“Ar­ti­facts,”

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - by Kirsten Mad­sen il­lus­tra­tion by Katty Mau­rey

There were no clocks in the mu­seum. Ge­of­frey liked to think this was meta­phoric. He was in­clined to this kind of think­ing to­ward the end of a shift, when the halls and gal­leries were quiet, the pa­trons hav­ing taken their chil­dren home for naps. Time had stopped here in the room com­mem­o­rat­ing the great gold rush of 1898, with its rusty pans, pick­axes, and the rot­ting lin­gerie of the can­can girls. Next door, time swung back into pre­his­tory in the room cel­e­brat­ing the ice age, the dry time when strange an­i­mals tripped over north­ern soils: Beringia, it was called, that place where the ice wasn’t.

The Beringia room was Ge­of­frey’s favourite. It held repli­cas of mas­sive furred an­i­mals both fa­mil­iar and strange: gi­ant sloth, gi­ant short-faced bear, and mam­moth (the name it­self was large), a hairy, ele­phant-like crea­ture. “It looks kinda like Snuf­fle­u­pa­gus with tusks,” he’d told Ida on their first date.

Ida was si­lent for a mo­ment, maybe pic­tur­ing that for her­self. Then she spoke: “I al­ways wished I could see the great cats wan­der­ing the slopes. Imag­ine tigers in the Yukon.”

“There were camels too,” Ge­of­frey said, want­ing to im­press her, hop­ing to hit on some­thing she didn’t al­ready know. Ida held many ar­cane bits of knowl­edge in her head. It was what he liked about her, he told him­self, even when he didn’t.

“How did you know about it — about Beringia?” he asked her. “I had never heard of it be­fore I got this job, and I stud­ied an­thro­pol­ogy.”

Ida had taken poetry classes at a com­mu­nity col­lege and trav­elled in Asia rather than at­tend uni­ver­sity. She shrugged. “It’s why I came North. I’m into ice ages. Iwanted to get closer to glaciers.”

Get­ting close to her was sim­i­lar, Ge­of­frey thought. They’d been dat­ing for five months now. She was im­pres­sive at a dis­tance, but up close she tended to freeze him out.

Ge­of­frey was in the First Peo­ples ex­hibit, dust­ing the pa­leo-fam­ily and wish­ing he had worn a watch. There was a meet­ing he was sup­posed to sit in on; he thought he might al­ready be late. The pa­leo-man’s hair was made of some kind of wiry ma­te­rial, and it was a mag­net for dust bun­nies. They col­lected there, rob­bing the fig­ure of his dig­nity.

The an­cient man was short, even shorter hunched over a cari­bou with a flens­ing tool. His plas­tic hands pulled back the skin of the an­i­mal to ex­pose an artist’s ren­der­ing of a cari­bou’s guts. Ge­of­frey won­dered if Ida knew the word flens­ing. She might like it; he would try it on her tonight.

Ge­of­frey had lived in the Yukon his whole life. His last girl­friend had been a timid vet­eri­nary as­sis­tant who’d said she wanted mar­riage and then left him for a guy with tat­toos on his neck. Be­fore he’d met Ida, he’d been sin­gle for over a year. The women he walked up to in bars smiled po­litely and then ig­nored him. When Ida had shown up be­hind the counter at his

usual cof­fee shop, then left her post at the espresso ma­chine to turn over the book he’d been read­ing and in­quire af­ter the plot, he’d asked her out right away. The spout in the milk she’d left to foam had be­gun to squeal; Ida had shrugged and said yes.

The meet­ing was al­ready in progress when Ge­of­frey ar­rived at Jan­ice’s of­fice. A group of lo­cal sci­en­tists had been pres­sur­ing the mu­seum to add an in­ter­pre­tive dis­play on global warm­ing. The ter­ri­to­rial gov­ern­ment was pretty keen on the oil-and-gas in­dus­try; it was not sup­port­ive of the sci­en­tists’ ini­tia­tive. Jan­ice had al­ready in­formed him, sigh­ing, that the sci­en­tists had ral­lied some en­vi­ron­men­tal types to put the pres­sure on and that rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each of these fac­tions would be meet­ing with her to­day. “You might as well come too,” she’d told him, though he knew she wouldn’t want him to ac­tu­ally par­tic­i­pate. “It’ll look like there’s more of us.”

