Another fine workshop with Rosemary Aubert at Loyalist. Time flies too fast when I’m so focused and productive. Even though the class was smaller than usual, some drop outs at the last minute due to illness, we never seemed to have enough time to get around to everything – in fact we barely scratched the eBook surface (next year).
After the first day there isn’t really much time, or energy, for my own writing beyond morning pages & getting the blog up. Not complaining though. The workshop options of the day were excellent & even they weren’t discussing my piece, nearly everything said applied to every piece submitted.
My Thursday presentation in revising the Plot went very well. I used both Lazarus Kiss & Coal Dusters as examples. In Kiss I realized that I needed to make the magic system clearer which called for cuts & additions. Dusters got tinkered with to suit the history & also the cultural context. People lived with dirt much more thoughtlessly than we do.
The residence apartments were perfect. Simple, almost austere with excellent campus wide wifi access. This year I was in the McFarlane building for first time. Over the years I’ve been in nearly every building. I was lucky to get one of the accessibility suites, which have their entrance which avoids the stairs – sweet for my suitcase. Close to the main buildings so I took more of a loop around the the Tim Ho’s on the furthest end to get some exercise.
Ate off campus a couple nights. Montana’s is one of those faux rustic spots – saws on the walk. 50’s car suspended from the ceiling. large meals, well prepared; nice ribs & salads. The class meal was at Boston Pizza – food was fine but one long table made conversation with anyone more than two away from you impossible. Even that was shouted over the noise of other diners around us.
The drive there & back was smooth sailing, no major traffic ties ups, not even much of a slow down – going against the flow does speed things up. But I’m always glad to get home to my own bed, even if I have endless loads of laundry to do before hitting it. I’ll be back next year.
August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada http://www.fanexpocanada.com
October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Welcome to Lake Pinebow
Here’s another sliver of Coal Dusters – this wasn’t looked in the workshop but I was so pulled back into it myself I can’t to start the big revisions.
“Lillian it won’t matter what trousers I’m wearing down into the mine. The overalls will cover all I’m wearing.” Steven tried to joke.
“They will be taking your picture before you get into the mining gear. You have to keep in mind that people’s eyes will now be on you.”
“I want them to see that I am one of them not some … shop display manikin of …”
“You want to look like what they want to look like themselves someday.” She interrupted him. “These clothes are simple enough at the same time. Now that things are getting back to normal, they will be ready to look to improve themselves.”
“I do wish you would be coming with me.”
“A woman in the mines!” Lillian laughed. “Worse than a woman on board a ship. No!”
“At least come with me. Be there when I go down with them. I’m sure the other wives will be there to celebrate their men returning to work.”
“Looking like this!” Lillian pointed out her housecoat and slippers. “By the time I’m prepared to go anywhere, they’d have hauled up the first ton of coal.”
A car horn tooted outside the house.
“There’s Gus now to take you along. Be sure to send him back with the motor directly, so me and Clara can go to Sydney.”
“That’s right. To the store there. They have some new wedding dresses for …”
“Wedding dresses.” Steven broke into a wider smile. “You mean …”
“That’s right you can tell everyone the date is two weeks from today.”
The car horn tooted again.
Lillian went to the porch with him. As he got into the car she leaned in to remind Gus to bring the motor back.
She took Steven’s breakfast plate to use herself and was eating toast when Clara come down to breakfast.
“You’ve seen Steven off?”
“Yes. He’s looking forward to the re-opening of the mines more than the miner’s are.”
“No doubt. He only has to go down once. They have to go down everyday.”
Lillian dabbed a piece of her toast in the egg yolk on the plate.
“I see you’ve eaten as well.”
“Only some toast.” she glanced down. “Oh goodness I’ve used Steven’s plate! Uncle Pat lived so simply he only had one plate, one cup for his breakfast. I’d wait till he was finished before having my own. It did mean less washing up. Strange how a habit starts and sticks with you.”
The road to Sydney was fairly smooth though Lillian did have to hold to her hat a few times. Even though Sydney wasn’t as large as Boston after spending so much time in New Castleton it seemed huge. There were more cars than she’s seen.
