Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Foggy's Drive-in - Screenplay Excerpt

Note: Foggy's Drive-in is registered with the WGA and is currently being shopped in Los Angeles and in Canada.



Prairie highway at sunset. Rocky Mountains on horizon.

TITLE CARD: ‘High River, Alberta - 1964’
A HORN HONKS LONG AND LOUD: A LIME GREEN 1970 AMC GREMLIN careens off the highway into the ditch in front of Foggy’s Drive-in, dirt flying as it barrels toward US.


CARRIE, 6 (O.S.)

PULL BACK TO REVEAL we are inside -


Looking out the LARGE WINDOWS of the second story bedroom (which run the length of the LARGE room in the old house) we see the 1970 Gremlin regain control - drive out of the ditch.
But now we hear a FEMALE VOICE SCREAMING from a distance.

CARRIE LARSON, 6, leans out the window, around ‘BRUCE THE SPRUCE’ the large Blue Spruce which has some branches protruding into the open window. Carrie is small for her age.


Screaming STOPS.

LEE (O.S.)
Carrie! Stop screaming.

Carrie looks down at her Mom but we don’t see her yet.

Somebody was screaming, Mom.

LEE (O.S.)
Nobody was making a racket but you. Again.

Carrie points toward the highway.

But a car knocked -

She looks over and sees -


Never mind.

LEE (O.S.)
For God’s sakes.

Carrie’s face is hurt as she withdraws into her room, paces a few feet.

She paces back, looks out at the mail box again.

Wow. She is dazed. She looks at the tree.

Guess what, Bruce the Spruce?

She says these words with gravitas, her expression serious.

I - am - just - like - Grandma.

And then a slow wide grin spreads across her face.

OPENING NOTES OF ‘Louie, Louie’ by the Kingsmen carry into credits.


From ACT I


The Beatles run from mobs of girls on Foggy’s DRIVE-IN SCREEN: ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ showing.
The fun frenetic opening in beautiful black and white.

TITLE CARD: ‘Incomprehensible At Any Speed’

Now we see Carrie running and jumping like The Beatles as she tears across the Drive-In in front of the screen.

Carrie keeps one eye on the screen and one eye on the ground ahead as she runs and jumps joyously.

She passes by: A Picnic Area with a sign, ‘Kiddie Corral’, with a ranch style fence around it.

KIDS in sleeping bags or having picnics with parents.

KIDS inside the Kiddie Corral ride little bouncy horses on springs attached to the ground.

Carrie passes them and then slams to a stop, staring at something straight ahead.
She looks around at the people nearby. Everyone is focused on the screen.

She turns back.

CARRIE’S P.O.V.: In the forest running alongside Foggy’s is a group of sad faced people, some crying.

They huddle in the night with candles and pictures of a guy with weird long hair and round wire glasses.

We recognize the photo as JOHN LENNON and the scene as the VIGIL outside the Dakota on the night of December 8, 1980.

But Carrie doesn’t know what she is seeing.

The image FADES AWAY.

Only the forest remains.

She grins.


She tears off running again.



The giant REELS spin film through the big projector.

FOGGY LARSON, 38, a Beatnik looking guy in his classic Breton sailor cap, black turtleneck and jeans, sits beside the projector.

Carrie is sitting beside him. They look at each other periodically, smiling and laughing at the movie.

Carrie revels in this magical time with her Dad in the flickering light of the projector. He’s obviously her hero.


I am like Grandma.

Foggy hesitates, this is not what he wants to hear.

You are not like Grandma.

I’m just like her. I like her stories and I’m just like her.

He laughs, joshing with her to cover his alarm.

Carrie. No, you’re not. Jeez. You just have an imagination.

What’s so bad about being like Grandma?

Foggy bumps shoulders with her, then puts his arm around her shoulder, gives her a little shake, effectively dismissing what she’s just said.


He looks to the screen again, laughs too loud, trying to draw Carrie back into the movie.
He bumps her shoulder again, points at the screen.

These guys are the real deal, eh?

He pretends to be lost in the screen again.

She makes no such pretense now, staring at the floor for a moment before stealing a glance at her Dad.
She knows he’s aware of her looking at him but he pretends to be lost in the movie.
She hopes he doesn’t notice the disappointment on her face.

From ACT I

TWINS TREVOR AND TREENA, 16, presented proudly with an old 56 VW Beetle from Foggy.
Trevor and Treena turn away from the car and stare at Foggy as though he’s lost his mind.
Foggy sighs,

-a Beetle.

It’s old.

And embarrassing.

Irene laughs to herself as her gaze turns inward.

Dad, this is embarrassing.


Hoofs plod out the door of a barn as LOUIS LARSON, 40, an affable farmer, leads an old but still serviceable plow horse, BLUE, out to the corral.

IRENE’s 10 years old - and this is TRAGIC.

Blue’s a good horse.

She’s a plow horse, Dad. She’s old. And embarrassing.

Irene gives her Dad her best pleading look.


A beautiful fall morning. Irene riding old Blue to school at a leisurely walk - she’s riding with a flat exercise saddle under her, no saddle horn
-a group of kids pass on their trotting horses, laughing as they go by.

Irene leans forward, pats Blue’s neck.

Never mind, Blue. Let’s be late so we miss ‘God Save The King’.

She leans down over the horse’s neck, snuggles into Blue’s mane, closes her eyes and revels in the sun on her face, the gentle rolling gait of the old horse.

She opens her eyes and sees...

IRENE’S P.O.V.: The dirt road slowly passing below Blue’s shoulder under her.
Blue’s front leg stepping; safely, steadily onward.


I didn’t mean what I said. You’re the best horse in the world.

She squeezes her arms around Blue’s neck.

The stillness of a prairie morning broken only by the squeaking leather of the saddle.

Irene’s eyes close as she falls asleep, still wrapped around Blue’s neck.

Blue carries her faithfully down the road.

The horse’s head turns toward something in a field-

- a coyote sits in tall wheat, watches them pass.

Blue continues on with her safe sleeping rider.


Irene jumps at the SOUND OF A JET ENGINE.

Irene stops Blue. Looks around, twisting in the saddle.

Sees the coyote sitting in the crop field quietly.

Blue stands still.

Blue, didn’t you hear that?

She looks round some more then something above catches her eye.

She looks to the sky at the weird line of CONTRAIL THERE - the jet just barely visible in front of it.

She’s never seen a white line in the sky like that.

She closes her eyes - rubs them - opens them.

Only the blue sky remains.

And Blue under her.
Foggy’s Drive-in is being shopped in Los Angeles and in Canada and I hope to return to High River to shoot it :).

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Vancouver Elevators Display Rider's Weight

The city that likes to call itself The Most Beautiful City In The World, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is spending over $7 million to retro-fit the city's 25,000 plus elevators with sensors that will display each rider's weight in the floor at their feet.

"Vancouver is a beautiful city full of beautiful people and we want to keep it that way so really the weight display is only the beginning." says Trudy Spencer-Flint the city's 'Director of Beautification'.
Some may wish to use this when elevators in Vancouver display their weight!

"Vancouver is also spear heading a major advance in lift technology by scanning each rider's face and scoring it for symmetry, lack of blemish, grooming, make-up application because after all you can be healthy and slim but have a face like Mr. Ed."

The city's willingness to spend money on something some might consider frivalous considering the tremendous issues Vancouver faces with homelessness, violence, disenfranchisement, transit, water quality and the dip in tourism doesn't wash with Spencer-Flint. "This is an important advancement for the health of Vancourverites. We want to see those elevator numbers drop year after year until our ridership is predominately in the double zero to zero size range. We will save millions in health care costs."

Regarding the Face Scanner 4000 TLC,  an advanced version of current law enforcement face scanning technologies, that will rate the attractiveness of a rider's face Spencer-Flint had this to say, "This is not to say that ugly people have no value in society, I mean if you didn't have someone to compare beautiful people to how would you know they were beautiful, so you need ugly people, they are like the night sky. You need the dark to see the stars."

Trudy Spencer Flint - Director of Beautification City of Vancouver

Spencer-Flint then smiled at her own metaphor, "Perhaps the night could be given over to the ugly people in Vancouver."

Tourism Vancouver is expecting no drop in tourists visiting the city because of the new elevator system but they are expecting a 95% drop in elevator ridership.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Invisible Neighbourhood

On June 20 a catastrophic flood destroyed or damaged over 80% of High River, Alberta, where I live. My home was not badly damaged, but, as you'll see in the following post, it must be demolished due to the ineptitude of Emergency Operations Centre. They did a fantastic job in so many ways but even the Minister responsible for E.O.C., Rick Fraser, has admitted communications were terrible.

