In a well-written paragraph, show how both Norman from The Prospector's Trail and Alice from Mirror Image are characters in search of their identities.
I am pasting both stories below, PLEASE Complete THIS in 25 MINS!!
If only there were no mirrors, Alice sometimes thought, although she carried one in her backpack wherever she went. It was a silver-plated mirror her father had given her with the initials ACS on the back. Just you, Alice, she would say to herself, looking the way you've always looked. Then she'd pull out the mirror. The surprise and disbelief at seeing the reflection was a joke she played on herself over and over. It was disquieting, however, to come upon a mirror without warning. She would say "excuse me" to her own reflection in shop windows. Mirrors in unexpected places would make her start and lose her nerve. She avoided the girls' bathroom altogether. Alice took to wearing sunglasses all the time, to remind herself, to keep something constantly in front of her eyes that would remind her that she looked different. Her teachers let her wear them. Maybe the word had come down from the top that she wasn't to be hassled for a while, but Alice thought it was more than that. She thought they were all a little afraid of her. Of course her mind learned to ignore the glasses. The human mind is incredibly adaptable. Her mother was always telling her that. "Do you think I move differently?" she asked her twin, Jenny, once identical. "Look how my feet kind of roll when I walk. And my hips, my hips feel totally different." Alice walked across the bedroom like a fashion model, wearing nothing but black bikini underwear. "Actually, as bodies go, this one is a lot better. I mean, check it out," Alice grabbed a chunk of her thigh, "no cellulite." Jenny watched from inside her own body. "You looked okay before." "Sorry, I didn't mean ... You're pretty. I can see that now. But I never used to think that I was. You know, my old body used to weigh much less than this body weighs but I still wouldn't have been able to Mirror Image By Lena Coakley The following story ! is divided into seven different sections. Identify the time periods dealt with in each. Does the story unfold in a linear or nonlinear manner? Mirror Image Short Stories walk around naked in it. No one has ever told me that this body is ugly. For all I know it's never had zits. I haven't had one yet. I feel like I could do anything in this body. Hey, did I show you, I can almost touch my foot to the back of my head." Alice had to re-learn how to move in the hospital, and to speak. At first the world was nothing but a mush of dark images, disconnected voices and prickly feelings all over her skin. If someone touched her arm she wasn't sure from which part of her body the sensation came. Colours seemed different. People's voices were pitched a tone higher. When she tried to speak she bit her tongue, which seemed enormous in her mouth and tasted funny. When she finally learned, the tone was different, but the inflections and the slight Maritime accent were the same. She'd had an accident, they said. But long before the psychiatrist told her, she knew. These weren't her hands. This wasn't her breath. "Let me read your diary." Alice and Jenny lay on top of their beds supposedly doing homework. Above each bed hung a charcoal portrait their father had drawn. He had finished them just before he died. Now, only Jenny's was a good likeness. "Not now," said Jenny, closing the book and capping her ball point pen. "You can read mine." "I know what your diary says—Ooh, I found a new mole today on my new body. Ooh, don't my new armpits smell divine?" "Come on. What do you have, some big secret in there? We've always read each other's diaries." "I have to get to know you better." Jenny slipped her diary between her mattress and box spring. "Yeah, right," Alice laughed. Then she realized her sister wasn't joking. "What, fourteen years wasn't enough?" "You were in the hospital a long time, that's all I mean." Alice swung her legs over the side of her bed and looked at Jenny. At one time looking at her was like looking in the mirror, and Alice still found her sister's coppery red hair and masses of freckles more familiar than her own reflection. "Jenny, we're still twins. I have the same memories: Camp Wasaga, moving to Toronto ... Dad. You know, when I draw I can still make the shadows, just the way he showed us. Isn't that amazing? Even though I have a different hand. And my signature is the same too. This is me in here, Jenny. My brain is me." Jenny rolled over on her bed. "Whatever. You still can't read it." Lena Coakley Alice was in the hospital for months. She saw doctors, interns, psychiatrists, physical therapists, speech therapists. Once a reporter, who had actually scaled the building, poked his head through the