Blood Ties

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2011-09-20
  • Publisher: New Canadian Library
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For David Adams Richards, blood ties is not merely a figure of speech, but an assertion of the reality of life in small-town Canada, where blood ties people in countless, almost unknowable ways to friends, community, and landscape. The lives of three generations of MacDurmots form a Miramichi Valley family portrait that is beguiling, insightful, witty, and tender. Employing dazzling angles of vision and fast-shifting perspectives, Richards captures the inner lives of his characters with sympathy and understanding. From the Paperback edition.


Mass was over now and they started up the road together with the heat coming down on them, pressing down, except Orville stayed ahead of them, his young spindly legs moving as quickly as they could. When they were halfway Allison stopped and offered them a drive. Orville kept on walking – a little quicker as if to get home before the car.
“I think it looks like rain,” Allison said.
“I think it will,” Maufat said. He sat in the back seat between her and Irene, his knees together, his hands on his knees. “I’m going to have to get a car I think.”
Allison’s wife had the baby on her lap.
The heat was a wet heat and could be felt in the car, could be seen out the car windows in the drain, the weeds slanted motionless, almost dripping with it.
“Do you have to serve the picnic, Irene – I had trouble with the baby – I didn’t hear because of him.”
“Yes your name was called; our name was called.”
“I don’t want to serve,” Cathy said.
Her mother looked around behind Maufat’s shoulder and stared at her. She looked down and across to where her father’s dirt- black fingernails were scratching at the legs of his pants.
They drove past Orville. He didn’t turn at all to notice them so they kept on driving. Cathy turned to wave but he didn’t answer it, and he turned his head to look along the side of the drain where the weeds were slanting and waiting in the thick heat, and where the thick smell of summer seemed to be. It seemed to be only there along the side of the ditch. Then it began to rain, slow at first but by the time they pulled into the drive it was raining hard.
The field looked black with it.
“He’ll get drenched,” Irene said.
“Now thank you,” her father said.
Because she ran from the gate into the porch she got wet, almost soaked through the blouse, it came that quickly, making the field slant under the weight of it. She felt the chill of the rain on her when she went into the porch, kicking from the door the case of bottles that leaned against it. The chill stayed with her when she went inside. Outside all was darkening, the trees blowing with the rain and the flat, rutted surface of the drive turning to puddles and mud. She ran upstairs unfastening her skirt as she went, singing to herself, the rain dripping down from her, and the small streaks of mud she had tracked in. As she sang the words came up from her throat louder and louder. She pushed open the door to her room and went to the small grey window that slanted at an angle at the side of her bed. Out there on the roadway she could see him coming, walking close to the drenched woodlot on the opposite side. He had his head down and his hands in his pockets and he didn’t run, not the way anyone would be expected to run in a rain like that. The sound of the rain beating and splashing and pumping from the broken clouds. Thunder – the roadway deserted except for him walking alone. She lay on the bed and pulled the magazine out from under her and began to read, her lips moving slowly with the words.
“Are you coming?” her mother said.
She looked up. Her mother stood at the doorway, unchanged, with her white sunless hand resting against the side of the wall.
“And put that away – it’s Sunday; you’ve just received – so put that away.”
She dropped the magazine to the floor and stood, changing out of her Sunday clothes with her back to her mother. He was coming up the drive now still walking in that manner – his long thin legs thrusting out, covering his shoes with mud.
“Not really,” she said.
“That woman has to be fed and changed.”
“I had wanted to go swimming.”
Out on the beach the sand would be black wet, the waves would come in and the seaweed would wash up saturated and grey. The waves would come up and splash the reef, and far down below it, theslip. The beach would be empty.
“You can’t go swimming now.”
She watched him coming and then he was gone around by the porch and she heard the door swing open and she heard her father grunting to him, but she heard nothing from him.
She turned around and with her throat filling that way she couldn’t speak for a moment. She didn’t want to go. They would roll her over and take her like a child and change her – time and again, every day, time and again. She had wanted to go swimming – the long hot beach, the water, the thick rich mill smell coming down over it, the sky purple- blue with heat and mist.
“He took my radio again – he has it in there every day – he took it again. It’s my radio. I should be able to keep my own darn radio. He takes it every darn day,” she said.
Her mother looked at her. Her sunless hand against the wall.
“She has to be fed and changed. No more than an hour – no more than an hour and a half. She’ll go to sleep then.”
They went down the stairway together, her mother a step ahead of her, the knee- length dress of her mother and her mother’s stockings with a run in both legs, the white calves bulging out. She had such thin little hands and such thick legs now, not the legs she used to have. There was a time before, a time when her legs were as pretty as her hands. Cathy watched her on the stairway moving down.
“He takes my radio all the time – all the time, so that’s it! That’s it! From now on you’ll see a padlock on my door. Even if we had ordinary doors I wouldn’t mind. So that’s it. Padlock on my darn door from now on.”
The rain wasn’t so hard now. After supper she would go to the beach because it would be clear by after supper. But the flies after a rain swarmed terribly. Even now she thought she saw a clearing in the far sky. To sit in her room all afternoon and wait for the clearing – reading and smoking cigarettes. He sat in the living- room staring at nothing.
“Padlock from now on, Orv; the heck with you. You put my radio back – and stop taking my stuff like that, that’s all I have to say.”
He turned his head away and his eye closed, and then in one motion he lay down across the couch, with his shoes still on dangling over the arm.
 “Did you track mud in here?” Irene said.
“No!” He never opened his eye.
“Well, be careful of tracking mud in here – I see some stains here – look, it’s all marked up. It is! Did you do that?” He didn’t answer.
“Did you do that?”
“No,” he never bothered to open his eye.
“Yes, well you better put my radio back – soon as you go upstairs put it back,” Cathy said, looking at the mud marks ground into the carpet, already spot- streaked and faded and dirty. “Are we going now?” she said.
“Soon, soon,” Irene answered going into the kitchen. Maufat was in the kitchen with his chair pulled up between the stove and the table. He had pushed the plastic fruit dish to the side, and at the side of it he had his beer placed, and on his left the ashtray and cigarettes. He had his cards dealt out and was looking in perplexity over them, grunting now and then to himself, and picking the beer up now and then to drink it.
“Five on your red six,” Cathy said coming over to him. He turned around with his mouth full and shook his head until he swallowed. His face soured.
“I know – I know; now you’ll ruin everything. I want to get it myself – if I can’t get it myself I ain’t gonna play.” She turned to her mother.
“When are you starting dinner?”
“After – when she’s fed and changed and comfortable. Laura can come over with me this evening. You only have to come with me now.”
The sky wasn’t clearing; it had been a mistake to think it was. Irene stood nearest the window waiting for it to abate, for it to draw back into itself. That is how Cathy thought of it all – she thought that the clouds drew closer together and then the rain drew back into it. Thunder came. Her father never picked up the five for the red six. Not yet. He kept flipping the cards in groups of threes over and over again. He put an ace up and then the deuce upon it. He would have to put them all up now. Lightning came. She counted; each second was a mile away and she counted seven seconds – thunder came. The lightning was in the forest above where the leaves were thick with the saturation; where the twisted sunless branches were black with the saturation.
“We could run over,” Irene said.
When the lightning came again it seemed to whiten the sky, making a pure white light out of those grey clouds from whence it came, making white the mud, the usually scum- red mud of the drive. She had walked over and stood beside her mother to watch it coming. If they left now and ran across by the field- path they would make it in a matter of minutes but it was the field high with the wet grass that would soak through her slacks.

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