Authors: Diane Tullson
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
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Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Sea change / written by Diane Tullson.
Issued also in an electronic format.
I. Title. II. Series: Orca soundings
PS8589.U6055S42 2010 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â JC813'.6 Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2010-903617-4
First published in the United States,
Library of Congress Control Number:
Lucas rarely sees his father. On a trip to reconnect on the remote north
coast, Lucas discovers that kinship goes beyond blood, and that while he can't pick
his relatives, he can find his own community.
Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has printed
this book on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing
programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada
through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts,
and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council
and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Getty Images
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To Stan and Dorota, with love
I adjust my headset over my ears, and the noise of the helicopter drops to a dull thud. I feel the noise as much as hear it, as if the helicopter is a drum and I'm inside it. My seat faces outâthe penalty box, the pilot called itâand the door is right in front of my knees. The window in the door has instructions about how to push it out in an emergency. And about how not to open the door in flight, as if anyone would do that. Still, I pull my knees back from the door lever.
My father is sitting up with the pilot. He's got a communications headset and he's chatting with the pilot, laughing about something. His hair used to be darker than mine, more of a sandy brown, but now it's got some gray. He has deep lines around his eyes. Basically, he looks old.
Through the window, below, acres of trees roll out in all directions. That's all I've seen since we left the airfield in Sandspitâtrees. Sometimes a stream ropes through the trees, but there's nothing else, no roads, no cut-lines. The pilot said a crew was logging on the other side of the ridge, but here I might be the first guy to see this forest. Well, me and the pilot. And my old man.
God, it is cold. The last of a nasty flu bug gnaws my gut. It got me a week off school though. Half the school has it, and apparently it's policy of the cook training program to make sure I don't infect the other half. My mother didn't give me too much grief about going. It's about time you spent some time with your father, she said. He had a flu shot, so he isn't going to catch it.
Except for us, the helicopter is empty. The tourist season finished a month ago. We're going to fish late-running salmonâcoho, not that I'd know a coho from any other kind of fish.
My dad has been at the fishing lodge his entire working life, practically owns the place now. I'm seventeen and this is the first time I've been up. People pay plenty to fish the best salmon on the Pacific Northwest, he says. Only room for paying guests, he says. We'll go in October, after shutdown, he says.
We almost went fishing three years ago, but the weather turned bad and grounded the helicopter. That was the year Mom and I moved to Torrance. Between school and Dad's schedule, I haven't seen him since. Not that I saw much of him before the divorceâhe spends half the year at the lodge and the other half on the road doing sportsman's shows. Maybe he's always looked this old and I just haven't noticed.
This year he was in LA, on business, and he called me up. I had the week off school and no good reason to say no. Dad said the coho are huge this year, and I want a big fish, a monster. I want a fish so big the old man pays to get it stuffed and hangs it in the lodge with a brass plate with my name on it.
Endless trees. There's nothing to mark this place. I could be anywhere.
The helicopter lifts over a rise and now I can see the inlet. The trees have been cleared near the water, and there are buildingsâthe fishing lodge. The docks are pulled up for the winter and look like gray tiles at the edge of the water. A couple of boats bob on moorings. The pilot heads toward a grass strip between the shore and the buildings.
I see deer right where the helicopter is going to land, about seven of them, their heads down, grazing on the grass. They must be deafâthey're not moving and the helicopter is almost right over them. We're still high off the ground, but the downdraft flattens the grass.
One deer drops to its knees, then collapses. It shudders and then lies still. It looks dead, but I don't know how that could be. We couldn't have hit itâwe're too high. The other deer lift their heads, and then, finally, they run off.
The helicopter lands but the pilot doesn't shut it down. He motions with his hand for me to wait. From in front of the main building, a lodge worker jogs toward the helicopter. With the coveralls, I don't notice at first it's a woman, but up close I see she's young, about my age. She's wearing a headset over a cap, on backward, dark brown hair sticking out from under it, and yellow safety glasses. She opens my door and points at my headset. I take it off and leave it on the seat. The noise is huge. I get out and grab my bag. I'm taller than the girl, and she taps my arm and points upâthe rotor. I duck my head.
