The Last Summer

Here is the first section of my piece The Last Summer, enjoy:

Aggie up and left when she was eighteen, married that dreamin prairie boy while she was runnin the roads out west.  Why they turned up back here is beyond me.  Back to the landers they thought they’d be. Humph.  Ya never leave the land, it’s always there beneath yer feet.  Just forgot what to do with it is all.  Robert loved it here.  Never understood why Aggie left.  Once he set eyes on the Island he dragged her back here.  He’d never even seen the sea before.  Christ, wouldn’t know a boat if he tripped over one.  Too bad he was an Anglican.

Lord liftin dyin they picked a bad spot to settle.  Those poor kids would spend all day fightin off the black flies and all night itchin the pain away.   Farm was way too big anyway, ended up sellin off the backfields to that old arsehole Gordie McEwen, like he doesn’t own enough of PEI already.

Ain’t nobody lived there since.  They say the sorrow hangs itself around yer neck the minute you step foot anywheres near that house.  They say Robert never really left, what’s left of himself moans about that place even though he moved to the other side of the county.  Heard he puts right tractors and combines fixin to give up the ghost, keeps everyone else’s farm goin these days.

To set eyes on this place is to spot a legend, so you best look hard.

The homestead lies hidden amongst the trees, far from view of the harbour.  Where the rutted lane becomes grass you find four falling down outbuildings, full of effort, and in the center a green house sporting an odd assortment of roofs and eaves.  Here and there piles of black and brown chickens and a lone duck scoured the yard for scraps, seeds, and worms.  A half-hearted wooden fence runs round the yard, dotted with timber wagon wheels and bits of barb, keeping nothing in or out.  Here sang the barn swallow, darting from the barn to the tree house fashioned from a wooden box stolen from the sea, christened The Anne-Marie with a nameplate found dashed from a ship.  If you squint facing east you could just see the next farm where one-legged Joe spent his days ignoring the mule and consuming the obituaries.

The house almost looks new compared to the war painted homes you find sprinkled over the county.  The front door is fitted with stained glass but no steps.  That door never opened, not even once.  The inside is crammed with ghosts that groaned floorboards and kept the woodstove going on nights you needed it.  Downstairs, the kitchen expires into three lesser, unheated rooms, all dominated by bowed tintypes of various dead relatives.  Upstairs, uncarpeted floors lead to small rooms, their doors ajar with chimney irons and glass pole-tops.  The vault whittled in the dirt beneath the house was packed with preserves, hard-earned potatoes and reeks of ruin.

Three children dwelled here, more freckles than sense, collecting slugs, hurt, bug bites and scars.  They knew every inch, every nook, every branch, every lick of the brook.  They built forts by day and crept about at night peeking out windows spying on the fireflies.  Summers were spent at the beach, crashing the surf, toughing the dunes, digging for clams, and unearthing the secrets of the sea.

Folks around here think they know what happened, but Island folk don’t talk as much as gossip.  If you hear a wise word it’s best to listen close.  They think they know everything, how much he made, how much she hated it here, how much he loved her, how hard she tried, but they don’t.  They don’t know shit, remember that.


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