Look­ing around the room, it was al­most too easy to peg the par­tic­i­pants. The sci­en­tists wore Gore-tex; the bu­reau­crats, blaz­ers; the en­vi­ros were clad in jeans. One of the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists was an old man sport­ing a weedy beard and a Gu­atemalan pon­cho. The other, younger, had a nose ring, one of those through-the-cen­tre ones.

“Your dis­plays are a sup­posed cel­e­bra­tion of the ice ages,” the older ac­tivist was say­ing. “Right now, the glaciers are re­treat­ing at an un­prece­dented rate. This is a story that must be told!”

Jan­ice gave Ge­of­frey one of her dis­tracted nods as he pulled up a chair be­side her desk, then nar­rowed her brows to­ward the man who’d spo­ken. Jan­ice her­self wasn’t old, ex­actly, but she was kind of rigid — like one of their ex­hibits, Ge­of­frey al­ways felt.

“We have the data,” one of the sci­en­tists said.

“The data is in­con­clu­sive,” one of the gov­ern­ment men said.

“We have our own data,” some­one else said.

Then there were si­mul­ta­ne­ous protes­ta­tions, but Jan­ice held up a fin­ger, and even­tu­ally, the men qui­eted, like horses. “The planet may well be warm­ing,” Jan­ice said. “What be­longs in my mu­seum is an­other mat­ter al­to­gether.”

“Well, now,” said the of­fi­cial, “this is a pub­licly funded in­sti­tu­tion.”

“Ex­actly,” said Gu­atemalan pon­cho. “And the pub­lic has a voice — ”

“And we are elected by the pub­lic — ” “And I was se­lected as her­itage direc­tor to guide pro­gram­ming for this mu­seum,” Jan­ice in­ter­rupted. “With­out in­ter­fer­ence.”

The nose-ringed man, who had been si­lent up to this point, spoke next. He was shak­ing, and his voice came out very young. “It’s my fu­ture you’re play­ing with!” he said. He looked at Ge­of­frey as he said this, per­haps feel­ing their shared youth­ful pres­ence in the room called for sol­i­dar­ity.

“How so?” Jan­ice said coldly. She also glanced at Ge­of­frey, rais­ing an eye­brow. She’d hired him two years ago; the mu­seum job paid a good wage. He would take her side of course. He gave her a tiny nod to show this.

“We have to con­vince peo­ple to change now, be­fore it’s too late,” Nose-ring said, wav­ing his pale hands around. “Or the next gen­er­a­tion’s fuck­ing doomed. What about your kids?”

“I don’t have any,” Jan­ice said. Ge­of­frey guessed it was a sore point with her. “And I don’t think hu­man­ity — at risk or not — is nec­es­sar­ily the main fo­cus of our ex­hibits.”

The gov­ern­ment reps looked both re­lieved and con­fused.

“I am not deny­ing that global warm­ing is a fact nor that hu­mans have con­trib­uted to it,” Jan­ice went on, wav­ing one hand dis­mis­sively, “How­ever, what is the story we are try­ing to tell? Our ex­hibits are in­tended to il­lu­mi­nate minds, not bleed hearts.” She sat back, clearly pleased with her own phras­ing.

The gov­ern­ment men cleared their throats, both at once, like a phlegmy choir. “Well, I think we’ve got a good sense of the is­sues es­tab­lished here to­day,” one of them said.

At that point, the young man rose to his feet, pulled a flask from his pocket, and rapidly un­screwed the lid. They all watched him, rather dumbly. Ge­of­frey ex­pected him to drink, maybe, but in­stead he shook liq­uid from the flask onto Jan­ice’s desk, splat­ter­ing her pa­pers.

“Hey!” Jan­ice said, ris­ing.