Dad is already out, tossing duffel bags and boxes from the storage compartment in the tail of the helicopter. He secures the door and waves for me to get out of the way. The helicopter lifts and veers up the inlet, the noise of the engine echoing off the steep slopes, then disappears and leaves us in silence.
The girl in coveralls shoulders a duffel bag from the pile of stuff on the grass. Dad strides over to herâhe's not smiling now.
“You do that again, Sumi, and I'll fire your ass.” He stabs his thumb at the dead deer. “Get that thing out of here.”
The deer's eyes are open and it still has grass in its mouth. There's a round black hole just behind its shoulder, a bullet hole, and there's blood on the grass. It has pronged antlers but it's not a big animal.
Sumi shrugs. She tosses the duffel bag to me and then heads to the lodge. I glance at my dad but he's got his back to me, his hands on his hips, looking out at the water. So I follow Sumi.
The lodge windows are boarded up for the winter and the entrance is sheeted in heavy plastic. It doesn't look like we're staying in the lodge.
“Where should I put our stuff?”
She gives me a long look, up and down, like she's assessing me. I'm wearing shoes I've had for a year and a rain jacket I bought when I still lived in Vancouver. I'm suddenly aware I need a haircut. She grabs a wheelbarrow leaning against the porch. I wait for her to answer, but she doesn't. She goes back to the dead deer and hauls it into the wheelbarrow in a smear of blood. Its hooves bounce over the side as she wheels it behind the buildings.
That went well.
I dump my bags on the porch and go to the pile from the helicopter. I grab a couple of boxes of what I hope is fishing gear and head down to the water. Dad has put on rubber boots, and he's loading an inflatable boat pulled up close on the stony beach. I hand him the boxes.
“So, those coho hungry?”
Dad looks at me, then at the sky. “Too late to go fishing now, Lucas.”
It's maybe three in the afternoon. We left LA early in order to catch the flight from Vancouver to Sandspit.
I say, “We're not going fishing?”
He rubs his hair. I hate it when he does that. When he tries to get out of something, he always rubs his hair. “I'll be back tonight or first thing tomorrow. We'll go fishing then. We'll spend the whole day.”
“Tomorrow! What am I supposed to do until tomorrow?”
He unties the boat and pushes it off the beach, stepping in as it floats clear. “You still do that whiny thing with your voice.”
Whiny thing? “You're going to see her.” I'm so mad I don't care what my voice sounds like. “You're going to see Deirdre.”
His mouth tightens. “Tomorrow, Lucas. I promise.”
Deirdre is the reason for the divorce. “What does that mean exactlyâyou promise?”
He starts the engine and gives it some gas. He waves, like he hasn't heard me. He motors over to one of the aluminum open fishing boats moored in the bay. He transfers the stuff, ties the inflatable to the mooring buoy and starts the engine on the fishing boat.
I do not believe this.
The fishing boat backs off the mooring and then powers up. White water curls off the front of the boat. It gets smaller and farther away.
I sit down on the stony beach.
Actually, I do believe this.
I watch until I can't see the boat anymore. I throw about nine hundred rocks in the water but he still doesn't come back, so finally I head up to the lodge.
My duffel bag is gone. I figure Sumi moved it. On the porch of one of the small out-cabins I see a pair of boots and a rifle leaning against the wall. It must be Sumi's cabin. There's no answer when I knock, so I push open the door. I see my duffel bag, and I go in.
The cabin is just one room with a woodburning stove in the middle. The stove gives off some heat. A set of metal bunk beds fills one corner, and there's a small square table that's pretty nice and looks like it might have come out of the lodge. The chairs don't match the table. Hanging next to the table is a small framed painting of a girl dancing on a shore with whales in the background. I don't know anything about art but it's a pretty girl.
A stack of cardboard boxes lines one wall. Inside the boxes I see cans of coffee, soup, beans, tetra packs of milk and juice, bags of rice and spaghetti, a huge tub of Golden Crisco. In a big tin box I find two loaves of Wonder bread.
My stomach rumbles, a good sign. I haven't had an appetite in days. I spot a can of tuna and peel back the lid. There's no fridge that I can see, so I don't bother looking for mayo. I tip half the tuna onto a piece of bread and squish the bread into a torpedo. Some of the tuna plops out of one end of the bread and falls on the floor. I bite into the sandwich. It's good, amazingly good.