This is about Sunrise Place N.E., a lovely community, new and friendly and lovely, that will shortly no longer exist. Damn. We were just getting started.

>                                               SUNRISE PLACE N.E.
>                                                  OUR COMMUNITY
> Sunrise Place NE High River Alberta was a 32 unit condo in eight buildings situated in a circle off 21st NE directly north of Holy Spirit Academy.  The complex was built by Classic Communities Ltd. (Classic Construction Ltd.) based in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
> These homes were Certified Greenbuilt villa style condos of 1100 square feet and featured quality finishing including:
> 1. Hardy Plank exterior siding.
> 2. In-floor heating.
> 3. Tankless hot water.
> 4. Double glaze windows.
> 5. R42 insulation in the roof.
> 6. SIPS (Sandwiched Insulated Panels) walls. 
> The homes themselves were incredibly well built and energy efficient costing on average $40 per month each to heat in winter. They also featured as standard issue beachwood cabinets and granite counter tops in the kitchen and both washrooms.  The cost to build these homes was $200 per square foot. They were purchased for approximately (depending on upgrades) $279,000.
> It was a cozy community of close-knit neighbours who gathered around the central community gardens for conversation. People watched out for each other's pets and for many of us it was the first place where we literally knew all of our neighbours. 
> We were just getting started as a community. We had many plans for our lovely piece of the world. 
> June 21st  changed all of that. 
> Worst of all, we lost our neighbour Jacquie Brocklebank in the flood waters that day. Jacquie perished checking on a friend downtown, something that did not surprise her family and friends for Jacquie was the kind of person who would make sure all she knew were okay.
> We nearly lost another resident. Derek Etherington was left alone in the complex. He is 84 years old. We believe the RCMP were at fault for this. 
> They banged on the door of Mareea Maynes early Friday morning and told her to get out because the water was coming. 
> She said, "There are 32 units here, I don't know who is still here!"
> The officer said, "I'm leaving, my car is going to get swamped."
> He LEFT HER ALONE to try to alert the other residents. In the dark, with water rising on the south side of the complex she ran door to door and was able to awaken many neighbours. 
> By the time she got back around to the other side the water was too high for her to continue and so she did not make it to Derek's house. The water was also too high for her to get back to her house and her cat. 
> She went out the back gate and found a woman in a jeep with a 5 year old. The woman was crying because she couldn't figure out how to get out of town on the roads behind us. Mareea jumped in her truck and said, "I'll show you because I'm coming with you."
> Meanwhile, Derek, who is EIGHTY FOUR YEARS OLD, was asleep in his home. He woke to water that was waist deep. 
> He could not get the doors open. He was trapped in his home as the water kept rising. 
> He made his peace with the fact he was going to die. He went to a window facing the street and got it open. He called out but all he saw was black water and moonlight. 
> He stood in that freezing cold water for approximately six hours. He lost his glasses and could not see well. He was hypothermic. 
> Unbelievably he saw a boat approaching, he yelled and screamed and miraculously they  heard him. He doesn't know who his three rescuers were, he never got their name. 
> The writer of this document happened to be at the E.O.C. at the Firehall when Derek was brought in. He was not in good shape. He was airlifted out to Calgary.
> Thankfully, Derek survived but he does not want to go back to High River. Can't say I blame him.
> Sunrise Place was special for many reasons. Many of us desperately want to return. Many of us do not! Some of us are conflicted.
> It is difficult having your fate in the hands of others when sometimes those 'others' do not seem to know you exist.  
>                                            THE INVISIBLE NEIGHBOURHOOD
> Sunrise Place did not appear on the Town of High River or the Alberta Disaster maps at the Emergency Operations Centre for many days. 
> Several residents called to say that we were not even drawn on the maps for the Re-Entry.  "Where are you?" "WHAT'S your place called?" "I don't see it." "Are you sure that's where you are?" Those were some of the responses to our calls.
> Can you imagine how disconcerting, how disheartening and despairing it was to realize your homes did not appear to exist to the people who were in charge of trying to save it?
> We finally did appear on a Google Earth map we saw at the E.O.C.  but were still absent from other maps. 
> Speaking to the E.O.C. was like banging your head against...
>                                                     A BRICK WALL
> Unfortunately for Sunrise Place our difficulty with E.O.C. was just beginning. 
> Within a few days of the flood our two eastern buildings, comprising eight units, at a value of Two Million Dollars, were high and dry and easily accessible through the gate in the east retaining wall. You barely needed rubber boots to walk in.  
> We have estimated that the E.O.C. received OVER ONE HUNDRED phone calls regarding these two buildings over the course of nearly two weeks. 
> We were talking to a brick wall. No calls were ever returned. We told the same story again and again and again and again. Most of us called several times per day, explaining again and again and again that you could walk in off the street and then explaining again and again and again and again (if you think this sentence is annoying multiply that feeling by two million and you have an idea of our frustration as our homes sat rotting) to say we could not fall through to a basement because we had no basements. 
> We finally went to the E.O.C. and insisted someone investigate. We spoke to David Sands who brought forward someone who was going to investigate. 
> Then, we got a phone call saying we were still under water. Apparently all they did was take a canoe in the west side entrance and say, "Oh, they are still under water."
> We had photographs of our dry homes. We went to the E.O.C. AGAIN. This time Shane Schreiber came with us and saw for himself that we were high and dry. 
> The SIPS walls were already contaminated with mold and once contaminated they cannot be remediated easily, as is the case with standard construction. 
> These homes only had five to six inches of sewer back-up in most of them and yet they must be demolished. What an incredible and unnecessary waste!
> We deserve compensation for this. Some of us work at jobs where communication is important. The writer of this document transcribes physician's orders on hospital units. If I do not communicate critical information, CRITICAL things will happen.
> The frustration of this situation has made many of us ill. Many of us are off work. Some of us have no sick leave left but cannot function at work. 
> And for some of us, this was our...
>                                                   FIRST HOME
> There are special financing considerations that need to be taken into account when examining the situation in Sunrise Place. 
> These are quality homes that were offered to people who can pay a mortgage payment but find the down payment a barrier to home ownership.  Murray Prokosch, the President of Classic Construction has built several projects in Canmore, Strathmore, and Medicine Hat with an eye toward securing home ownership for people who would not be able to qualify for a conventional mortgage. 
> These are not 'sub-prime' mortgages similar to those that contributed to the Wall Street crash of 2008. These are assistance plans offered to buyers with good jobs, paying rents equivalent to their mortgages, who needed assistance to own a home. 
> Besides paying over half of the down payment, Classic Communities offers a sliding scale monthly subsidy that lasts nine years going from $495 per month to $120 and then $0. They also offered a direct $36,000 savings off the price of the home if an owner did not wish to participate in the monthly subsidy.
> For many in the complex it was their first home and if only offered a buyout they will not be able to purchase another home.  For some it will be the end of the dream of home ownership and the security that provides. 
> For many as well, Sunrise Place was to be...
>                                                     THE LAST HOME
> There are many people in Sunrise Place who thought they had purchased their last home. It was the place they would settle finally and enjoy their retirement years from a secure home base in a lovely and friendly place. 
> And, like most, they realized they were buying far from flood areas of High River. In fact in the history of the town this area has NEVER flooded. 
> There was a lot of security in that fact. 
> Now all of us are left with the question...
>                                                   WHY DID WE FLOOD?
> The word 'sacrifice' has been in the news.  Is this the truth? Are there other words that apply to the shocking fact of a flood in that area? Mistake? Accident? Mismanagement?   
> We have heard of mismanagement of the 'dewatering' stage, an official at a town hall meeting stated that, "Sunrise Place was not forgotten, we just didn't notice the water wasn't going down there for a few days."
> That sounds 'forgotten' to most of us. Added to the invisibility of not being on the maps and the fact we were ignored when we pleaded to get into those two eastern get an impression of how most of us are feeling. 
> Forgotten. Ignored. Invisible.
> The fact we are not on the flood plain or the flood fringe seems to have left us 'out of the loop'. 
> We have not heard any answers from the province about what they will do to help us. There is only confusion about our ability to rebuild. 
> There is also confusion about whether we SHOULD rebuild because...
>                                        WHAT ABOUT OUR AIR, OUR WATER, OUR SOIL?
> What is Tervita's role in the remediation of the soil? How far down are they going? As far as we understand they are only scraping the surface debris away. 
> Who is going to monitor our soil in the years, perhaps decade to come? 
> We had community gardens. Is it safe to grow anything there? 
> What about the ground water? 
> What about the saturated state of the ground?  Are all of the pipes under us, water, sewer, gas, going to be ruptured by frost heaves in the soaking ground?
> What about the air quality? 
> What is our next step? 
>                                     WHEN DO WE GET TO TAKE A FIRST STEP?
> The writer of this document was at the complex on August 15. I went into the back gate of the complex and took video. It looks exactly the same as it did the last day we were there a month ago. 
> Sunrise Place is frozen in time. Sunrise Place is frozen in the worst time of our lives.
> These are people's lives you are dealing with. 

