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   After looking through Laura’s notebooks, I put them back into my stocking drawer. Everything was known, but nothing could be proven. That much was clear.
   But there’s always more than one way to skin a cat, as Reenie used to say. If you can’t go through, go around.
   I waited until after the funeral, and then I waited another week. I didn’t want to act too precipitously. Better to be safe than sorry, Reenie also used to say. A questionable axiom: so often it’s both.
   Richard went off on a trip to Ottawa, an important trip to Ottawa. Men in high places might pop the question, he hinted; or if not now, then soon. I told him, and Winifred as well, that I would take this opportunity to go to Port Ticonderoga with Laura’s ashes in their silver-coloured box. I needed to sprinkle these ashes, I said, and to see to the inscription on the monumental Chase family cube. All right and proper.
   “Don’t blame yourself,” said Winifred, hoping I’d do just that—if I blamed myself enough, I wouldn’t get around to blaming anyone else. “Some things don’t bear dwelling on.” We dwell on them anyway, though. We can’t help ourselves.
   Having seen Richard off on his travels, I gave the help a free evening. I would hold down the fort, I said. I’d been doing more of this lately—I liked being alone in the house, with just Aimee, when she was asleep so even Mrs. Murgatroyd was not suspicious. When the coast was clear I acted quickly. I’d already done some preliminary, surreptitious packing—my jewel box, my photographs, Perennials for the Rack Garden —and now I did the rest. My clothes, though by no means all of them; some things for Aimee, though by no means all of those either. I got what I could into the steamer trunk, the same one that had once held my trousseau, and into the matching suitcase. The men from the railway arrived to collect the luggage, as I’d arranged. Then, the next day, it was easy for me to go off to Union Station in a taxi with Aimee, each of us with only an overnight case, and none the wiser.
   I left a letter for Richard. I said that in view of what he’d done—what I now knew he’d done—I never wanted to see him again. In consideration of his political ambitions I would not request a divorce, although I had ample proof of his scurrilous behaviour in the form of Laura’s notebooks, which—I said untruthfully—were locked away in a safe-deposit box. If he had any ideas about getting his filthy hands on Aimee, I added, he should discard them, because I would then create a very, very large scandal, as I would also do should he fail to meet my financial requests. These were not large: all I wanted was enough money to buy a small house in Port Ticonderoga, and to assure maintenance for Aimee. My own needs I could supply in other ways.
   I signed this letter Yours sincerely, and, while licking the envelope flap, wondered whether I’d spelled scurrilous correctly.
   Several days before leaving Toronto, I’d sought out Callista Fitzsimmons. She’d given up sculpture, and was now a mural painter. I found her at an insurance company—the head office—where she’d landed a commission. Women’s contributions to the war effort, was the theme—outdated, now that the war was over (and, though neither of us knew it yet, soon to be painted over in a reassuringly bland shade of taupe).
   They’d given her the length of one wall. Three women factory workers, in overalls and brave smiles, turning out the bombs; a girl driving an ambulance; two farm helpers with hoes and a basket of tomatoes; a woman in uniform, wielding a typewriter; down in the corner, shoved to one side, a mother in an apron removing a loaf of bread from the oven, with two approving children looking on.
   Callie was surprised to see me. I hadn’t given her any warning of my visit: I had no wish to be evaded. She was supervising the painters, with her hair up in a bandanna, wearing khaki slacks and tennis shoes, and striding around with her hands in her pockets and a cigarette stuck to her lower lip.
   She’d heard of Laura’s death, she’d read about it in the papers—such a lovely girl, so unusual as a child, such a shame. After these preliminaries, I explained what Laura had told me, and asked if it were true.
   Callie was indignant. She used the word bullshit, quite a lot. True, Richard had been helpful to her when she’d been nabbed by the Red Squad for agitating, but she’d thought that was just old-times’-sake family stuff on his part. She denied she’d ever told Richard anything, about Alex or any other pinko or fellow-traveller. What bullshit! These were her friends! As for Alex, yes, she’d helped him out at first, when he’d been in such a jam, but then he’d disappeared, owing her some money as a matter of fact, and next thing she’d heard he was in Spain. How could she have snitched about where he was when she didn’t even know it herself?
   Nothing gained. Perhaps Richard had lied about this to Laura, as he had lied to me about much else. On the other hand, perhaps it was Callie who was lying. But then, what else had I expected her to say?

