by Kellie Underhill
A Peaceful Easy Feeling
Normally, Sammy would have thrown himself into the throng, but after so many days of being on the go he just wanted to relax. He needed to get off Main Street and find a quiet place by the river to collect his thoughts. He walked back to the bridge, went down to the river, jumped in and started to swim. The water always felt so good on his skin. He swam upstream, saw some cabins by the water and decided to have a closer look. There were a quite a few cottages, some larger than others. They were spread out for privacy and surrounded by grass and trees. It was beautiful, so peaceful and relaxing. A dirt road meandered from cottage to cottage and Sammy followed it until he came to a big cottage marked Office. He stepped onto the front porch just as the door opened and a woman rushed out.
“Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. “Are you waiting for me?” She taped a sign to the window that read, “O’Donnell’s Cottages & Expeditions, Back in an hour” and without waiting for Sammy to respond she continued, “Come on, come on, we’re late! They’ll all be getting antsy down by the boats.” He followed the speedy little woman to the shore where a group of people were waiting by some bright coloured canoes.
“Now, on to the fiddleheads!” the woman exclaimed and everyone started climbing into the canoes. “C’mon,” she nudged Sammy. “Get in, you can come with me.”
“Fiddlehead Fiesta!” a little girl yelled and they took to the river. Sammy’s boat, with the woman navigating, led the others to various places where they pulled onto shore and picked ferns called fiddleheads. Sammy found the rocking of the canoe soothing. There was something about the river that helped him relax. When they returned, the group looked forward to learning how to prepare, preserve and cook the fiddleheads in a variety of different ways including in soup and omelettes. Sammy couldn’t wait to eat. After learning how to prepare the delicacy for dinner, they gathered around a big table in a conference room to await the meal. The plates starting coming and people were oohing and aahing over the dishes, but Sammy’s stomach churned with disgust. Something smelled fishy and he didn’t like it. When his plate was set in front of him he recoiled as if stung by a bee. He couldn’t help himself. The sight of the pink flesh on the plate turned his stomach. He quickly excused himself and fled the building.
The Chase Continues
He ran down the steps, onto the dirt road, out toward the river and smack dab into another group of people. These people hadn’t been gathering fiddleheads. They carried rods and nets and wore vests, hats and rubber boots that came all the way up to their chests. They gave him that knowing look he’d seen before and as he made a mad dash for the river, they followed.
“Look at the size of him!”
“Think he’s legal?”
“I’ve got a tape, we’ll soon see.”
“Get him boys!” He heard the tape measure being pulled out and dove for the water. His belly scraped the bottom and he pushed off swimming as far and as fast as he could. He swam some way before he felt comfortable enough to look back and see if they were still there. He breathed a huge sigh of relief; he was alone. Obviously all these men knew who he was, and they weren’t about to let him in on the secret anytime soon. They probably knew where he needed to go too, and they really didn’t want him to get there. The trip had taken a dangerous turn and Sammy needed a plan. When he thought he was far enough away he got out of the water and headed off through the woods to find the highway, a new town, a safe place to rest.
He came onto the road at a place called McCloskey’s General Store. Surely they’ll have something to nibble Sammy thought as he entered. Once inside he discovered a few aisles at the back devoted to nothing but groceries, there was even a meat counter. The store was amazing! One-stop shopping like he had not seen anywhere else. The shelves were stocked with everything from china, glassware, toasters and tea kettles to luggage, watches, porcelain dolls and dart supplies. Everywhere he looked there was something different and unique. Plush toys, tea towels, bolts of fabric, stereos, curtain rods, hand saws, socks, belts, bird seed, hunting gear, camping supplies, ice skates—it was a treasure trove! Downstairs he found several bins and racks of shoes and clothing. He had an idea. He picked out some green workpants, a red and black checked snap shirt, a pair of tan coloured work boots, and a black ball cap with a truck logo on the front. Slipping off to a dark corner he clothed himself and then found a mirror. Yes, this was much better! Now he would blend in. As he walked around the store deciding what he’d like to eat, he noticed another counter. This one had rods, reels, nets, waders, fly hooks, and a few men gathering supplies. He could smell the river off them. One of them looked his way and nodded. “Great day to be on the river,” he said.
“G’day,” Sammy said nodding like he’d seen other people do.
“Yep, great day for her!” The men returned to their shopping without giving Sammy another glance. His disguise worked! He gathered his supplies, exited the store and started walking. Before too long he came to a wooden building with a sign that said Central New Brunswick Woodmen’s Museum. Remembering the insightful afternoon he’d spent at the Tabusintac Library, Sammy decided to visit this museum also and look for clues or information. It seemed like he was getting closer to figuring out who he was. The further he travelled, the more people seemed to recognize him.
