is thinking: Someday, when I am rich, I am going to ride in a hotair
balloon early on a Saturday morning. The balloon will sail very
low, close to giant trees, and silently float over backyards. Then,
suddenly, there will be an explosive roar as the gas ignites the
flame above the basket, and neighbourhood dogs will look upwards.
The dogs will be startled to see something so ominous and massive
sailing over their property, and they will go into a frenzy of barking
and barking. Whole neighbourhoods will be awakened as dogs bark
themselves hoarse. And high above the ruckus, I will sip coffee,
and observe the sunrise over the city.
These are Ruth’s thoughts as she
drinks coffee on her patio. She has a pile of marking to do. Grade
ten English, and grade eleven History. Also, she has not heard from
her son in nine days. Caleb, age nineteen, is working as a treeplanter
in northern Alberta. One young man in a motley crew bent on enduring
physical hardships, isolation, loneliness, monotony and breathtaking
beauty. Ruth has missed his last two calls. The first time she was
out for dinner with friends, and the other time swimming laps at
the pool. Ruth misses Caleb desperately, and she has played his
telephone messages over and over.
Caleb left for treeplanting at the end
of April. Four significant things happened the week before he left.
They were: Caleb received a letter from the University of Michigan
stating that he had won a full four year swim scholarship to study
Then, Caleb told Ruth that he was unsure
as to whether he was going to accept the scholarship. He thought
he might want to travel a bit first, or work and make some money.
Ruth was speechless. She had saved for Caleb’s university
education, but certainly not enough. Ruth wanted to scream ‘you’ll
work or travel over my dead body!’, but she bit her tongue,
and suggested they talk more about it later. Ruth put Caleb’s
university letter in the top drawer of her antique desk in the front
hallway, for safekeeping. That is where she put all important papers
for temporary safekeeping.
Next, a large brown envelope arrived in
the mail for Ruth. It was from PenWrite Press. Ruth was presently
doing research for a writer who was published by PenWrite Press,
and in the past, her own writing had been rejected by them. However,
she did not remember sending them any writing lately. No doubt she
had just forgotten. Ruth dropped the brown envelope onto the chair
that sat beside her antique desk.
Also, Ruth had recently discovered she
had a breast tumor.
As it turned out, there was no opportunity
for Ruth and Caleb to discuss university because Caleb’s crew
leader telephoned him the very next day. He needed Caleb to fly
out to Edmonton as soon as possible. A warming up of the weather
had made work possible within the week. Suddenly, there was a great
rush to change flight dates, buy needed gear and say goodbye to
friends. At the airport, just before boarding his plane, Caleb said
to his mother: “I promise I will think seriously about the
scholarship, Mom. I just need a bit of down time first.” Ruth
hugged Caleb goodbye. She told him to be safe, and to call home
whenever possible. Teary eyed, Ruth watched her son pass through
security, and walk towards the boarding gate. He looked so young.
His body tall, and lean, his hair blond and cut short, his outdoorsy
clothes all khaki and beige coloured. She thought: he is too young
to go so far away.
Ruth had to wait one week to see her general
practitioner about the lump. Meanwhile, there it sat in her body,
bold as brass. In her mind, Ruth started to call it a cyst, as it
sounded less ominous than the words tumor, growth, or lump. A cyst
was something temporary. Something that would be moving along soon.
But still, the presence of the cyst preoccupied her mind, and Ruth
was having trouble falling asleep at night. So, out of desperation
to make herself very tired before going to bed, Ruth started going
to the acquatic centre to swim lengths. The first time she went,
the pool was almost empty of people. Ruth was relieved because she
had not done lengths for a while. She slipped into the cool, calm
water, pushed off from the side, and immediately felt comfort from
the smell of chlorine and the sound of water lapping at her ears.
On her first night swimming, Ruth did
twenty laps, and returned home feeling tired and limp. When she
sat on the antique chair to take off her runners, the brown envelope
fell onto the floor, and as she crossed one leg over the other to
untie her shoes, her shoed foot left a brown footprint where her
name and address were. Ruth did not notice, and went straight to
That night, at about one in the morning,
the phone rang shrill and sudden in Ruth’sdark bedroom. She
groped for the phone. “Hello”.
“Hi Mom,” said Caleb. “Sorry
to call so late, but we just got into our rooms. It’s about
eleven here, and I wanted to call.”
Ruth turned on her bedside lamp. “Don’t
worry about the time, dear. I’m just so glad to hear your
voice. How are you?”
“Good” said Caleb enthusiastically.
Then Ruth said the first thing that surfaced
in her groggy mind. “Caleb,” she said. “How are
your socks? I’ve been worried that the socks we bought you
wouldn’t be warm enough...”
“Mom. The socks are fine.”
“Are you sure? I saw some other
socks after you left and I thought they looked like a much better
“Really, Mom”, said Caleb
patiently. “The socks. They're fine.”
“Oh that’s good. And your
“Sleeping bag is really good too,
Caleb continued. “And the crew
I’m with is pretty good, also.”
that’s good. How many trees can you plant a day?” She
knew he was worried about this.
now I can plant 1500 trees a day. That’s pretty average. But
some of the guys can plant 3000 a day so I have a way to go.”
said Ruth. “Planting 1500 trees in a day must be incredibly
hard. So you go down on your knees 1500 times a day to dig a hole
and plant a sapling?”
It’s pretty simple. Throw the shovel into the ground with
my right hand. Open the hole. Push handle away. The shovel breaks
the soil. I bring the handle back towards me. The tree is in my
left hand already. I put the plug in the hole. I can close the hole
with my hand, or kick with my foot. And its done. Next tree. They
don’t all live, but most do. Every so often they come and
check plots and spacing and see if the trees are doing good. They
spot check. That’s how you get a score.”
amazing. What else is new up there?”
we lost a guy yesterday.”
Ruth propped herself up on pillows. “What
do you mean by ‘you lost him?’”
were eating breakfast, and a huge fly landed on his toast. And he
just got up, and started walking. Walked clear out of camp, heading
to the road about 20 to 25 km off.”
when are you expecting him to come back?”
don’t think ever. The other guys say this sometimes happens.
Some people just can’t handle the job. I guess its because
it can get pretty lonely. And wet and cold. But the worst is the
monotony. The repetition. The mental strain is far worse then the
physical. But he left his tent behind. Didn’t even say goodbye...”
dear. He left his tent? His shovel? Those things would be so expensive
He took his backpack.” Caleb stifled a laugh. “But he
left his socks Mom. They were hanging on a clothesline.” Then
he paused and added, “I guess he just broke...”
I don’t want you to push yourself that far. This job may be
much more difficult than you realized. I think I probably shouldn’t
have let you go...”
I’m strong. You didn’t raise me to be a whimp, remember.
Don’t worry. I know what I can handle...”
Then Ruth heard voices in the background,
urging him to hurry up.
going to eat. Gotta go. I’ll call again as soon as I can.”
love you Caleb.”
But he was already gone.
When Caleb was five and taking swimming
lessons he almost drowned. Right there in a public pool with people
all around. The teacher took six students into the deep end of the
pool, gave each a flutter board, and as she turned to help one student,
Caleb slipped off his flutterboard and sank. The Red Cross says:
“Children can drown in 12 to 20 seconds”. Caleb was
going to beat the record. Ruth was standing on deck and saw Caleb
go under. Instantly she screamed at the top of her lungs. “Get
him” she screamed at the teacher “Get him quick!!”
Her voice so strong and piercing, and it carried up to the bleacher
seats, and to the rafters. The whole acquatic centre heard her.
The teacher moved like lightning and in one swim stroke she was
pulling Caleb back to the surface, putting Caleb in a rescue hold
to make sure he had not inhaled water. When Caleb looked over at
his mother, Ruth tried to put on a brave face and smile. She gave
thumbs up to Caleb, and said “good boy”. “Put
on a brave face” she told herself. “Look brave and don’t
freak him out. Or he’ll never go into the water again.”