window to ask, "Hey, Alice, how do you feel?" and snapped a few photos. All the mirrors had been removed, of course, from her room and bathroom, but Jenny and her mother brought the hand mirror with her initials when the doctors thought Alice was ready. "They couldn't have saved your old body," her mother said. "This was the only way to keep you alive." "No one knows what it will be like," said Jenny. "You're the only one who's ever survived before." "I know all that," Alice slurred. The doctors had taken the precaution of giving her a mild sedative. It made her feel like everything was happening to someone else, far away. She held the silver mirror in one hand. With the other, she pulled at her face, squeezed it as if it were clay. Alice was mesmerized by the unfamiliar eyes, big and brown and dark. Whenever her father painted her he'd spend most of his time on the eyes. The eyes are the mirror of the soul, he used to say. Whose soul is that? Alice wondered. For a moment she considered screaming, but it was too much trouble. Besides, it wouldn't be her scream. "It's okay, Mom," she said. "Maybe I'll start looking like myself again. If I try hard enough. If I concentrate hard enough. Very slowly, over the course of years, my eyes will change colour ... my face. It might ... " Alice's mother stroked her hair. "We'll get through this," she said, "the human mind is incredibly adaptable." "Mrs. Jarred's on TV again," Alice called. "Turn it off," her mother said, "it's time for birthday cake," but Alice and Jenny kept watching. Above the television, the faces of the family portrait Alice's father had painted smiled out into the room. "A new development in the story of Girl X," said the newscaster, "first surviving recipient of a brain transplant ... " Alice's mother stood in the doorway wiping her hands on a tea towel. She had fewer freckles than Jenny, and the long braid which hung down her back wasn't quite so bright a red, but the family resemblance was unmistakable. "I don't want you to worry about the Jarreds, girls. My lawyer says they don't have a legal leg to stand on." Mrs. Jarred, a middle-aged woman in a red checked coat, stood on a suburban lawn. She had dark hair just beginning to gray and Alice's large, dark eyes. A short man with a pot belly smiled self-consciously beside her. "Is that your family?" Jenny asked. "I don't even know them." "Mrs. Jarred," said a female reporter with a microphone, "has science gone too far?" "She's our daughter," the woman replied with emotion. "When we signed the release form donating her body, we didn't know they were going to bring her back to life with some new brain. Our Gail is alive and living somewhere in Toronto and I'm not even allowed to see her." Mrs. Jarred began to cry and the camera cut away to Alice and her mother leaving the hospital amid crowds of journalists. Since she was under eighteen, Alice's face was covered with a round, black dot. The girls had both seen this footage many times before. "Gail. Wow. That's so weird." "That's not my name." The TV flashed pictures of the Jarreds before the accident. A girl with a dog. A smiling teenager wearing a party dress. "Ooh, nice outfit, Gail." "Darn those TV people," said Alice's mother. "They protect our privacy by not showing what you look like, and then they show pictures of your body before the accident. That makes a lot of sense." "The Jarreds probably gave permission," said Alice. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. Everyone at school knows. The whole world knows." Alice's mother continued as if she was talking to herself. "Those Jarreds ... If we start having reporters all over the lawn again ... " She twisted her face in disgust, strode across the room, and turned off the television with a sharp flick of her wrist. "Hey." "Come on, cake time. I made it from scratch. Alice's favourite, chocolate with mocha cream." In the dining room a huge and elaborate cake was waiting on the table. Rich, white chocolate piping swirled over dark mocha. Ornate candy violets decorated the cake's tall sides. "Awesome, Mom," said Alice. She couldn't remember her mother ever making a home-made cake before. "You blow first," she said to Jenny as she sat down. "You're the oldest." "By two minutes," said Jenny, "and anyway, maybe I'm not the oldest anymore." "What do you mean?" "You might be older than me now with your new body. You might be old enough to drive for all we know." Alice's brown eyes widened. "Mom, if my body is sixteen, does that mean I can get my license?" 