FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 2004

Cover

 

Inside Cover

 

Poetry

Sean Smith
Wyley Hennick (2)
Michael Bennett
Chantelle Rip
Julie Perkins (2)
Mark MACDonnell
John Parker
Brooke Gray (2)
Misty De Meo
William Conklin
Oliver Charboonean (2)
Jennifer Clarke

Prose

Alex Hollenberg
Chantelle Rip
Mark MACDonnell

[PDF]

Alex Hollenberg

 

 

Indianwood

     If you were to fly over Michigan during the spring thaw you would notice that a heavy fog drenches most of the landscape. It has been said that this fog hangs especially low over the lakes in the Shiawasee region where, in 1875, Métis and Plains Cree were driven to hide from the fires and ravages of the Orangemen. Those Canadians. For years, it was not known where exactly these people had hidden themselves. It was as if they had vanished and were consumed by the enduring grey. But now historians tell us, without a doubt, through their rigorous studies of these people’s rich oral traditions, that they settled on Long Lake Manitou. Or Long Manitou Lake. Or simply Manitou. (Could History ever agree?) But these days, because of the wonders of leisure, because of the rapid growth of the seasonal cottage industry (or is it because of boredom?) this lake is renamed Indianwood.
     In the early 1980s the USDA’s Fire and Aviation Management division decided that Indianwood would be a perfect practice strip for their new Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS). lndianwood is several miles long (2.8 if you want numbers), and so for two years Lockheed C-130s would drop down out of the sky, scoop water from one end and dump it at the other. All for practice. Even though some pilots worried about the fog (that seemed to hang extraordinarily low), their supervisors did nothing. But it was the morning when a plane dipped too far into the swamp at the western end of lndianwood and struck mud and deadheads (and struck them hard), that the USDA had to scrap the lndianwood route. This, the same misty swamp where it is said Manitou had once lived. That is these days renowned amongst Indianwood’s seasonal residents for its great small mouth bass and rainbow trout fishing. That is perilous with snags and smells and other deep mysteries. This is the swamp that Evelyn, Eva, Evie, Lyn, Evalee (anything but Eve!) once piloted her small aluminum skiff into too quickly (why was she going so quickly?) and struck a sharp rock, puncturing a small hole in the portside bow. That was a long time ago however.

*

     Now, the chunky girl who wears sweatpants and Reeboks from the SallyAnne and hand-me-down shirts from somebody else’s aunt who is much thinner and prettier than her, and who has given up trying to conceal the overly-brunette hairs, not only on her chin, but on her belly too, was late. Evelyn, Eva, Evie, Lyn, Evalee (anything but Eve!) was late. And she was never late. Despite appearances, she was not one to mess up.
     Only after rummaging once more through her grandparents’ bedroom, under the bed, in the linen closet, in the oak chest (the one at the foot of the bed that was manufactured in England, shipped to the Rhineland, carried to Poland, and flown to Michigan), did Evelyn accept that she hadn’t missed it the first time. She would have to give Jakob her life vest, and she would go without one for the day. Nothing she hadn’t done before, but still it killed her.
     She stuffed two pieces of paper into the pocket of her sweatpants and ran out the wooden cottage door towards the pier. The mist had cleared slightly, and Evelyn could see the fuzzy yellow lights already on at the Copeland’s place. She muttered and scrambled across the lawn a little faster.

*

     When they fled, the Métis and Plains Cree traveled in the Shiawasee region in cedar-strip canoes. It was not a love of tradition, but a lack of money that forced them to do it. There were many stories of family members getting lost on the lakes, their calls for help muted by the impenetrable fog. But there are, of course, no numbers to back this up.
     And many many years later when motorboats (with lights!) were no longer mythic to Indianwood, the cottagers demanded docks from the county. While it is possible to run a motorboat up on shore, they said, you need to be always on the lookout for rocks in the shallow water. You need to know precisely when to haul up your prop so it doesn’t grind and chip (or even worse, stick your engine). They said this can get tedious. And so for this simple reason, Indianwood today has a plethora of docks neatly arranged along its North and Southern shores, like forest-green Lego, each exactly twenty feet long made entirely of imported Douglas fir - a wood that every cottager could tell you has historically been used for shipbuilding, bridgework, fencing, railway ties, and furniture. Truly a historical wood.

