This Project is on Hiatus

I will resume publishing passages from COAST in the future, but most likely on a different website, which I'm presently building. The novel is available by download, and do let me know if you enjoyed reading COAST in this series of passages (or the openly licensed photo exhibit, or both!): admin@andrewrichardmalcolm.com

Andrew Malcolm

Beach Neanderthal

JS says, “Languor, what does this word mean?”

“Extremely relaxed, lethargic even, but in a pleasurable way. I try not to smoke so much that I become a burn out, but it’s inevitable sometimes.”

JS receives the joint back from her. “You’re very beautiful you know.”

“Yes, I know. Well it’s all relative, and as far as I’m concerned beach neanderthal isn’t an attractive look. I’m the only one here dressed with some class, so…”

“Yes. Beach neanderthal, I think that’s what I am. Why don’t you come sit with the other beach neanderthals?”

“Over there?”

“Yes.”

“I’m not sitting over there.”

“Why not?”

“There’s a fire.”

“Yes, there’s a fire. You don’t want to sit around it?”

“No, I do what evolved people do. I move away from fires. I’m not a beach neanderthal, remember?”

Smoke Myself Languor

JS lights a joint, walks over, sits down beside her and asks if she would like some. She isn’t sitting, but crouching on the balls of her feet, like she’s trying to touch as little sand as possible. She looks as if a joint, particularly one that someone else had smoked on, would offend her. But JS has one of those smiles that gets away with saying anything.

In an interrogating voice, she says, “Is that pot?”

JS loses his smile. “Uh…”

“Is it just pot, no tobacco or anything else in it?”

The smile comes back. “Oh yeah, all natural my friend.”

“Oh thank fuck, pardon my language.”

“Not a problem, somehow I knew you would need this.”

“I don’t have any because I flew here. I’ve been going crazy. Well more for other reasons, that idiot with the notebook to be specific, but this really helps.” She takes a couple big drags off the joint. “Ugh, I could smoke myself languor right now.”

Back to Montreal

“All yours, free of charge. Almost. You must tell me who that is over there.”

It’s Claire. He’s pointing at Claire. I didn’t even see her, but there she is. Alone. Too far to say she’s part of the circle, but close enough to hear everyone. I say, “That’s Claire. That’s my sister. She doesn’t want to be here. I made her come. I kidnapped her when she was passed out in those boats at a family reunion. She was really pissed at me.” She doesn’t look pissed. She looks bored and vaguely sad. “Now she just wants to go back to Montreal.”

“That’s sad. She should come around the fire.”

“Yeah, she should enjoy this. But I don’t know. What do I know? I haven’t talked to her in years. She likes the city now. Maybe this just isn’t her thing.”

“I think she needs to smoke weed, I think that’s her thing.”

“Really? I wouldn’t know.”

Chapter 12 | Write and Drink

A guy with long rocker-type hair, a muscle shirt (but he isn’t muscular) and a big camper back-pack shows up. To everyone, in a Quebec accent, he says, “Hello, I am Jean-Sebastien, but you can call me JS. I’m not a dragonboater, but I’m a friendly traveller. May I join your fire?”

And of course he’s welcome in this circle of friendlies. He sits down beside me. “Hello Mr. Writer, you work all day while everyone else plays.” I pick up the bottle, take a swig, then pass it to him.

“Ah, you write and drink, so it’s not work, it’s art.”

“I like that line, I’m going to put that down.”

Sit in the Glow

After the meal I pass around a bottle of whisky and we all get quite mellow. Jonathan and Mary tell Kate more tales of animals they’ve cooked on beaches, Rory and Sam keep talking music and trying to convince each other to play, and Damiond and Kelly talk quietly, in a couple’s conversation. I go and grab some more wood for the fire, come back and add some logs, stoke the flames, sit in the glow and start writing in my notebook.

Salty Fried Fish

“It is, wish I had some seasoning for these steaks though,” says Kate. She has the pike on a picnic table and she’s cutting steaks from it with the hunting knife. Jonathan went to find more rocks to prop up a grill with.

Mary says, “I’ve got an idea, it might sound crazy though.”

Kate says, “This fish has already gone down the rabbit hole of crazy; what are you thinking?”

“We could crush this bag of potato chips into crumbs to use as breading. They would add salt and oil.”

When Jonathan comes back he finds Mary and Kate crushing potato chips and coating pike steaks in them.

“Your wife’s idea,” says Kate.

“Now you know why I married her,” says Johnathan.

Once the steaks are on the grill, the chip grease sizzles and the smell of salty fried fish stops all our conversations, we can only stare and drool.

Heats of Five

I say to Damiond and Kelly, “I’ve seen dragonboats — the long canoes with a pacing drummer at the front and a guy standing with a steering paddle at the back, right?”

Kelly says, “And ten paddlers along each side.”

“I’ve never seen a race though.”

