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  • Writer's pictureWellington Lambert

South of Moosonee 22

69F/52F Foggy

I helped Brian spread Dulse on the beach today. It’s a slippery flat slimy under water plant that people buy to eat after you dry it. The place near Ingalls head buys it wet or dry. It’s worth a lot more dry, but of course, weighs a lot less. So, it sort of evens out.

Brian put a net down over the rocks on the beach and I brought him bags of wet dulse while he spread it. If it rains while you are drying it is ruined and turns pink.

Brian is likable, close to my age. He reminds me of guys back home. The ones who would never want to know me. But here I am, new and interesting, for now. I have a small window of time to form a pretend friendship before all the questions become about girls and who you are having sex with or want to have sex with. Everything leads to these questions. Even with adults, asking if you have a girlfriend. If you don’t answer with enthusiasm or interest, you are a freak, dangerous even. You learn to fake everything. Fitting in means being everything but who you really are, which would be easier if I had any idea why I am so different. Right now, the difference is just a big, lonely place in my head, but I’m afraid it’s going to be a big, lonely place for my entire life.

Brian talks about himself but doesn’t have any questions for me, which is perfect.

I can listen without thinking ahead about how to lie about myself.

My life is in subtitles that I create and constantly edit.



There is church on Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon. It’s kind of an all-day God thing. No one is allowed to work on Sunday, any kind of work. Except cooking, cleaning…laundry. So, I guess in Gods eyes, women don’t work.

The guy who speaks to the people in the church is a preacher, or a pastor, I don’t really know what they call him, but he is always angry when he preaches. Sometimes his false teeth pop out when he gets excited, but he slips them back in really quick, so you have to watch carefully. There is the occasional “amen” and “praise the Lord” from the audience. I am amazed how much ritual and repetition there is at church. It is a lot like my rituals. If you don’t follow the rules you feel like something bad will happen. Maybe religion was created by an alien.

My dad isn’t into church or team sports, one thing I am thankful for.

My mom taught Sunday school for a while. All the kids wanted to be in her class. She would take everyone for outings. One time she took everyone for an outing to Sturgeon Falls. You have to travel down a dirt road for a couple of miles to get to it. At the end of the road is a rocky waste land with cliffs and massive manmade rock pillars where the railroad was. Trees growing through cracks, small caves to explore. All to the roaring soundtrack of the rapids that draw you close and threaten to swallow you. I loved it, it was another world to me, a world that promised a future of excitement and exploration. Eventually my mom received complaints that she wasn’t teaching the kids enough bible stuff.

So she quit.

Halfway through the service at White Head the kids go downstairs for Sunday school. I felt a bit stupid, I am the only teenager, but it beats staying up stairs and listening to an angry man tell you why you should be terrified all the time.

Today was movie day.

It was about the rapture.

The movie’s main character was a little girl. She was a happy girl. Her family was very religious and prayed everyday. They all believed in God and worshipped him regularly. Then one day she wakes up and goes downstairs to say good morning to her family and they’re all gone. She goes outside and the world has turned into a nightmare. People are screaming, killing each other, doing bad crazy things. She runs around yelling, calling for her family but they can’t be found. She then runs into someone who tells her all the true believers have been taken up to heaven. All the people left on the earth are not true believers, they are left here to die. The girl tells the crazy heathen that she is a true believer, she went to church, she is a good person, she believed in God. So the heathen tells her that no matter how much she believed in God, it wasn’t enough. That, apparently, she didn’t let God fully into her heart. So…the end…she’s screwed…

At the end of the movie, when the lights come up, I look around. No one seemed fazed by the movie. It’s like they thought, ya, that’s what you get when you don’t truly believe. Like the little girl deserved it.

Then I thought, how do they know they truly believe? The little girl in the movie did everything right, and she’s stuck in the apocalypse. Then I realized that surviving the Rapture was a matter of belonging to the right group. They didn’t have to worry; they were chosen already…pre-chosen…

I’ve never belonged to the right group, or any group…that’s ok, I can run fast, maybe I’ll get a gun.