16 • Lena Coakley "Forget it," her mother said as she lit the cake. "You could barely walk six months ago." She switched out the lights. In the yellow glow of the candles Alice and Jenny followed a tradition that their father had started long ago. First Alice and her mother sang Happy Birthday to Jenny. Then, after Jenny had blown them out, the candles were lit again for Alice, and the song was sung a second time. Alice blinked and squinted when the lights came on again. "I forgot to make a wish," she said. Her mother smiled and handed a slice of the beautiful cake to each of the girls. "I guess you have to share your wish with Jenny." Alice and Jenny laughed. One year, when they were little girls, the suggestion that they would have to share a wish sent them into fits of crying which their parents could only resolve by fitting the cake slices back into the cake and lighting the candles for a third and fourth time. Alice cut the cake with the edge of her fork, happy that the tension brought on by the newscast had begun to melt away. She put a large bite into her mouth. Bitter. Alice tried hard to swallow, tried hard not to let her face show any reaction to the cake, but the taste of the mocha forced her mouth into a grimace. Jenny didn't miss it. "I guess Gail doesn't like chocolate with mocha cream." "No, it's good," said Alice, forcing it down. Jenny pushed her own piece away. "I'm not hungry." "Jeez, Jenny, why are you angry at me for not liking a piece of cake? I can't help it." "Who's angry?" "I have different taste buds now, and they're sending different messages to my brain. They're saying, this cake tastes gross. Sorry Mom." "Okay," said Jenny. "You're always saying that you are still you because you have the same brain, but who is to say that your whole personality is in your head?" "Where else would it be?" "I don't know; maybe there was some other part of your body where part of your self lived. Maybe it was your big toe." Alice's mother set down her fork. "Jenny, people have their big toes cut off and they're still themselves. People have heart transplants and they're still themselves." "Right," said Alice. She smiled at her mother, but her mother looked away. "Maybe not," Jenny said, "maybe they're a little bit different but they just don't notice. You're a lot different. You're a morning person. Mirror Image • 17 Short Stories You never see your old friends. You hang out with Imogen Smith and those snobs. Now you're going out for cheerleading, for goodness sake. And what is with those sunglasses? Sometimes ... I don't know ... Sometimes I think my sister is dead." Jenny pushed her chair back and ran out of the room. Alice sat where she was, poking at her cake with her fork, trying not to cry. Her mother got up and began to gather the plates. "I think," she began, her voice wavering, "I think cheerleading would be very good for your coordination." Alice stared at her mother, but again her mother avoided her eyes. Suddenly Alice thought she understood the elaborate cake. She made it because she felt guilty, Alice thought, guilty for thinking, way down deep, that I'm not really the same daughter she knew before. The first thing Alice saw when her eyes could focus was the white hospital ceiling, but the white had a slightly unnatural blueness to it, the way white looks on TV. Sometimes things were exquisitely clear and sharp, although she wasn't wearing her contacts, and she hadn't yet learned to ignore her eyelashes which seemed longer and darker than they had been before. When Alice saw her mother for the first time she cried and cried. Her skin had a different texture. Her hair hardly seemed red at all. She even had a different smell. And Jenny. Why was everyone she knew so different? Why wasn't her father there? Would he be different too? When Alice met Mr. Jarred, it was in the middle of the street. A new sidewalk had just been poured on Bedford Avenue, so Alice had to walk in the street to go around the construction on the way home from school. A light rain was falling, preventing the concrete from setting. Mr. Jarred held an oversized umbrella, striped red and yellow, above his head. He might have walked right by her, but Alice was staring hard at him trying to remember something—anything—about him besides the newscast. "Gail," he said in a soft mumble and then, "I'm sorry ... I mean Alice ... Do you know me?" "I saw you on TV." "Ah, yes." The two stood in silence for a moment. "You should have an umbrella," he said. "This one's a ridiculous thing, my wife's. Here." "No, no, it's just sprinkling, really," but Alice took the umbrella Mr. Jarred offered her, holding it upside down, its point in the road. 18 • Lena Coakley "This is very strange for me, very strange," he said, staring at her. "We knew you were in Toronto, but, well, to be honest, it was my wife who wanted to contact you. I ... I thought it would be better not to see you. It's very strange," he repeated, then added, "You look so different." "I do?" "Your hair. The way you stand, even. Our Gail, she was an early bloomer, always slouched. Your accent is different too." He paused. "I