Fathom 1981



Inside Cover



John Bell (2)
Nancy Leslie (2)
Elissa Barnard
Larry Gaudet (2)
H. M. Westin
E. J. Mundell
H. M.
Margot Griffiths (2)


Paul Tyndall
Alexina Scott-Savage




Paul Tyndall



An Island Winter

     The morning felt fine from the windless side of the window pane, but by the time they had passed the corner of the house they were cold. Snow had fallen freshly upon the field that had been cold and crusted just one day earlier. It had fallen thickly all the night past and in the morning it was bright in the sunlight and thigh deep to a grown man; a child could have been lost in the sinking softness. On her back a woman carried her daughter to their car at the end of the driveway.
     “Don’t Sarah. You’re hurting me.” The little girl was hanging heavily from her mother’s neck as they waded through the smothering snow. In the wind the fine powder scattered and stung them on their cheeks and wrists.
     “If you don’t stop it, I’m going to make you walk. Now stop it.” Both the woman and her daughter knew she would do no such thing.
     The car was tucked in a nook the snow plow had made a week earlier, after the last storm. Now the banks were icy and milk white and the car doors were frozen tight. The passenger’s door would not open until spring, so she worked only on the driver’s side. The little girl stood under the lip of the snow bank, crying as her nose ran and her cheeks stung. Once the door was open the woman stuffed her into the back seat and slammed out the wind and cold.
     “Don’t start Sarah, I mean it. I know you’re cold but so am I. I just can’t help it. You don’t make this any easier you know.”

     The car would not start, and after sitting on the cold leather seats for a few minutes she decided they would have to walk up the road to look for help. The telephone lines had fallen during the night so there was no point in going back into the house.
     “I think we’re going to have to go to a neighbour’s house. It’s only the next mailbox, see, and maybe someone’s going into town. If we can get a lift in we can stay at Lynn’s place.” She was wondering aloud, and her every silence was filled with expectation as if she was waiting for conformation to her own plan or the suggestion of another. Habit.
     “Come on. She tugged her out of the car and the girl began to cry again. She pulled her on to her back once more and began to walk. The girl felt heavier and her crying was draining all the strength from the woman. For an instant all of her anger and frustration rushed through her mind, scattering her every thought, twisting her every emotion, The little girl’s whimpering became her target and diamond hard words of sharpness formed on her tongue. Then she saw the truck coming. It was rolling cautiously over the packed snow, and in the sharp morning air it coughed loudly. Her anger splintered into a resentful relief and a bitter tasting guilt. She waved the truck down.
     “What’s the trouble?”
     “Flooded or something. I’ve got to make it into town. You going in?” She recognized him as her neighbour’s son. He’d fixed her furnace once.
     “Get in, you’ll freeze. I’ll check the damn thing. It can’t be flooded. In this kind’a weather you’re lucky if the gas line isn’t frozen solid.” He was right, it was the gas line. The carburator was dry.
     “My brother’s goin’ into town pretty soon. We might as well wait. It’s a damn cold morning.” She nodded and smiled placing her hands over the radiator on the dash.
     The little girl had stopped whimpering. She was warm, and content to sit in the close comfort of the cab with her mother listening to the radio. She stole glances at the man when she could, but when he spoke to her she said nothing. He was a burly, rough looking man with broad hands and a large, square face. She was fascinated by the black crops of hair on his knuckles and the grime ground deep into the creases of his fingers. Whenever the man smiled at the little girl she looked upwards to her mother for reassurance. But her mother was not really there. She was lost in some far away thought, intentionally ignorant to the girl and the man. The idea that she might have to spend another night in the house hardened, and although she scratched at it furiously she only marred the surface of the fear, the possibility remained intact. She told herself that the power would go out through the night. First the telephone and then the power. She told herself that she hated the island.
     “I guess you’ll be staying in town tonight.” The man did not mean to sound as if he were prying, but her silence was near unbearable. He was not used to the company of strangers and small talk was entirely out of his means. She said no more than was necessary, and then the aching silence returned. “A couple of island winters and you’ll be used to it.” He laughed to loosen his own tension. “I suppose you never believed no one when they told you how bad the winters were here. No one does. Summer’s so nice you can’t picture the island frozen and covered with snow. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it though. Have to.” He laughed an inward laugh at all the winters he’d spent here on the island.
     And finally the woman smiled unreservedly. She turned to the man and looked closely at him as if it were the first time she had really seen him. He’d caught some of her anxiety and was watching out the window for his brother. “Yes,” she laughed, “I suppose you’re right. I’ll have to get used to it.” She was grateful to the man for saying exactly what she needed to hear. She laughed and shook her head. The awkwardness had shifted a little in the warmth.
     But the knot of uneasiness had not loosened entirely. Whenever the wind growled low past the truck, she swung around in mid-sentence hoping to see her drive coming up behind them. Time crawled slowly by.
     “I hear a lotta people didn’t make it home last night. I guess the hotels are doing good business in weather like this. Husband got stuck in town last night?”
     The woman’s whole body stiffened at the word ‘husband’. It had been less that a month since he left her and her skin was still thin. But in bold print on the mailbox in front of the truck was his name. Her throat was dry and she could not manage a full sentence or an explanation.
     “Yes,” she said, “We’ll be staying in town tonight.”
     A car pulled up beside them. “They look like brothers,” she thought glancingly. She could not blame the man for his assumption. But she was glad she was leaving his truck. She heard them talking over the thoughts that ran in her own mind. “Lady’s going in town John.” She felt relief.      “Hope you don’t mind giving her a lift in?” She already knew the answer. “Good.” Very. “Husband got stuck in town last night.” Christ.
     The woman bundled up her daughter and ran from the truck to the car. “Thank-you,” she smiled and waved good-bye. The man in the truck waved back, feeling foolish at the little kiddy wave he gave the little girl. “Good-bye again and thank you.”
     As the car jerked and slid into motion the woman thought to herself, “I’ll have to fix that mailbox as soon as the weather’s fine.” She pulled her daughter up into her lap. “Finally,” she sighed.


last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul