Honourable mention in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
The first night, in the hotel restaurant, they spring the Complaints Book on us while we’re still eating dessert. They think they’ve dazed us with their densest chocolate cheesecake but they haven’t dazed us. Our heads are clear, nowhere near woozy. Our feet, though asleep, are known for quick recoveries. They have no choice, based on our alertness, but to take back the Complaints Book. They have to return it to its shallow drawer. “Fair’s fair,” they admit.
From up in our room we can see the whole ocean. That’s what it feels like. It can’t be the whole great ocean but that’s what we tell ourselves. We can see the cod fleet and the crab fleet and the Navy flags. We spot the beacon light at the top of the Smallwood Building. We boil the tiny complimentary kettle and make ourselves stiff cups of gratis mint tea. We eat our pillow chocolates. We go to sleep under warnings from the foghorn in the square, long, repeating notes coloured blue and blue-green, from what we can tell.
Sunday. At breakfast, men are fixing the roof on the hotel across the street, digging off old shingles with a shovel and swearing and humming. They know we’re watching. Sarah says, regarding nature, “You’d better be an artist if you’re going to live here. You’d better draw huge, big clouds and don’t hold back on jagged tops and maybe get some what’s that stuff, gesso, and slather it on and work it with some rough tool—or a fork. Maybe draw a massive lobster in your sky, a crustacean constellation, and rearing icebergs and Joey Smallwood’s face carved in the side of one of the bergs, or do I mean Danny Williams.”
Coming to Newfoundland is a big step forward for us. Staying on is another step again. Just wandering in the hotel lobby, looking at the ship models, constitutes a grand victory, for us. We take a look at the tiny rigging, specks of lifeboats, scuppers. We help ourselves to the free newspapers, and nobody minds if we don’t read them.
Eavesdropping. At lunchtime there’s a woman at the next table whose friend in Toronto is both a coin collector and a minke whale authority. A Dutchman tells his wife, “I am not so very impressed by the names they have named their towns. Trinity would be better Hotchpotch. Portugal Cove I would call Blowhard. St. Jones Within is not bad, though.”
Another night the manager shows us examples of people’s protests. “You’re trying to whet our appetite,” Sarah says. Somebody didn’t like the police. Someone else had a quibble with “all the awnings.” There’s someone’s long winding story that boils down to: guy cut me off. Pretty persuasive, Sarah thinks.
The manager has a ballpoint pen he tries to give us. No thanks.
“We’re not getting any older,” says Sarah. “Or rather, we are. Sorry. We are getting any older, I meant to say.”