   Aimee didn’t like it in Port Ticonderoga. She wanted her father. She wanted what was familiar to her, as children do. She wanted her own room back. Oh, don’t we all.
   I explained that we had to stay here for a little while. I shouldn’t say explained, because no explanation was involved. What could I have said that would have made any sense at all, to a child of eight?
   Port Ticonderoga was different now; the war had made inroads. Several of the factories had been reopened, during the conflict—women in overalls had turned out fuses—but now they were closing again. Perhaps they’d be converted to peacetime production, once it was determined what exactly the returning servicemen would want to buy, for the homes and families they would now doubtless acquire. Meanwhile there were many out of work, and it was wait and see.
   There were vacancies. Elwood Murray was no longer running the newspaper: he was soon to be a new, shiny name on the War Memorial, having joined the navy and got himself blown up. Interesting, which of the town’s men were said to have been killed and which were said to have got themselves killed, as if it was a piece of clumsiness or even a deliberate though somewhat minor act—almost a purchase, like getting yourself a haircut. Bought the biscuit was a recent local term for this, used as a rule by men. You had to wonder whose baking they had in mind.
   Reenie’s husband Ron Hincks was not classed among these casual shoppers for death. He was solemnly said to have been killed in Sicily, along with a bunch of other fellows from Port Ticonderoga who’d joined the Royal Canadian Regiment. Reenie had the pension, but not much else, and she was letting out a room in her tiny house; also she was still working at Betty’s Luncheonette, although she said her back was killing her.
   It wasn’t her back that was killing her, as I would soon discover. It was her kidneys, and they finished the job six months after I moved back. If you’re reading this, Myra, I would like you to know what a severe blow this was. I’d been counting on her to be there—hadn’t she always been?—and now, all of a sudden, she wasn’t.
   And then increasingly she was, for whose voice did I hear when I wanted a running commentary?

   I went to Avilion, of course. It was a difficult visit. The grounds were derelict, the gardens overgrown; the conservatory was a wreck, with broken panes of glass and desiccated plants, still in their pots. Well, there’d been some of those, even in our time. The guardian sphinxes had several inscriptions of the John Loves Mary variety on them; one had been overturned. The pond of the stone nymph was choked with dead grass and weeds. The nymph herself was still standing, though missing some fingers. Her smile was the same, though: remote, secret, unconcerned.
   I didn’t have to break into the house itself: Reenie was still alive then, she still had her clandestine key. The house was in a sad state: dust and mouse doings everywhere, stains on the now-dull parquet floors where something had leaked. Tristan and Iseult were still there, presiding over the empty dining room, though Iseult had suffered an injury to her harp, and a barn swallow or two had built over the middle window. No vandalism inside the place, however: the wind of the Chase name blew round the house, however faintly, and there must have been a fading aura of power and money lingering in the air.
   I walked all over the house. The smell of mildew was pervasive. I looked through the library, where Medusa’s head still held sway over the fireplace. Grandmother Adelia too was still in place, though she’d begun to sag: her face now wore an expression of repressed but joyful cunning. I bet you were alleycatting around, after all, I thought at her. I bet you had a secret life. I bet it kept you going.
   I poked around among the books, I opened the desk drawers. In one of them there was a box of sample buttons from the days of Grandfather Benjamin: the circles of white bone that had turned to gold in his hands, and that had stayed gold for so many years, but had now turned back into bone again.
   In the attic I found the nest Laura must have made for herself up there, after she’d left Bella Vista: the quilts from the storage trunks, the blankets from her bed downstairs—a dead giveaway if anyone had been searching the house for her. There were a few dried orange peels, an apple core. As usual she hadn’t thought to tidy anything away. Hidden in the wainscot cupboard was the bag of odds and ends she’d stashed there, that summer of the Water Nixie: the silver teapot, the china cups and saucers, the monogrammed spoons. The nutcracker shaped like an alligator, a lone mother-of pearl cuff link, the broken lighter, the cruet stand minus the vinegar.
   I’d come back later, I told myself, and get more.

