Friday, July 30, 2010

Seasickness--by Mikki

It's funny, but even when you live by the ocean, sometimes you don't really understand its power. Even in St. John's, where the rain seems to come directly from the sea, even smelling of salt, it never occurred to me what travelling by boat could mean. When I went aboard the Barabaree, I was thinking of the boat as a way to get somewhere--like taking the school bus uptown. I wasn't really thinking about what it meant to feel the ocean around me--and since I stowed away in the hold, it wasn't just below me--I could feel it pressing on the sides of the ship. I could feel the ship resisting, and shuddering as it reached the crest of a wave, hesitated, then plunged into the following trough, only to do it all again. And again, endlessly.

I have never been so sick in my life. Not when I ate three ice creams (chocolate, ginger AND grape nut) last summer, not even when I had the stomach flu. Mrs. Pete said it had something to do with the inner ear and the way we balance, but I felt it in my head and stomach--a twisty, foul feeling that just got deeper and deeper, worse and worse. Thank goodness for the tonic! It set me right again--I felt human instead of like some poor, sick, uncomprehending animal. I could think again, and when the Barbaree was about to come to grief, I could do something about it, something to help.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interview with a Geotroll


Troll (from under the bridge): Whaddya want?

Me: Err, it's me, Mr. Troll, Lori Covington. I emailed you about an interview for my blog? And you said to come first thing in the morning...?


Me: Mr. Troll?

Troll: yeah, yeah--I'm coming.

(He opens a trapdoor and I fall through--directly into the stream.)

Troll: Har-har-harrrr!!

(I can't tell whether he's laughing or something much worse. Finally, he coughs up a hairball with two tiny skulls in it. I am totally grossed out.)

Troll (wiping his slimy mouth): Sorry 'bout that. Rough morning.

Me: That's all right. If you're not feeling well, I can come back later. (Edging to the side of the stream, up to my ankles in icy water).

Troll: Nah, that's all right. Take a seat (indicating a nearby rock. I sit on the velvety-looking moss, but it's very slippery, so I slide right back down into the water again.)

Troll: Har-har-haaarrr! (It seems this is a joke he never tires of).

Me: So, how long have you lived under this bridge?

Troll (roaring): I'll ask the questions here! (He shows his gruesome fangs and I drop my pen).

Troll: How many addresses did you have before you turned 18?

Me: Well, we moved alot...

Troll: I don't want to hear your life story!! How MANY??

Me (calculating fast): Well, I think,...23.

Troll: 24. You forgot the one you lived in with your buddies in your last year of high school.

Me (heart pounding): Oh, that's right.

Troll: Now, normally, for an error like that one, I'd nip off a pointer finger. But being a writer, I guess you need that one.

Me: True.

Troll: So this time, you're off the hook. (Grandly) Now you may interview me.

Me: Thank you!
Me: So, how long have you lived under this bridge, Mr. Troll?

Troll (proudly): One hundred and twenty-seven years. No--I lie--128 years.

Me: And why this bridge in particular?

(The smell, a rank combination of trash and mildew, is starting to get to me. The bridge itself and the water seem very clean. The smell is emanating from the geotroll.)

Troll: Location. Any geotroll will tell you that it's all about location. Gotta have water to dump people in and a bridge to charge a toll, and it helps if the bridge is between two places people need to go.

Me: And about how many visitors do you get in a week, say?

(I dab my nose with my sodden hankie. The sides of the embankment are littered with the bones of smallish animals.)

Troll: Six or seven. Not many people go back and forth to the Whispering Woods. In fact, a lot of them are one-way trips.

Me: And how many fail to answer your questions?

Troll: At least half. Fairy education is excellent--they almost never choke. It's the little critters that don't study up--field mice, voles, an occasional muskrat...

Me: And when they fail?

Troll: I eat 'em.

Me: Just like that, huh?

Troll: Pretty much. That's what I do, you know. It's dying out, of course...But the young generation of geotrolls, the ones coming up now, they're not interested in the old ways. They want to play video games and they prefer the taste of potato chips to rodents and wayfarers. You can't get wifi under a bridge, you know.

Me: That's a shame.

(My feet have turned to ice and my teeth are chattering. My nose has gone into some kind of shock where all I can smell is the inside of my own nose.)

Troll: And everybody's got GPS.

Me: So are you thinking of retiring?

Troll: Maybe in a couple of decades. Get meself a little nook under a really big bridge, hang out with some other oldsters and talk about the old days. Eat the trash people fling outta their cars. Easy living (he cackles alarmingly).

Me: Well, thank you for allowing me to come talk with you today. I must be going.

Troll (sharply): What is the capital of California?

Me: Sacramento.

Troll: Well, hell. All right, off you go. Let me give you a hand up.

He helps me get halfway up the embankment, then lets go and I slip down the bank and into the water for the third time. The geotroll howls with delight as I stand, dripping from head to toe, shivering uncontrollably and scrabble my own way up the bank of the little stream. When I drag myself away, he is lying in the cold water, sniggering helplessly. I stand above him.

Me: You jerk.