understand, you know. My wife, she thinks our daughter is still alive, but I ... I know." A car turned onto the street and honked at them. "I'd better go." On impulse, Alice grabbed Mr. Jarred's hand. It was warm and big and rough and Alice knew she had never felt it before. "I knew I wouldn't remember you," she said, "but I was hoping, when you walked by, that I'd know you somehow." Mr. Jarred took his hand away. "But you don't." "No." Alice slid her dark glasses to the top of her head. "My dad— I guess you know he died in the accident." "Yes." "Sometimes I think if he were alive, he would just look into my eyes and know who was in here." The two stood in silence. Then Alice said, "What will you tell your wife?" "I'll tell her," Mr. Jarred's voice began to falter, but he looked at her straight on, "I'll tell her I looked into your eyes and that I didn't see my daughter." "I'm sorry," said Alice. She didn't ask the question that immediately came to her, but the words rang in her mind: who did you see? Alice gripped the umbrella as she watched Mr. Jarred hurry around the corner. She stepped up to the curb and pressed her waist to the wooden barrier that protected the sidewalk. Then she folded the umbrella and secured the strap. In a small corner of the sidewalk she wrote her initials, ACS, with the tip of the umbrella. Alice was here, she thought. And then she walked towards home.
"Noise! Traffic! Filth! Can't stand the commotion of the city, that's why I come out here," said the grizzled old guy. He leaned back in his lawn chair and stared at the campfire reflectively, taking a long pull of tea from a tin cup. The light from the flames glittered off his creased face and greying beard. The old-timer stared upwards. Norman and Jennifer followed his eyes, examining the dome of the northern night sky, which was still blue at nine-thirty p.m. They could hear a loon call from the nearby lake and the lap of the waves on the shore. A grumble emanated from the far-off heavens. Thunder? No—the grumble grew into a growl and then into a roar, which gained intensity until it filled the air. Their eyes searched for the source of the clamour. Jennifer covered her ears. Then they saw it. A jetliner, glowing gold with the reflected light of the night sun, made an elegant curve over the city dump and moved in over Long Lake. It lined up with a runway and continued its descent, swooping across Highway 3 for a perfect landing at the Yellowknife airport. "Flight 592 from Edmonton, right on schedule," Roy announced. He took another drink of tea. He winced. "You know, when I invited you over for 'tea,' I actually meant we'd The Prospector's Trail • 21 "It's the old story. People been comin' to Yellowknife since the thirties, hoping to strike gold. Some make it, some don't." P The Prospector's Trail By Cathy Jewison be drinking something stronger—you must be thirsty after your long drive. But all the beer's disappeared. Elsie must have had one of her damned card parties this afternoon, while I was out in the bush. And now all the peanuts are gone," he said, shaking the empty bag. "Elsie! Elsie!" he screamed towards an immense camper a few feet away. A tall, skinny woman came to the door. It was hard to see her features because an electric light was burning behind her. "What?" "We're out of peanuts." "So go get some more. And get some beer while you're at it." "You know I hate going into that damned city." "I'm missing my show," she announced, slamming the door. "Damned TV," he muttered towards the fire. "Supposed to be enjoying the beauties of nature. Get away from all that city stuff ..." He continued on, but the rest of what he said was drowned out by the whine of a semitrailer zooming past on the highway a couple hundred yards behind them. He finished his diatribe about the same time the noise of the semi faded into the distance. He rooted in his tin cup with a grubby finger, then flicked something onto the ground. "Skeeter," he stated. He turned to Norman. "What kind of work you looking for?" "Anything," Norman replied. "For now, anyway. I want to start a tourist operation. An interpretive centre—old buildings, dogsled rides in the winter, that sort of thing." Roy nodded sagely. "It's the old story. People been comin' to Yellowknife since the thirties, hoping to strike gold. Some did. Giant Mine's that way, Con's over there," he said, waving vaguely in opposite directions. "Then there's the others. Business tycoons. Government people. All want a piece of it. Some make it, some don't." "Can't be any worse than southern Canada," Norman said. Roy snorted. "Bet you think differently when you're still living in a tent at forty below," he said. Jennifer shuddered. "Well, Yellowknife is the end of the road for me—and I don't mean just because the highway ends here," Norman said with a touch of bravado. "If I can't make it here, I can't make it anywhere." "It's the end of the road for all true Yellowknifers. Place pulls a lot of people to it. The right ones stay." "Any chance you could dig up something for us, Roy?" Jennifer asked. 