That night at bedtime Caleb told his
mother that he was a little bit afraid when he almost drowned. Ruth
admitted she had been a little bit afraid too.
I think I could hear you screaming, Mom. Was that you screaming?”
that was me.”
Mom, I think your screaming helped me a little bit.”
Being a good parent is knowing when to
scream, and when to put on a brave face.
Caleb recovered and soon became a good swimmer. It was also a sport
that he really excelled at, so Ruth did all she could to give him
opportunities. When he was old enough she enrolled him in a swim
team, and for diving lessons during the summer holidays. The swim
team swam early, so Ruth and Caleb left the house each morning by
six a.m. and drove to the pool. Sitting on hard bleachers, in the
chorine humidity, Ruth would sip her coffee, do her school marking,
her lessons plans, and then write on her laptop. Over the years,
she did research for historical fiction writers, and had completed
three manuscripts of her own. In Ruth’s opinion, that had
been a pretty good use of her time.
Ruth had an appointment to see the surgeon
three weeks after she saw her family doctor. She did her best to
prepare herself for this appointment. In the morning she only drank
herbal tea, and fruit juice. She ate one bran muffin, no butter.
She did not read the newspaper, nor listen to the radio. She went
for a five kilometer walk along the river, stopped to feed the ducks,
and watched children in the playground. For lunch she ate a green
salad, and a large cantaloupe. She left the house in plenty of time,
taking the most leisurely route to the doctor’s office. She
parked her car in the shade. The doctor’s office was on the
sixth floor, and Ruth used the stairs. When she entered the doctor’s
office, it seemed surprisingly quiet. The receptionist said: “You
must be Ruth Sutherland.”
said Ruth. “I have an appointment for four o’clock.
I’m a little early.”
sorry, Ms. Sutherland. We left a message on your answering machine.
The doctor has come down with a sudden case of the flu, and will
not be able to see you today. We will have to reschedule. We are
so sorry for the inconvenience.”
said Ruth. She stood motionless at the receptionist’s desk.
Her stomach gave a thundering growl of hunger.
The receptionist smiled patiently, and
said: “Would you like to reschedule your appointment right
Ruth’s next appointment was for
On the way home Ruth stopped at the neighbourhood
Chinese restaurant. Caleb loved this restaurant, and Ruth longed
to inhale the aroma of Caleb’s favourite foods in the house
again. She ordered a large Wonton Soup and Spring Rolls, Chicken
and Mushroom Chow Mien, B.B.Q. Pork Fried Rice, Honey Garlic Spareribs,
Breaded Shrimp with Lemon, Pineapple Chicken Balls, Tai Dop Woey,
Beef with Diced Vegetables and Jar Doo Chicken Wings. As an afterthought,
she added Fresh Shrimp with Lobster sauce. She hoped desperately
that the smell of these foods in the house would make it feel like
Caleb was home.
The owner carefully placed the Styrofoam
dishes into two large brown bags, and stapled them shut.
He smiled at Ruth. She was a regular
customer, and he said: “Son home?”
“No” said Ruth. “He won’t be home for a
while. He is out west planting trees. I miss him.”
He smiled, and nodded to the bags of
food. “Good you have house party tonight. Then you won’t
miss son so much.”
As Ruth entered the house she put the
Chinese food bags down on the floor, on top of the fallen brown
envelope. A small amount of Honey Garlic Sparerib sauce had seeped
under one lid, through the bag, and now leaked onto the publisher’s
return address. Ruth picked up the bags, and carried them into the
kitchen. She was famished, and the aromas of her dinner made her
both hungry and lonely. As she slowly unpacked the Styrofoam tubs
she heard a robin’s early evening song outside the kitchen
window. Ruth paused, and looked out at her garden. She saw Caleb’s
old tire swing, hanging motionless. She saw the rose garden that
attracted Caleb’s tricycle like magnets to a fridge. Beside
the roses were her tomato plants, whose red fruits were once used
by Caleb and his friends for baseball practice. Garden salsa made
by six year olds. Ruth blinked back tears. She wondered: where have
all the years gone?