The older en­viro piped up: “Now, Wilkie—” Be­fore any­one could stop him, Wilkie with­drew a lighter from his other pocket and flicked it to flame. His hand de­scended to­ward the desk and then he yanked it back and yelled, “Fuck!” Ge­of­frey saw that the man’s sleeve was on fire and, af­ter that, that the desk was alight in sprightly flames.

For a too-long mo­ment they all stared at the desk on fire and the burn­ing man, but then one of the gov­ern­ment men picked up a glass of wa­ter and threw it to­ward Wilkie. It looked al­most like he had tried to throw it in Wilkie’s face, but the ac­tivist’s hands were raised, and the wa­ter ex­tin­guished the flames.

Ge­of­frey turned to help Jan­ice, who was slap­ping at her burn­ing desk with her cardi­gan. He ran to the coat rack in the cor­ner and grabbed some­body’s jacket to join her in beat­ing at the fire. But by then she’d man­aged to ex­tin­guish most of the flames, and the older en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, who had shoved aside his young col­league and run for a pitcher of wa­ter, soaked the rest. A thick smoke rose, chok­ing the room.

Ev­ery­one stopped yelling then, ex­cept for Jan­ice, who was scream­ing at Wilkie as he cow­ered in the cor­ner, clutch­ing his black­ened sleeve to his chest. “You will pay for this!” Jan­ice yelled. “there are ar­ti­facts here! This is not ac­cept­able in a her­itage en­vi­ron­ment!”

Then the mu­seum’s an­cient sprin­kler sys­tem ac­ti­vated, and they were all doused.

Ida was stand­ing at her sink, look­ing down at a pile of wilted let­tuce, when Ge­of­frey ar­rived at her apart­ment. He was dis­ap­pointed; it was nearly seven, and when she’d in­vited him over af­ter work, he’d as­sumed din­ner was part of the of­fer. He should have known bet­ter. Ida was in­ef­fec­tual at sus­te­nance.

“I thought I’d make a salad,” she said. “But this ro­maine is just not very perky.”

“Maybe we could go out?” Ge­of­frey sug­gested. He wished he’d hit the driv­ethrough be­fore com­ing over. He walked up be­hind Ida and leaned into her back. The dis­trac­tion from his hunger pangs was im­me­di­ate. Ida had a half-with­held

“Are you in­ter­ested in him? Like, ro­man­ti­cally?” The word sounded dumb. Should he have said sex­u­ally?

sex­i­ness that got to him. She wore lip­stick that got on his clothes but some­how never smudged on her face. At the same time, she wasn’t ex­ceed­ingly at­trac­tive; he felt like, by some im­par­tial mea­sure, he was bet­ter look­ing. Ge­of­frey kept feel­ing like she should be glad to have him; she­clearly wasn’t.

Ida stepped back from the sink, wrin­kling her nose. “You smell like a camp­fire.” “No, ac­tu­ally an of­fice fire,” Ge­of­frey said. Ida’s face woke up for the first time since he’d en­tered her apart­ment. “What hap­pened?”

He filled her in. Ida was fix­ated on the young man’s mo­ti­va­tions. “I won­der what he hoped would hap­pen,” she said. “I won­der if he planned it. You say his name was Wilkie?”

“That’s what the other dude called him. Jan­ice is pissed. Like, rabid. She had the po­lice ar­rest him. She’s call­ing it as­sault as well as ar­son.”

“He prob­a­bly didn’t want to hurt any­one,” Ida said.

“I don’t know about that. Those en­vi­ros can be nutty.” Ge­of­frey wished she’d ask more ques­tions about what it had been like for him. Then again, he hadn’t re­ally done any­thing; he’d just stood there watch­ing. “It’s go­ing to cost a lot of money to clean up the mu­seum,” he said.

Ida looked at him as if he were pedan­tic — as if he were Jan­ice. “I imag­ine the cost of global warm­ing isn’t even mea­sur­able. In dol­lars,” she added. She was purs­ing her lips.

“Well, some ir­re­place­able ar­ti­facts will be lost too,” Ge­of­frey said, though he didn’t know if that were true.

Ida shrugged her small shoul­ders.

The mu­seum was closed in­def­i­nitely, but Jan­ice wanted Ge­of­frey to work his shifts any­way: “I’ll need you for in­ven­tory, for su­per­vis­ing cleanup, and for mak­ing sure the id­i­otic in­sur­ance ad­justers don’t tam­per with the ar­ti­facts.” Jan­ice was jit­tery in a way that Ge­of­frey hadn’t seen be­fore. All af­ter­noon, he could hear her on the phone, bark­ing about in­com­pe­tency and in­ter­fer­ence. Jan­ice had been at the mu­seum for five years; once, she’d proudly told him that at forty, she’d been one of the youngest fe­male mu­seum di­rec­tors ever hired. It didn’t sound that young, but Ge­of­frey hoped he’d raised his eye­brows and nod­ded in an ac­cept­able homage.

Ge­of­frey wan­dered the mu­seum. It felt strange in­side with­out the pub­lic; no one cared if he looked in­ter­ested or im­mi­nently in­for­ma­tive. He’d spent months cul­ti­vat­ing a per­fectly en­gaged ex­pres­sion, one he could hold fixed even while he imag­ined him­self at home, del­i­cately tongu­ing Ida’s pussy.

Jan­ice came by the Cam­brian fos­sil col­lec­tion, which he was care­fully bag­ging and la­belling for stor­age. The room needed re­paint­ing; Jan­ice looked for­lorn. “This whole thing is over­whelm­ing,” she said. “They should never have put a sprin­kler sys­tem in a build­ing with ar­ti­facts. There are other sys­tems I’ve been read­ing about. Flame-re­tar­dant dis­play cases for one.”

“Right,” Ge­of­frey said, squat­ting over the fos­sils. “That makes a lot of sense.”

His re­sponse sounded lame to him, but Jan­ice vis­i­bly bright­ened. “I’m go­ing to have to leave at two,” she con­tin­ued. “I need to get down to the po­lice sta­tion and make sure they’re tak­ing this se­ri­ously.” Jan­ice ran a hand through her hair. It was strange to see it loose and di­shev­elled; Ge­of­frey could see strands of sil­ver in the brown. Still, she looked a lot bet­ter this way; usu­ally, her hair was pulled back in a tidy clip. And non-work clothes suited her. She had the kind of curves that looked bet­ter in jeans. In her busi­nessy slacks, she ap­peared heavy and dour.

“I can hold down the fort,” Ge­of­frey said. “Why don’t you leave me a task list?”

“Thank God for you, Ge­of­frey. Re­ally,” Jan­ice said. She laid a hand on his shoul­der.

Ge­of­frey met her eyes and she smiled down at him. Could she be at­tracted to him? It was hard to coun­te­nance. And yet.

That night, Ge­of­frey didn’t bother with the del­i­cate dance of as­cer­tain­ing Ida’s arousal: he went to her house, and when she an­swered the door, he put his body up to hers and marched her to the bed­room, tug­ging at his belt buckle.

Ida was funny: if he asked her what she wanted, she seemed dis­ap­pointed, like he should know her feel­ings al­ready. If he just did what he wanted, some­thing in her be­mused re­sponse con­veyed that he was wrong but that she’d be benev­o­lent about it any­way.

Ida let him pull her tights down. As she lay un­der him, pale and in­sub­stan­tial, an im­age of Jan­ice broke in: she would be warm, re­sis­tant. In­sis­tent, prob­a­bly. De­mand­ing. As Ge­of­frey be­gan to move on

top of Ida, he thought of how Jan­ice would dis­ap­prove of this one-sided thrust­ing with no an­swer­ing buck. Think­ing about this turned him on, and he thrust harder. “Are you go­ing to come?” he asked.

“No,” Ida said. Her lips curled in a smile or the pos­si­bil­ity of a smirk.

“Okay,” Ge­of­frey said, and he pulled out and came on her fish-pale belly.