22 • Cathy Jewison "What do you mean?" the old-timer snapped. "What have you heard?" "Nothing," Norman replied, jumping to his feet in alarm. His halffinished cup of tea, which had been balanced on his thigh, catapulted across the fire and hit Roy in the chest. The old man leaned forward and pulled the wet plaid flannel away from his skin. "Good thing that wasn't hot," he observed. Jennifer stood up and strode away. "Little missus gets a bit testy at times, eh? Know what that's like," Roy said, with a wink and a nod toward the camper. "I'd better pack it in—gotta rise and shine tomorrow," he added as he started to collect the tin cups. Norman said goodnight and started off. Moments later, the old man heard a thud and turned to find Norman splayed on the ground. "Tree root," he explained, hoisting himself upright and limping away. "Watch your step, son," Roy said with a shake of his head. Norman found Jennifer standing next to their tent, an artifact he'd bought at a garage sale in Winnipeg a couple of weeks earlier. It consisted of mildew and, to a lesser extent, of beige canvas. "Get in," she commanded. The tent came with an odd assortment of poles and guys that more or less kept everything in place. One of the poles was a bit too short, however, and if someone brushed against it, the tent collapsed. Since it was currently in its flattened state, Norman had to dive amongst the loose canvas and restore the poles. Jennifer then went around the outside, refastening guys. She gingerly crawled in. Norman was lying on top of his sleeping bag. Jennifer sat down on top of hers and shook her finger at him. "Don't move for the rest of the night. Got it?" "Got it." Jennifer began to change into her pyjamas. The top was partway over her head when she was seized by convulsions. She gasped. She panted. Her shoulders jerked. "Achoo!" The tent rocked ominously. Jennifer sat perfectly still. As soon as she was certain the tent would remain upright, she popped her head through her pyjama top. She glared at Norman through the dim light. "You realize I'm allergic to this damned thing." "It's all we can afford." "No kidding," she muttered. "You shouldn't be so hard on people." The Prospector's Trail • 23 Short Stories "It's not my fault I'm allergic," she replied, blowing her nose. "I meant Roy. I think he can help us." "I know he can—that camper's brand new." "Don't push too hard, or you'll scare him away." Jennifer finished pulling on her pyjama bottoms, then carefully tossed her clothes towards the few inches of floor at the foot of her sleeping bag. "You'll never get ahead by pussyfooting around," she said. "We'll just have to give it some time." Jennifer sneezed again. She wiped her nose. She turned to her husband. "I'll give it six weeks," she said. "Until Labour Day." "That's not much time to start a new life." "Norman. We're living in a tent. This is not a life." "We've only been here a few hours and we're already accumulating authentic northern experience." "That's what you call drinking tea with that old guy? Authentic northern experience?" "He's a character. Local colour. It'll be important when I set up the interpretive centre. Maybe I can get him to work there." "If you can get something useful out of him, fine. But keep your distance while you're doing it. I don't want you playing the role of hillbilly—trying to out-northern the northerners for the sake of your 'interpretive centre.' You're going to be the owner, so you'll have to show some decorum. Besides, you're lucky you didn't scald him. Like before." "That was an accident." "It's always an accident." Norman sighed. "Six weeks!" Jennifer snapped. "Unless I catch you wearing a red plaid flannel shirt, in which case I'll leave you on the spot." She climbed into her sleeping bag and turned her back on her husband. Norman heard her sniffling well into the night. He wasn't sure if she was crying, or just needed an antihistamine. It could be hard to tell with Jennifer. Norman and Jennifer had arrived at Fred Henne Territorial Park, located on the outskirts of Yellowknife, about suppertime that day. It was, indeed, the end of a long road for them. A year earlier, they had received their tourism studies certificates at a college in Winnipeg, then promptly got married. Norman still couldn't believe it—Jennifer had been a star student throughout the program, and he'd been flattered when she consented to date him because she liked his sense of whimsy. 