   Richard did not appear in person, which was a sign (to me) of his guilt. Instead, he sent Winifred. “Are you out of your mind?” was her opening salvo. (This, in a booth at Betty’s Luncheonette: I didn’t want her in my little rented house, I didn’t want her anywhere near Aimee.)
   “No,” I said, “and neither was Laura. Or not so far out of it as you both pretended. I know what Richard did.”
   “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Winifred. She had on a mink stole composed of lustrous tails, and was extricating herself from her gloves.
   “I suppose when he married me he figured he’d got a bargain—two for the price of one. He picked us up for a song.”
   “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Winifred, though she looked shaken. “Richard’s hands are absolutely clean, whatever Laura said. He is pure as the driven. You’ve made a serious error in judgment. He wants me to say he’s prepared to overlook this—this aberration of yours. If you’ll come back, he’s fully willing to forgive and forget.”
   “But I’m not,” I said. “He may be pure as the driven, but it’s not the driven snow. It’s another substance entirely.”
   “Keep your voice down,” she hissed. “People are looking.”
   “They’ll look anyway,” I said, “with you dressed up like Lady Astor’s horse. You know, that colour of green doesn’t suit you one bit, especially at your present age. It never has, really. It makes you look bilious.”
   This hit home. Winifred was finding it hard going: she wasn’t used to this new, viperish aspect of me. “What do you want, exactly ?” she said. “Not that Richard did anything at all. But he doesn’t want an uproar.”
   “I told him, exactly,” I said. “I spelled it out. And now I’d like the cheque.”
   “He wants to see Aimee.”
   “There is no way in Hell,” I said, “that I will permit such a thing. He has a yen for young girls. You knew that, you’ve always known it. Even at eighteen I was pushing the upper limit. Having Laura in the same house was just too much temptation for him, I see that now. He couldn’t keep his hands off her. But he’s not getting his mitts on Aimee.”
   “Don’t be disgusting,” Winifred said. She was very angry by now: she’d gone blotchy under her makeup. “Aimee is his own daughter.”
   I was on the verge of saying, “No, she’s not,” but I knew that would be a tactical mistake. Legally, she was his daughter; I had no way of proving otherwise, they hadn’t invented all those genes and so forth, not yet. If Richard knew the truth, he’d be even more eager to snatch Aimee away from me. He’d hold her hostage, and I’d lose all the advantage I’d gained so far. It was a game of nasty chess. “He’d stop at nothing,” I said, “not even at Aimee. Then he’d pack her off to some under-the-counter abortion farm, the way he did with Laura.”
   “I can see there’s no point in continuing this discussion further,” said Winifred, gathering up her gloves and her stole and her reptilian purse.

   After the war, things changed. They changed the way we looked. After a time the grainy muted greys and half-tones were gone. Instead there was the full glare of noon—gaudy, primary, shadowless. Hot pinks, violent blues, red and white beach balls, the fluorescent green of plastic, the sun blazing down like a spotlight.
   Around the outskirts of towns and cities, bulldozers rampaged and trees were toppled; great holes were scooped in the ground as if bombs had been dropped there. The streets were gravel and mud. Lawns of bare earth appeared, with spindly saplings planted on them: weeping birches were popular. There was far too much sky.
   There was meat, great hunks and slabs and chunks of it glistening in the butchers’ windows. There were oranges and lemons bright as a sunrise, and mounds of sugar and mountains of yellow butter. Everyone ate and ate. They stuffed themselves full of technicolour meat and all the technicolour food they could get, as if there was no tomorrow.
   But there was a tomorrow, there was nothing but a tomorrow. It was yesterday that had vanished.