Af­ter, he felt a lit­tle abashed. He went to the bath­room for Kleenex and dabbed at Ida’s stom­ach. She stretched out. White threads stuck to her skin. “So how was work?”

“Jan­ice is still fu­ri­ous,” Ge­of­frey said. “She’s def­i­nitely press­ing charges against that Wilkie guy.”

“Well she won’t get a con­vic­tion on per­sonal in­jury,” Ida said. “And his name is Wilkin­son.”

“How do you know that?” Ge­of­frey stood, hold­ing the damp Kleenex like a fussy mother. “I went to see him,” Ida said.

“You what?”

“I went to see him at the po­lice sta­tion. They’re let­ting him out soon. They’ll charge him with ar­son or prop­erty dam­age or some­thing — ”

“You went to see him?” It was hard to imag­ine Ida talk­ing her way into a jail.

“Yes. I was cu­ri­ous.”

“Ar­son’s not ex­actly a small thing.” Ge­of­frey found him­self ir­ri­tated. “He could’ve burned down the whole mu­seum!”

“But he didn’t.”

“Well — ”

Ida was con­tin­u­ing. “Also, in some ways, it’s al­ready dust, isn’t it?” she said. “Ev­ery­thing in there’s dead any­way.” She paused. “He was act­ing for the liv­ing.”

Ge­of­frey couldn’t think of any­thing to say for a mo­ment. “I was in there!” he fi­nally said.

At home the next day, Ge­of­frey opened his com­puter and typed in Wilkin­son, fire. Sure enough, there was a small story in the lo­cal pa­per: “Man Sets Fire at Mu­seum.” Then he searched the directory. Wil­liam Wilkin­son. There was a W. Wilkin­son at an ad­dress down­town. He stood and grabbed his car keys.

It was one of the for­mer squat­ter shacks near the river, most of which had been torn down and re­placed by pas­tel mon­strosi­ties as the city slowly gen­tri­fied. Ida’s un­locked bi­cy­cle was parked out front. It was the third bike she’d had to buy since mov­ing to town.

Now that Ge­of­frey was here, he wasn’t sure what to do. Knock on the door and con­front them? With what, ex­actly?

He slammed his car door and walked up to the shack with strong strides but at the last mo­ment veered from the front en­trance and went down a path to­ward the side of the house. A moun­tain ash was planted near a low win­dow. Next to it was the house’s elec­tri­cal me­ter, barely at­tached to the list­ing wall. Ge­of­frey bent and stared at the me­ter, pre­tend­ing the num­bers meant some­thing to him. His heart was pound­ing. The num­bers ticked slowly and the street stayed quiet, and af­ter a minute, he shifted his feet to the left and looked side­ways into the dirty win­dow.

It took a minute to ad­just his eyes. When he did, he saw Ida and Wilkie sil­hou­et­ted against an­other, brighter, win­dow at the back of the house. They were seated on milk crates. Their heads were bent to­gether, with Ida’s long hair hang­ing for­ward and Wilkie’s stupid locks pulled up in a man bun. Were they kissing? With­out think­ing, Ge­of­frey started bang­ing on the win­dow. The two in­side looked up;

their faces were wide open in in­no­cent sur­prise. Now Ge­of­frey could see a small ta­ble be­tween them, cov­ered in pa­pers. Still, their in­ti­mate pose filled him with hot rage. He banged again on the win­dow.

Ida rec­og­nized him; her eye­brows knit a lit­tle, though the man with her looked as dumb as ever. Wilkie rose, left the room, and emerged from around the back of the house. “Hey, man! What do you think you’re do­ing?” he yelled at Ge­of­frey. Ge­of­frey stepped back from the win­dow. “Dude! Are you high?” Wilkie said. “Get out of my yard.” Clearly he didn’t rec­og­nize Ge­of­frey at all.

“Like you care about your prop­erty,” Ge­of­frey fi­nally said. “I thought you only cared about the planet.”