24 • Cathy Jewison With a sharp mind and an eye for the big picture, Jennifer was a whiz at developing tourism marketing programs. Norman's first love was interpretation—dressing up and acting like historical personages for the entertainment and edification of tourists. Jennifer's appreciation of his sense of whimsy had evaporated, however. She'd decided interpretation was undignified and convinced him to get into the corporate side of the industry. Norman found a decent job shortly after graduation, but was unnerved by the formality and high expectations of the office. Plagued by insomnia, he had become clumsy. His boss had laughed when Norman tripped on the carpet in the waiting room and landed face first in the fish tank. He had been less amused when Norman spilled a glass of Beaujolais on a client's silk dress. He was livid when Norman gave another client second-degree burns by dumping a pot of coffee on him. Norman's reputation spread and he could no longer get work. Jennifer became the sole breadwinner, but as a recent graduate, she couldn't earn enough to support them both. Jennifer halfheartedly agreed to let Norman pursue his dream of opening an interpretive centre, on the condition that he did it far away from anyone they knew. They scraped together a few hundred dollars, loaded their sparse belongings into Norman's battered Chevy van, and headed north. The morning after their arrival, Norman walked by Roy's camping spot, where he found the old man seated at a concrete picnic table. He was wearing tattered work pants and a murky T-shirt, his omnipresent red plaid flannel shirt draped over the ensemble. The tea stain from the previous night was lost in a patchwork of grease and dirt. Norman smoothed his own spotless rugby shirt, and adjusted his collar. "Come have breakfast," Roy called. "Can't get Elsie out here. We're supposed to be enjoying nature and all she does is complain about the bugs. The simple life! That's what it's all about! Wanna PopTart?" "It's okay—I have some granola back at the tent," Norman replied, but he sat down anyway. "Suit yourself," Roy conceded as he ripped open a package and took a big bite out of one of the pastries. "You're supposed to toast them, but we're roughing it, after all," he mumbled around the glob in his mouth. "Where's the little lady?" "Gone into town to look for work." "Why ain't you with her?" "She said she wasn't ready to unleash me upon an unsuspecting population." "I see her point." The Prospector's Trail • 25 Short Stories Norman noticed a dark rock flecked with gold lying in the dirt. He kicked at it, but missed and jammed his toe into one of the table's concrete supports. He gasped. Roy leaned over and scooped up the rock. He examined it closely. "Fool's gold," he announced, tossing it away. "Are you a miner, Roy?" "You bet. A little prospecting. A little mining." "Mining pays well, doesn't it?" "Well enough," he said. He cast a self-conscious look towards the shiny new camper. "Thought you were a big tourism entrepreneur." "I need to build up a nest egg. I also need to get to know the place. Develop some authentic northern experience," Norman said. "I was hoping you could help me. I'd like to follow you around. To observe." Roy looked grim. "What are you going to do today?" Norman coaxed. "Prospector's Trail, I suppose," Roy replied with some reluctance. "Prospecting? Excellent! Can I come?" "Son! You don't ask a lady her age, and you don't ask a prospector to show you where he's working," the old man said firmly. "It's just that I wanted to use you as the role model for the interpretive centre," Norman said. "Oh?" "If you don't mind being famous, that is." "Well, maybe I could help a bit. You can come with me this morning. But this morning only, hear? Better take some provisions with you," he said, tossing a foil pack of Pop-Tarts at Norman. "Just don't try to walk and chew at the same time." Roy set out across the campground at a rapid pace, with Norman close behind. They soon reached a huge, uneven field of pre-Cambrian rock. Roy didn't slow down. Norman teetered after him, but managed to stay upright. "What are those little footprints painted on the rock?" he asked when he finally caught up with the sure-footed Roy. "Directions." "This is a walking trail?" "Of course. Didn't think I'd really show you where I prospect, do you?" Norman looked as deflated as his mildewed tent. "I'm willing to share general knowledge, though. See that pillow of grey rock over there?" Norman walked to the spot. 26 • Cathy Jewison "Run your fingers over the surface. Feel the bumps?" Norman nodded. "What do you see?" "Brownish-red granules." "Good. They're garnets." "Wow," Norman observed quietly, bending closer to the rock to examine them. They continued on in silence for some time, until they reached the tumbledown remains of a cabin. The skeleton of a bed frame, a rustedout woodstove and a few pieces of decaying cutlery were scattered around. "Reminds me of the shack I