• The day Jim rowed 25 miles on the open Atlantic to benefit a young Canadian cancer patient

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The Flaw Excerpt

A New Prescription

The muttering in the basement began again, and again in the master bedroom of the very old yet very new house, Raymond Kidd lay awake listening.

Two hundred and ten years earlier, 7 Lands End had come into being as a shoebox with six cramped rooms, a simple shoreside cottage on a coast where the topsoil lay as thinly on the granite bedrock as the hair on a balding man’s head. There was no basement then. The idea of digging an underground room in such rocky ground never entered the original builder’s mind. Nor was there a master bedroom upstairs. The upstairs was an attic for storing fishing gear. Two hundred years later, however, when young Nora Lee of the Mikmaq tribe became the lead attorney for Canada’s Assembly of First Nations, she flexed the muscles of her newfound prosperity by buying the cottage for fifty thousand dollars and carrying out two hundred thousand dollars worth of renovations that included a boathouse and woodshed, a new wing, a basement, the conversion of the attic, and a ripping out of walls to make the six rooms one big open one. After the makeover, the only doors were on the bathrooms and closets and the new basement. The contractor protested against adding a basement because of the natural underground flow of the marsh behind the house down to the sea in front. But Nora had insisted, because the basement was to be not only the laundry room but also her exercise room, where while the washer was washing and the dryer drying she could mirror the movements of the obviously successful and splendidly built young men and women on the TV she ordered built into the basement wall.

As it turned out, the new basement flooded with every moderate rain and spring tide and stayed damp even after being pumped out. The sump pump couldn’t handle the influx nor a dehumidifier the mildew. The door had to be kept open to improve the ventilation. But these were minor problems for Nora. The major ones were that her husband-to-be, a talented young Haligonian movie director, abandoned her for Hollywood; and her older sister, while skating on a remote lake in northern Manitoba, plunged through thin ice to a watery grave.

The TV was never built in. Nora moved to Winnipeg to take care of her sister’s seven children, which accorded both with tribal custom and the call of her own broken heart. She sold 7 Lands End to the newly arrived American immigrant Raymond Kidd, accepting his ridiculously low offer because he professed to be a poet and because she wanted her dream that had almost come true to be appreciated by someone with imagination.

Whether Raymond was a real poet or not was anyone’s guess. He had certainly written reams of the stuff and published a couple of thin volumes. But that he was possessed of a vivid imagination was unquestionable. As he lay upstairs listening, he was certain he heard ghosts conversing, that their conversations originated in the basement where the door was always open, and that it was important to his destiny that he understand what they were saying. Strain his ears as he might, though, night after night, year after year, he had never made much sense of it. It was like a radio broadcast so faint and staticky that only a word or two was ever intelligible.

Usually this was enough, because the listening distracted him from the problems on his mind. This particular November night, however, he determined to know more, to get out of bed and go down to the basement and get to the heart of the matter.

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  • Available October 2013

  • Book 1 of A Travellers Guide for Lost Souls

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