Damiond says, “They’re sprints, heats of five boats at a time. There’s sixty boats here so it’s a huge festival.” His attention gets diverted by the pike. “That’s a nice sized fish.”

Too Shy Right Now

Rory holds up a guitar that’s sitting in his lap: “Can anyone play this thing? I brought it all the way from Ireland and I can’t play for shit.”

Sam walks over and sits beside him on a cooler, “I can play, but I’m too shy right now.”

“Oh come on, play an Irish folk song and I’ll sing the words.”

“I don’t know any Irish folk songs.”

“Good, because I can’t sing for shit either.”

I sit down beside the cooler Damiond and Kelly are sitting on. “You guys are in some races?”

Kelly says, “Yeah, International Dragonboat Festival, here on the islands. You don’t know? Where did you come from?”

“Hamilton, we all just escaped a disaster of a family reunion in that canoe-catamaran. Sam rigged up a tarp sail and ruddered the boat all the way here in the wind and some nice sized waves.”

Rory looks impressed. “Play me a sailing song.”

Sam giggles, “I’m a paddler, usually, not a sailer.”

Drunken Bastards

Jonathan brings the fish up while Kate grabs a hunting knife that Sam has stored beside the first aid kit (Christ, that girl stays prepared). Mary gets just as excited about the fish as her husband is.

The other three — Damiond, Kelly and Rory — are talking about their dragonboat team as we walk up.

Rory, mockingly, says, “But Damiond, your practice sessions, you’re happy about them, yeah?”

“I think our team is perfectly prepared.”

Kelly says, “All we did was get drunk at every practice session.”

“We talked about theoretical situations. We went out in the boat a couple times.”

Rory says, “But Damiond, how much did we practice before the race?”

Damiond, flailing his hand at Rory, says, “Ah what do you know you Irish bastard.”

Kelly says, “You guys practiced none at all. We’re going to lose tomorrow, like we do every year. You drunken bastards.”

Buried in Concrete

Jonathan got really excited about the pike. “My wife Mary and I have cooked a lot of fish on a lot of beaches, but never in Toronto. When did you catch this thing? It smells a little fishy.”

“Oh, it’s good. I caught it a few hours ago.”

Sam said, “Like eight hours ago, and it was buried in concrete. Don’t eat that thing.”

“Buried in concrete?”

“My cousin Sam’s a bit of a hippy. She thinks we’re all getting buried in concrete.”

“I hope that fish kills you.”

We're Ignoring Her Now

The circle was really welcoming. We didn’t even have to ask if we could join the pit — they waved us up before we landed, and Jonathan came and helped drag the boat up. “Wow, look at this rig, it’s great. You guys paddle from the mainland?”

Kate said, “Yeah, but not the mainland you’re thinking of. Actually, it’s a bit of a tale.”

“The greatest tale of idiots in canoes you ever heard,” said Claire.

Kate ignored Claire and told Jonathan about our great crossing of Lake Ontario and showed him the fish (we also ignored Claire when she complained about stopping; we’re ignoring her now).

Chapter 11 | Dragonboat Festival

I’m happy, happy as hell. That flicker of what I thought might be fire light was fire light. Once we were closer to the shoreline we saw a beach running out from it and ending at the long breakwater of rocks, enclosing a little bay. We saw shrub-land behind it, between the beach and the gap into the city. We landed at the end farthest from the boardwalk, near the breakwater rocks, and we’ve joined a fire with five other people, and we’re finally going to cook the Pike.

An older couple from Hawaii, Jonathan and Mary, are helping Kate cook the fish. They flew in for a dragonboat festival that’s happening on the island — and that’s what we’re on, an island, separated by the Eastern Gap that we’re heading for, and the Western Gap, which runs between the airport and a section of the mainland just west of the downtown.

Buzz Kill

Sam says, “Are you describing this scene, Coast? It’s so beautiful, for a city.”

“You describe it and I’ll write it down.”

“Okay, can I have some more of that vodka first?...Yum, thanks. Okay, the mystical tree line is dark with mystery—”

Kate says, “Wo, wo, wo, no. Mystical means magical, and my sweet lost friend you need to learn how to describe the real world. The trees are black.”

“The trees are silhouetted, I can say that, and because we don’t even know what that shoreline is, it’s..um...mysteriously black and silhouetted and...um...full of fairies probably. Oh, I’m no good at this, but yum, I love this vodka.”

Kate says, “You have to describe what’s silhouetting the trees. The city. The lights glowing from the skyline of Toronto behind the trees. Most notably its big fucking tower, which peacocks a light show up and down its shaft, as if it’s stroking itself.”

I say, “You know, my description was actually pretty good. You guys are messing it up.”

Sam says, “Read us your description.”

“Well…okay…they’re calming, the way the lights are set in black, because there’s no stars here. What you see from a fishing boat, when you can see every star there is, it’s like this. As dense as the city lights in some places, and as scattered as the sailboat lights in others.”

Sam says, “That’s nice, Coast.”

Then something appears along the tips of the trees — a plane. And it’s lights are a nice part of the picture.

Claire says, “There, see that? That’s a passenger plane. There’s an airport on the other side of the trees. I was watching from the lighthouse. That’s where we’re going. You’re paddling me to that airport, and Alex you’re buying me a ticket.”

“Yeah, okay,” I say.

She’s right, it’s a passenger plane. A twin propeller one. Taking off from…but I don’t feel like describing anything anymore. Everyone goes quiet; Sam passes the bottle back. We’re just crossing the water, going to the city so Claire can fly back to Montreal. That’s it.

Kate says, “You’re such a fucking buzz kill, Claire.”

Burning Bright White

Now that it’s night, I can see that the shoreline running west from the gap has a boardwalk with dim orange lights that ends at a peer far west of us, but that’s all the lights I see. Well there’s a glow too. Where the boardwalk begins, almost at the gap, the shoreline curves out towards us and a bank of boulders encloses a small bay. Over the boulders I think I might see the flicker of fire light.

The biggest landmark in view is of course the skyline. It’s burning bright white and fiery orange behind the silhouetted trees and dimly lit boardwalk of the west-running shoreline.

Masts Like Pencil Marks

Sam says, “I take it we’re heading for that gap.”

“Yup, that’s our way in,” I say.

Everyone goes silent. It feels awkward, because the stillness of the water we’re crossing, the warm air we’re moving through, and the view we’re paddling towards is beautiful and worth commenting on, but nobody’s bothering, at least not yet. I pull out my notebook and try some descriptions of the view.

The night time scene is dramatically different from what I saw in the daylight. We aren’t the only boat out here. A lot of sailboats and yachts are moving around, their red, green and white lights dragging reflections through the black surface of the lake like fishing lines. They are mostly heading towards the gap like us, funnelling into a cluster of lights that’s about to join the bright shine beyond.

The eastern wall of the gap runs straight to the mainland, forming the eastern wall of the inner harbour. Seeing it through the gap, I can’t make out exactly what’s along it, but it’s all industrial. I can see the stern of a freighter moored to the wall, and large buildings without windows. Behind them there are smoke stacks flashing aircraft warning lights.

The shore on our side runs both ways from the gap. To the east it’s almost completely dark, and I can see the silhouettes of trees. There are some lights down where it curves back around and out to the lighthouse — the lights of a marina, with masts like pencil marks rocking back and forth in them.

Keeping the Scuz Out

Kate says, “For fuck’s sakes let’s, I mean what the fuck is this? We’re getting hassled for stopping on a beach. These idiots should be happy we even bothered to stop anywhere in their stupid city of trespass police.”

“She’s right,” says Sam. “No wonder we’ve never come to Toronto if this is the kind of welcome we get. The place has got to be lame to protect a beach made of garbage.”

Claire says, “I love trespass police. They keep scuzzy people out of nice places, and therefor make those places nicer. See? That’s what trespass police are for, making nice places nicer by keeping the scuz out.”

Kate says, “Something tells me you’re going to fit right in here, Claire.”

Exclusive Knowledge

“That’s right, I dirt bike and sled on private property all the time — not near people’s houses or anything, like at schools. I’ve gotten ticketed before, but I’ve never paid, because it’s never the cops. Sometimes it’s the cops, then you have to sit in the cruiser for a while.”

“This is the most useless exclusive knowledge on a topic I’ve ever heard,” says Claire.

I say, “Guys, let’s get in front of those trees up ahead so we’re at least concealed, then start crossing to the city and pretend we were never anywhere near this place.”

Pull Over

“Pull over and get out of the canoes.”

Kate bursts out laughing, “You have to be fucking kidding me. Why the hell would we do that, who the fuck are you, and what are you going to do, high-speed-chase us?”

“If you get out you get a fine for the fire; if not, we’ll radio the police marine unit.”

“The police are not going to give a fuck about us and some fire we allegedly started.”

Claire says, “Like you would know.”

Sam says, “Actually she knows what she’s talking about. Kate does a lot of trespassing on her dirt bike.”

"Toronto-2425" by Andrew Badgley, edited by A. Malcolm

"Toronto-2425" by Andrew Badgley, edited by A. Malcolm

Tractor Beams

Kate says, “I can’t believe that trespass cop of a truck driver told those jack-ass-trespass-police on us.”

We hear security say, “I can hear their voices over there.”

“Well done, Kate,” says Claire. “Remind me never to attempt a prison break with you. Oh, that’s right, your side of the family are the only ones who would end up in prison.”

“Piss off. Listen to how overdramatic you’re being about some trespass police who have no way of getting to us. Oh shit, I was wrong” (sarcasm) “they’re driving their trucks over to us. Now we’re done, and look, they even have their head-lights on; I suppose they’re fucking tractor beams. Can—barely—paddle.”

"Moon" by Killericon, edited by A. Malcolm

"Moon" by Killericon, edited by A. Malcolm