lived in when I moved up in the forties. Made of plywood and packing crates." Roy sighed wistfully. "Elsie didn't mind?" "Living in a shack? Of course she did. But she saw the potential of the place—and of me." They later found a vein of white quartz that prospectors had blasted. "Quartz is the key," Roy explained. "Find it, and you just might find gold. Time for a rest." The old man sat cross-legged beside the mutilated rock and closed his eyes. The sky clouded over, and a breeze came up. Roy's red plaid shirt fluttered around him. He swayed with the wind. His breathing became slower and deeper. Norman cautiously ripped open his pouch of Pop-Tarts and nibbled a corner. Finding that it hit the spot, he gobbled both pastries in the packet. Then, exhausted after another sleepless night, Norman closed his eyes. He, too, swayed with the wind. He drifted off, but jerked himself awake just as his head started to topple towards the ancient and very hard rock. He started to worry about the old man. "Roy," he whispered. There was no reaction, so he said it louder. "Roy!" "What?" "I thought you'd fallen asleep." "Asleep! Ain't you ever seen anyone meditating, son?" "Meditating?" "I thought you were educated. You know—meditating. Getting into the zone. Becoming one with the earth. The earth don't give up her secrets too easily. You gotta get to know her on a personal level." "Oh." "Time to go," Roy blurted as he jumped to his feet. He completed the circuit of the trail, which led them back to the campground. "Nice The Prospector's Trail • 27 Short Stories spending the morning with you," he said. "Now I have to get on with business." Norman wiped a couple of drops of moisture from his arm. Roy had been generous towards him, but Norman would prefer if he didn't spit while he talked. Roy turned away. A large drop hit Norman's face. Rain. Norman sprinted towards his tent as the deluge began. Moments later, Roy heard a stomach-turning shriek. The old-timer found Norman staring at the sodden puddle of his so-called shelter. "You can stay in your van," he suggested. "It's full of boxes and furniture," Norman replied as he began to pace. "What was I thinking? This is never going to work. Jen's going to leave me. I have no money. I can't earn any. It's over." He stopped moving and stared at Roy. "It's all over," he repeated in disbelief. "You're packing it in? Just like that?" Roy demanded. "No interpretive centre?" "I'm sorry, Roy. No interpretive centre." "Don't panic. I'll help you. Get in your van. We're going prospecting." They stopped by the camper to pick up some gumboots. Roy instructed Norman to drive away from Yellowknife, but they hadn't travelled for more than a minute before the old man told him to turn down a wide, well-maintained road that led past an industrial building. They were heading for the city dump. "What now?" Norman muttered. "Right over there," Roy said. Norman pulled up next to a row of a half-dozen vehicles. Roy climbed out of the van and slowly rambled amongst the hills of debris, his eyes locked on the ground. Every now and then he would bounce on an abandoned couch to test the springs, or lift up a piece of plywood to see what was underneath. Other people were wandering in a similar fashion, but Roy ignored them. He motioned to Norman to join him, but Norman couldn't bring himself to leave the van. He fidgeted with the knobs on the radio. Then he realized someone was peering through the back window. Norman got out. "You going to dump that stuff, buddy?" asked a young man in ragged jeans and a grimy windbreaker. "That's my furniture. Back off." "Settle down. I can find better out here, anyway," he said as he stalked off. Norman carefully locked the van, put on Roy's extra pair of gumboots and set out after his mentor, stepping cautiously so as not to do a face-plant in the mud. He found Roy digging in a pile of 28 • Cathy Jewison garbage, a battered television and some lengths of two-by-four stacked neatly beside him. "I thought you hated the noise and traffic and filth of the city," Norman observed. "This ain't the city," the old man replied, surprised Norman hadn't noticed. He paused to wipe the drizzle from his forehead with a grimy hanky, then continued to root in the mud. "Eureka!" he shouted, as he extracted a dirty orange tarpaulin with a long rip in it. "Can I read 'em, or what?" "What's it for?" "It's for you. A fly for your tent. We'll wash it in the lake. Patch it with a little duct tape. Good as new!" he said gleefully. He examined Norman's face. "What's with you, boy? I thought you wanted to accumulate authentic northern experiences, and here you've been missin' one of the most authentic of them all." "Can we go prospecting now?" Norman asked with as much patience as he could muster. Roy beamed at him. "Oh, no! This is how you made your money?" Norman