   I had enough money now, from Richard and also from Laura’s estate. I’d bought my little house. Aimee was still resentful of me for having dragged her away from her former and considerably more affluent life, but she appeared to have settled down, though once in a while I’d catch a cold look from her: she was already deciding that I was unsatisfactory as a mother. Richard on the other hand had reaped the benefits of long distance, and had much more of a gleam to him, in her eyes, now that he was no longer present. However, the flow of gifts from him had slowed to a trickle, so she didn’t have many options. I’m afraid I expected her to be more stoical than she was.
   Meanwhile, Richard was readying himself for the mantle of command, which was—according to the newspapers—as good as within his grasp. True, I was an impediment, but rumours of a separation had been squashed. I was said to be “in the country,” and that was marginally all right, as long as I was prepared to stay there.
   Unbeknownst to myself, other rumours had been floated: that I was mentally unstable; that Richard was maintaining me financially, despite my wackiness; that Richard was a saint. No harm in a mad wife, if properly handled: it does make the spouses of the powerful so much more sympathetic to one’s cause.
   In Port Ticonderoga I lived quietly enough. Whenever I went out, I moved through a sea of respectful whispers, the voices hushing when I came within earshot, then starting up again. It was agreed that whatever had happened with Richard, I must be the wronged party. I’d got the short end of the straw, but as there was no justice and precious little mercy, nothing could be done for me. This was before the book appeared, of course.
   Time passed. I gardened, I read, and so on. I had already begun—in a modest way, and beginning with a few pieces of animal jewellery from Richard—the trade in second-hand artifacts that, as it turned out, would stand me in good stead in the coming decades. A semblance of normality had been installed.
   But unshed tears can turn you rancid. So can memory. So can biting your tongue. My bad nights were beginning. I couldn’t sleep.

   Officially, Laura had been papered over. A few years more and it would be almost as if she’d never existed. I shouldn’t have taken a vow of silence, I told myself. What did I want? Nothing much. Just a memorial of some kind. But what is a memorial, when you come right down to it, but a commemoration of wounds endured? Endured, and resented. Without memory, there can be no revenge.
   Lest we forget. Remember me. To you from failing hands we throw. Cries of the thirsty ghosts.
   Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead, I’ve found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them.
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   I sent the book off. In due time, I received a letter back. I answered it. Events took their course.
   The author’s copies arrived, in advance of publication. On the inside jacket flap was a touching biographical note:
   Laura Chase wrote The Blind Assassin before the age of twenty-five. It was her first novel; sadly, it will also be her last, as she died in a tragic automobile accident in 1945. We are proud to present the work of this young and gifted writer in its first astonishing flowering.
   Above this was Laura’s photo, a bad reproduction: it made her look flyspecked. Nevertheless, it was something.

   When the book came out, there was at first a silence. It was quite a small book, after all, and hardly best-seller material; and although well received in critical circles in New York and London, it didn’t make much of a splash up here, not initially. Then the moralists grabbed hold of it, and the pulpit-thumpers and local biddies got into the act, and the uproar began. Once the corpse flies had made the connection—Laura was Richard Griffen’s dead sister-in-law—they were all over the story like a rash. Richard had, by that time, his store of political enemies. Innuendo began to flow.
   The story that Laura had committed suicide, so efficiently quashed at the time, rose to the surface again. People were talking, not just in Port Ticonderoga but in the circles that mattered. If she’d done it, why? Someone made an anonymous phone call—now who could that have been?—and the Bella Vista Clinic entered the picture. Testimony by a former employee (well paid, it was said, by one of the newspapers) led to a full investigation of the seedier practices carried on there, as a result of which the backyard was dug up and the whole place was closed down. I studied the pictures of it with interest: it had been the mansion of one of the lumber barons before it became a clinic, and was said to have some rather fine stained-glass windows in the dining room, though not so fine as Avilion’s.
   There was some correspondence between Richard and the director that was particularly damaging.