We have been told because we have insurance we will get NO HELP from the government. But, our insurance coverage CANNOT cope with the costs of remediation and rebuilding. 


The insurance payout is going to $225,000 per unit. I still owe $266,000 on my mortgage. There are many of us in this situation. 

What are we to do?
> We need answers. 
> We need help.


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Subtext or How To Stay Off That Damned Nose!

Subtext is something I relate to screenplay writing. But it's also a great tool for the novelist and something I consider essential. Subtext adds layers of emotional complexity to a scene by intimating what characters are really thinking when what they are saying seems obviously about something else.

For instance, a couple has a fight, he stomps to the kitchen, they sulk for a few minutes, then he peeks around the corner and says: "I'm sorry, honey."

Bore. Bore. Bore.

What if he peeked around the corner and said her three favorite words (we know they are her favorite words because they have joked about it previously in the story) : "Want grilled cheese?"

See that? There's some character there. There's a relationship there. There are PEOPLE living in this scene. And if you don't think of your characters as living breathing people you are probably already in trouble. But that's another blog for another time.

In the first example above, the "I'm sorry, honey." is the generic, one size fits all characters, absolutely ON THE NOSE writing that should be punishable by going to your room and being banned from using the alphabet ever again.

To stay OFF THE NOSE we use subtext and bring our work to life!

One of my favorite examples of subtext is from the great film, 'The Apartment', with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred McMurray (Edie Adams also does a wonderful turn as MacMurray's bitchy leopard print clad secretary).

In the film Jack Lemmon is C.C. Baxter, a cog in the wheel of a giant insurance corporation. Now, keep in mind this was 1960 and in those days couples could not check into a hotel unless they could prove they were married. Yup. Imagine that.

So. C.C. has an apartment that is used by upper management types as a convenient place for illicit trysts. One of those involved in an affair is Fran (Shirley MacLaine), the elevator operator in his building that he has a crush on. Fran is having an affair with, and sadly is in love with, Sheldrake (MacMurray), who keeps promising to leave his wife.

The writing, by I.A.L. Diamond (great name!) and Billy Wilder is stellar throughout: funny and fast and poignant and multi-layered. My example of subtext comes from the scene in a Chinese restaurant, the old favorite haunt of Fran and Sheldrake. At this point it has been several weeks since Fran has told Sheldrake to bug off, finally tiring of his promises to leave his wife. Sheldrake has talked her into meeting him at the restaurant to try to win her back, while still making excuses...

In the hands of lesser writers the scene might have gone like this... we focus on them in the booth the piano player is playing what he always plays, the same food is on the table that is always on the table...

Sheldrake: How long has it been - about a month?
Fran: It's been exactly six weeks.
Sheldrake: I've missed you.
Fran: You always say that.
Sheldrake: It's been hell.
Fran: Does that mean you love me?
Sheldrake: You know I do.
Fran: So you say. Again.


This is how it was handled in 'The Apartment.'

            How long has it been -- a month?

            Six weeks. But who's counting?

            I missed you, Fran.

            Like old times. Same booth, same
            song --

            It's been hell.

                   (dipping shrimp)
            -- same sauce -- sweet and sour.


Sweet...right? They've said the same things, but in a much more intriguing way.

So, let's break it down: 

            How long has it been -- a month?

He's more cavalier about the relationship - he's not sure exactly how long it's been since he's seen her.

            Six weeks. But who's counting?

Fran is in love with him. She knows exactly how long it's been since she's seen him. She says how long it's been then adds a defensive bit of casualness of her own with 'But who's counting?' She's hurting and trying to protect herself by appearing as uncaring as he.

            I missed you, Fran.

Well, he's missed the sex. And maybe he's missed somebody to bitch to about the ball and chain at home but it sounds like a hollow effort.

            Like old times. Same booth, same
            song --

Well, she's heard this about a hundred times. He's said it all a hundred times. But nothing ever changes. It's lovely in the film, she glances at the piano player as she delivers the line.

            It's been hell.

It has been hell for Sheldrake. This is a man who is used to getting what he wants. Now he's not getting what he wants and that is his narcissist's version of 'hell'. 

                   (dipping shrimp)
            -- same sauce -- sweet and sour.

My favorite line in the whole scene. He's trying to wear her down with talk about how broken he's been, how tough it's all been for him being without her, meaning, somewhere in there, he must really love her. The sweet part of the sauce, the sour is the emptiness of his words, the same old words.

You can't get that kind of emotional context with on the nose writing. It's a beautifully written scene.

If you haven't seen 'The Apartment' I urge you to do so. It won many Oscars including 'Best Picture'. 

Adding subtext to your work is not that difficult, sometimes it will come naturally from the situation. But if it doesn't simply go over your scene and look for different ways characters can express what they want to say without saying it directly and hitting that damned nose!

And now...a scene from 'The Apartment'...wherein C.C. learns the unfortunate truth about Fran. 

Enjoy and happy writing!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sample Sunday Excerpt

Thanks for reading! Here's the e-book link: Amazon
Here's the paperback link: Lulu

Spectral Witness

Diane L. Randle

A Granite Diamond Production

Copyright 2012 by Diane L. Randle

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.

ISBN: 978-1-300-20697-2

for Mom and Dad

for limitless horizons

The author wishes to thank Terri-Lee Randle for her unwavering counsel in the editing process. She made this a better book, though sometimes having to drag the author through the changes kicking and screaming.  

The author also wishes to thank Ravven for the cover of this book. Please see her work and portfolio at

Please note: This book is written in Canadian English, so expect to see 'chequing accounts' instead of 'checking accounts' along with 'humour', 'centre' and other full fat 'favourites' like 'poutine'.

Chapter One

"God's hand painted Glass Lake." Arthur Black, London, England.

'I could drown her.'

 "Glass Lake is the most beautiful place on Earth." Millie Augustine, New York, New York.

'It would be easy.'

"I've never seen the mountains before. The Grey Lady looks alive." Angel Sanchez, 12, Mexico City, Mexico.

'She's weak.'

