to harbour for the entire journey North.
An hour passed Thunder Bay I let it go.
Up there, it’s the Canada people are talking about when they ask you if you know so-and-so because he’s from Canada too. Everybody really does wear red plaid. And if you stop at a gas station and ask for Perrier, they will stare at you long and hard and give you the feeling they know something you haven’t learned yet. Up there, a sense of the very old, the non-living, the ancient seeps into you. The burnt forest finally gave way to thick conifers arching over sparse houses, lining the road like soldiers at attention, and the whole earth seemed to be pulling us toward Lake Nipigon, grey and wild.
My father stood at the edge of the Lake. I watched his jacket flatten against his chest in the wind and his tall body ease back and forth in resistance. He stood there for a long time, staring out at the steely water that kicked at the shoreline like I had kicked at the car door. My father didn’t notice. He looked serene. I thought, for that moment, we might be the only two people in the world and I felt very small and too young. It would be dark soon…
“A wind that never stops,” my dad said at last, straining to speak over the gusts but still staring out at the water. “Just keeps coming.”
“I guess,” I answered. But he wasn’t really speaking to me. Could have been the trees, or the high flying eagle, or some Ojibwe spirit. I was just a kid.
(to be continued…)