*

     Evelyn’s family’s property already boasted a dock - a pier actually - and so they were left out by the county plans.
     Her pier. An unfinished jigsaw of concrete, half in the water, half out. A cheese grater for bare feet. A plethora of deep, black cracks. A haven for wolf spiders, jutting out into the lake about twenty feet, give or take. As a child, Evelyn would listen to her mother make up stories about it. (Why the pier? What’s so special about the pier?)
     It was an ugly giant’s toe frozen in stone as a trophy by a very clever, old wizard. (No ma’ I don’t believe you.)
     It’s the keystone of the great tower of Kent that was destroyed by the monstrous whale Episcopard, with a great big flick of his great big tail. (No ma’ I don’t believe you!).
It was the magical harbour of Pocahontas who, after paddling Arthur to Avalon, never came home. Some say she lost her way in the night mist. Some say she stayed in Avalon. But the harbour lost all its magic and beauty without her. And turned to misshapen, weather-beaten, drained, chalky, and all-around faulty concrete.
     (Okay ma’ I like that one)

     At the tip sat Evelyn’s baby. And except for a small hole high on the portside bow, it was perfect. A beauty that she had saved up for since she was fourteen. A twelve-foot aluminum KrisCraft, fully equipped with a Johnson outboard. She had a 9.9 on right now, good enough for trolling in the lowland winds, but by next summer she figured she could get a fair price on a used 15.
     Today, because she did not remember the morning dew, a rush of wetness soaked through her sweatpants as she plunked down on the cold grey stern seat, invading her hidden, pasty thigh. Still, she pumped the fuel line five times, then tugged at the ignition cord as she straddled the bench. The engine went. There was the smell of gasoline too. A green smell. How’d the old Exxon jingles go? ... Green Green Gasoline. Buy from us. Ours bums clean!
     Humming to herself, but in harmony with hum of the outboard, Evelyn felt not bad. She had cast off and the boat was already planing. She’d be there in under five minutes and the Copeland’s wouldn’t be that mad. Relieved, actually, that she was taking Jakob for the day. If the fog rose, they would be able to troll each shore at least twice.

*

     But the fog in the Shiawasee is always tricky, always heavy, and never light. The Métis and Plains Cree spoke of a grey so potent and so intoxicating that it could only have been the bottomless home of Manitou. It was a grey that could hide the sun and mix with the stars. They spoke of people who never knew when they were.

*

     Soon Evelyn realized how much she had forgot. The rapalas, jigs, barbs, lunches, led weights, grasshoppers, and even the rods. They were all still up behind the font door. Cursing herself, she made a sharp turn portside, gunned the engine, and headed back towards her pier. It was too quick though, and the bow tipped and lunged heavily atop the lake. Water pooled at her feet. Now her Reeboks were damp too.
     Later, when the gear was in the boat, she was off, again north across the lake.
     And while she couldn’t fully see, the Copeland’s were of course lined up in a row, waiting for Evelyn on their forest-green Lego dock. Mr. Copeland, a board-member, often boasted about this choice in colour because of its wonderful campy, outdoorsy, woodsy, alfresco feel. (Don’t you think?) And any seasonal chips in the paint he fastidiously touched up because (thank God!) he kept at least four extra cans of the stuff in his shed.
     Mrs. Copeland would be fussing about Jakob, tightening the Velcro on his shoes or something just as plain. Because Jakob was so much taller than her, he would rest his hand on her head instead of holding her hand. They said it was a good system. But it always looked funny to Evelyn.

*

     Manitou was never an art of imagination, never just a misty dream vision. Manitou was. Its home was birthed in the grey. But when historians started the facts rolling – of county lines, boardsmen, cottagers’ associations, and Canadian-imported firs ­the storytellers stopped. The fog hung low in Manitou. Now Indianwood.