(click) (Juttas tape)

I cut Pierre’s hair. He is one of the Germans in the building from the internment camp that cleared the land for the experimental farm. He won’t speak of it, but he did give me a bottle with at ship in it, made by another prisoner…a thank you. But I don’t need it. My kindness to him comes back as gift enough. (Pause, sound of papers being moved around.) I wonder if there such a thing as a selfless act. (More paper sounds) Regardless of your motive, your brain gets a reward. It is like our physical selves are incapable of an act that will not somehow benefit our mental or physical state. I say I do it for free, but I get company and a feeling in my brain that lifts me up, like a drug. (Pause, sip.) Pierre is older than me, his real name is Gunter, but he got rid of it when he left the internment camp and stayed here. Why poke the bear, he says. He works on tv repair and other electronics; he has fixed my television more than once. (Pause, chair movement on floor) It is amazing to watch how he manipulates his stubby fingers. They were badly burnt during the sinking of the Bismarck. His finger stubs are surprisingly useful and accurate in their movement with his tools. I don’t ask, but every now and then he mentions the battle, the sound, the water, his burning flesh. (Pause, deep breath.) Only a handful survived, he says, but not with pride, like his life was spared as punishment. His hidden shame isn’t the cruelty of the war, but defeat. He thinks that I silently agree with his invisible patriotism, but I don’t. All war is useless, and we are a failure as a species not to see it.


Jutta doesn’t answer my questions as much anymore. I think she enjoys having the cassette recorder to talk to. I will leave it with her when I go south, she can keep sending me tapes.

She just puts the cassette on and talks. When I play it, she’s right there. We are being transported in time, her from the past, me in the present, or her from her present and me from the future. I think the present is a bubble we live in, exchanging the future for the past. Maybe it’s a tool we are born with, something that creates time.


Brian brought me out on a boat. I think it’s called a Dory. He showed me how to start it. Apparently, there’s a thing called a choke, then you switch the choke to run. You have to pull a string that starts the motor. Starting it feels more like luck than knowledge. I started it on the second pull, it felt good, like I belonged in the boat.

Brian took over and turned the handle, rotating the nob to increase speed. He moved us in and out of the shiny wet pillars holding up the dock that are coated with tar and seaweed. It terrified me and grossed me out, but I sat back and stared forward, like this was all just another day. We had a bunch of empty canvass bags in the boat to fill up with dulse, or seaweed that turns into dulse.

He drove the boat to a large, exposed piece of rock between the island and Ingalls Head. We pulled the boat up and started filling the bags. You get used to your hands freezing as you dip in the water to pull the seaweed out. Now and then I would tuck them in my arm pits to warm them up.

It didn’t take long for the bags to be filled. We sat and smoked some players nonfiltered as we waited for the tide to come back up.

Brians voice and the way he moved felt familiar. He moved with purpose and spoke like he knew something no one else could know. He had a plan to get off this island to bigger and brighter things. I could relate to that. We had different goals, but we were both waiting for the same tide.

When the water came back up, we hit a rip tide on our way into the harbour. Brian told me it was the tide going out meeting the tide going in. It created huge waves and scared the shit out of me. At one point I felt something hit the bottom of the boat and I almost crapped myself. It reminded me of the time my uncle told us about finding a body floating in the ocean. He thought the leg was a log floating and he speared it. The body was swollen and partly eaten by sea lice. No one found out who it was. Now all I can think about when I look at the cold darkness of the water, is what kind of scary stuff is down there…bodies, angry mermaids…more bodies.


I went to the beach today. Wore my jeans then switched into shorts.

There is a winding road that is just off the main road of the island. It leads to a rocky shore with a white lighthouse sitting on the edge of the shore. If you go on the road that leads to the light house then turn left through a maze of huge rocks, you come to a beach. A large beach with no one on it. No one here swims or goes to the beach. They do have an outdoor pool, but they pump sea water into it, it’s ice cold …. no one goes in it.

I found a spot that gives me full view of the ocean.

For some reason it reminds me of the beach at the end of Planet of the apes. Where he sees the statue of Liberty. The Planet of the Apes and Westworld were the only movies that gave me nightmares. Talking apes and out of control human looking robots scare me more than anything.

I get out the cigarettes I’ve been rationing and the book I’m reading.

I smoke and read, usually for an hour or so.

Then I imagine I am the only person left on earth, kind of like the Rapture, but no killing or monsters ripping me apart. Then I think, if all true Christians get taken off the earth, won’t we be better off? No one to tell us why we are always wrong, or so awful.


I’m getting used to hearing the foghorn at night.

There is a bright light at the end of my aunt’s driveway. The small square post office sits there, under the bright light. It cuts through the fog and makes the building look like it is all alone.


There is a girl that hangs out with Brian. She came by the house while I was outside organizing some of the wet dulse on the truck. We talked for a while.

