The Cuf­fer An­thol­ogy III

The Compass - - PORTHTE -

For strictly self­ish rea­sons this hoary scrib­bler wept at the sight of the story on page 41 of The Cuf­fer An­thol­ogy: Vol­ume III [ Killick Press]. The story is Chad Pelly’s “All That He Saw” and it de­serves the Hon­ourable Men­tion it re­ceived. But that’s not why I cried.

My tears, my salty sor­row, leaked from my lacrimal glands be­cause Mr. Pelly had usurped the page from the au­thor whose story ap­peared in that po­si­tion in Cuf­fer: Vol­ume II — namely … Ah, enough. Turn the page. Push on. Dur­ing The War, New­found­lan­ders feared the pres­ence of Ger­man sub­marines with good rea­son; for in­stance, the sink­ing of the ferry Cari­bou by a Ger­man U-boat.

There are two sub­ma­rine sto­ries in this an­thol­ogy: Keith Col­lier’s “Bat­tle of the At­lantic” and Barry Mills’ “No­body Home.”

In Col­lier’s story a frus­trated out­look/ sen­try fires on an of­fi­cer stand­ing in the con­ning tower of a sur­faced sub­ma­rine. In Mills’ story the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of an out­port vil­lage hide for fear that the sound of an un­fa­mil­iar en­gine sig­nals the ap­proach of a Ger­man sub­ma­rine.

Years af­ter The War had ended, traces of this fear lin­gered in some New­found­land out­ports. Some­times a vil­lage’s own Chicken Lit­tle spied mys­te­ri­ous things in the sea and ran around the cove squawk­ing to alert the livy­ers: “The Ger­mans is comin’! I seen a sub­ma­rine in the Arm!” Truly. You know that once upon a time I was a wee bay boy liv­ing on the Ran­dom Arm shore of Ran­dom Is­land, eh b’ys?

Well into the 1950s, rogue Ger­man sub­marines stealthy pa­trolled the wa­ters of Ran­dom Arm — p’raps. Cer­tainly more than one of them was spot­ted by in­som­ni­acs in the dead of night when the subs sur­faced to re­con­noitre the shore­line and heave their garbage over­board.

With my own two eyes — in those days not blurred by tears of au­tho­rial dis­ap­point­ment — in broad day­light I viewed the jet­sam that had washed ashore from those en­emy sub­marines: soggy Dixie cups and for­eign-look­ing cig­a­rette pack­ages; the wa­ter­logged re­mains of un­fa­mil­iar veg­eta­bles; com­pletely uniden­ti­fi­able bits and bobs. What do you think, b’ys? Sub­marines? Next — Jen­nifer Mor­gan’s “The House With In­vis­i­ble Walls” is a sad and scary story of a man lost in the con­fu­sion of Alzheimer’s Dis­ease.

Deb­o­rah Whe­lan’s “Evening Shift” is an Avalon Mall ghost story: Booooooooooooo!

Two sto­ries fish up mem­o­ries of boy­hood be­hav­iour that if wit­nessed nowa­days would in­vite vis­i­ta­tions by TV News crews and con­dem­na­tion by ev­ery an­i­mal rights ac­tivist on the planet: Randy Drover’s “Of Sid­ney” and Mar­tine Blue’s “Rap­ping the Ugly Stick.”

Both sto­ries brush up against per­se­cu­tion; the per­se­cu­tion of … well, of sculpins, fish who even in the eyes of their dot­ing mam­mies, are deemed ugly.

If you prom­ise not to tell, I’ll re­late this one in­her­ently bru­tal sculpin tor­ment that I con­fess to be­ing once — p’raps twice — part of. Prom­ise? Shame to say, from atop the wharf, us­ing trout­ing line on a bam­boo pole, we piti­less boys would jig a wide- mouth sculpin … Some size of a gob on a sculpin id­den it, b’ys? …we’d jig a sculpin up from the bot­tom and then, af­ter mak­ing sure the hook was se­curely snagged in its lower lip, drag it through the nearby saw­dust pile un­til its mouth was stogged solid.

That wasn’t bad enough. Then we’d un­hook the poor tor­tured brute and chuck it back over the wharf and watch, with atavis­tic in­ter­est, the sculpin burp gouts of saw­dust as it sank back to its nest on the bot­tom.

Scan­dalous shenani­gans like this don’t oc­cur any­more. Do they?

Segue — want to know what some guys would do for the love of a New­found­land woman?

Read Chad Pel­ley’s — re­mem­ber he’s the for­tu­nate writer who also has a story be­gin­ning on page 41! — “He­li­copter Head” and Grace Lau’s “The Al­lure of a New­found­land Woman.”

In one, Oliver nearly busts a gut to im­press leggy Betty Samp­son. In the other, Mikhail jumps into bit­ter North At­lantic wa­ters en route to Emma, his heart’s de­light.

Lastly — although a poignant story for the most part, Dane Gill’s “In A Glass Bot­tle,” gave rise in my nog­gin to this in­trigu­ing ques­tion: When re­fer­ring to the honk­ing of an au­to­mo­bile horn, are New­found­lan­ders the only peo­ple who say, “Barmp?”

Thank you for read­ing.

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