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Authors: Kevin Major

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Hold Fast

BOOK: Hold Fast
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HOLD FAST

KEVIN MAJOR

HOLD
FAST

Copyright © 1978, 2003 by Kevin Major

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a licence from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright licence, visit
www.accesscopyright.ca
or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.

Groundwood Books / Douglas & McIntyre
720 Bathurst Street, Suite 500, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2R4
Distributed in the USA by Publishers Group West
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Ontario Arts Council and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation's Ontario Book Initiative.

National Library of Canada Cataloging in Publication
Major, Kevin
Hold Fast / by Kevin Major.
ISBN 0-88899-579-2 (bound) / ISBN 0-88899-580-6 (pbk.)
I. Title.
PS8576.A523H6 2003 jC813'.54 C2003-902983-2
PZ7

Library of Congress Control Number: 2003102599

Cover photograph courtesy of the author
Design by Michael Solomon
Printed and bound in Canada

PART ONE
1

I'm going to start off this way so I can get the hardest part over with first. Then I won't have to be thinking about it so much later on. I can maybe tell it better that way.

The worst of it all was the graveyard. The church part was hard enough, but the graveyard…I don't think I'll ever have to face on anything that bad again.

I said afterwards that if the minister'd never been so long getting ready and getting the words out then maybe I wouldn't a bawled. But I knows that's not really the truth. I just couldn't keep from doing it. Just no way in the world could I keep it in. Not with them going down into the gravel like that. Slow as anything. Like the coffins would never make it down to the bottom.

I must a shook my head a dozen times to drive the damn stuff away. And I stood there then, soft as mud, bawling my eyes out. Water pouring out like nobody'd ever died before. The others just stood around like a bunch of dummies. Thinking, I knew, that me crying was all part of it. A son is expected to bawl his head off when his parents die. No matter how old he is.

And then part way through, it got so bad that I just couldn't stick it anymore. I had to tear outa there. And just as fast as I could, I took off in front of all the people, every one of them turning to me with stupid-looking pity in their eyes. Past all the headstones, down in through the woods. As far as I could get outa their sight. Across the paths where the skidoos use to go. I ran like hell's flames. Getting away from it. Ran till I was that far away it was like none of them would ever get the chance to see me again.

Run, I thought to myself, don't stop. Stop and it'll ram right into your mind and never get out again.

That looks like a good rabbit's path, so tail a slip there, he'd a said. Said.

Run. Run, you crazy fool of a son. Run through the paths. Jump outa the way or them thoughts'll grab ya! Bring ya up all-standin. Choke ya. Take away your last livin breath, clean and holy.

It's no good. Holy god, I thought, it's no good! They're dead. The two of them are gone. Gone and dead and buried.

When it got dark, I ended up at the beach on Mercer's Point. For no sensible reason I was on the beach, shivering. Being there after dark wasn't like me. Except maybe if it was the middle of the summer or something, at a party. But none of that mattered anymore. It wasn't worth a lousy thing.

I closed my eyes and it was all still banging into my brain. I opened them and looked out on the salt water. That was the only thing that made any sense. For sure
that was always going to come back in. All the time slapping up on the sand and the rocks.

I tried to think of something else. Other things, like salmon fishing, the holidays and the swimming, the caplin when they rolled right up on that same beach a week before. Thousands of fish piling over each other, flicking like mad on the sand when the water went out, flicking to get washed back out with the next wave. Scraveling to stay alive.

But it didn't work this time. Made it worse. The banging didn't stop. Wouldn't either, till I cut out trying to fool myself and looked at it straight.

It came to me about the time he sliced open his arm with the chain saw. I bawled then too. “Shut up your damn foolishness,” he yelled, “and help me!” I threw down the ax and done what he said — hauled off his coat and sweater and shirt, down to where the saw had ripped into his arm. The muscle was all open in the freezing cold, blood streaming out until I had the other shirt sleeve tied and twisted around his arm, like he told me to do. “Now get the skidoo started and let's get home outa this.” It was the fastest I ever drove the skidoo. I had her right tight to the handlebars almost the whole way out. “Give it to er, give it to er!” he yelled. Him on behind with one arm wrapped around my waist and one sleeve of the coat flapping in the wind. I got us home in the garden safe. A trail of blood for maybe two miles back up in the woods.

A gull flew over the salt water in front of me screeching his bloody lungs out. Just as I had it outa my mind. If I'd a had my .22 I'd a flattened him on right there.

No mercy for those ones.

No mercy for the drunks who drives cars and kills people. Parents of people.