August 9, 1985 would turn out to be the hottest day of the year, the day a young mind on fire would try to put out the flames using the waters of Glass Lake.
The high mountain lake in the Alberta Rockies east of Banff was renowned as a pristine and perfect arrangement of nature that no architect or painter or designer could have imagined: arms of grey granite encircled the lake and the great north peak was tilted over the shoulder of the mountain, like a mother looking down on the babe in her arms, giving rise to the name The Grey Lady. The Grey Lady held Glass Lake. The name the Hallstrom family gave to the lake they owned caused consternation among some of the early settlers in Mountainview, the town on the plateau below Glass Lake. The name had nothing to do with a Grey Lady, they said. They were looking for a name like Grey's Daughter or something, to which old man Hallstrom laughed. "It looks like green glass. It is Glass Lake. That is all."
Old man Hallstrom's own great granddaughter sat on one of the flat boulders at the edge of Glass Lake now, on this hottest day of 1985.
'I COULD drown her.' The thought lit up Helga's ten year-old brain and sent a warm rush through her body. 'I could drown her OR I could go write stupid stuff in the guest book.' She weighed the options in her mind, 'Drown. Write. Drown. Write....DROWN!' She tossed her head, sending a blonde strand out of her eyes and pushed her hands down onto the boulder. It was warm. She dug her nails into the granite slab, as she watched her cousin Nate and that Alexandria, a janitor's daughter no less (!), playing and laughing. The warm rush boiled over.
Her hands turned white as the pressure on her fingernails increased until she imagined them ripping off the ends of her fingers. Little pink pieces of flesh would stick to the undersides of the nails as the blood poured out and dripped down the sides of the boulder to boil through the lake in red clouds.
'It will be easy. She's little.'
Eight-year-old Alex was little and cute and squealed with delight when Nate splashed her with water that left her red curls sprinkled with diamonds. Nate took her hand. "Do not go too far into the water," he warned. He sounded much older than his eleven years and his voice carried the formal authority of his family's aristocratic Scandinavian background. Alex turned and laughed at him, squinting as the sun cracked open on the edge of The Grey Lady, breaking into brilliant shards that stabbed at her eyes.
Helga turned to check for grown ups in the area; Sheila, her sixteen year-old babysitter, was on the veranda with Walker, her boyfriend. Helga smiled at the sight of the family home. Hallstrom House was an impressive gleaming white three-story Bavarian castle, with turreted corners and leaded glass. It was a designated historical building with a plaque and everything. Open to the public most summers, they were lucky this year; there were renovations that closed it for the whole month of August, a whole month with no idiots bumbling about with cameras slung around their necks. A whole month with no boring scribbling in the guest book: 'oooh, it's so pretty here', 'oooh, I've never seen anything like it', 'oooh, look at the colour of the water', 'oooh', 'ooooh'.
Helga felt a thrill of superiority whenever she looked at Hallstrom House. She knew they were better than the others who lived below them in Mountainview, especially the coal miners, whose eyes and fingernails were always ringed with black. Like Alex's family.
That girl did not belong up here with them.
Helga stood up on the boulder. "Nate! Come with me! I want to pick some Labrador tea before dark!"
Nate knelt to rinse a stone in the water. He didn't bother to look back at Helga. "I have company." He smiled at Alex who turned to look at Helga.
Alex felt her stomach tighten when her eyes met Helga's. She didn't understand it, but Helga scared her. "I can go."
"Never mind. Helga is just my cousin. You are company."
Helga curled her fingers into her palms. Her fingernails bit into the flesh there. She wondered if she could make them bleed. That would fix Nate. She wanted to fix them all, especially that one, that janitor's daughter.
Alex watched Helga for a moment more, stomach still churning, and then turned back toward the water.
Nate said, "Do not go too far into the water!"
She clenched her fists. "I won't!"
Nate was not satisfied, "I am serious Alex!"
"I heard you Naaatte!" Alex marched down the shoreline to get away from him. She stopped and turned to see if Nate was watching her but he'd picked up another rock and was rinsing it in the water. She smiled and turned back to the lake. She loved the way the sun cast liquid bands of snaking gold light onto the surface. She stared at them and her eyes went a little out of focus in the glinting shifting light. She heard the birds singing, the chatter of ravens in the evergreens, the droning of dragonflies.
She looked down the shoreline for Nate. He was farther off now.
She stepped into the water and gasped. It was freezing! But she wanted to go a little farther. She liked the feeling of the currents touching her legs; it felt like her cat, Fonz, like his tail brushing her legs.
She took another step. Up to her knees now, her body swayed in the current. Another step?
One more. She bent her knees a little now. The current felt stronger and made her want to laugh. But she felt like her teeth might start chattering any second. She tilted her face toward the sun and closed her eyes and did not see Helga turn back to Hallstrom House and see the empty veranda.
Through Alex's eyelids the sun's light turned crimson. Her smile widened at the cherry red colour and then-
-the sun was gone and she was no longer in the world.
'What? What?' Alex's mind could not comprehend what was happening.
Her body was swaying and rocking through brown churning cold. She couldn't breath. She couldn't see.
There was something pushing on her back. Gurgling noises, rushing sounds. Her fingertips clawed at the mud below her, scraped across rocks as her body was pushed forward.
The thing on her back was gone now. But her body was skidding along the bottom, pulled as though something had a rope around her. She tried to stand up, could not. She tried to keep her eyes open but it hurt too much. She couldn't hear anything but the weird bubbling noises.
She couldn't hear Nate calling out to her, panicked. Nate saw Helga, stretching at the shore's edge, "Helga, did Alex go back to the house?!"
Helga shrugged. She moved her eyes ever so slightly to the spot where she had shoved Alex down into the water, planted her foot on her back and sent her into the undertow she knew so well.
Glass Lake was only calm on the surface. Below it was a churning mess of currents, cross currents and 'keepers', vertical whirlpools created by the rush of glacial water from Marra's pass down into the lake.
If you went into a keeper, you didn't come out.
Helga hoped that she had put Alex far enough into the water to be taken by one of the keepers. A keeper would pull her in and Helga would never have to see her again. She imagined Alex's body rolling in there for eternity, decomposing, bloating, falling apart and then she imagined the bones of Alex, clattering in the freezing water forever.
She was startled out of her delicious fantasy by Nate's screams, "WALKER! SHEILA! HELP! HELP!"
Damn. Helga turned. Sure as hell, Sheila and Walker were on the run from the house. Helga watched, annoyed, as Walker and Sheila crashed into the water close to where she had shoved Alex in and, yes, dammit, now Walker was pulling her body out of the water. At least it looked like a body. Alex was slung over Walker's arm like a pile of wet clothes from a washing machine. Nate fell to his knees, praying, "Please, please, please..."
Walker stumbled onto the rocky shore and threw Alex on her side. He squeezed his big hands around her ribs and pushed and pushed and Alex threw up buckets of foaming brown water while Sheila wailed, "No! No! NO! I should have been here! I should have been here!"
Walker put his fingers in Alex's mouth, dug out twigs, mud, then turned her over his knee and slapped her back. Alex gasped and coughed and coughed. Helga watched for a moment, then turned and walked back to Hallstrom House, hearing the disappointing sounds of life behind her.
She would have to kill something else today, otherwise, she knew, this ucky feeling would not go away. There was a robin's nest not far from the house.
Walker sat Alex up. The coughing subsided. Walker pulled away the hair stuck to her face. Alex looked at him like she'd never seen a person before. Nate grabbed her shoulders, "Alex! Say something!"
Sheila, still sobbing, knelt beside Alex and hugged her, "I'm so sorry honey, I'm so sorry! I should have been here!"
Walker put his arm around Sheila, but his eyes were focused on Alex, his strong handsome face sunburnt and serious under his blonde hair, "Oh, holy hell, kid! Will you puh-leeze say somethin'!"
Alex looked from Sheila to Walker to Nate. Her eyes held Nate's as she said, "Don't be mad at me."
Nate's jaw dropped. "For what?!"
She swallowed, precipitating another cough.
"I went too far."

Chapter Two

"You haven't gone far enough, Alex!"

"Alexandria has more potential than any child in this class but she doesn't speak up, even when I know she knows the answer."

"Again you stand on the edge! Jump for Chrissakes!"

"Alexandria is lagging behind the class average."

"This is a fine art class, if you want to paint these, these things – these lakes that look like ten million other lakes I suggest selling them to Walmart! This is hotel art! Disposable! Forgettable! Garbage!"

"Alexandria is not going to get into university with these marks. You better hope she marries well because she will never amount to anything without an education."

"THIS is all just SURFACE. LITERALLY! THIS work says, 'I am a boring thirty something single Mom waitress living in Winnipeg and my hobbies are bingo, bowling and baking!" Derek ran his hands through his shaggy Warhol hair. Derek was no Warhol, but he did know a thing or two about art.
Alex felt her hand go numb around the paintbrush. She felt the eyes of everyone on her. Again. She put the brush down on the edge of her easel, hating the way her hand shook. Derek rolled his eyes at her, "You have the technical capability but you need more than technique! You have to be willing to expose yourself in your work! There is NOTHING here!" Alex looked at her painting of Glass Lake. It was, and she knew it, damn it, exactly what he said it was.