My aunt told me later, after she left, that some kids were not good to hang out with. That they go to the main island and get into drugs.

She thinks I’m normal, that a girl would have some kind of power over me.

She has nothing to worry about, I don’t want to go anywhere, at least not with people.


I saw the canoe lady today.


I went to pick Dulse by myself today.

I managed to start the engine on the second pull, again. Maybe two is my new lucky number. Is the population of me growing?

As I was leaving the harbour something hit the bottom of my boat…what the hell is in this water?

I could see a rock sticking out of the water near where Brian and I went last time. I got to the rock and pulled the boat up as high as I could. I kept thinking about the boat floating away on me, so I made sure it was pulled as far up as I could get it.

As I was loading my bags of dulse into the boat, I could see the tide continue to go down, then down and down. By the time I was finished my last bag I realized my mistake.

I screwed up the schedule. I went out too early. I thought it was weird that the rock felt so much smaller than I remembered it. I now understand why they say it has the largest tides in the world. My boat looked like it was on top of a mountain. All I could do was wait, and wait, and wait.

I didn’t panic until fog started to move in, and the tide was only halfway up my mountain. I thought of pulling the boat down, but there was no way I was going to maneuver it over those slippery large rocks.

I sat in the boat and watched the harbour disappear from view.

I did my usual funeral fantasies, I even added an autopsy, so they could find out I was really an alien. I imagined my people coming back to collect me. They would be disappointed with earth people, telling them I was their last chance at salvation, kind of an alien Jesus. Everyone would cry for my return, but…it’s too late…you didn’t believe in me enough…fuck you rapture!

I was jolted out of my fantasy by the feel of the boat starting to float. This is it, I thought, I guess I’ll just start the engine and hope I drive in the right direction and not just straight out into the Atlantic. When I looked up, I could see the flashing lights of a truck and the horn honking. I moved towards it, through the rip tide and into the harbour.

It was my aunt and my cousin on the end of the pier, in a truck. Honking me back to safety…my heroes.


Had another beach day today.

I brought the wet suit I borrowed from Brian and put it on. I thought a wet suit kept you warm by keeping you dry, but Brian told me this wet suit keeps you warm by allowing a small layer of water to enter. The water then warms up to your body temperature and stays there. The blast of cold water through the suit is kind of shocking.

My only goal was to float.

So, I began to float, staring straight up, it was a perfectly clear blue sky. I could feel the slow swelling of the waves, if I had been tired and could close my eyes without visions of being swallowed by a great white shark, I would fall asleep. Maybe I would land on a separate island, make it on my own, not need anyone.

I was lost in fantasies of being a hero in my pretend world when I heard a voice. When I managed to move my now bloated suit sideways, I saw the Canoe lady paddling away. Once again, I forgot to respect the tide. I was further from shore than I realized. I managed to flutter kick my way back while moving my arms as much as possible to propel myself forward. I was terrified I would be pulled out into the ocean and at the same time I felt I must look and sound like a dying fish. A big fish, a big stupid fish. The perfect meal for a hungry great white shark.

I got back on shore and laid down, letting all the saltwater drain from the suit.

I was scared, like the day I was picking dulse by myself.

Then it hit me, everything is dangerous, we are just one shitty decision away from dying.

The fear I felt then is still inside me.


The Canoe Lady

No one knows the Canoe lady. No one knows exactly where she came from. She is dark with a leathery face from all the sun exposure on the ocean. I don’t know how she isn’t terrified of being out there in such a small boat. It’s like she is dancing on top of a world that could swallow her any second. I don’t know how she is ok with all that danger, and loneliness. I saw her once at the only store on the island. She wore thick pants and a fringe jacket. Her clothing looked warn and permanently fixed to her body. I am drawn to her. She has the courage I want in life, the courage I am sure I will never have, or know how to get. I would sometimes hear people say things about her, laughing at her, you know, the Christian thing to do. All I can think is, if you move around not caring what people think of you, that must be real freedom. I always want people to like me, I don’t know why…it feels like a trap. It’s exhausting.

Someone said the canoe lady came from Maine and canoed to the island. Just like my Passamaquoddy relatives. My Great Grandmother on my grandfathers’ side was Passamaquoddy. My grandmother’s family hated the fact that their daughter married a half breed. Maybe I’m related to the canoe lady, maybe she is looking for me. Maybe we will become friends and she will show me the ways of our ancestors. I will learn to hunt and trap and fish. I will go back to Kap and live in the woods, teaching all who visit me the Passamaquoddy way. When I die, they will bury me in the bush, like Tinkerbell.