*

     And Jakob had a thing for boats. Ever since their trip to the Achtafalaya Basin, Jakob couldn’t get enough of boats. Despite his parents’ coaxing, he never even looked into the Great Big Swamp. He stared at the giant 140 outboard for an entire fifty-five minute tour, chirping, Enngine Ennngine Ennnngine! That was seven years ago. It was still his favourite expression.
     Evelyn shut off the motor as she coasted in, doing her best not to rub the green dock. Mr. Copeland caught her and eased her to a stop and hitched her painter for her. Jakob was now bobbing excitedly, waving at Evelyn and (forgetting the system), slapping his mother’s head over and over again. With every jerk of his body, his yellow children’s rainsuit climbed up his very-adult limbs, hairy white flesh exposing itself. Mrs. Copeland desperately tried to stop him but could not overpower those relentless hands. Evelyn waved back.
     “Ahoy there Copelands. Sorry bout the tardiness.”
     “Oh that’s okay dear. We weren’t waiting long. Do you have a lifejacket for Jake here?”
     “Hi Jakob! He can use mine today. I have to stitch up the spare.”
     “Did you bring lunch? Jake’s not eating meat these days.”
     “No meat? But I figured we’d catch our lunch...”
     “Do you want me to make something?”
     “Naw Mrs. Copeland, I made some stuff. Don’t worry. I was joking.”
     “Ennngine!”
     Holding his father’s hand, Jakob stepped on the gunwale and lunged himself into the boat, tipping it a little portside. Evelyn had momentarily forgotten about her soggy feet but the discomfort trickled back.
     Jakob was grinning and squealing, touching everything, staring at the 9.9, wishing wanting willing the magic to begin.
     “Here put this on first.” Evelyn arched herself towards Jakob, round pale brown belly hanging out of her shirt, eclipsing the tackle box, and zipped Jakob up. She stole the grasshoppers back from him and tossed them on the floor.
     “You wanna go fast?” She double-pumped the throttle and they were off. Ennngine.
     When she fished alone it took Evelyn about two hours to troll one length of the lake. That was at a whisper. Jakob was impatient though. Faster Faster Faaaster. So they trolled a little faster (too fast for Musky or Pickerel or Perch) and Jakob would enjoy himself, poking at the handle of his rod, making it rattle in its holder. And pulling the line to jerk the rod tip in the air as if he had the perpetual fish. It took them only an hour to get to the western tip of the lake.

*

     The Métis and the Plains Cree could not go fast. They moved very slowly in their cedar-strips in the thick Michigan paradise. Because they didn’t have enough money for varnish, their boats waterlogged easily and became very heavy in the water and even heavier when they had to portage out. These were people used to farming. To dry prairie life. To life nonetheless. And when it came time, when the boardsmen wished for vacations, what choice did the Métis and Plains Cree have? They slowly paddled away. No Engines. No more Inngines.

*

     When she thought it was noon, the weather still hadn’t changed. Everything was still grey and the air still smelled wet and moldy. The fog was draped heavily over the surface of the water, occasionally teasing away, creating little pockets of vision between surface and air. It moved without the wind. Everything was dreadfully calm. Soggy ass, soggy feet, soggy lungs now too.
     Evelyn cut the engine and Jakob flinched. He rocked the boat, waiting for an explanation. The monstrous silence was broken only by the sound of their momentum, of grey water knocking grey aluminum. The puddle at Evelyn’s feet now mixed with gasoline had grown bigger. Her toes stiffened.
     Green Green Gasoline. Feels as good as Vasoline.

     “Jakob, I’m going to read something. You want me to read it out loud?” He nodded and did not take his eyes off hers. Pulling the wad of paper out of her sweatpants, she separated the two papers. Neither of them was dated so she chose one to read and one she crumpled back into her pocket. “It’s from my daddy. I have a dad too Jakob.” Evelyn was pretty sure that they were the only boat out, but she kept the white bow light on just in case. (In case of what?)
     Of Giants wizards whales. Manitou. Other Engines.
     It was hard for Jakob to hear because the air was very thick and Evelyn spoke softly.