Lee's Diner, with its red vinyl booths and black and white linoleum floor, had occupied the same space in Osborne's Village near Winnipeg's downtown for almost 50 years, well before the neighbourhood became the trendy home of half million dollar houses. Alex had bussed into the newly upscale neighbourhood for almost ten years now, Rose was a toddler when she'd started at Lee's. She liked the place. She liked her boss. She liked the customers. Especially the regulars like Rob Roy and English Larry and Froggy.
She missed Rotten Johnny, still expected to see him sauntering in every time the bell above the door chimed. She missed his mischievous pranks, which were always funny and never mean, like the time the clock fell off the wall and the arms popped off and were lying on the bottom of the face. He took the clock, saying he could fix it, and asked Alan Lee (grandson of Andy, founder of Lee's Diner) to let him in early the next day so he could hang it. The waitresses came in that morning to the still broken clock hanging on the wall, below it a large framed sign, printed in beautiful calligraphy: Waitresses will only take their breaks at the times indicated.
Alex glanced at the clock now, smiled. 'God, I miss that guy.' Old Johnny had bought four of her paintings. He'd bought them for Christmas presents and she knew that he knew that their sale, and his insisting on over-paying for them, had bought her and Rose their Christmas.
Things had been so tight in those years. She sighed as she dumped the used coffee filter in the garbage. She thought she'd be a real artist by now. She thought she'd have a studio, she'd be selling work in galleries, she'd have that cute little Victorian grey house just down on the corner from here, the cute little house with the gingerbread white veranda where she'd read in the afternoon, the cute little house with the lilac bushes and weeping willows, the cute little house that was now on the market for $439,000.
A successful artist could have afforded that house. But she was a successful waitress.
Alan let Alex hang her artwork in the diner. It was nice of him. It didn't suit his place, her landscapes; they were mostly of Glass Lake. She herself wasn't sure why she did so many of the lake. Rose teased her unmercifully about it. She did do a few paintings more suited to Lee's: Elvis, a cherry red 57 Chevy convertible, Lucy. They were technically proficient and, as Derek said, entirely forgettable disposable garbage, expressing nothing of their creator.
Except, Alex thought darkly and often, that somewhere she believed they DID express their creator, and they, and she, were ordinary, mediocre, and entirely forgettable.
Alex poured the water into the top of the big old coffee maker, placed the carafe on the burner, flipped the switch and sighed, 'Snap out of it!' she thought, 'Stop whining!' When did you turn into such a wimpy whiner? You're not a wimpy whiner! Christ!'
"Alex. Here you go. Thanks, you're such a doll!" Julie took Alex's hand and folded a wad of bills into it. "You don't know how that saved me." She walked away while the words 'saved me' echoed in Alex's mind as she looked at the back booth.

"I don't need you to save me, Nate." Alex picks up the creamer and pours a quarter cup of it into her coffee.
"I did not say that." Nate looks exactly as she thought he would at twenty-six. He's beautiful: tan, fit, blonde, a damn crooked smile and that heart shine all around him. People naturally like Nate. People know they'll be safe with Nate. Alex knows she'll be safe with Nate.
But she doesn't believe his heart will be safe with her.
So, what can she tell him? She comes up with a reason she thinks is...reasonable. "I'll make my own way. I'm not going to end up like my Mom."
"You won't end up like her."
"She died penniless Nate. The government had to pay for her burial. She deserved better. But she - she just didn't know my Dad was going to - and she put all her faith in him and he let her down."
Nate reaches his hand across the table, "I won't let you down." He takes her hand in his and Alex wavers. His hand is warm. She does trust him but she knows that he is wrong about her.
"You don't even know me."
"Are you kidding?"
"You don't me Nate. You really don't."
"I know you. Alex, you're kind and -" She pulls her hand out of his, shakes her head. "You are! You see people all around you and you step in and help when you can, you're kind to total strangers and I know you do these little things for people you know that you keep quiet."
"If I keep them quiet how do you know about them?"
He laughed, "Because the people you do them for sometimes are not so quiet. Sometimes they are quite amazed at your thoughtfulness."
"You're a kid. I'm a kid."
"Exactly! You need support. And I'm a kid with money."
"It's my choice."
"That is not fair. I should have some choice, too. And I choose you. I will always choose you. Forever. Alex, please. It is our future you are determining here."
She bites down to stop the tears that threaten and looks him in the eye. She leans forward, "Nate. You do not know me," presses her hands to the table and gets up. She doesn't say goodbye but walks to the counter and puts on her apron. She does not turn to watch him leave but hears the bell of the door.
It sounds like a death knell to her.

"Hey, Gorgeous George!" Alan called out, laughing, as the door opened. Alex's heart stuttered as she turned to look at the door. Yup, there he was, Gorgeous George. HER Gorgeous George. In all his twenty-eight year old, black leather clad, tall, dark and handsome brown eyed glory.
He leaned across the counter to kiss Alex. She leaned back out of range. "Three years! Three years I say 'don't kiss me at work'!"
"Hey, Al, you kiss me at my work."
"You work in a dark room full of drunk people and why are you up so early?"
She held up the coffee pot. He shook his head, held out his hand.
"Need your bank card." She gave him a look. "Mine's somewhere in my, uhm, 'office'." Another look. "Hey it's there! I just didn't want to waste time looking for it!"
She grabbed her purse from under the counter, pulled out her card and handed it to him. He grinned. Damn. Daniel Craig wished he had that grin.
"Have fun in class tonight!" He blew her a kiss and headed for the door.
Class. Damn class. Damn unit clerk class. She wanted to be an artist. But, she also wanted to be able to feed and clothe her daughter. Keeping a roof over their heads would be a good thing. Sure as hell George's band wasn't going to do it – they wouldn't be giving U2 any competition any time soon.
Gorgeous George paused at the door, reading the look on her face. He shrugged. "Hey, one of us has to keep their feet on the ground!"

'My dogs are barking!' Alexandria smiled, trudging up the stairs to the apartment. Where did she pick up that old chestnut about sore feet? And then, 'Old chestnut?' She giggled. She got giddy when she was exhausted. Eight hours on her feet at Lee's, then four hours at class (at least she got to sit for that), then grocery shopping. At least Rose was at Tabitha's tonight and George was working. Peace and quiet and some vegetative time squandered watching 'So You Think You Can Dance' sounded like...maybe not. It sometimes depressed her to watch others going after their dreams. All the contestants on those shows, 'American Idol' et al, were so young and shiny. "Whiner!" she sighed, as she schlepped, no other word for it, down the hall to 304.
The apartment block wasn't bad, a three story with a brick façade and cinderblock walls in the narrow hallways. The apartment itself was big enough for the three of them, except for that damn galley kitchen, and only one bathroom and not much closet space and nowhere for her to paint but the corner of her and George's bedroom and there was no – okay, the apartment sucked.
But, it was cheap. She was squirreling away money. She had plans for her little family.
She opened the door, barely able to hang onto her groceries and her textbooks. Didn't much matter because when she turned on the light, she dropped everything in shock.

"The balance in your savings account is one hundred dollars and fifty cents." Alex's eyes went from the cell phone and the mechanical bank voice crackling out of it to the empty right side of their bedroom closet. 'I should do a painting of this closet. Derek would love it.'
She picked up the phone, selected number six and the bank's female voice then told her sweetly that, "The balance in your chequing account is seventeen dollars and thirty-four cents."
'Or I could paint the empty living room. We, I mean 'I', still owe for the sofa that's not here anymore and - who the hell came up with the term 'love seat'.'
 "The current balance on your VISA account is six thousand, seven hundred and ninety dollars. You are over limit by two hundred and ninety dollars."
'I could paint a painting of all my paintings lined up against the wall. Or the toothbrush holder missing his toothbrush. Or the shoe rack missing his shoes. Or the kitchen cupboard missing his precious effing fricking fracking flaxseed!'
Rage propelled Alex through the apartment. She stormed through the place, wishing there was something of his she could kick around. Wishing HE were there to kick around. Instead her foot sent her textbook flying. It landed ten feet away; she went after it, sent it airborne again. "One of us has to keep their feet on the ground! But, not you, George! Not you and your crappy band! Not with my twenty grand!" She broke the spine of the big text with her next kick. "And that book cost a hundred damn dollars!" She sent the destroyed book on another flight. "THAT'S MY LIFE SAVINGS NOW!" She balled up her fists and screamed, her voice echoing from the middle of the empty room, "AGAIN! I DID IT AGAIN!"
'Alexandria you did it again!' Her mind recoiled at the distant sound of Mrs. Tremblay's voice. Why the Grade Eleven Home Economics teacher had delighted in humiliating her in class, Alex never knew. Now, Mrs. Tremblay stood at the front of Alex's brain writing out all of her screw-ups with squeaky chalk. The classroom full of children howled with laughter with every mistake Mrs. Tremblay tallied on the chalkboard of Alex's life.  'We will study Alex's failures alphabetically, GIMMIE AN 'A''!
'A!' the children shouted with glee:
Alan: surfer boy, stoner, cute, slob, borrowed $350 from her, disappeared.
Art School: was flunking out so tried harder to be an 'ARTIST' with new edgy work like the crushed Coke can glued to a cardboard representing society by depicting the repression of the masses to mass produced product (Coke) and the flimsy construct that was civilization (the thin cardboard and easily mushed can) and the uplifting notion of how easily the masses could overcome repression if only they weren't blinded to their strength like those poor adult elephants who thought they couldn't break their chains because they'd been chained as babies and didn't know the chains were too weak to hold them now and other assorted artistic flimeroo and bullshit which is expressed in a breathless run on sentence which ends with the words: 'flunked out.'
Accounting Night School: Flunked out.
Brian: 'Entrepreneur', crook, jail, bye bye Brian.
Film School: scraped through, no work, wrote some scripts, sucked, defaulted student loan, bankruptcy.
George: Moving on!
MLM'S: Tupperware and Bitron Oil and Amway and yes she made some money and yes it put some food on the table for her and Rose, but she really mostly sucked at it and it took her away from her art which also mostly sucked.
"Enough!" Alex yelled, picking up her broken textbook.
Mrs. Tremblay blinked at her. 'We will give her a 'T' for 'Trying', because Alex keeps trying and trying and trying and try- '
"Shut up, Mrs. Tremblay!"
'- ing and trying. Except for-'
"Shut up!"
Alex wrung her hands as she paced the room, "Shut up, Mrs. Tremblay!"
Nate was not a mistake, could never be a mistake. Wait. What did Mrs. Trembley mean? Did... did she mean because Alex left or because she wouldn't let him help with Rose or because she couldn't lov- no. Nope! No no!
"I am not going to think about this!"
She heard the satisfying clank that signified the sending up of the heavy metal reinforced walls that kept all of the bad stuff out. Mrs. Tremblay now had tape across her mouth and Alex could relax, which meant, in this case, collapse.