Then I will be forgotten.


I slept walked again. This time I woke up in a chair out in the closed in porch my aunt and I usually sit and talk in. I saw the outline of someone standing in front of me. This time the body didn’t fade as quickly. I tried to see any facial features or anything that would let me know who it was, but all I could make out was some movement where the mouth would be, like it was talking but I couldn’t hear. It dripped away like it usually does. More liquid than air, back into my moist brain.


I need to change my ritual, so I don’t kill anyone while I’m sleep walking. I’m not sure why I go to the most extreme level of what I might do, but that’s how my mind works, the worse case scenario. Maybe I need to change my rock. Pick a local rock. One that knows the energy of the area. I’ll do that next time I go to the beach.


I just found out my uncles’ mother lived alone on one of the islands between here and Maine. She lived in a tent and survived by herself. That has “canoe lady” written all over it. How do these women do it? How are they so much stronger than men? Maybe men are the reason they prefer to live alone. Who knows… the more I find out about my uncle the more I am amazed at how he survived, how they both survived, it feels unfair and makes me feel like a winey piece of shit. I would love to sit with him and talk to him about his life, but that will never happen.


Brian helped me spread my Dulse. He had a bit of his own so we both went to the rocky beach and put a net down to spread. The amount of work it takes to dry the dulse makes it more worth while to sell wet. But I wanted the full experience.

Brian started talking about getting off the island by joining the army. He said his sister was able to get an education paid for and only had to work four years with the army to pay it off. That seems like a good idea. I wish I could leave and join the army, have somewhere to go, fit in and have a pre planned adventure. But it sounds like a trap, a last option. I’m hoping I have options. No one is around me talking to me about options. Options are only what people think they have, till they don’t.

We take a break and Brian offers me a Players unfiltered cigarette. I feel a bit guilty. When I was at his house getting the wet suit, I went to the washroom and there was an open pack of menthol cigarettes. I took two of them and stuck them in my pocket…I am definitely being left behind during the Rapture.

I found the perfect rock.


Is there a difference between having a big imagination and just being fucking nuts? I think if I think I could be crazy, I’m not crazy…right? If I can view my behaviour as not normal, then I must know what normal is, so…is it a choice?


My aunt got me a job stringing herring, I start tomorrow.

I think she realized I just might kill myself picking dulse. She would have to explain it to my family. I can imagine the conversation. Her explaining how simple the job was, and really, a monkey could do it. But not me, I managed to fuck up picking seaweed. They wouldn’t be able to have a casket for the funeral because my body would be lost to the ocean. The super scary ocean. But really, would I be dead? I’d sneak back to my funeral and see Crystal dressed in seaweed colours. Crying, but secretly knowing I wasn’t dead. Years later I would reveal my new life, but only to my mom. I would be a rock star that had no back story. I saw the movie Phantom of the Paradise, I know how this works. God, l love Jessica Harpers voice. Her slow vibrato is the stuff of dreams.


It turns out I like stringing Herring more than picking dulse. I basically stand in a small square boxed off section of a large raised platform wearing huge rubber boots. I have a tool with a long handle and a net at the end to scoop the fish out. I put the fish in a smaller section for the women to take the herring and string them.

Stringing the fish doesn’t seem to have anything to do with string. They grab a two-foot stick that is coated with something, maybe left-over fish guts, and they stick the pointed end of the stick through one gill of the fish and out the other. When the stick is full of fish, they place it on a cart that allows the fish to hang. When the cart is full, someone grabs it and brings it to a building that is filled with smoke and hangs them there till they dry out. Between salting fish and smoking them I noticed a lot of this fish prepping seems to be geared towards storing them for the winter. There is always an urgency in the air here, it might be a left-over survival thing. Back in the day if you didn’t manage to catch and store enough food, winter isn’t just cold, it’s deadly. I am used to being attached to so much abundance, the basics of survival are lost on me.

Each scooper gets two women. I have to make sure their small section is always full. They are paid by how many sticks they string with fish, and they are fast. Any waiting for fish costs them money. My two women are my aunt and my cousin. All the women laugh loudly and talk a lot. Every now and then some of them yell at their scooper who is not paying attention to their fish supply. I make sure my ladies always have enough fish. The mood in the scooping room is happy, like the women know they don’t get this long period of time together very often.

The sea gulls are outside screaming. They are waiting for fish guts to be dumped out back. Every now and then you hear a gun shot go off. The sound of the gulls gets smaller, but then gradually builds back up.

