Sunday, December 26, 2021

Did I mention I'm still working on a novel?

Some further untethered selections of this novel-in-progress:


Patience’s great-grandfather, Alder Buckley Adams, was known in his time for his business prowess in manufacturing. One hundred years ago there was the Famous Adams Match, for example, and the Adams Biscuit. For fifty years, AB Adams earned money from every item made, received or passed through Baltimore. Half the waterfront buildings carried his name, at one point or another. After he died, her grandfather, Leland Buckley Adams took the reins of what had become the family business, providing apprenticeships and opportunities for his own children, and later, setting up a monthly stipend for his grandchildren out of the company’s profits. These dispensations continue, maintained by one of her cousins, who currently runs the company. While the money may not enough for any of them to live off, and has changed over the years, it is a worthy amount. She is surprised every time it lands in her bank account.

All she recalls of her grandfather is his grand, empty house, and his library. From her memory as a six-year-old, his house was built out of carpets and dust and forbidden rooms. His library and study on the first floor. Bookshelves as far as the eye.

According to family legend, what prompted her grandfather’s gift was the death of his brother, Archibald Cornelius Adams, when Leland was six years old. Archie was only two years old when he slipped under a carriage wheel, and was instantly killed. The loss of his brother affected Leland profoundly, watching as it nearly broke their father in half. Their mother mourned for the rest of her life, and was often found weeping in Archie’s still-preserved bedroom. Leland would watch over his own children closely. It developed in Patience’s father, and his siblings, the inability to know their own minds, away from the comfort of family. We have to look after them, her grandfather would say. And for her part, Patience slipped from the family bonds as soon as she was old enough and able, and as quickly as possible. Those airless, empty, ancient rooms.

From the back of her house, you can hear the river. From the river, the lake. From the lake, the ocean. Patience has not yet seen an ocean. She imagines how an ocean might sound.

She dreams of the ocean. Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

The east wind brings rain, taps at the shutters.

She has been dreaming of water. She dreams of water, although she wonders if this might be triggered by hearing the sump-pump click on from their unfinished cellar. It reeks of rust, of waste. A leak from the hose. She is surrounded by water, although none of it what she wants.

She preps her morning tea. She steps out on the porch.



Stella practices scales. The only time during the day I allow myself to stop moving. Thirty minutes of pause. Down the road, a pick-up truck with township logo slows down and stops, and men emerge to patch a particularly egregious pothole. Finally. I watch them work. I watch them work until they are finished, return to their vehicle and drive on. And once they do, I realize there isn’t a sound in the house.



When their boys were small, Felix established a dinnertime routine, asking everyone at the table in turn to say the best and worst parts of their day. Most days were benign in their offerings, but it allowed Felix and Patience to hear bits of their boys’ days at school, allowing more than the requisite silence of children. What did you learn at school today? Nothing. Who did you have lunch with? Felix claimed it was an extension of mindfulness, asking them to be attentive to a particular moment, their individual days. The stretch of weeks Hamilton would repeat the same schoolyard incident, before he understood better the passage of time. Vincent’s interest in trains, airplanes and race cars. The movement of snow, and of clouds. Of snow plows. They learned to weigh their days, and realize that tomorrow was always a way to start fresh.



Name any fruit or vegetable, and there is most likely a town or a village or a city that hosts a festival. An apple festival, a snap-pea festival, a currants festival. In the Valencian town of Buñol, in the East of Spain, they hold La Tomatina, a celebration of the tomato that includes a street-sized tomato fight. Wayne County, Ohio, annually hosts the Kidron Beet Festival. Are there festivals for butter, for loaves of bread, lobster or salt? A pepper festival, perhaps. Might every element of food production be allowed their own festival? Alliston, north of Toronto, is known for its annual potato festival, held for more than fifty years. I imagine kiosks that offer baked skins, French fried and even shakes, although I suspect they refrain from a similar street-sized fight to the Spanish. I imagine characters in costume, dressed as potatoes to entertain children. Just how far does it go?


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