McDowell’s was a three-floor department store on Charlotte Street. Even though it was several years old it still had the feeling of newness to it. First floor was housewares. Lillian admired the gleaming stove and refrigerators.
“Eyeing possible wedding presents?” Clara asked.
“I was thinking this was the type of gift my family would never give. Too practical. They’d be more inclined to send something like this.” Lillian walked over to the fine china department. “A large fancy floral set of chinaware that could only be used once or twice a year, if that often.”
At the back of the first floor was a Toys and Children’s Furnishings department.
Lillian looking longingly at the line of dolls standing on a shelf on one wall. I wondered what had become of hers. She’d left so much behind when she came to Cape Breton. Being in McDowell’s reminded her painfully of the many things she’d lost.
They took the lift up to the second floor. It was Men’s and Women’s Wear. When she stepped off the lift the first thing she was was a mannequin in a short one-piece dress. The skirt was pleated and the top had a loose beaded fringe around the neck.
“Oh.” Lillian sighed. “That is so pretty.”
“Perhaps.” Clara touched the hem. “Too short to be practical.”
“But it’s not meant to be practical Clara. It is meant to be pretty.”
Clara lead her to the back of the store to the bridal area.
“Miss McDowell.” A small woman with a strange accent scurried out from a side room. “What a great pleasure it is to see you.
“Thank you Karina.”
“Ah, and this must be Miss McTavish. Let me look at you.” she stepped back to gaze at Lillian. “Such a waist. In old country girls like you would be fattened up before being wed. Here, ach, they want them skinny as boys.”
“So you have something to show us.” Clara asked.
“Yah. Yah. You wait here. I get.” She went into the side room and came back out with two boxes. “Now the lace isn’t as good as we’d make back in Koniakow but I haven’t forgotten how.
“This first one is very traditional.” Karina took out a full bodied, white dress with a neck high top, long lacy white sleeves and full wide bottom. “Some crinolines will make you look like a queen. The veiling is quite simple though.”
She held it up against Lillian. Lillian pressed the shoulders to her and stepped back. It was so much like ball gowns of her mother’s she had envied. The bodice had seed pearls in an arc across the breast bone. She kicked out the bottom so it bounced lightly in the sun. She did a twirl so that it wrapped around her legs before falling away as she stood in front of the mirror.
“Lovely.” Clara said wiping a tear away from her eye. “The sort of dress I would have loved to have been married in.”
“Oh yes. The young lady looks radiant even holding such a dress. It’s been so long since anyone has wanted such a gown. Things being as they have been.” Karina shook her head. “But perhaps that will change now.”
“It is more than words can say.” Lillian stared at herself in the mirror. Could this be the same girl who was cowering in fear as he uncle struck out at her?
“This other is much … plainer. Miss McTavish insisted we order it as it is more … modern.”
“You make modern sound like a disappointment.” Lillian replied, reluctantly handing the gown back to Karina.
The other dress was a simple sheath with a similar high neck but shorter sleeves. The white satin had a green and gold sheen to it as it caught the light. It had a small hat of the same fabric with a simple veil attached to it.
“It is lovely.” Lillian knew this was the one for her. She held it up to herself and stood in front of the mirror. The color complimented the red of her hair while the length would allowed some of her calves to show. “I’ll try this on, if you don’t mind.”
She saw Clara’s look of disappointment.
“How long would alterations take, of either?” she asked.
“This one a few days. The good one a week or more.”
Lillian stood in front of the mirror in the sheath dress.
“This one won’t need alterations at all.” She said with a smile. “I do think it sends the right message as well. The other one is too …”
“Opulent.” Clara said.
Lillian came out of the dressing room and handed the dress back to Karina. “But perhaps a more elaborate veil would be in order.”
“Yes.” Karina’s face lit up. “I can have something. How soon.”
“Two … ?” Lillian said.
She was interrupted by the alarm bells.
“What can that mean?” she asked.
“Something at the mine.” Karina said. “Steel plant uses its whistle.”
“But how can we hear it here.”
“They relay a distress signal.” Clara explained.
“Can you tell where it’s from?” Her heart was racing. She knew were it was from without being told.
“Not always.” Clara hesitated.