   Once in a while Richard appears to me, in the mind’s eye or in a dream. He’s grey, but with an iridescent sheen to him, like oil on a puddle. He gives me a fishy look. Another reproachful ghost.
   Shortly before the newspapers announced his retirement from official politics, I received a telephone call from him, the first since my departure. He was enraged, and also frantic. He’d been told that due to the scandal he could no longer be considered as a leadership candidate, and now the men that mattered were not returning his calls. He’d been cold-shouldered. He’d been stiffed. I’d done this on purpose, he said, to ruin him.
   “Done what?” I said. “You’re not ruined. You’re still very rich.”
   “That book!” he said. “You sabotaged me! How much did you have to pay them, to get it published? I can’t believe Laura wrote that filthy—that piece of garbage!”
   “You don’t want to believe it,” I said, “because you were besotted with her. You can’t face the possibility that all the time you were having your squalid little fling with her, she must have been in and out of bed with another man—one she loved, unlike you. Or I assume that’s what the book means—doesn’t it?”
   “It was that pinko, wasn’t it? That fucking bastard—at the picnic!” Richard must have been very upset: as a rule, he seldom swore.
   “How would I know?” I said. “I didn’t spy on her. But I agree with you, it would have started at the picnic.” I didn’t tell him there had been two picnics involving Alex: one with Laura, and a second one, a year later, without her, after I’d run into Alex that day on Queen Street. The one with the hard-boiled eggs.
   “She was doing it out of spite,” said Richard. “She was just getting back at me.”
   “That wouldn’t surprise me,” I said. “She must have hated you. Why wouldn’t she? You as good as raped her.”
   “That’s untrue! I did nothing without her consent!”
   “Consent? Is that what you’d call it? I’d call it blackmail.”
   He hung up on me. It was a family trait. When she’d called earlier to rail at me, Winifred had done that too.

   Then Richard went missing, and then he was found in the Water Nixie —well, you know all that. He must have crept into the town, crept onto the grounds of Avilion, crept onto the boat, which was in the boathouse, by the way, not tied up at the jetty as it erroneously said in the papers. That was a cover-up: a corpse in a boat on the water is normal enough, but one in a boathouse is peculiar. Winifred wouldn’t have wanted it thought that Richard had gone round the bend.
   What really happened then? I’m not sure. Once he was located, Winifred took charge of events, and put the best face on things. A stroke was her story. He was found with the book at his elbow, however. That much I know, because Winifred phoned in a state of hysteria and told me so. “How could you have done this to him?” she said. “You destroyed his political career, and then you destroyed his memories of Laura. He loved her! He adored her! He couldn’t bear it when she died!”
   “I’m glad to hear he felt some remorse,” I said coldly. “I can’t say I noticed any at the time.”
   Winifred blamed me, of course. After that, it was open war. She did the worst thing to me that she could think of. She took Aimee.

   I suppose you were taught the gospel according to Winifred. In her version, I would have been a lush, a tramp, a slut, a bad mother. As time went by I no doubt became, in her mouth, a slovenly harridan, a crazy old bat, a peddler of ratty old junk. I doubt she ever said to you that I murdered Richard, however. If she’d told you that, she would also have had to say where she got the idea.
   Junk would have been a slur. It’s true I bought cheap and sold dear—who doesn’t, in the antiques racket?—but I had a good eye and I never twisted anyone’s arm. There was a period of excessive drinking—I admit it—though not until after Aimee was gone. As for the men, there were some of those as well. It was never a question of love, it was more like a sort of periodic bandaging. I was cut off from everything around me, unable to reach, to touch; at the same time I felt scraped raw. I needed the comfort of another body.
   I avoided any man from my own former social circles, though some of these appeared, like fruit flies, as soon as they got wind of my solitary and possibly rotten state. Men like that could have been egged on by Winifred, and no doubt were. I stuck to strangers, picked up on my forays to nearby towns and cities in search of what they now call collectibles. I never gave my real name. But Winifred was too persistent for me, in the end. All she’d needed was one man, and that’s what she’d got. The pictures of the motel room door, going in, coming out; the fake signatures in the register; the testimony of the owner, who’d welcomed the cash. You could fight it in court, said my lawyer, but I’d advise against it. We’ll try for visiting rights, that’s all you can expect. You handed them the ammunition and they’ve used it. Even he took a dim view of me, not for my moral turpitude but for my clumsiness.
   Richard had appointed Winifred as Aimee’s guardian in his will, and also as sole trustee of Aimee’s not inconsiderable trust fund. So she had that in her favour, as well.