Encountering a Ghost
Inside was quiet, he couldn’t see anybody around. He browsed the gift shop’s wide selection of local books and music, wood crafts, quilts, t-shirts, souvenirs and more. He studied the many paintings and prints. He was looking at the head of a deer mounted on a wall when a woman shrieked behind him.
“Oh my goodness!” she screamed. “It’s the ghost of Peter Emberley!”
Sammy jumped and looked around wildly. “Where?!” he yelled. “Where?!”
The woman giggled and raised her palm over her chest. “My soul,” she said. “You scared me near to death! I thought you were the ghost of Peter Emberley.”
Sammy chuckled, “You gave me quite a fright too.”
“I didn’t hear you come in,” the woman continued.
“Sorry,” Sammy said. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Who is Peter Emberley?”
“It’s a long story,” the woman said. “There have been songs written about him. He was a young man from PEI who came to the logging camps of Miramichi and was killed when a log rolled on him.”
“That’s terrible,” Sammy said.
“Yes,” she agreed. “You can learn a lot more about him and all kinds of other woodmen’s stories if you take a walk around and look at all the displays. If I can help you in anyway just let me know.”
Sammy nodded. The woman’s voice sounded familiar. It’s funny, he thought, all the women on this journey have sounded the same. They all sound like Rachel. And Sammy peered more closely at this woman’s face as she backed away and started to go. She had the same big eyes. It was very curious. Suddenly he felt weak in his stomach and he fell back on a handmade wooden bench. “Excuse me,” he said. “I do seem to need some help.” The woman came over. “What can I do for you?” she asked with concern.
“I haven’t slept in awhile. I wondered if there were any motels or cottages or anything close by.”
“The Red Pines Park is just across the road, you could tent there.”
“I don’t have a tent,” Sammy said as the room tilted. “Can I just sleep outside?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll rig you up.” The woman called some of the regular campers to help Sammy across the road and set him up in a place to rest. She even loaned him a sleeping bag. He was so drowsy he had a vague recollection of many hands carrying him, but nothing more.
The Sky is Falling
When he woke it was late and the moon was high. He felt a lot better as he lay snugly in the warm sleeping bag. “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight,” he recited. “Please help me get home,” he whispered. He lay there studying the moon, turning the journey over in his mind. He didn’t know where to go from here. He didn’t know what was next. He’d met so many people, many who had helped him and some who hadn’t. Even as he thought it, he heard Joe’s voice in his mind, follow the lights. He had followed lights but still hadn’t found his way. As he lay there deep in thought, a star streaked across the sky like a fireball, and then another, and another. Sammy had never seen anything like it. The sky was falling. All the stars were shooting this way and that. It took his breath, his own private light show was happening in the sky.
Lights! He sat up suddenly. The sky was full of them! This had to be it. Sammy leapt to his feet. He ran until he found the river and then he jumped in and started swimming. He swam over rapids and around islands, against a strong current. He swam toward the moon, following the meteor shower. He swam close to the surface with his eyes trained on the sky. He didn’t see the big rock until it was too late. He smacked into the side of the boulder and the last thing he saw was shooting stars on the inside of his eyelids as he passed out.
Awake in a Dream
“Sammy? Sammy?” The voice sounded far away, hollow.
“Rachel?” Sammy squeaked.
“He’s waking up!”
“Gladys?” Sammy mumbled. He felt like he was swimming deep, slowly rising to the surface.
“I’m here, Son.” Sammy recognized the voice.
“Papa?” he said as his eyes fluttered open. “Papa, is that you?” The world came into focus and Sammy saw his father hovering over him.
“Oh Sammy! I’ve been so worried!” Papa pulled him into a hug.
“What happened?” Sammy asked but didn’t wait for a response. “Oh, Papa! I had a dream, I was lost and I didn’t know who I was and I couldn’t find you and a lot of really nice people tried to help me and a few tried to catch me and I learned about different cultures and tried different dancing and, and, and—”
“You hit your head in the storm surge,” Papa explained. “You’ve been unconscious for days. Everybody took turns helping to carry you up the Mighty Miramichi River to the headwaters. I was worried you’d never wake up again. If it hadn’t been for Samantha, I don’t know how I would have gotten through this.”
“Samantha,” Sammy said. He remembered his father had arranged everything.
“Yes, she refused to give up on you, been by your side the whole time. She insisted you would come back for her.” Papa stepped aside and Sammy could see a girl. “Rachel?” He squinted. She stepped from the shadows and it was the girl of his dreams! The one he had seen in the ocean with the beautiful bulging eyes and the sparkling skin.
“Sammy, I’d like you to meet Samantha,” Papa said, and the jitterbugs started to dance in Sammy’s stomach.
… The End … (or is it?)