“How long could we live before we were found in a place no one expected us to go?” (from a work-in-progress)

At the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, I had the privilege of talking to a large audience about the novella — my own and others. It was so gratifying to have people come up to me over the next few days to tell me their own favourites and to ask more questions about this most lovely of literary forms (and perhaps least appreciated on the critical and just plain publishing front).

I’ve just spent an hour (one of the small hours) working on my current novella, The Marriage of Rivers. Well, maybe not working on it exactly but re-reading, changing a comma here and there,  moving a sentence to its true place. There are barred owls calling out in the darkness — and the stars! The night is dense with them, the long path of the Milky Way right above our house.

When we drove over the top of Pavilion Mountain that day, I got out to open the gate. James drove through and I hung on the gate for a moment, over the cattle-guard, swinging briefly back in the direction we’d come from, and forward, gently towards Clinton, the wedding, the rest of our lives. And his death. It was the axis of symmetry, a notion I remembered from high-school math, the perpendicular line between a parabola, a two-dimensional, mirror-symmetrical curve: before and after. It was warm, we’d had ice-cream, but I shivered. My world (or his) was about to change. I actually thought this. Carefully closing the gate, I thought we should just stay in the kingdom of grass, find an abandoned cabin, set up housekeeping together. We could grow hay, oats, collect spring beauties to dry for winter, we could gentle a pair of the wild horses that ran through the Chilcotin, train them to carry us even farther away, runaways in the Pantheon Range. I wanted my brother all to myself. Never mind the wedding and confetti, the western band on its low stage at the front of the hall with streamers and balloons rising to the ceiling like lost souls. The couples dancing in their summer finery. How long could we live before we were found in a place no one expected us to go?

(O you gates, you who keep the gates because of Osiris, O you who guard them and who report the affairs of the Two Lands to Osiris every day; I know you and I know your names.)


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