'He collapsed.' Jason Sharpe lay awake staring at the vaulted ceiling of his mountaintop mansion and remembered hearing those words spoken about him ten years back. He felt an echo of that decade old devastation make his muscles shake now. He rolled over with effort and looked at the clock radio: 4:12.
The tears came then. He'd thought the sleeping pills would help him sleep through 4:12. It wasn't the same clock radio. This one had blue LED numbers. The one on that morning ten years ago had had red letters. He hadn't seen a red 4:12 in ten years. But he'd seen plenty of blue ones.
He hit a key on the open laptop on the night table. He'd watch another episode of 'Mad About You', her favorite show and then his, back when there was still hope in the world: hope for a future, hope for new life, hope for memories created that would bring comfort in the twilight years.
Now hope, always a forward entity, was a backward looking thing to Jason. He hoped one day to join her and -
He reached forward and stopped the episode that had started. It was Season Seven. He could not watch Season Seven or Season Six but Netflix had played most of the night and moved him here to where he could not be. Season Five was safe. Season Five was before Jamie and Paul had their baby. Season Five was pre-disaster. Season Five was the only safe place for Jason.

Later, when the electrical fire inside Alex fizzled, when her body felt like a puddle of lukewarm water, she lay on the floor sketching. She fell asleep that way, pencil poised in the middle of a sketch of Glass Lake with a canoe out in the middle. A canoe with a lone silhouetted male figure in it.
She couldn't know it for sure, though with her track record she may have guessed, but on the lake, right at that moment, under a cobalt blue sky, with a crescent moon resting on the shoulder of The Grey Lady, Jason Sharpe rowed alone to the middle of Glass Lake.

An outsider looking in at Jason's life might think he had the world by the tail: owner of Sharpe Homes Enterprises building exclusive mountain retreats for the rich and famous, the company logo, a gleaming metal sword pointing to the sky was emblazoned on his company fleet of Lincoln Navigators, he was owner of his own mountain mansion, a world traveller, a handsome bachelor pursued by many women.
Only a stranger to Mountainview would have thought that of Jason Sharpe. The people in town were intimate with the tragedy that had twisted his life's path…

"Oh, my God! It's too sad! She was so sweet and pretty and just adorable – just so sad!"

'They will find her too late.'

"He's lost everything now."

'She will be gone. Walker can forget her.'

"Dr. Hallstrom tried her best. Poor Dr. Hallstrom!"

'I will cry very hard at the funeral for my poor pregnant patient.'

…and brought him out onto Glass Lake on this night.
Jason pulled in the oars and looked toward shore at Hallstrom House. He was surprised he felt nothing looking at the place. He was surprised at how numb he was. That place wasn't worth his time anymore. He looked across the lake to the promontory jutting into the water like the prow of an ocean liner cutting a swath across the Atlantic.
He felt something then, a warm bloom in his chest that spread through his body and made him glad and sad at the same time. The first place they'd kissed had been The Snog, as the promontory was called, the name snatched from Coronation Street in the sixties. Snogging is what you did up there. He smiled at the silly name. They'd giggled like teenagers, though that time was long past them, then laughed uncontrollably, a combination of excitement, sleepiness, alcohol and a warm summer night, that first night up there, "We're snogging!"
"We're too old to snog!"
"Like hell! Come here!"
A cold wind skidded across the water to him then; its fingers trailed across his face in cool lines that he imagined might have painted it ice blue. It was time to get off the water. Time to get out of here. Time...
It was just time.
He picked up the Hudson Bay blanket at his feet, unwrapped it. He stared at the white gauzy fabric there, looked at the folds and swirls of it. He hadn't seen it for ten years. He opened it, and saw them then, the little blue satin flower buds. 'Sheila really was a flower child. She was Mother Nature.'
He took a breath and touched shaking fingers to the other item there.
Pinned to the front of Sheila's nightgown, resting on the belly, was the tiny pink sweater with her name already stitched into it by her mother's hand: Eve. It was the jacket she would have worn home from the hospital.
His cheeks were wet now as he brought the fabric to his face and sobbed into it. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" The sounds of his choking cries on the still Glass Lake echoed off the face of The Grey Lady. He snuffed the sounds of his grief, pulled the fabric away and looked up at The Grey Lady where the rain had done what it always did; sent streams of 'tears' down her grey granite face. Appropriate, he thought, that she should look so sad on this night.
A sound behind him, the faint light of car headlights, then they went out and he knew someone was up on The Snog and it was time to go.
He set the nightgown in the water. His fingers went cold. He held on for a moment and the material seemed to come alive under his hands, as she had. He held it for a long while and then took a breath, another, then finally opened his hands and let it go.
He watched it twist and turn, dancing away from him - a flash in his brain of her whirling in front of him, golden hair flying - and he felt so lonely he thought of slipping into the water and letting it take him too. And then he heard her voice giving him hell in that tone she had, 'Jason, Jason, Jason…'
And in his mind he answered her, 'I know. I'll be okay.'
He watched the fabric flow away from him and then in one second he couldn't see it anymore.  He had an almost irresistible urge to go after it, to pull it back into the boat, to take it back, to take it all back.
Instead, he took the oars in his hands and pulled for home.

Chapter Three

At Alexandria's apartment in Winnipeg she was jolted awake by the voice of Gorgeous George: "Hey, sucks to be you cause we're not home right now but if you leave a message for George, Al or The Rose, that would be cool!" George's voice was not what she wanted to hear right now. She sat up, pulled the sketch off her face and wiped at the crusted drool that had glued it there.
Then she heard what she did need to hear: "Alexandria, are you there?"
She grabbed at the phone, "Nate...Nate!" She laughed. "I just drew you! In a canoe on the lake!"
He laughed, "Are you in the canoe, too?"
She snorted, "Me on the lake? Who'd believe it?" She looked around the empty apartment, sighed. "Who'd believe it?"

"I don't believe this!" Rose, twelve years old, tossed her red hair off her face. "Are you kidding me?" Her fingers tapped away at her i-Phone.
The left side of Alexandria's closet was now as empty as the right. She closed a suitcase, zipped it, "No, you're the kidder, remember?"
"George dumps you and now we're going to live with your old boyfriend and I have to move to-" Alex snatched the cell out of Rose's hand. "Sorry, Mom."
"Now, get this straight: Nate's a friend. And we're not living WITH him. He's employing me to house sit for the winter."
Rose sighed, looking at a painting. "You've always wanted to go back to that place." She pushed her voice down, trying to mimic her mother,  "'Rose, honey, I had the best summers of my life there!'"
"Cut me a break! It wasn't my idea." She pulled open a dresser drawer. "That's why I know it's a good one."
Rose, in a room full of drawings and paintings of Glass Lake, threw the back of her hand to her forehead, feigning an old-fashioned swoon as she fell back on the bed and declaimed dramatically, "The artist obsessed is pulled ever deeper, deeper, DEEPER, into the depths of Glass Lake!"
Alexandria put a pillow over Rose's face, pressed down for a few seconds, then lifted it.
Rose was deadpan. "Nice. Does this backwater at least have internet?"
"We're not going to Mars! We're only going up to seventy seven hundred feet. People use the Internet on Everest. That's twenty-nine thousand and twenty-eight fee-"
Rose, suddenly energized, jumped up and down on the bed. "Jeopardy, Mom! You have got to get on Jeopardy! Seriously! You could marry Alex Trebek! You could be Alex and Alex Trebek! You could be Alex SQUARED! You could be-"
"Feeding my daughter to bears!"
Rose stopped jumping and stuck out her lip in a mock pout. They exchanged a little grin and somewhere inside her Alex knew everything was going to be okay.
The feeling lasted almost ten minutes: a new record.

