At my desk, in the night, I was thinking about rumours. In the Before time, I remember rumours. Someone heard a certain person was. Or had. Someone heard something and maybe it was true. Or not. In the night, I wondered about the origins of the word. From the late Middle English, it seems, and back, back, to Old French rumor, or “commotion”, and then to Latin: rumor, meaning “noise”. I haven’t heard much noise of this sort lately, not in my daily life.
I was awake in the night, working on a piece called “The River Door”. In a way I’m following rumours. Where exactly a certain shack dug into a bank of the Red Deer River was when my great-uncle lived there, and died in the 1918 flu pandemic. Somewhere I read that sick people were carried out of the shacks on doors but now it’s a rumour I can’t confirm. Does it matter? Maybe not. I’m not a historian after all. My great-uncle is also a rumour. He was not mentioned by people helping me to learn more about my grandmother’s family in Horni Lomna. They knew of two sisters. Not a brother. Yet he shows up on a ship’s manifest a few months after my grandmother travelled to Drumheller to join her first husband and his reason for coming to Canada? To join his sister in Drumheller. So a rumour on its way to becoming a fact? Can you be a fact if no one knows about you, remembers you? His grave is listed in the Drumheller Cemetery though there’s no marker. So that was one of the rumours I was following in the night as I listened to rain and something skittering in the eaves troughs.
This morning I opened A Writer’s Diary to May 25th, 1940, to see how Virginia Woolf was coping in East Sussex as the war raged around her.
Today’s rumour is the Nun in the bus who pays her fare with a man’s hand.
Imagine that making the rounds of the small village of Rodmell! Imagine it finding its way into the imagination of a woman sitting just to one side of the Nun as she (he) pays the fare. A small noise to begin with and maybe later a commotion.