A short story of Newfoundland.

We jacked the house up last week to put a basement in. Even though uncle Berk broke his ankle, he had to get the job done - he's that sort of go-getter personality. Who knows how many kids from Northern Bay came down the road to help out? Uncle's brothers came down, of course, even Wayne; they had nothing better to do. Uncle paid well, too, at least five an hour to all the kids, which was an excellent supplement to the berry-picking money. The building loan was big enough to pay everyone. We were swimming inside tangible joy. Money in our pockets, measured on scales beside the satisfaction of a job well done. When we were done, we'd head down to Isaac's Cove, wouldn't we? After all, we could pick up the mail from the store on the way back, if Pete was in. We'd sit on the round rocks at the mouth of the cave and play with smoking. The sun would sit lazily on our shoulders, keeping the flies away. There is an old wharf in Isaac's Cove, perhaps fifty years old. The wood is old, so old that it feels like dead rubber to the touch, not rotting precisely, but petrifying nicely. We all knew that one day, when we were all long gone from this earth (long after the house was finished), that a piece of driftwood from this place would come to rest thousands of miles from the Cove. Maybe it would land somewhere in Sri Lanka, or beside an abandoned boat somewhere on China's coast. If we were lucky, we could envision a little boy playing with it, before setting it to sea again. Isaac's Cove is secluded and can't be seen from the highroad, so it was a natural haven for us. (Highroad is a Newfoundland euphemism for highway. The highroad is the one stretch of pavement that joins one outport community to the next and is a highway in name only. Road is a more fitting term than highway in this instance: it's two lanes of decades-old asphalt with the occasional pothole you could drown in.)

Isaac's Cove is set wonderfully against a backdrop of old houses and ancient wooden fences. Once, the fences might have held back sheep and horses, but not in my lifetime. The fences may have surrounded a barn filled with the winter's firewood, but the barns have been carted off long ago for the wood needed for Lester's house in on the barrens. Some might have been used to build the garage on back of the house. We never knew where the wood went. We were the hired help. And once we hooked up to the church's water, we didn't need the outhouse any more; the pipes never freeze. That wood was burned on Guy Fawkes' Day of course. Along with whatever else we considered refuse. Once, that Delaney from down the road - the highroad - carted his old Maverick down there, and we burned that. The flames climbed high into the night, as the song used to say.

The sun down in Isaac's Cove was just right in early afternoon, when you could easily lean up against the cliff face to get out of the sun if necessary. Most of the time, it wasn't necessary. The breeze was coming in from over the water. After a long day's work, nothing was better than that breeze. If Pete's was open, it wouldn't be any trouble to pick up a Pepsi. We'd never throw away the lids either, would we? Toss them out on the water too; they could reach Sri Lanka, and it was fun to imagine the Sri Lankan (Or Ceylonese, if you prefer) children trying to puzzle out our bizarre letters. Best of all, after sending the bottle or wood on its journey, it wasn't a far walk home. Down the road was home, down the road was food and laughter and children we knew and loved. Later would be songs and fish and brewis, if Georgie decided to cook up the pot. But it was a long trek from Lower Island Cove, about ten miles or so, and his car was never guaranteed to work.

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