"Mom, it's going to be okay." Rose said, watching her Mom gnaw on a fingernail. "And I think that might be distracted driving right there."
Alex pulled her hand away from her mouth, studying the wide-open horizon ahead. They were in a sea of yellow sunflowers. It was one of the things she loved about Manitoba. And now she was leaving Manitoba. Leaving her friends. Okay, she only really had one friend. And she hadn't really talked to her much in the last few weeks. And actually she was kind of annoying. Irritating, even.
And she was leaving her job. Okay, she was a waitress, but she loved it at Lee's. Except for having to serve people. That was kind of annoying. Irritating, even.
And she really wanted to be an artist and she could spend all winter painting now! Except, she didn't know what she was going to paint. She didn't want to think about that now. It was annoying. And, yes, irritating.
It occurred to Alex that perhaps she had spent most of the last ten years annoyed and irritated. She'd just been too busy to notice. Well, then. Perhaps this was the right move after all. But she wasn't the only person involved. She had pulled Rose away from her friends. Rose could use the plural with that word: 'friend'. Part of Alex knew that Rose would have no problem making new friends. She was gregarious and social in a way in which her mother had never gotten the knack. Her daughter had said not a word about leaving her friends. Alex didn't want to bring it up but how could Rose not have complained about that? What about Ashley and Tanya and Nicole? What about Alicia, for god's sakes, those girls had known each other since kindergarten! What had she done!
She started chewing on her lip. "Mom!"
Alex stopped chewing her lip. Her hands tightened around the steering wheel of the little red 84 Chevette and her jaw clenched as the tension built in her.
Rose eyed her surreptitiously from the passenger seat, noting Alex's white knuckles and then–
-Alex did a whole body seizure, quaking and screaming.
It lasted about five seconds. When it was over she let out a long slow easy breath.
Rose raised an eyebrow at her, "Feel better?"
Alex nodded. "No."
Rose laughed as they passed the sign: Now Leaving Manitoba.
Rose sighed, 'So long, Manitoba.'
Alexandria joined in with, "Hello, Alberta."
Rose smirked, "Mom, maybe Jeopardy isn't such a great idea. You forgot Saskatchewan."
"Hardy har!"
"Does Nate know he hired someone with no basic geography?"

Nate Hallstrom traversed the topography of the Rockies, tree root and rock and running water, as effortlessly as others moved about their living rooms. For, this was HIS home: living room, kitchen, bedroom and bath. He had bathed in the icy Cougar Canyon Creek, he had cooked trout over fire and he had rested and slept in beds of pine boughs.
Nate, thirty-eight, was a stereotypical Nordic blonde, as fit and lithe as a 20 year-old Canadian. His good looks were only slightly diminished by a thin puckering burn scar running down the right side of his face and disappearing under his collar. But the scar on his face told only a fragment of the whole story. Second-degree burns over forty percent of his body had left him with a plastic like skin patching his right side from his head to his feet. That plastic had no feeling. He was used to it now. And used to how it looked. Okay, that was a lie, he knew. If he'd been okay with how it looked he would have been with a woman again by now. Some of the women of Mountainview thought the scar on Nate's face gave him a swashbuckling look. Some other women thought those women were stupid and shallow considering how he got that scar. Still, he had about him that cachet of someone surviving unimaginable tragedy.
Nate stopped abruptly, noticing something on the ground.
His dog, Powderface, a brown mutt mix of Blue Heeler and Chocolate Labrador, with a fine speckled white face, stopped by his side, sniffing at the thing that had stopped Nate. Though she stayed close to him she never tripped him up. She was, Nate thought, the perfect dog.
He knelt, picked up a mud covered G.P.S. unit. He scraped the mud off the thing, turned it over. On the back a sticker with the initials: S.H.E.
"Damn it, Jason." He sighed.

The sun was melting into the wheat fields surrounding them and casting everything in gold; even the hood of the old Chevette glowed with that special summer evening light. Alexandria yawned as she swung the car into a highway motel lot. She parked, peering up through the windshield at the proud sign: 'Clean Rooms. Friendly Staff.' She grinned at Rose. "Think there's a discount for a dirty room with surly staff?"

Sargent Walker Stevens, the forty-seven year-old Commander of the Mountainview RCMP detachment, turned the G.P.S. over in his hands. He looked up at Nate from his desk, "Sit down."
Nate smiled, "I'm good." Powderface stood beside him.
Walker looked at the label on the unit, "S.H.E.? Never heard of it."
"S.H.E.: Sharpe Home Enterprises?" Nate prodded.
Walker shrugged, leaned back in the chair behind his desk and, trying to entice Powderface over, patted his knee. Powderface turned her face away and sat down. "That dog hates me." Nate laughed as Walker gestured to the coffee maker. "Coffee?" Nate shook his head. Walker laughed, "You have no vices do you, you inhumanely fit bastard."
Nate laughed. "I guess all my vices are healthy."
"Such as?"
Nate grinned, "Never mind." He picked up the G.P.S. "So, what about this? I think it is Jason's."
Walker leaned forward again, shrugged. "Maybe. But it's not their logo. What's the big deal anyway?"
"Jason Sharpe and I are not partners anymore. He should not be up there."
Walker sighed. "Look, Nate, I know it's private land, but you know…" Walker cleared his throat, "…it is coming up on the tenth anniversary…anniversary of…"
"Of what?"
Walker shifted in his chair, looked out the window at the peaks of The Grey Lady towering over Mountainview. He thought of all the times that she had gone with him up there, to Glass Lake, on cool and quiet autumn afternoons, after the tourists had gone. 'Christ, we were so young!' They had planned their lives, lying in the wild flowers up there. She would be the town vet. He would be the town cop. They would have a couple of kids. He would play hockey in the winter and they'd cross country ski through the woods around their log house. They'd grow old together secure in the arms of The Grey Lady, and send their children out into the world, and on holidays their grown, confident, and happy children would come home and tell them of their adventures out there beyond the granite walls of this mountain plateau. He felt his eyes sting and shut down his fantasizing about what might have, what should have been.
The bitter taste in his mouth was made more acidic with the knowledge it was his fault she left. He swallowed before he was able to say, "Sheila."
Nate's face fell, "Oh, yes. I am so sorry."
Nate felt a shudder run through him remembering the awful sight the Search and Rescue Team came upon on that cold blue winter morning, ten years gone now.

Rose gave her Mom a sideways look as the Chevette struggled up the steep mountain road. Rose thought she could hear the little engine chugging, 'I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!' She began whispering herself, "I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!"
Alex joined her chant as the car gamely took the next curve hugging the granite face and continued to climb, dropping down into a lower gear and jumping with the effort. Rose's face dropped when the car jumped. She frowned. "Will we be there before dark?"
She was not happy when Alex shook her head.

