Callum Speaks Again

Bloody hell! Just as I was starting to get used to being ignored, my Irishman reared his head today and spoke for the first time in months. But what is it? An ending? A new path? Melancholic crap? Unexpected regardless. Probably useless prewriting.


In the distance children scream as they play on the playground and swim in the pool. Nobody swims in the river here anymore. The currents are too dangerous, the water destroyed by the pulp mill. When the wind blows the right way, Callum can smell the mill like rotten eggs, an embarassing fart.

He opens his cooler and pops the top off a beer as he listens to the sounds of families. It seems everyone had the same idea, to go for a picnic and enjoy the warm air. The smell of BBQs, the sizzle of frying meat.

“Supper!” Mothers call to their children.

Callum sits alone in the deserted part of the picnic area. The wind takes to the trees and he hears the leaves shaking. Listening to the sounds of families he sees his family all those years ago. Him, just a boy, and Melissa the Ontarian cousin who knew nothing about the river.

“Bet I can swim to the other side.”

“Better not try it, better not, Missy.”

“There’s undercurrents out there.”


“Missy’s the strongest swimmer in her class. She’s so good they moved her up a grade. If she continues, the coaches think she’ll have an excellent chance to make the Olympic team. We’re very proud of our Melissa.”

Melissa’s head bobbing, bobbing on the river. Then thrashing arms. Arms flailing, striking the water. Then nothing. Gone.

It happened so fast, he couldn’t be sure it had happened at all. It happened so slow, he should have been able to save her. He should have called for help sooner.
All his Aunts packing up cousins, taking them home. And him, motherless, nobody left to take him home.

He shivered by the fire. Missy’s mother shook and muttered. “Strong swimmer. Smart girl. Advanced. Olympics. So proud. Our Missy . . . ” Hours passed before the men returned, lucky to have found the body so soon.

A couple more drownings and mishaps before swimming was banned.

His beer has gone skunky in the sun. He sets it aside and pops another, taking a swig. The park is calm now, everyone settled in for food. Murmurs from supper tables and the sun beginning its descent. A hint of evening chill.

Then the whistle of wind taking flight and he sees the Dust Devil begin to form, growing, gathering last year’s dead leaves and tossing them round and round in the air. And there is Trey. Trey in the Devil, twisting, circling round, his small hands linked with Missy’s.

Ring around the rosy.

Hands linked with Grandma, and her smiling. Smiling and looking so fit, dancing round with the children.

Pocket full of posey.

And there, his own mother completing the circle. Every bit as beautiful as her photograph.

Ashes. Ashes.

All four smiling. Hair whipping. Trey’s eyes sparkling, a mischievous grin on his lips like he might pull a toad from his back pocket at any moment and scare the girls.

We all fall down.

Then gone, as suddenly as it appeared.

“Makes you wonder what the wind is, doesn’t it?”

Callum jumps. A girl sits on a blanket a few feet behind him.

“Beautiful,” she sighs.

He can’t tell her it’s anything but beautiful for him. He can’t tell her his heart is broken and he doesn’t know how to fix it.

“Angel twister. That’s what my grandmother always said.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh nothing, just an old story,” she shrugs.

“What are you doing there?” Callum asks.

The girl is surrounded by pads of paper, crayons and pencils.

“Drawing. I like to draw. Hope to be an artist one day. I’ve been sitting here all day waiting for the angels so I could sketch them. You probably think I’m crazy,” she laughs.

“Try me.” Callum shrugs and steps toward her.

“Well, grandmother always said when you see a tiny wind funnel in springtime, like the one we just saw, it’s a sign of good luck. She said it was the angels letting you watch them play for a few seconds and you would be blessed. Sort of stupid, I know. But I’ve never forgotten it.” She smiles. “Want to see?” She holds out her sketchpad.

Callum crouches and takes the pad from her dainty hands. There they are. Trey, Missy, Grandma, Mama, heads thrown back in laughter, hands linked as they dance round and round, leaves floating all around them, each one of them glowing with peace, each one of them wearing angel wings. Callum’s throat closes.

“It isn’t very good,” she blushes.

Callum swallows hard. “It’s nice,” he says. He looks into her blue eyes as he returns the sketch to her. The face of an angel, heart-shaped and smiling, full of life and hope.

“My name’s Vikki.”

“Callum,” he replies taking her outstretched hand. “Would you like a beer?”

Mood: nervous
Drinking: tea
Listening To: keyboard clacking
Hair: up and down

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