The guy looked even more con­fused, but then Ida came around the cor­ner. “That’s my boyfriend,” she said to Wilkie. Then: “Hi, Ge­of­frey.” She took Ge­of­frey’s arm. “We’re fin­ished what we’re do­ing. Can you give me a ride home?”

She took his arm, and Ge­of­frey let her lead him to the car. He looked back af­ter they were in their seats. Wilkie was still stand­ing by the side of the house. He was ca­su­ally pluck­ing or­ange berries from the tree be­side him. Ge­of­frey idled the car, watch­ing as Wilkie held the berries up to his nose.

“That’s so weird you came to his house,” Ida said as the car started to move.

“No, it’s weird that you came to his house,” Ge­of­frey said. Ida didn’t bother re­spond­ing to that, so he con­tin­ued. “Are you in­ter­ested in him? Like, ro­man­ti­cally?” The word sounded dumb when he said it. Should he have said sex­u­ally?

“I got him a lawyer,” Ida said. She kept her gaze to the front, out the wind­shield. “I was just go­ing through some pa­per­work with him.” Sur­pris­ingly, she didn’t seem an­gry with Ge­of­frey; it was like his re­ac­tion had been ex­pected, if dis­taste­ful.

“You don’t have that kind of money.” Ge­of­frey had re­cently of­fered to lend her money for rent af­ter she’d cut back her hours at the cof­fee shop.

“No, but my fa­ther does,” she said. On the way home, Ida di­vulged that her fam­ily was su­per rich. Like, own­ing a news­pa­per rich. When Ge­of­frey asked why she hadn’t men­tioned this be­fore, she just shrugged and said, “It makes things com­pli­cated.”

“You called me your boyfriend back there,” Ge­of­frey said, as if it were a ques­tion. “That was short­hand.”

“Short­hand for what?”

Ida shrugged. “Short­hand for ‘I’m done help­ing an­other hap­less man and don’t need him get­ting any ideas.’ His con­vic­tions were in­ter­est­ing but he was not. And short­hand I guess for get­ting a ride home. My bike has a flat tire.”

Ge­of­frey dropped Ida off at her house and drove away with­out speak­ing. It wasn’t a work day, but he found him­self driv­ing to the mu­seum. Jan­ice was stand­ing out­side, jan­gling her key ring in frus­tra­tion. She was wear­ing jeans and a DI­NOSAURS AGAINST CRE­ATION­ISM T-shirt. Over it was her usual cardi­gan. “Did you get your days mixed up?” she asked. “We can’t be in there to­day—the ad­justers are work­ing.” “Oh.” Ge­of­frey shuf­fled his feet. Jan­ice’s shoul­ders sagged. “Be­lieve me, I tried, but they won’t be done un­til to­mor­row.”

“That’s okay,” Ge­of­frey said. “I’ve got other things I can do.”

Jan­ice just stood there, as if she might re­main in the same spot for­ever.

Ge­of­frey walked to­ward his car. An im­age kept in­trud­ing: him­self, bang­ing on

Wilkie’s win­dow like an id­iot.

He turned around and called out. “Can I buy you a cof­fee?”

Jan­ice’s face lifted. “Hell, if you come to my place, I’ve got gin,” she said. “I could use a drink.”

It was not at all like he’d thought. Jan­ice was soft, ac­qui­es­cent, and moany. She pulled him into her and held on tight, breath­ing lit­tle gasps into his ear. “Mmm, mmm, mmm,” she said. Ge­of­frey set a steady pace, half-de­tached. Af­ter a while, Jan­ice’s moans grew more ur­gent, and he rolled her on top of him. They moved to­gether, and the moans stopped. It seemed she was hold­ing her breath, and then she ex­haled in a rush and shud­dered. He in­creased his pace and fin­ished. After­wards, Jan­ice lay heav­ily on him, her breaths loud in his ear.

Af­ter a minute, he shifted his body and she quickly rolled off. “Sorry, am I squish­ing you?” she said.

“No,” he said.