Later that evening Caleb called. Ruth
was watching television, nibbling on Fortune Cookies. Caleb was
calling from the same motel as last time, because the treeplanters
were given the same motel room each time they came into town.
“Oh that’s a good idea, dear” said Ruth. “It’s
probably nice to stay in a room that is familiar to you.”
said Caleb. “It's OK. But they give us the same room every
time because we smell the whole place up so much. They can’t
rent the room to anyone else, only treeplanting crews. In the
fall they repaint and pull out the carpet.”
boys must be extremely filthy,” said Ruth.
Caleb laughed. “Yah, Mom. You’d
never let me in the house.”
long do you plant each day?” asked Ruth.
a long day” said Caleb. “This morning we were out on
the slopes by seven and planted until six thirty in the evening.
But my speed has really picked up. I can plant 2500 trees a day
now. And my leg muscles have really bulked up too. You know, bend
to dig, lean to plant, bend to cover the sapling roots. It’s
really going to help my diving.”
He paused. “I’m going to
have to go in a minute. We’re going for a bite to eat. But
I need to ask a favour, Mom. I’ve deposited three cheques
into my bank account. Next time you go to the bank, can you have
my bank book updated for me?”
Then Caleb asked tentatively: “Mom.
You alright? You sound sort of tired.”
yes,” answered Ruth quickly. “I’m fine. I’m
just trying to cut down on how much coffee I drink.”
Caleb laughed. “Wow. Glad I’m
way out here when you try that.”
Ruth went to the pool to swim laps. She
slipped into the cool water, and pushed from the side. Her fingertips
cut through the water as she glided. She glided until she lost momentum,
and then she began to swim frontcrawl. She loved the rhythm and
the reaching of the frontcrawl stroke. She took a deep breath, while
her left arm reached in front, held steady. Her right arm stretched
alongside her body, then reached high behind her, arching forward
and down. One arm in front, the other behind her. One arm above
the water, the other in it. Moving rhythmically. Arm up and out
of the water, the other pushing water under her body, while her
feet kicked. Reach. Breath. Pull. Push. Kick. Reach.
As the water glided over her, past her,
Ruth pictured Caleb tree planting. Bend. Poke soil. Reach behind
for sapling. Drop sapling into hole. Pat soil down with shovel.
Walk three steps. Bend. Poke soil.... One arm reaching high into
the air, the other reaching down into the water. Measured. Stretching.
Bend. Poke. Reach. Drop. Pat. Walk. Bend...
Reach. Breath. Pull. Push. Kick. Reach...
Ruth’s swimming rhyme was best
by the tenth lap. She did five laps of front crawl, and then changed
to the breast stroke. She continued this pattern. One end of the
pool to the other. Over and over. By twenty laps her mind relaxed.
She had forgotten about the tumor, as though it has floated away.
She wished some of the water’s comfort, its cleanliness, would
reach Caleb far off in the bush. Would wash over him, refreshing
and cleaning him. Ruth swam on, until finally, at seventy laps Ruth
knew she could swim no longer. She was so tired that she could barely
pull herself out of the pool. Feeling both lean and weak, she dressed
slowly, then headed home.
The brown envelope sat on the floor with
a shoe print on Ruth’s address, and Honey Garlic Sparerib
sauce on the publisher’s return address. Now, when Ruth arrived
home all limp and damp, she dropped her swimbag onto the brown envelope,
and dampness quickly soaked into it. When Ruth picked up her swim
bag for the laundry, she put the envelope back onto the chair. The
ink in her name and address was thick and blurry.