I tore out and made for the sand bank. Climbing up it, every time sinking back some, pawing the sand till I reached the grass ground on the top. To where I could still see the salt water slapping up on the landwash.

I backed up from the edge of the bank. I ran and jumped whatever I could go, down the sand bank again. And jumped and jumped. Down the sand, running like a madman, stumbling back to the water.

I came to a stop. I stood up to my ankles in the running water. It plowed in over my shoes full of sand. Then, after a long while, I went back ashore and emptied them. Put my feet back into wet and gritty old shoes.

There was no place to go then. No place atall.

No place left except back to where I was expected to be.

2

By the time I got back near to the house from the beach that night in June, I was pretty well ready to face up to Aunt Flo and anything she might say to me. But then I seen that it wasn't just Aunt Flo I'd have to face, but a whole crowd of others, all ganged up there, just waiting for me to get back. I was in no mood for that. After the funeral and everything, and then to have to come back into my own house and run headlong into all them glaring eyes. I knew a good lot of what was inside had no business there in the first place. Some of them hardly ever set foot in the house before, except when they wanted to borrow something. I had a good mind to tell them to get lost. I didn't want any of their stupid pity.

I came in and took off my shoes in the porch. My socks too, because I didn't want to be trailing water all over the place. The ones inside heard me.

I knew what I was going to have to listen to, as soon as I went through the porch door. Where was you? And all that. And I knew too that give them either bit of a chance atall and they'd be blaring out their sympathy. “That's all right, my boy,” and, “It must be hard on a boy
that age.” I could just see it. Every one of them wanting to get in their two cents worth. Trying to make out like they was going to be some help. Well, I didn't need them. I got along good enough before without their help. I could darn well do the same now.

“Don't say anything. Just leave me alone.” And I took off up the stairs to my room.

I took a look at some of them when I went by. For sure that Rita Tucker had to be there. Her and her big mouth. For sure she had to be there if there was anything going on that she could talk about afterwards. She had to be in the center of it. I should a give her a good piece of my mind. Go home. Go on home and look after your own self. You wasn't so flick to say anything good about me last winter when I went across your stupid land on skidoo. You was quick enough to bawl at me then. Jake Matthews, you too. You can go take your lousy apple trees and burn them for all I cares. We was only having a bit of fun. Batter on home the works of you. Go down to the club and play darts or something. Who needs you?

All right, all right. So they're not all as bad as that. But so what if it's only me and Brent now? So what if I am only fourteen? We don't need anybody.

The only place that I really could go to that was all mine was my bedroom. But even that place I was fed up with. As soon as I went through the door I wanted to rip down all the junk off the walls, tear down the stupid posters, and heave it all away. I took the record player off the desk and stuffed that in the closet and fired the whole darn lot of records in on top of it. And then all the junk on the bureau. I rammed what I could get of it into the
drawers. That was the right thing to do — get it outa my sight. It was only foolishness anyway, half of it. I should a dumped the whole bloody lot into the garbage can.

After ten minutes I stretched out across the bed and took a hard look around. On the wall was left a frame full of old Newfoundland coins Grandfather gave me one time. And the gun rack me and Dad done up last year. Every other bloody thing was made away with.

I stayed stretched across the bed like that for a long time. I tried to make myself believe that it was going to be a new start. But not one thing I'd done made me feel any better. It was just as well if I'd come in and jumped on the bed in the first place. And stuck my head in the pillow and not budged an inch. I would a been just as well off.

I could hear the noise of them all downstairs talking. For sure it was about me. It was a strange thing one of them hadn't been up over the stairs before that to see what all the racket was about.

They had to be talking about what was going to happen to me and Brent. If they didn't already have it all figured out, case closed, and all ready to dish out to us. But they might just have to put their thinking caps on again, because this was one fellow who wasn't about to be sent off to somewhere he didn't want to go. They could mark that down. And if there was no one for me to live with, then shag them, I'd live by myself. Or just the two of us together for that matter. I'd soon fix that.

If there was any reason why I couldn't stay in Marten and live with my relatives like I had in my mind to do, then it was because both of them, Grandfather and Aunt Flo, was too old. Grandfather was in his seventies and
they lived together, him and Aunt Flo, Dad's sister. Her husband was dead. And she already had one family reared up and gone.

Then there was Mom's sister, Aunt Ellen, who lived in St. Albert. Her and her husband was to the funeral. They didn't live that far away, a few hundred miles, but still I didn't know that much about them. They might a been at our place twice or maybe three times. Uncle Ted and Dad never did get along. They had two children, I knew that much. One fellow about my age.

BOOK: Hold Fast
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