The video arrived on Monday, along with the electricity bill, a CD Theresa had won in an eBay auction and several copies of the Chamber of Commerce monthly magazine. She walked back up the driveway after rescuing the mail from a rusted mailbox that desperately needed a new coat of Tremclad. Everything around here had gone to crap and back since Ilyka died and her son left home.
She made a mental note to buy some paint, preferably red, when she next went into town. After re-coating the mailbox, there should be enough left over to cover up the rotting spots on her car.
“If you give it a touch-up, you’ll feel better, Mrs. Drennan. You can drive it around for a while longer and not feel so depressed about things.”
It never ceased to surprise her that even mechanics in this small town knew more about life than she did. She’d moved here to be with Ilyka, to be the power in his office of two, to promote his chainsaw carvings so he’d become famous and rich. None of it had happened. The sex had been marvelous, her son came to believe the sun rose and set around this new man’s shadow and Theresa had learned to name twenty-four species of birds by their flight patterns and sounds. But the hoped-for artist’s recognition and the attendant mounds of money never materialized. They’d almost lost the house — twice. Life in the north country looked idyllic from the outside. From inside, though, it stank of insularity, misunderstanding and disbelief.
Ilyka’s work was too good. Nobody would admit that it was worth paying more than $20 for, even the wealthy cottagers who stopped by every Friday night.
“Nice, man!” The six-foot tall eagle carved out of cottonwood that had taken Ilyka three months to finish stood on the front lawn with its wings proudly outspread for a long time after the accident. Then it rotted and fell to the ground. Theresa chanted unending, totally meaningless words of praise to it when she dragged it into the fire pit and set its remains alight. “Cool!”
Over the dying wood embers, Theresa cried that night. All alone and feeling it for the first time.
Once torn open, the electricity bill gave her heart palpitations. One more like this, with its four digits before the dot, and she wouldn’t be able to stay here anymore. She threw the Chamber magazines into the woodstove and relished the momentary, colourful flare of heat.
Theresa then tore open the padded envelope, pulled out a video tape and a note that began, “Dear Ilker Drennan:”
She sat on the floor. Tried to focus on the twisted handwriting.
I only gave you a ten spot I think. You prolly don’t remember but it was for a ball in a cage thing you made down at the park. I had to cover my kids ears cause the saw was makin so much noise. A big piece of wood hit one of em but they wasnt hurt. Anyway this was years ago and I had only ten left in my pocket. You let me take it and said to put it somewhere proud.
So I did and its bin sittin on my porch where I lean every mornin when I have coffee. My kids threw it out when one of em won the lottery and gave me some cash and made me move into another place where people can take care of me now that I cant see too good and fall over sometimes.
When I hadta move, I found this video that my wife whos dead now took when we were at the park. And I thot you should have it.
Yours truly, Sam Brown
P.S. I never forgot. Thanks for such good art and hope you like the film.
P.P.S. Dont have much use for cash now so I’m sending some of it to you cause I never paid you enough for the pleasure and my kids dont deserve it.
Theresa held her breath. Her hand shook as she inserted the tape in the machine. She pressed ‘play’.
There he was, wearing his motheaten lumberjack shirt, chipped safety boots and clunky ear muffs. The chainsaw whined incessantly as Ilyka carved nearly invisible lines in a 4′ x 4′ chunk of pine. Wood dust flew and Theresa pulled another small piece of paper out of the envelope.
As the video played out, Theresa stood and saluted the TV screen. She blessed the soft heart of dear old Mr. Sam Brown and his $40 cheque made out to ‘Ilker Drennan’. She took a deep breath, walked over to the kitchen table and reached for a pen.
On a blank notebook page, she began to write:
Dear Mr. Brown:
Thank you very much for the video. I am sad to say that Ilyka died early last spring while cutting down a dangerous tree. He would have been very happy that you loved his carving so much. I’m sorry that your children did not appreciate it.
The cheque is greatly appreciated. I will use it to buy some paint for my mailbox. It’s rusted a lot since Ilyka went away.
Hiding out in the bush somewhere in northern Ontario, Donna Gagnon writes plays, poetry and short fiction. Her work appears in SmokeLong Quarterly, Smokebox, Rumble, Bewildering Stories, The Fib Review and in Gatto Publishing’s Short StoriEs e-anthology. A collection of interlinking prose poems, Two Double Beds in a Comfort Hotel, appears in New Writings in the Fantastic, edited by John Grant and published by Pendragon Press.
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Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.