When Ruth’s surgeon got the flu,
his whole schedule got out of whack. His patients from his four
days of sickness had to be squeezed into his already full appointment
book. On the day of her second appointment Ruth ate a normal breakfast,
but drank only one cup of coffee. She sent emails regarding historical
research she was doing to a writing colleague. Then she went out
to her garden to trim her rosebushes. From outside she heard the
phone ring, and rushed into the house to answer it. She had not
heard from Caleb for seven days, and hoped it is him. But it wasn’t
Caleb. It was the doctor’s nurse. She was extremely apologetic
but due to a pileup on the Mackenzie highway the surgeon had been
called out to do emergency surgery. The nurse apologized again,
but said it was unavoidable. Ruth, of course, understood. She was
rebooked to see the doctor on August 15.
Ruth wrote this down in her calendar,
and made herself some coffee. She measured enough coffee for six
strong cups. Next, she made dinner plans with friends. And then
Ruth packed her bag for swimming laps at the pool.
Caleb called at two in the morning. Ruth
had only just managed to doze off because the six cups of coffee
had kept her awake. But Caleb was oblivious to her grogginess. It
seemed he had called for a specific reason, and he got right to
bit of a close call today,” he said.
call meaning what?” asked Ruth. She was now fully awake, propping
herself up on pillows.
The close call had been a grizzly bear
and her two cubs. It was midmorning, and Caleb was planting on a
south slope, in the sun. His partner about 200 yards west of him.
All of a sudden his partner had called to him, telling him to look
east. Caleb did, and there was a grizzly cub. So furry and round,
nosing its snout in the air. Caleb looked back towards his partner,
and saw a second cub to the north. But his partner was still waving
frantically for him to look behind him. He did. And then he saw
the mother grizzly, not 100 yards from him, with Caleb standing
in between her and one cub. She was massive, motionless, with sunlight
glistening on her coat. Caleb froze, as he had been instructed to
do. Caleb froze and held tight to his shovel. His partner radioed
for a helicopter.
That was what they are supposed to do
when they saw a grizzly close. Call for help immediately, and stand
still. No treeplanter was paid enough money to tousle with a grizzly,
their boss had told them. Pretty soon a helicopter appeared over
a ridge, and as it approached, it started blaring horns to scare
away the mother. The horns bellowed, the sound bouncing off the
mountains. But this mother bear didn’t scare easy as she stood
still on the grassy slope, eyeing Caleb, and watching her cubs.
And her cubs seemed oblivious to the racket, sniffing mountain flowers,
and rolling about. The helicopter was hovering just above them when
the mother grizzly started walking towards her one cub. She walked
in unhurried, deliberate steps, and Caleb was in her path.
Caleb saw her in slow-motion. The helicopter
dropped lower, and Caleb’s shirt flapped against his body
like a flag. Caleb looked up and saw someone inside the helicopter
holding a rifle, with sites set on the mother grizzly and Caleb
figured she had about three strides left in her. Three strides and
then they would take her out...
And then, suddenly, one cub started to run down the slope. Gone
running, seeming to run after something imaginary. The cub ran away
from Caleb and away from his mother and this spontaneous movement
by the cub was like a gift because it caused the mother grizzly
to take her eyes off Caleb, and watch her young one. And without
breaking her stride, the mother turned and followed her wayward
offspring. Her massive limbs rolled under her glistening fur coat,
her gigantic paws flattening large clumps of grass as she ambled
down the hill. She did not look back at Caleb, and her other cub
followed, unbeckoned. And when the grizzly and her offspring reached
the trees they disappeared into them, like raindrops falling into
Danger was gone, and the helicopter immediately
rose higher and higher in the air. It quickly moved forward, making
a large turn to head back to basecamp and soon it was a soundless
speck in the clear blue sky. Left standing alone on the grassy slope
were Caleb and his treeplanting partner, looking at each other and
still holding their shovels.
Mom” finished Caleb. “I just wanted to let you know
that I’m OK”.
Ruth was breathless. “Thank God” she said.
They were quiet for a moment, and then
I’ve decided that I’m going to take that swimming scholarship.”
His words took a moment to sink in. Ruth
was still seeing the mother grizzly staring at her son.
dear.” she said.
Caleb repeated his decision.
Caleb,” said Ruth. “I’m so happy. I can’t
tell you how happy I am....”
And then she asked, “Caleb. When
did you make this decision?”
