Third prize winner of the 2nd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
. . . was wider than we’d been told, taller than we’d read about, shinier, more solid. It looked all new. The brightwork was much as we’d imagined but the columns and pilasters were better. It smelled great. There were no guards that we could see. We were used to signs warning us away. Canada didn’t have any signs. From the water it looked like we were perfectly welcome.
“I see New Brunswick,” said Kevin from his perch in the bow.
“Where’s Alberta?” said Alberta.
We had never seen so many flags before. Those of us who’d never seen a flag at all waved back. The most flags any of us had seen before was one.
Damon held up his hand. “Shush.” They were calling to us from the wharf. Guards? We were drifting outside the buoyline, near the little scrub island. We put the paddle up. The bailers took a break from bailing.
“— nicht — up — and,” they were calling from the wharf, “— — geveldt ——turnabout.”
“I think that’s German,” Ada said. “They think we’re Germans.”
“Or Austrians,” said Liam.
“Maybe Doukhobors,” someone else said.
“I don’t think it is German,” said Damon. “I think it’s bullhorn distortion. I think we have to allow for some warble. A bullhorn is no precision instrument.”
“We should land here,” Jimmy said. “I’ve changed my mind. I like it.”
Kevin: “What does everybody think? Land here?”
“I would actually prefer Germany,” said Ada.
“Or Austria,” said Alberta.
Liam had a brooding eye on the compass but he didn’t say anything.
“I think I just saw a moosal,” said Kevin. He thought they were called moosals.
Cheryl asked him how big did he think a moosal was. He said, “The one I saw? Why? Why do you want to know? How big’s a regular moosal?”
Damon saw it, too. In the rushes. It looked shy.
Someone in the sternsheets spoke up. “I for one, if we’re just going to float, I wouldn’t mind eating the biscuit.” It could have been Zora, except that Zora, who was the head bailer, only talked to other bailers, never to anyone outside their small circle. Sometimes one of the bailers would give us a little window on the world as Zora saw it. Catch us up on her world view. Rarely, though. Nobody made a move for the biscuit.
More guards were filing out of the main building, gathering on the wharf. Other than Ada wanting to take a picture, that’s what held our attention for the next few drifting hours. The guards were gesturing at us, talking and gesturing, adjusting their uniforms. Whatever they were saying, they were pointedly not using the bullhorn. Ada wanted us all in the stern while she climbed into the bow. Damon worked the paddle to bring us around. She wouldn’t take the picture until we came around. She wanted Canada in the background. Ada didn’t call it the background. The future, she said.