demanded. "Prospecting and mining. At the dump?" "After the first few years there was so much competition in the bush that I decided to use my skills here. You'd be amazed what you find. Take it home, clean it up, sell it. Got so much now, I'm having trouble shifting it." Norman's eyes misted over and his throat constricted, but the cause was neither the rain in his eyes nor the stench in his nose. The rubble he saw before him was more than just the detritus of the Yellowknife dump—it was the rubble of his future. Wifeless. Homeless. Hopeless. Suddenly, he bent over. He wasn't sure why, since he could see little through the blur of tears. He ran his fingers over a pile of mud. He felt a bump. He wiped his eyes on the back of his sleeve and examined the mound more closely. A point of brownish-red was poking through. He flicked at it with his finger. A little more red showed. He dug deeper. It was cloth. He grabbed it and pulled out a red plaid flannel shirt, much like Roy's. The old-timer whistled. "Impressive," he said as he examined it. "One little rip, but otherwise, good as new." He held it close to Norman's chest. "It'll fit you perfectly. Let's see what else you can do. Try over there." Roy pointed him towards the back of the dump and gave him a little push. Norman meandered through the piles. He saw a strip of white gleaming through the mud. He wiped at it with the shirt he had unearthed. Not quartz this time, but porcelain. It was an old bathtub, The Prospector's Trail • 29 Short Stories the kind with feet. "Excellent," Roy said. "That'll get you a couple hundred dollars. If you refinish it, you can get more. I'll find some packing crates—we can use them as skids to drag it out of here. Good thing I took you on that walk. Sure got you into the zone." Norman slumped on the side of the bathtub. "Don't knock it, son. You have a gift. You're in your element. Do you realize you haven't fallen once since you been out here?" It was true. Norman felt himself relaxing. He took a deep breath and promptly choked. "You'll get used to it," Roy assured him. Norman surveyed the terrain through the mist. He instinctively headed towards the edge of the landfill. He came around a hill of debris and found some freshly dumped computers. "You've hit the mother lode!" Roy squealed. Norman examined them. "Fool's gold," he announced. "I thought computers were worth a fortune." "Nope. Too old. Got a screwdriver?" Roy searched the pockets of his work pants and produced a rather nice multitool. "Found it here last week," he explained. Norman used his sleeve to wipe the rain from one of the computers, then removed the case and looked inside. "You know about these things?" Roy asked him. "A bit. I think this one's a 486. Might work if it hasn't taken on too much dirt and rain. Not high powered, but we can use them for parts, if nothing else." "You know how to set up one of those web site things?" "Yah. It's not so hard." "A little e-commerce might move my inventory." "Who's your market?" Norman asked skeptically. "People who can't come to visit, but want authentic northern artifacts just the same. You can make a planter out of anything," he said with a wink. Norman smiled. "Your little lady's not going to like it. She's more upscale than my Elsie." "You're right. She won't see the potential. But like I said—this is the end of the road for me." The sun was shining again when Jennifer returned to the campground with news that she'd landed a job. She found Norman outside Roy's camper. He was seated at the concrete picnic table, surrounded by computer parts. Roy was peering eagerly over Norman's shoulder, 30 • Cathy Jewison which was clad in a red plaid flannel shirt. Jennifer gasped. "I found it at the dump. Elsie washed it for me," Norman explained as he monkeyed with a partially assembled computer. "Me and your boy are going into business together," Roy proclaimed. "First e-commerce, then the interpretive centre." "I think I've got it," Norman announced, as he connected the computer to an extension cord that stretched from the camper. A puff of smoke rose into the air. The two men looked at each other. "Planter," they sang in unison. "Grab me another," Norman instructed Roy. Jennifer's eyes shifted to the computers stacked beside the table. "Found them at the dump," Norman repeated, but this time he looked her straight in the eye. "You wouldn't believe the business potential out there." It was midnight when Norman wandered over to the tent, now protected with the freshly patched orange tarp. His van was gone, and several boxes of his possessions were sitting outside the tent. She hadn't left a note. Norman sighed and crawled into the rickety tent. It swayed slightly but remained upright. He slept soundly for the first time in months.
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