They lay there. The si­lence wasn’t com­fort­able. He thought of the stuffed, ex­tinct an­i­mals in the mu­seum. Their bod­ies taut and awk­ward, frozen in time. Who knew what they had been think­ing when the world stopped?

When ge­of­frey got home, he was filled with loathing. Ida was at his house. There were boxes of Chi­nese take­out on his kitchen ta­ble. He looked at Ida, busily pulling plates from his cup­board.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about help­ing that guy out. I didn’t think you would care that much,” Ida said.

“Of course I care,” Ge­of­frey said. “I mean, I am your boyfriend.” It came out like a joke he didn’t in­tend.

“Any­way, I’m in law school,” Ida said, lay­ing the plates neatly on the ta­ble at ad­ja­cent places. “Or I will be in the fall.”

He’d walked in ready to de­fend him­self. Now the sur­prise of her leav­ing caught him off guard. “What about me?” he asked, hat­ing the whine in his voice.

“I didn’t ex­actly ex­pect it to end so soon,” Ida said. “But I guess I ex­pected more...nu­ance.”

“Well, I ex­pected more par­tic­i­pa­tion!” Ge­of­frey said, sur­pris­ing him­self.

Ida’s eyes widened. “Huh,” she said. “That’s good to know.”

Ge­of­frey took a deep breath. He could smell Jan­ice on his skin, but he re­al­ized it didn’t mat­ter: Ida didn’t care enough to get that close to him.

She passed him an egg roll. “Why don’t you come and see me in Toronto?”

“Oh.” Ge­of­frey was hav­ing trou­ble pro­cess­ing all of this. “Al­right.”

“Well, it’s not, like, ur­gent,” Ida said. “But even­tu­ally, you should.”

When ge­of­frey got to work the next day, there was a stranger in Jan­ice’s of­fice, a man in a suit jacket.

“I’m Fredrick Dirk­son,” the man said, of­fer­ing a firm hand. “I’m here on sec­ond­ment from the her­itage depart­ment. We’ve dis­cussed things with Jan­ice, and she’s agreed to take a leave.”

When Ge­of­frey didn’t say any­thing, Dirk­son con­tin­ued. “I can see you’re sur­prised. It isn’t a puni­tive thing.”

“Oh,” Ge­of­frey man­aged.

“More a mu­tual agree­ment that Jan­ice needed a break.” Dirk­son leaned back in his chair, low­ered his voice to match his new, con­vivial at­ti­tude. “Un­for­tu­nately, when you get too iso­lated...well, she seemed to take the whole in­ci­dent much too per­son­ally.” He went on to ex­plain that most of the ex­hibits would be re­open­ing that af­ter­noon; a few would re­main closed to the pub­lic while cleanup fin­ished. “It will give us a chance to re­assess the dis­plays, ac­tu­ally,” Dirk­son said. “I’m not sure all of them live up to cur­rent stan­dards for her­itage in­ter­pre­ta­tion.” “Uh, right,” Ge­of­frey said.

“I’ve been di­rected to con­sider ac­qui­si­tions for a new fea­ture dis­play,” Dirk­son said. “I’ll need you to start put­ting some items into stor­age.”

Dirk­son asked Ge­of­frey if he’d be will­ing to work some ex­tra hours dur­ing what he called “these tran­si­tion times”; Ge­of­frey un­der­stood that if it went well, he could con­sider a pro­mo­tion likely. Mean­while, Dirk­son would be fo­cus­ing on a vi­sion for his new dis­play. The ex­hi­bi­tion would be called Tools, Past and Present; it was be­ing spon­sored by an oil-and-gas ex­plo­ration com­pany. Ge­of­frey pic­tured a room filled with ar­row­heads and drill bits.

As he wan­dered the hall­ways of the mu­seum, dust­ing cases and wip­ing the last of the wa­ter marks from the walls in prepa­ra­tion for open­ing, Ge­of­frey won­dered if Jan­ice would’ve pre­ferred the glob­al­warm­ing ex­hibit af­ter all. Then he re­al­ized it didn’t mat­ter: like the an­cient ice sheets, Jan­ice was re­treat­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.