From Dirty Birds. Published by Breakwater Books in 2020.

St. John’s was much further from Montréal than Milton ever imagined.
The bus trip went fairly quickly through Québec, hugging the shore of the St. Lawrence as it grew wider and wider. Hundreds of farms, sliver-thin, stretching from the water, up the valley to God knows where. The opposite in every possible way from the massive flat squares of Saskatchewan.
New Brunswick isn’t big, but the road winds through hills and bush and it seems like the dead of night even in the middle of the day, and it just goes on forever. The sun doesn’t start shining again until Nova Scotia. Then rolling hills to Cape Breton—the distillation of quaint maritime charm—then the world ends.
North Sydney is the end of the line. But it’s still 16 hours from St. John’s.
It’s further from Montréal to St. John’s than it is from Regina to Montréal, which is across most of a continent.
Newfoundland is so far from everywhere it has its own time zone.
Newfoundland is its own planet.
Milton dug into his bag of drug money and bought a walk-on ticket for a massive ferry, which is about 100 times bigger and costs about 100 times more than the cable ferry across Lake Diefenbaker.
The MV Caribou sails for six hours through the night across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to a tiny fishing village called Port aux Basques, where Milton will endeavor to find another bus to take him to St. John’s.
Milton tried to sleep on the floor of the ferry. But the gentle rise and fall of the ship through the night was just about more than his Prairie guts could stand. He turned a pale shade of corpse and fought nausea the entire crossing.
The second the ship docked, he was fine.
He walked off the ferry into a cloud of thick, cold fog.
It was Fall when he left Cape Breton, but the six-hour crossing was actually eight months into the past, into winter.
The thick, cold fog was like cement that pushed through his skin and meat and into his bones. When he looked down, he could barely see his own feet. At least, he thought they were his feet.
He made his way through a vast parking lot full of fog-hidden cars about to board for a return to Fall. Milton walked with his hands in front of him to avoid bumping too hard into anything that would sneak up on him in the fog. He made his way over to the ferry terminal and went inside to get a bus ticket.
The short, square woman at the counter—from what Milton could make out through her thick accent which sounded like Finnish without spaces between the words—explained, that:
She pointed to a guy in a neon Ski-Doo jacket smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee out of a Styrofoam cup sitting directly below a no-smoking sign. Milton assumed that meant he was the bus driver.
Gerry wasn’t the bus driver. There was no bus. Gerry was an entrepreneur.
When it wasn’t fishing season he’d supplement his pogey hauling lost tourists from Port aux Basques to “Town” in his 1997 Ford F-150 Extended Cab for $100 cash, and bring back 50-pound bags of potatoes and five-gallon pails of pickles and 48 double rolls of toilet paper and 5x7 high-impact plastic baby barn garden sheds and anything else his neighbours would order from the only Costco on the entire giant, empty island.
“How much for a ride?”
Gerry pointed to a rotary phone on the wall under a handwritten sign that read “Gerry’s Taxi – Dial 1.”
“Are you… Is that… Gerry… Taxi…?”
“Gerry… Right…”
Milton, without taking his eyes off Gerry, walked backwards towards the phone and dialed 1 for Gerry.
The phone rang at the information counter, 15 feet away. Brenda picked up the phone.
Milton had no idea what was happening or who he was talking to.
“Uh… Hi… I need a bus to St. John’s. Please.”
“Is this… Am I talking… to you?”
Milton pointed at Brenda across the corridor.
“St. John’s! Please!”
Gerry finished his coffee, dropped his cigarette butt in the cup, got up, threw the cup out, threw some words at Brenda, and made his way out to his waiting truck. Milton followed him out and watched him climb into his truck.
There were five other men in the truck already, all of them twice Milton’s size, with moustaches, ballcaps, and a mix of snowmobile-branded winter coats. They all turned and looked at Milton, half-nodded, and, in unison, took sips from giant travel coffee mugs. Gerry got in the cab and started the engine. Nodded to Milton and drove away.

No items found.


Moran Murray's first novel Dirty Birds was longlisted for CBC Canada Reads in 2021. He was born and raised on a farm in Alberta and now lives in Cape Breton, NS, and at



Strangers to Bats to Lovers

A selection of fanfiction tags from Archive of Our Own.


Boiled with Darkness

The Google Translate app is unexpectedly poetic.



From, a Quebecois swear generator, which can produce increasingly lengthy chains of French-Canadian curses on demand, in the style of the lorem ipsumnonsense placeholder text.