Caleb hesitated. “When I saw the
claw marks in the ground where I’d left my lunch.”
Caleb returned home from treeplanting
in mid August so he would have time enough to get ready for university.
Ruth almost didn’t recognize him when he walked through the
arrival doors of the airport. When he had left for treeplanting
his blond hair had been cut short. Now it was long, sunbleached
white, and curly all over. Curls like when he was two years old.
His skin was tanned bronze, and his body no longer lean, but muscular.
Caleb’s outdoorsy clothes had been thrown out when he left
camp, and he now wore blue jeans and a white T-shirt. He looked
so different... But his voice was the same.
Mom,” grinned Caleb, his arms outstretched. “Let this
treeplanter give ya a bear hug.”
The doctor’s office was tastefully
decorated in antique furniture and wildlife prints. Patients sat
on wooden chairs looking at National Geographic, Country Home, or
House and Garden. Ruth didn’t feel like reading. The receptionist
talked quietly on the phone. Since this doctor was a general surgeon,
Ruth figured not everyone had a fear of finding out they had cancer.
She was called into the examining room,
and given a green robe to wear. The doctor would be with her soon.
His credentials hung on the wall beside framed pictures of the human
anatomy. A large metal needle sat upon a sterile white cloth. It
looked like a tool for applying grout to bathroom tile.
The doctor entered, his starched white
coat swishing. He smiled at her, introduced himself, and shook her
hand. He wore steal rimmed glasses, a silk tie and white shirt.
His pants had a pleat as sharp as a knife, his shoes were an expensive
He apologized for the missed appointments.
problem,” said Ruth.
First the flu, then the highway pileup.
He hoped she understood that both were unavoidable.
course”, replied Ruth. She knew a car wreck was much worse
than what she had, but, still, it now felt as though she was headed
for a wreck of her own...
I understand you have a breast tumor,” he said matter of factly.
He nodded, and asked her to open her
robe for examination. Ruth always found this part of visiting a
specialists amusing. She had just met this man. Why, only yesterday
he could have been behind her in the Home Hardware lineup buying
a new sprinkler. But you put a doctor in a white coat and a patient
with a tumor in a sterile examining room, and kabang - its “show
His examination was thorough and quiet.
His hands were smooth, fingers like those of a pianist, nails white
and manicured. The hands of a surgeon. He pressed on the tumor,
moved the tumor, his eyes half closed, now focusing on an invisible
speck on the wall.
He had her sit up and raise one arm at
Again he said, “Hmmm.” Then,
“I believe it is benign, but I will take a biopsy sample to
be sure. If it is benign, but you still have this cyst in two months,
I will want to remove it with a local anathetic. I just don’t
like empty tumours sitting around a body. Just waiting for trouble
to move right in, I always think.”
Ruth nodded slowly, her body relaxing.
Rubber gloves were snapped on, and he
reached for the sterile tool. It was the size of a bicycle pump.
He efficiently took a sample and the pain was minimal. He squeezed
the retrieved liquid into a jar.
office will call you within a week,” he said briskly. He was
sealing and labeling the jar. “You call my office in two months
if this thing is still kicking around, and we will set a date for
surgery.” He turned and looked at Ruth. “Do you have
I don’t”, said Ruth. “Thank you.”
He smiled, and lines crinkled around
his eyes. “It was good to meet you, and we’ll be in
And then he was gone.
A pile of shoes lay inside the front
door. Powdered grit was evenly spread upon her hardwood floor, and
her hall runner was askew. Large moist sockprints led to the basement,
and several backpacks sat under her antique desk. Ruth heard a baseball
game on television in the family room. The brown envelope from PenWrite
Press had again fallen off the chair and was now partially hidden
under the shoes. Ruth picked it up. Ruth sighed at seeing things
untidy, but she knew she would miss all the untidiness once Caleb
headed off to school. Her house would be immaculate and silent,
and she wondered what she would do with her time.