He waves a hairy paw in my direction, still laughing. I limp to me car, turn the heat on high and drive away.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gilgreth's Case Notes, Continued

The other children avoid Gilgreth, as well they might, since he tends to steal from them and pinch them when he can. His teachers report that he has an odd smell--like napthalene, and I admit, when he is brought to my office, I usually open a window for some fresh air. He is a vengeful sort of child and intensely greedy--he once pocketed my glasses although I'm sure he cannot see out of them.

His mother seems fairly unconcerned; she brought the child in at the insistence of the school principal. She is aware of her son's stealing, and in fact has been arrested three times for shoplifting herself. I fear there is little we can do to help this child unless he finds something he loves more than acquiring objects. Perhaps he should be encouraged to take up a musical instrument?

Countertransference was immediate and strong. I do not like Gilgreth, although to be fair, I should say most people do not. He is rude, uncommunicative, uninterested in anything beyond his pecuniary goals and he smells weird.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gilgreth's Note from Family Counselling

Young Gilgreth's (age 43) mother brought him in because he was bullying the other leprechauns at school. She said that he is failing grammar, being either unwilling or unable to grasp verb tenses. His penmanship is his second-best subject and he excels at math, as is evidenced by the logbook found in his desk that carefully accounted for the milk money he has been coercing from his fellow students since the beginning of term.

Gilgreth's teachers say he is stubborn, rude and reeks of napthalene. They say they're used to rude and stubborn leprechauns, but the smell is pervasive and unpleasant. Besides, the school is a fragrance-free zone and the gym teacher has chemical sensitivities.

G.'s mother says he refuses to clean his room and that although she and her husband have bought him various pets, attempting to inspire him with affection, rather than loving them, he tends to eat them.

Gilgreth refused to speak to me, although he did gnaw a leaf off my rubber plant. When I asked him to draw me a picture, he drew a cave with bars on the door and piles of golden coins inside. The mailbox in front had his initials. I asked him, "Do you like money, Gilgreth?" and by way of reply, he picked my pocket.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trusting Your Luck

There is something about stepping on board a ship that tells the universe, "All right--I'm putting myself in your hands". When you're at sea, you should be as knowledgeable as you can, and as safe as it is possible to be. Your lines should be coiled so that when you need them, they are free of tangles. Your sails should be mended, and your engines recently serviced and constantly maintained. You should have plenty of supplies. You should sail with people who are honest, reliable, experienced, trustworthy. Even if you don't believe in superstitions, you should observe them out of respect for the tradition that brought them about.

At sea, anything can happen. Sailors have seen and struggled with sea monsters greater than their ships. Storms appear from nowhere and hit like the fury of the gods--for no reason that man can see. Unseen reefs, sudden squalls and broken equipment are all part of the normal routine of being at sea.

When Mikki Madigan boarded the Barbaree, she didn't know what the sea might hold for her. She clambered up that ladder with an open mind, a trusting heart and faith in crusty old Pete--a man she had just met. But she knew her journey had to begin and crossing the ocean was the only way...So she took a chance.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pete's story

I saw the kid when I came outside for a break. Been working on the Barbaree all week--scraping paint, tinkering with the engine, getting things running smooth. I'm a little worried about her navigation system--that new GPS seems to be a bit sensitive to electrical anomalies in the system, but I'm sure we can work the kinks out eventually.

So, I'd been working hard all morning and, it being such a nice day in a town famous for bad, bad weather, I thought I'd go up on deck, have a look around. St. John's harbour is pretty--lots of views--the Basilica, Signal Hill with that great tower on it, the streets leading to the pretty colored houses. I've always had good feelings about St. John's and Newfoundland in general. Love the people, good people, storytellers.

Anyway, once I was on deck, I thought I'd go over the side and have a little chew of gum, look at the people a little. We don't see that many people, sailing on the Barbaree. And when I came over the side, I saw her, a little redheaded kid, big knapsack, looking a little lost. But as I watched her, I also saw she looked determined, like she might not know where she was headed, but that she knew how she was getting there, all right. I could practically see the wheels turning in that coppery head. So I talked to her, and saw she was running alright, but not away from anything--to something. She had a gold ring on a string around her neck, you could see it meant something to her. Said her name was Mikki and asked, kinda casual-like exactly how someone goes about stowing away.

Well, I've been sailing these seven seas since I was not much bigger than Mikki there, and one thing I know is, when you go to sea, you've got to be able to trust the ones you sail with. Every single day off land, your life is at risk--the sea is no joke. And I took it into my head that little Mikki there would be a lot better off with me and my Missus watching over her than she would be with anyone else. So when she asked me about stowing away, I told her. I knew the Captain wouldn't allow such a thing--illegal, taking a child from her home, hiding her on a ship, but something whispered in my ear that this child needed us and that somehow, we needed her too. So she came aboard like a good 'un, while I looked out over the wharf and whistled a little tune.

St. John's, where the Madigan family lives.

When Mikki walks from the central town toward the harbour, carrying her pack full of sandwiches and the NCOM, she travels down this street. On rainy, cold days, when she is just walking down to see which boats have entered the harbour, she dreads the trip home because the streets slope down to the water--walking back up that hill again is a drag, especially with the cold Newfoundland rain on the back of your neck. But on this day, the air is mild. It's the kind of day where anything might happen...And for a girl looking for a way out of town, walking down to the St. John's harbour is the most practical way to begin a grand adventure...

Read the story at...