Hi Eve,

Gwen musta told ya by now that they got us the net here. i had to ask around for your email, took me a good long while. I finally, figured to check the listings at the centre. Did you get the stuff i sent?? Well ya know i really hadda get gwen to do it for me but she said she would. Told her exactly what to get I had it all in my head... So did she send all that?
As for me, nothin’s new. Is anything ever new here?

Love ya
Daddy

     Evelyn stared at the paper for a long time. It smelled blank, of fresh, white nothing. They had been drifting for a while now, and the rods hung lifelessly and limp from either side of the boat, their lines loose against the surface of the water. They would not catch today. Not even the smallmouths. Not even the crappies for chrissakes. The day was a total bust. “You want lunch Jakob?” She pulled out an onion sandwich from the freezer bag and took off the Glad-wrap. She ripped it in half and gave one half to Jakob and took a bite of the other half. It wasn’t so good. The white bread was soaked through and the onions were soggy. It was heavy down her throat and it was heavy in her stomach. Jakob spit his up. A disgusting little sponge of “mucus and onions now lay on the floor of the boat. He squeezed the rest of his sandwich with both hands, giggled, and threw it outside into the lake. It hung to the surface for about a second and then sunk quickly into the fog and water.
     “Shit Jakob! You havta eat.”
     “Ennngine!”
     “No. Lunch.”
     “Mooootor Engine!”
     “Lunch first. Here eat this.” Evelyn pulled out the other sandwich, same as the last.
     “Noooo.” Jakob tossed it, same as the last.
     “Shit Jakob shit!” She cupped some water in her raw paling palms to cool herself with. It was bitter. They had drifted into the swamp. “For Chrissake!” She screamed and spit the water out. “Wanna go get that Jakob? Wanna go? Wanna go?” Evelyn was standing now and pointing to the lake, not really knowing what she meant and she reeled in and the rod wobbled in the air in utter anguish and there was no bait on the hook anymore and she had no idea when it had fallen off and she didn’t care.
     Jakob mimicked her, fumbling and reeling with his rod. He stared at her the whole time though, so he did not notice that his rod tip kept pushing through the surface of the water. Every time he jerked it, the line got more tangled. Watching Evelyn. Jigging in the boat. Watching. Jigging. Watching. Evelyn hated this. She wished he would fall in. She really really wished it.
     He slipped in, headfirst, without a sound, as if pushed by the fog mounting behind him. As if he was too much colour in the grey afternoon. Jakob was pushed.

*

     Long ago, the Métis and the Plains Cree had no running water and no hot water, only the cold and grey lake water. In this they bathed and in this they felt refreshed. But this was long ago. Now, in the springtime, Michigan waters are still very cold. Cottagers generally do not go swimming until the summer. There are signs posted all along the shore. Another boardsmen initiative.

*

     Back home, Evelyn threw her fishing rod and the empty freezer bag onto the pier. The Copeland’s would call soon. Ask why Jakob was soaking wet. Yes, she had made sure that he made it home, but as soon as he had disappeared among his dripping woods – scurried away amongst the perfect green cedars that enclosed his cottage – she went home. She left the grasshoppers at the bottom of the boat. Water had seeped through the air holes and she could smell them already rotting. It was too much right now. She sat on the cold, dry concrete of the pier and dangled her feet over the boat. She uncrumpled the other letter.

Hiya Eve,

     Guess what? Great news. They’re lettin me out! Where are ya these days anyways? I’ll find you.
See you real soon,
Love Daddy.

The sun always seems to disappear early over the lakes in the Shiawasee region of Michigan. Grey quickly turns to black. And lights from family rooms are nothing to the vast darkness. But on this particular evening, if you were to listen carefully to Indianwood, you would hear the story of a girl who could only exhale as the evenings passed by her. Who was never dry. Who could not get the mist and night out of her eyes. Whose small aluminum skiff, drowning in fog, grated its life against a cement pier.

 

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