Ruth had bought some groceries, and she
left them on the kitchen table. Still carrying the brown envelope,
she went downstairs. Five young men were draped across her furniture,
and their pizza cartons sat on the coffee table.
boys. Nice to see you,” She reached for a slice.
Without taking his eyes off the TV, Caleb
said “We drank all the pop, Mom.”
problem, I’m making coffee. Anyone like some?”
Mumbles of no thank you. The game was
at an impasse.
She turned to leave, and Caleb called,
“Hey Mom, I’m going camping with the guys for the weekend.
Don’t worry, I’ve already cut the grass.”
dear. Where are you going camping?” But her words were lost,
amidst exclamations and frustrations at the state of the team. Ruth
left, a slice of pizza and the brown envelope in her hand.
As Ruth waited for the coffee to percolate,
she opened the brown envelope. It was quite thick for a rejection
letter. She noticed the shoe print, the brown sauce stain, and the
blurred printing. As she ripped the envelope the smell of coffee
wafted to her nostrils and she inhaled deeply. Her mouth yearned
for a sip of the hot, black liquid. Ruth pulled folded paper from
the envelope and read the first page. It was a letter and it said:
Dear Ms. Sutherland,
As you may know, the author Trevor Jackson
is not well. He has suffered a mild stroke. With the advice of his
doctors, Mr. Jackson has concluded that the demands of physiotherapy
and the needed rest time will make it impossible for him to write
the last book in his trilogy series “Stoneposts”. This
has been a very difficult decision for Mr. Jackson, and a sad one
for us to receive, as his publishers. However, while ill health
has prevented Mr. Jackson from writing the third book, it has not
prevented him from stating who he will allow to write the last book.
Mr. Jackson insists that you, Ms. Sutherland, be the writer for
the third and final novel. Mr. Jackson has stated that your research
for the other two books has been invaluable. He has also stated
that your writing style, perseverance, and commitment to accuracy
and dedication to detail make you the perfect person to write this
greatly anticipated last book in the series.
Mr. Jackson wishes that the title remain
“Stoneposts: Departing the Gates”, as promoted by us
the publishers. However, Mr. Jackson insists that your name, and
only your name, be on the cover as author. He will forward all his
research notes, for you to use as you see fit. He entrusts this
work to you entirely.
This will be a new role for you, as you
have been a researcher for the other books. We have the utmost confidence
in your abilities as a writer, and we at PenWrite Press sincerely
hope you will accept this new challenge. We will look forward to
hearing from you regarding your decision to accept this project.
Helen Foster, Publisher
Ruth stood motionless in her kitchen.
The coffee finished perking. The young men cheered downstairs. Slowly,
Ruth reread the letter. Slowly. Word by word. She could hardly believe
what she was reading.
Ruth carefully folded the letter, and
placed it back into the envelope. She heard her son hoot at the
baseball game. Ruth pressed the tumour in her breast, and held the
brown envelope close to her heart. She blinked back tears.
Shaking, Ruth poured her coffee. She
slowly walked outside to the backyard where the pungent smell of
freshly cut grass surrounded her. She sat in her lawn chair, near
the tire swing. She put the envelope on her lap, sipped her coffee,
and looked up through tree branches into the late afternoon sky.
Above her a robin was singing; his song pure and clear. She thought:
my son is happy. My work is respected. And Ruth felt very rich.
It is early Saturday morning. The sun
is just breaking over the horizon. The pilot detaches the ropes,
and the balloon lifts. It lifts with a jolt, and then floats rapidly
higher and higher. Up and further up. Ruth’s heart races,
and she squints her eyes at the new sun, while the wind blows her
hair and makes her jacket flap. The rise of the balloon is sudden
and exhilarating. With one hand she clings to the side of the basket,
the other hand holding her travel coffee mug.
Their route is already charted. Over
the suburbs, where trees are tall, and backyards are fenced. Over
neighbourhoods that are still sleeping...
Ruth hears a dog bark, and she smiles.
Only one lone dog barking, until others join the chorus. And high
above the ruckus, Ruth sips her coffee, and observes the beauty
of the sunrise over the city.