   As for the book, Laura didn’t write a word of it. But you must have known that for some time. I wrote it myself, during my long evenings alone, when I was waiting for Alex to come back, and then afterwards, once I knew he wouldn’t. I didn’t think of what I was doing as writing—just writing down. What I remembered, and also what I imagined, which is also the truth. I thought of myself as recording. A bodiless hand, scrawling across a wall.
   I wanted a memorial. That was how it began. For Alex, but also for myself.
   It was no great leap from that to naming Laura as the author. You might decide it was cowardice that inspired me, or a failure of nerve—I’ve never been fond of spotlights. Or simple prudence: my own name would have guaranteed the loss of Aimee, whom I lost in any case. But on second thought it was merely doing justice, because I can’t say Laura didn’t write a word. Technically that’s accurate, but in another sense—what Laura would have called the spiritual sense—you could say she was my collaborator. The real author was neither one of us: a fist is more than the sum of its fingers.

   I remember Laura, when she was ten or eleven, sitting at Grandfather’s desk, in the library at Avilion. She had a sheet of paper in front of her, and was busying herself with the seating arrangements in Heaven. “Jesus sits at the right hand of God,” she said, “so who sits at God’s left hand?”
   “Maybe God doesn’t have a left hand,” I said, to tease her. “Left hands are supposed to be bad, so maybe he wouldn’t have one. Or maybe he got his left hand cut off in a war.”
   “We’re made in God’s image,” Laura said, “and we have left hands, so God must have one as well.” She consulted her diagram, chewing on the end of her pencil. “I know!” she said. “The table must be circular! So everyone sits at everyone else’s right hand, all the way round.”
   “And vice versa,” I said.
   Laura was my left hand, and I was hers. We wrote the book together. It’s a left-handed book. That’s why one of us is always out of sight, whichever way you look at it.

   When I began this account of Laura’s life—of my own life—I had no idea why I was writing it, or who I expected might read it once I’d done. But it’s clear to me now. I was writing it for you, dearest Sabrina, because you’re the one—the only one—who needs it now.
   Since Laura is no longer who you thought she was, you’re no longer who you think you are, either. That can be a shock, but it can also be a relief. For instance, you’re no relation at all to, Winifred, and none to Richard. There’s not a speck of Griffen in you at all: your hands are clean on that score. Your real grandfather was Alex Thomas, and as to who his own father was, well, the sky’s the limit. Rich man, poor man, beggar-man, saint, a score of countries of origin, a dozen cancelled maps, a hundred levelled villages—take your pick. Your legacy from him is the realm of infinite speculation. You’re free to reinvent yourself at will.
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Fifteen

The Blind Assassin Epilogue:
The other hand

   She has a single photograph of him, a black-and-white print. She preserves it carefully, because it’s almost all she has left of him. The photo is of the two of them together, her and this man, on a picnic. Picnic is written on the back—not his name or hers, just picnic. She knows the names, she doesn’t need to write them down.
   They’re sitting under a tree; it must have been an apple tree. She has a wide skirt tucked around her knees. It was a hot day. Holding her hand over the picture, she can still feel the heat coming up from it.
   He’s wearing a light-coloured hat, partially shading his face. She’s turned half towards him, smiling in a way she can’t remember smiling at anyone since. She seems very young in the picture. He’s smiling too, but he’s holding up his hand between himself and the camera, as if to fend it off. As if to fend her off, in the future, looking back at them. As if to protect her. Between his fingers is the stub of a cigarette.
   She retrieves the photograph when she’s alone, and lies it flat on the table and stares down into it. She examines every detail: his smoky fingers, the bleached folds of their clothing, the unripe apples hanging in the tree, the dying grass in the foreground. Her smiling face.
   The photo has been cut; a third of it has been cut off. In the lower left corner there’s a hand, scissored off at the wrist, resting on the grass. It’s the hand of the other one, the one who is always in the picture whether seen or not. The hand that will set things down.
   How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you’d be doomed. You’d be as ruined as God. You’d be a stone. You’d never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You’d never love anyone, ever again. You’d never dare to.
   Drowned now—the tree as well, the sky, the wind, the clouds. All she has left is the picture. Also the story of it.
   The picture is of happiness, the story not. Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there’s no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.
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The Port Ticonderoga Herald and Banner, May 29, 1999

