"Edson’s vivid portrayal of the urban area, as well as the working class and underclass, creates a vision of Saint John that highlights the discrepancy between the pre-modern idyllic notion of life in Atlantic Canada and the more complicated reality of the region."

-The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pete and Gabe

There was a heavy rock in the hole where the two gravediggers dug. It took both of their shovels and all of their weight to pry it loose from the ground. They knelt down low and wrapping their arms around it, they lifted and heaved it up out of the hole. When they finished digging they prepped the hole (set up the lowering device and the greening). And now they rested at the far end of the clearing, in the shade of the trees, on the cemetery grass.

Pete Landry, 23, was tall and thin with sunken eyes and a stubby nose. He wore a dirty blue jumpsuit and old worn out workboots with broken laces tied in knots. He was lying on his back, holding his head in his hands. "What time’s the funeral?" he asked, yawning. He laid his head down flat on the grass. The morning dew was cool and pleasant on the back of his neck.

"Not till ten," Gabe Landry said. Gabe was Pete’s older brother. He was 32 years old, tall like Pete, but heavy in the chest with thick lips and shaggy, unkempt eyebrows. He also wore a blue jumpsuit, equally dirtied, and worn boots with broken laces. He was sitting up. "We got a good half-hour yet."

Pete smiled. He always had a hopeful feeling before a funeral because of the possibility that this might be the one, the jackpot, and so he grinned to himself. "Think this is the one?"

"Ah hell, maybe," Gabe said in a tone of little interest. Pete asked him this same question every day, and every day Gabe gave him the same answer. But Gabe was thinking of something else now, and his mind drifted. He wouldn’t tell his brother how, yesterday afternoon, he’d heard the caretaker talking on the phone to the police; that they were coming the next day. He and Pete were probably going to face charges, go to court, then to jail. Ah hell, he thought as he lay on the grass. They ain’t got nothin on us anyway. Just a few necklaces is all. But he knew he was lying to himself, trying to relieve the worry that had been filling up inside him. He looked at his little brother and his stomach rolled with guilt. You gotta tell him, he thought. You both gotta be ready when the time comes. Can’t leave him hangin out to dry without no plan. Hell yeah, he thought, grinning to himself. A dash of hope shivered through his body. A good goddam plan is all we need.

"We’ll take a trip to Vegas," Pete said. He was still thinking of the jackpot. "And we’ll play 50-dollar hands of Blackjack."

"You’d lose it all," Gabe said, smiling. Don’t tell him yet, he thought. Let him dream a bit more. Dreamin is good for him, ain’t it? "You’d lose yer shirt faster than you can spit."

(from A Place of Pretty Flowers)

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