Sunday, February 27, 2011

VI: Town Sketch

(Impressionism--working on the novel ideas. Things evolving.)

Pines fringed town, the black water –lapped shores and fishing men in white sailed boats. An old man and a Labrador out for the morning walk, shadows etched against the fog and spray. A calm day. Five two story red brick buildings, the eaves frosted with the early winter snows, a clattering diner on the cobbled main road, and a lone figure, pack slung over his right shoulder, walking down the road, cracked leather and flannel and scuffed hiking boots.

Round white stones. The sound of birds and the quiet sough of the lake in the morning, and the sour breath of fishermen. Five men work in a small mine, pointless venture begun generations, a hope of gold or diamonds, kept aloft only by the occasional windfall. Tourists unwelcome. Founded in the latter half of the 19th century by enterprising Frenchmen who promptly forgot they’d built their new home on the edge of the world, at the farthest reaches of hell. It’s a cold town, a drowning town, a whispering town: ten plump middle-aged women, ten greying mid-lifed men, and the few children who’ve stayed to tend the shops and their grandparents staying home.

There are two ways out: the rustling crick across languid waters, or fifteen miles of old pavement, past the parish and graveyard, to the backroads to the seven eleven to the ridges of mountains and rivers. It is this quiet, prized life the wandering man seeks. He walks into the café, bell-rung door, sits on a creaking bench to be seated. Seven AM and the men have gone to fish, the tourists have bought their tickets and the coffee has begun to settle, to thicken. The newspaper is two weeks old; the dark wood of the café smells of smoke and beans, and the air is warm, so the man sloughs off his jacket, rises and rings the bell on the counter.

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