Iris Chase Griffen, A Memorable Lady
By Myra Sturgess


   Mrs. Iris Chase Griffen passed away suddenly last Wednesday at the age of 83, at her home here in Port Ticonderoga. “She left us very peacefully, while sitting in her back garden,” stated long-time family friend Mrs. Myra Sturgess. “It was not unexpected as she was suffering from a heart condition. She was quite the personality and a landmark of history, and wonderful for her age. We will all miss her and she will certainly be long remembered.”
   Mrs. Griffen was the sister of noted local authoress Laura Chase. In addition she was the daughter of Captain Norval Chase who will be long remembered by this town, and granddaughter of Benjamin Chase, founder of Chase Industries which put up the Button Factory and others. As well, she was the wife of the late Richard E. Griffen, the prominent industrialist and political figure, and the sister-in-law of Winifred Griffen Prior, the Toronto philanthropist who died last year leaving a generous legacy to our high school. She is survived by her granddaughter Sabrina Griffen, who has just returned from abroad and is expected to visit this town shortly to see to her grandmother’s affairs. I am sure she will be given a warm greeting and any help or aid we all can proffer.
   By Mrs. Griffen’s wish the funeral service will be private, with interment of the ashes at the Chase family monument in Mount Hope Cemetery. However a Memorial Service will be held in the chapel of the Jordan Funeral Home this coming Tuesday at 3.00 p.m., in acknowledgment of the many contributions made by the Chase family over the years, with refreshments served afterwards at the home of Myra and Walter Sturgess, all welcome.
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The threshold

   Today it’s raining, a warm spring rain. The air is opalescent with it. The sound of the rapids pours up and over the cliff—pours like a wind, but unmoving, like wave marks left on sand.
   I’m sitting at the wooden table on my back porch, in the shelter of the overhang, gazing out over the long straggling garden. It’s almost dusk. The wild phlox is in bloom, or I believe it must be phlox; I can’t see it clearly. Something blue, that glimmers down there at the end of the garden, the phosphorescence of snow in shadow. In the flower beds the shoots jostle upwards, crayon-shaped, purple, aqua, red. The scent of moist dirt and fresh growth washes in over me, watery, slippery, with an acid taste to it like the bark of a tree. It smells like youth; it smells like heartbreak.
   I’ve swathed myself in a shawl: the evening is warm for the season, but I don’t feel it as warmth, only as an absence of cold. I view the world clearly from here—here being the landscape glimpsed from the top of a wave, just before the next one drives you under: how blue the sky, how green the sea, how final the prospect.

   Beside my elbow is the stack of paper I’ve been adding to so laboriously, month after month. When I’m done—when I’ve written the final page—I’ll pull myself up out of this chair and make my way to the kitchen, and scrabble around for an elastic band or a piece of string or an old ribbon. I’ll tie the papers up, then lift the lid of my steamer trunk and slide this bundle in on top of everything else. There it will stay until you come back from your travels, if you ever do come back. The lawyer has the key, and his orders.

   I must admit I have a daydream about you.
   One evening there will be a knock at the door and it will be you. You’ll be dressed in black, you’ll be toting one of those little rucksacks they all have now instead of handbags. It will be raining, as it is this evening, but you won’t have an umbrella, you’d scorn umbrellas; the young like their heads to be whipped about by the elements, they find it bracing. You’ll stand on the porch, in a haze of damp light; your glossy dark hair will be sodden, your black outfit will be soaked, the drops of rain will glitter on your face and clothes like sequins.
   You’ll knock. I’ll hear you, I’ll shuffle down the hallway, I’ll open the door. My heart will jump and flutter; I’ll peer at you, then recognize you: my cherished, my last remaining wish. I’ll think to myself that I’ve never seen anyone so beautiful, but I won’t say so; I wouldn’t want you to think I’ve gone scatty. Then I’ll welcome you, I’ll hold out my arms to you, I’ll kiss you on the cheek, sparsely, because it would be unseemly to let myself go. I’ll cry a few tears, but only a few, because the eyes of the elderly are arid.
   I’ll invite you in. You’ll enter. I wouldn’t recommend it to a young girl, crossing the threshold of a place like mine, with a person like me inside it—an old woman, an older woman, living alone in a fossilized cottage, with hair like burning spiderwebs and a weedy garden full of God knows what. There’s a whiff of brimstone about such creatures: you may even be a little frightened of me. But you’ll also be a little reckless, like all the women in our family, and so you will come in anyway. Grandmother, you will say; and through that one word I will no longer be disowned.
   I’ll sit you down at my table, among the wooden spoons and the twig wreaths, and the candle which is never lit. You’ll be shivering, I’ll give you a towel, I’ll wrap you in a blanket, I’ll make you some cocoa.
   Then I’ll tell you a story. I’ll tell you this story: the story of how you came to be here, sitting in my kitchen, listening to the story I’ve been telling you. If by some miracle that were to happen, there would be no need for this jumbled mound of paper.
   What is it that I’ll want from you? Not love: that would be too much to ask. Not forgiveness, which isn’t yours to bestow. Only a listener, perhaps; only someone who will see me. Don’t prettify me though, whatever else you do: I have no wish to be a decorated skull.
   But I leave myself in your hands. What choice do I have? By the time you read this last page, that—if anywhere—is the only place I will be.
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Acknowledgments