The dark in the mountains was worse than Rose had feared. It had started raining, there was no moon, it was black as, well she couldn't think of anything it was as black as but something she'd read in Stephen King's book, 'On Writing', when he had quoted one of his favorite authors. Rose thought it might be Elmore Leonard, or maybe Ross MacDonald. All she knew was that it was too good not to share with her mother, so she took a big breath and in a clear voice announced that, "The night was darker than a carload of assholes."
Rose wasn't sure what she expected: a laugh, a reprimand, a scowl. She sure as hell didn't expect her mother to slam on the brakes. "Mom!"
"Mom!" Rose turned in her seat, looking fearfully back. "We could slide backwards, this little car can't, can't – just go please!"
"No more language like that."
Rose, still wide-eyed and looking into the dark behind the car, nodded, "No more language like that."
"Okay." Alex stepped on the gas. And the little car spun on the gravel. Alex gulped. Oops. Maybe she'd made another of her classic mistakes. She cleared her throat, determined not to look at Rose who was now staring at her in recrimination.
Alex put the car down into L and stepped on the gas gently. The engine whined but the tires bit into the road and the car started inching up the mountain again. It picked up a little speed, the engine screaming now, and Alex slipped it into second gear, a little more speed, okay, now we're getting somewhere, and into third, yup, they were going to make it which made Alex happy because Rose would never have let her live it down if she'd had to back down the mountain and start up again. Okay, onward and upward…
They reached the plateau below Glass Lake forty minutes later. The night was still black outside but Rose's face was now lit by her i-Phone, still hooking her up with the world outside. Alex thought she was surfing the net or texting an abandoned friend so she was surprised when Rose read, "Hallstrom House is a favorite for Halloween parties because of the numerous tragedies and-" Rose looked over at Alex. "Tragedies, Mom?"
Alex laughed, "That's for the tourists."
Rose read on. "Uh, blah blah blah...oh, the most famous was the case, during the Great Depression-" Rose glanced at Alex. "- which I'm about to go through by the way - the case of a carpenter who fell from a scaffold on the house and was pronounced dead at the scene." Rose screwed up her face, "Exactly how many people have died in this house?" Alex laughed. Rose's mouth fell open. "She laughs! She laughs!" She continued reading, "The carpenter claimed he left his body - left his body?"
Rose looked at Alex again, but Alex didn't react and so she continued reading, "Okay, so he, quote left his body unquote, and flew across the valley to his home, oh brother, where he saw his wife in a compromising position with his business partner…uh huh... Upon awakening inside the morgue, where his wife had come to identify him - ick- he told her what he had seen and the hysterical adulteress confessed all, ran back to Hallstrom House and jumped from the promontory into the lake where she drowned…WITH HER POODLE, DOROTHY PARKER! Aaaghhh! The stupid cow took her dog with her? What a-"
"-stupid dumb selfish idiot stupid stupid woman! Jeez! Poor little doggie. That woman was the skank in that house, no, the bitch-"
"I mean as in female dog." Alex looked at her. "Okay, sorry! But Jeez! Don't take the poor dog with you because you're a-" She looked sideways at her Mom, "-really stupid woman." Rose shook her head, "And 'left his body and travelled across the valley'?"
Alex shrugged, "I've read a few stories about people being pronounced dead and then waking up knowing everything that happened while they were...uhm...'gone'''.
Rose rolled her eyes, "Onward…tragedy struck again when a young skater fell through the ice-"
Rose dropped her phone, "That's enough of that!" She looked out the window at the black forest; shivered.
Alex was surprised, "You read all those vampire stories and THAT bothered you?"
Rose laughed, "Those vampire stories are just stories and anyway what's a little blood between friends?"

Blood drained into a large jar from clear plastic tubing.
'It is Hallstrom blood.' Helga thought. 'Alas, not as pure or perfect as it once was and that is my fault.' Her gaze followed the red flow up the tube from the jar into Nate's arm and then on to his face as he smiled at her.
"Thanks, Helga."
She smiled back at him. She was beautiful still, now in her late 30's, a striking blonde, tall and lithe and elegant. Though the fates had been unkind to her in many ways she was thankful that the Hallstrom genes would carry her with dignity and grace into her middle age and beyond. She winked at Nate. "Each time you thank me and each time I tell you there is no need. We are blood."
'And I caused your hemochromatosis', she thought. 'I am sorry, Nate. I say this to you silently every time I have to do this and you will never hear my confession. All those transfusions after you were burned caused this and this is my fault.'
"Well, if I went to the hospital for this, my Thor-like image would be destroyed by news of my infirmity."
Helga laughed, "If everyone were so infirm I would be out of business." She checked his arm again and then sat back and looked at the painting over the stone fireplace; a derivative landscape, surprisingly in this log cabin in the mountains, a painting of a field of sunflowers. Hideously relentlessly happy. She was surprised it lacked a unicorn and rainbow. She wondered at his complete lack of taste. He was a Hallstrom. She kept her tone neutral as she said, "That is new."
He sighed, "I know. It's not 'art art', but it makes me happy and it was painted by a friend."
Helga didn't ask whom; she didn't want to hear that disgusting name spoken aloud, especially not by him. "The yellow does brighten the place."
He grinned, "That must have hurt you."
She smiled at him, but it was a lemon-sucking construct with which he was intimately familiar. He smiled to himself. Helga hated everything about his lifestyle. Especially his home, which she insisted on calling a 'cabin', though it certainly a house: twelve hundred square feet, two bedrooms, two bath, master ensuite with Jacuzzi, decks front and back, vaulted open beam ceilings, massive Rundle Rock fireplace…damn fireplace, something was in the chimney. He'd have to get up there and get it out. Last time he'd tried to use it he'd smoked the place out. It was already August; he'd really need it soon.
He felt a buzz of fatigue behind his eyes and gave into it, letting his lids fall shut. He knew he'd spend the afternoon napping in his big feather bed. His big empty feather bed. 'Not now.' He thought, 'Think about it later, when she's here…' A small grin crinkled the scar on his face and neck.
Helga smiled, watching him smile. He was drifting off, as he often did during his phlebotomies. It was when she felt most responsible for him. 'His life is in my hands right now.' She thought. 'I could let all his blood run out.' She checked the level in the jar at their feet, 'Of course, I don't have enough jars.'
He looked so innocent like this, so vulnerable. So loveable. She reached to touch his face, the terrible scar there. Her fingers were close enough to feel the warmth of skin when he opened his eyes, startled. Then she could see it in his face. That most awful thing of all: pity.
His voice was so kind, so concerned, it made her want to retch. She turned away from him. "I'm sorry." Her voice was ragged, betraying her. She would have to work on that.
"I thought it was…" He reached for her hand; it was limp and cold in his. "You have Walker."
She turned to him then, pulling her hand out of his. Her voice under her command again, she said with the authority of a physician giving a diagnosis, "I am competing with a dead woman: forever young, forever beautiful, forever perfect."

"Perfect!" Rose, tired and cranky, had held her tongue as long as she could, "You're lost!"
"I am not lost!" The Chevette's lights lit up a sign: HALLSTROM HOUSE. Alex turned to Rose and grinned, "And neither are you."
The lights of the car sent crazy shadows walking through the stands of pine and spruce on either side of the twisting gravel drive.
The back of Hallstrom House was dark and in Roses' opinion, creepy. "Where's The Adamms Family?"
Alexandria shut off the car lights  - total black - Rose screamed. Alex laughed as she turned on the lights again.
"Mom! Not funny!"
Alexandria turned them off.
"Still not funny!"
What was funny was their run for the house, arms loaded with only the essentials, Alex trying to hang onto the flashlight, as its jiggling beam lit their way. "You should have parked on the lawn!" Rose yelled.
But they both laughed all the way from the garage to the rock Nate had hidden the key under. Rose was running on the spot waiting for her Mom to "Hurry up!" She glanced at the black moving forest around them, the trees waved like weird robed dancers angry to be rooted to their spots and hissing at the interlopers. Rose knew you couldn't hear the man eating grizzly certainly hiding in there, waiting to roar out of the black and rip into this easy buffet.
Then they were on the run again, Alex laughing again, until they were finally safe at the back door. Alexandria handed the flashlight off to Rose and dropped the key."MOM!"
Rose shined the light on the ground as Alex searched and the wind wound up again and now the trees seemed to be screaming at them. Rose was wide-eyed.
Alexandria spied the key, grabbed it, stood and inserted it. The door fell open and they crashed inside, Alex laughing. But Rose was still scared. "CLOSE THE DOOR!"
"Okay, okay!"
Alex kicked their tote bags out of the way and shoved the door shut.
"Lock it!"
Alex locked it and then noticed another lock up high on the door. Rose eyed it, "Did they lock people IN here?"
"Sort of."
"Excuse me!"
"It was for her protection."
"What does that mean?"
"Someone who used to live here; she walked in her sleep."
"Out the door?"
Alex's "Yes," came out in a croak. She cleared her throat, trying not to think about what the lock represented. She cleared her throat, tried again, "Yes."
"Well, what hap-"
Alex feigned a huge yawn, "I'm done in!"
"But, what-"
She took Rose by her shoulders and turned her away from the door, "We're both done in! Come on, chop, chop! Time to hit the hay! Sandman's coming! Grab some shut-eye!"
She shoved Rose down the hall, "What about a tour?"
"In the morning. In the bright, fresh, Alpine morning."

Hallstrom House was quiet the next morning. A hiker passing by would have thought it still abandoned for the season, until that blood-curdling scream.
Alex leapt off the sofa where she was still sleeping, "Rose!" She noticed the open doors to the veranda, ran through them.
Rose stood on the edge of the deck, slack-jawed.
Alex ran to her, "What's the matter?
Rose pointed to the living post card surrounding them. She turned to her mother, dazed.
"Is this where we are?"