“It’s from New Castleton, isn’t it?” She grabbed her purse and headed to the stairs. “There’s been an an accident.” she raced down the stairs, Clara following close after.
The drive back to New Castleton was tortuous for Lillian.
“Please, Lillian it is nothing. It has to be nothing.” Clara tired to calm her.
“No. Tt isn’t nothing.” Lillian exploded. “I can feel it. Don’t ask me how, but I can just feel it.”
The car pulled up outside the Colliery gate and she pushed in past the guard who tried to stop her.
“Where is he?” she shouted at the guard. “Where is Mr McDowell?”
The General Manager came over to her and Clara.
“We don’t know Miss. But rest assured we’re doing everything we can to find him and the others.”
“I don’t care about the others.” Lillian saw all her new hopes and dreams turning to coal dust before her eyes. “This can’t be happening. It can’t.”
“There. There.” Clara tried to calm her. “You must be strong.”
“I’m tried of being strong.” Lillian sank to a bench outside the infirmary.
“We’re doing everything we can. The first five levels have been cleared and all the men are safe.” The manager explained.
“What about the others?” she said.
“The cage has been jammed in the shaft. We can’t go lower till we are sure it’s safe to go down.”
“Cage?” Lillian didn’t understand.
“A sort of elevator that brings the men and col up and down.” Clara said.
“Then why don’t they just pull it UP.” Lillian said.
“The cable broke.” The manager said. “It had been tampered with.”
“What! Who would do such a thing.”
“Radicals, miss.” The manger dropped his voice. “There’s labour elements amongst the men who’d stop at nothing to …”
“To what! Kill each other in pursuit of some ideal even they don’t understand!” she yelled.
“We are working at replacing the cable now. We don’t want to send men down in case the cage can’t hold their weight.”
“Then I’ll go down.” she pushed him aside. “I’m not that heavy.”
“Now Miss McTavish.” The manager restrained her.
“We have to let them look after this.” Clara said. “Everything will be okay.”
“There’s someone coming up.” a miner came over to tell the manager.
“I have to go ladies. Trust me we are doing everything we can.”
Lillian watched him run over the the mine entrance.
“It’s Birk Mc!” someone shouted.
“Level seven.” someone else shouted. “He was down at level seven.”
A stretcher with Birk on it was brought past her. Clara held her back from jumping up to ask him about Steven.
“I have to find out.”
“Let them tend to him first.”
“Climbed up all by his self.” one of the miners came over to them “Shoulda seen his hands. Bloody pulps they were.”
“Did he say anything?” Lillian asked as calmly as she could.
“There’s some alive but he can’t say as who ‘cept those around him on his level.”
“See Lillian,” Clara said. “There’s hope. Let’s go to the …”
“I’m not going anywhere. If St,even’s hurt these men will pay the price. After all he’s done on their behalf.”
“Lillian!” Clara said. “We have no idea if anyone did anything. A cable that hasn’t been used in months could break easily.”
“So now you’re a mining engineer!” Lillian raged then caught her breath. “I’m sorry Clara. I know you’re trying to make me see sense.”
“Don’t forget Steven is my brother. You’ve only know him the past few months. I’ve known him all my life. All his life.”
“Of course Clara. I got so caught up in my own fears that forgot you may have your own. But there must be something we can do?”
“Perhaps we can be of assistance in the infirmary.”
“No! No! I don’t think I could bear to go in there.”
More miners were being brought up from the lower levels.
“We’ve managed to stabilize the cage.” The general manager came to explain to them. “It can’t be pulled up or down the way it is caught in the shaft but we have secured cables to it so that if it should come loose it won’t fall any further. That boy did a monumental deed clambering up the shaft the way he did. In the dark with nothing but a belt to hold him from plunging down.”
“Was it him that did the monumental deed of sabotage?” Lillian asked. “Saving his own neck at the loss of others.”
“Miss! There’s no call to make an accusation of that sort about anyone.” The general manager stepped away from her.
“They were to be married.” Clara said quietly. “You must know that. …”
“Christ, it clean went out of m’head. Mr. McDowell announced before he went down. I know he’ll be alright Miss. God smiles on grooms.”