   I would like to express my gratitude to the following: my invaluable assistant, Sarah Cooper; my other researchers, A. S. Hall and Sarah Webster; Professor Tim Stanley; Sharon Maxwell, archivist, Cunard Line Ltd., St. James Library, London; Dorothy Duncan, executive director, Ontario Historical Society; Hudson’s Bay/Simpsons Archives, Winnipeg; Fiona Lucas, Spadina House, Heritage Toronto; Fred Kerner; Terrance Cox; Katherine Ashenburg; Jonathan F. Vance; Mary Sims; Joan Gale; Don Hutchison; Ron Bernstein; Lorna Toolis and her staff at the Toronto Public Library’s Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, and to Janet Inksetter of Annex Books. Also to early readers Eleanor Cook, Ramsay Cook, Xandra Bingley, Jess A. Gibson, and Rosalie Abella. Also to my agents, Phoebe Larmore, Vivienne Schuster, and Diana Mackay; and to my editors, Ellen Seligman, Heather Sangster, Nan A. Talese, and Liz Calder. Also to Arthur Gelgoot, Michael Bradley, Bob Clark, Gene Goldberg, and Rose Tornato. And to Graeme Gibson and my family, as always.

   Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint already published material:

   Epigraphs:
   Ryszard Kapuscinski, Shah of Shahs: © 1982, Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczowska-Brand. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985. Reprinted by permission of the author.

   The Carthaginian urn inscription attributed to Zashtar, a minor noble-woman (c. 210–185 B.C.E.), is cited by Dr. Emil F. Swardsward in “Carthaginian Shard Epitaphs,” Cryptic: The Journal of Ancient Inscriptions, vol. VII, no. 9, 1963.

   Sheila Watson: from Deep Hollow Creek © 1992, Sheila Watson. Reprinted with permission from McClelland Stewart Inc.

   The vernacular renditions of songs are based on:

   “The Smoke Goes Up the Chimney Just the Same.” Traditional.

   “Smokey Moon.” Lyric by G. Damorda. Music by Crad Shelley. Copyright © 1934 Sticks Inc./Skylark Music. Copyright renewed 1968 by Chaggas Music Corporation on behalf of author and composer. Used by permission.

   “Stormy Weather.” Lyric by Ted Koehler. Music by Harold Arlen. Copyright © 1933 Mills Music Inc./S. A. Music Co./Ted Koehler Music/EMI Mills Music Inc./Redwood Music. Copyright renewed 1961 by Arko Music Corp. U.S. rights for the extended term in the United States administered by Fred Ahlert Music Corporation on behalf of Ted Koehler Music. U.S. rights administered by S. A. Music on behalf of Harold Arlen Music. Rights outside the U.S. administered by EMI Mills Music Inc. All rights relating to the interest of Ted Koehler in Canada and the reversionary territories are controlled by Bienstock Publishing Company on behalf of Redwood Music. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

   The account of the Queen Mary’s maiden voyage is excerpted from:

   “In Search of an Adjective” by J. Herbert Hodgins. Mayfair, July 1936. (Maclean Hunter, Montreal). Exact ownership of copyright unknown. Reprinted by permission of Rogers Media and Southam Inc.
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