During break, and lunch, we gather and sit outside, near the smoke house. I see a group of guys smoking and talking. I want to smoke, but I can’t with my aunt here. Now and then I hear the guys laugh. They all agree that something is funny, someone is funny. I find what groups of men laugh at interesting because it is never funny.


(Click) (Juttas tape)

Am I afraid of death? Well… (knocking at the door, movement, talking, more talking)



Sorry, I was dealing with Ellen. She thinks the ghost of her dead husband is trying to kill her. Funny, you asked me about death. Let’s talk about guilt, since that is what is ripping Ellen’s brain apart right now. Death can wait…or can it? (laugh) I rarely feel sorry for someone, not because I lack empathy but because feeling sorry does nothing. But with Ellen, nothing can be done to release her from the hell she’s in. I can talk her down, but as she gets older her memory reaches back to the few good times she had with her husband and skips over the parts when he became an alcoholic and kept trying to kill her. (Pause, tissue being pulled from box). Then that wonderful invention called guilt starts to grow, fertilized by self-doubt and damaged self-esteem.

Guilt is an odd thing, the people who need a mental course correction with it are the ones who are least affected by it. They can’t feel it, but they can use it. In the hands of those who can’t feel it, it is a powerful tool of manipulation. Even in the hands of those who do feel it. When you force a child to manufacture too much guilt, especially a child who feels deeply, it can turn them into a target. A target for people who swim in shallow waters. Sorry, that’s confusing, (laugh) what I mean is, some people are only capable of, ok, most people that I’ve known, live on the surface of our material world. It’s like floating on the ocean but never looking down, never realizing a world much bigger exists beneath them. They use the tools that are easily available to get what they want. Guilt is a tool they use. I am hoping my experiences are not normal. (pause) I know you desperately want to leave, and you will. But you might want to protect your deeper and more delicate thoughts, no one will see the beauty in them, or very few. (Pause, chair moving) Our communication has allowed me for the first time to share some of my deeper thoughts, but it is rare, and it has only happened twice in my lifetime. The world will not understand you and you will be alone. That is the hardest thing in a species that thrives on being connected. But the few connections you will make will allow you to be who or what you are, and it is worth it. Well, actually, this could bring me back to your original question… am I afraid of death. I hate the word death, it’s a word that has been built to use as a threat, a dark ugly threat. I wish we could change the language around it. We are all afraid of that moment when we have to let go and move towards the unknown. Even if we think we know what to expect, it is still terrifying. I have been with many people who have died or are in the processes of dying and I have seen and heard many things. My experiences have led me to believe that the deterioration of the body during death slows the mechanisms in our brain that keep us anchored here. It triggers the release of our soul or consciousness from the material world. We move into timelessness, and from what I hear from those who are close to death, it is more beautiful than terrifying.

I guess, what’s the point of occupying ourselves with something that is completely unavoidable.

Sorry, this was longer than I thought.



When I woke up today the air felt different, electric, filled with tension.

My aunt was on the CB radio in the room off the kitchen. I could hear the static change with the clicking of the mic when she spoke, then listened. I tried to pick up what was being said, but every broken sentence was swallowed by more static. I poured some tea and went into the front porch to sit and wait.

When my aunt came in, she told me that my uncle’s boat was hit by another boat and was taking in water. I stared at my aunt as she sat down. I was trying to imagine her panic. My two cousins’ husbands work with my uncle on his boat, none of them can swim, not that it would matter. After fifteen minutes you die of hypothermia anyway. My uncle would sink like a rock with his steel braces.

We sat quietly waiting for the CB radio to click and yell.

After an hour or so my cousins came over and told my aunt that my uncle and their husbands were safe. They were able to stick a tarp into the hole and be towed back to the harbour. I saw tears in my aunts’ eyes and could feel her relief. The weight of a dark unknown future removed.

Later that day a woman came by to visit my aunt. She told my aunt that the devil tried his best but didn’t win this time. It seems that God doesn’t offer protection. You only find out your faith isn’t strong enough when you get killed. Everything is simply by the grace of God, which doesn’t feel that graceful, just filled with judgement. I stared at this woman trying to figure out how she thought this was a victory. But I realize when you live here and work in such an unforgiving environment the invisible sword of faith is all you have. The belief that something, somewhere, has a plan, is better than seeing everything as pointless chaos. I know nothing can end, but I don’t believe in a God, or what they call God.

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