The Cuffer Anthology III
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.