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Authors: Caroline Adderson

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The Sky Is Falling

BOOK: The Sky Is Falling
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Books of Merit

The Sky Is Falling

ALSO BY CAROLINE ADDERSON

Pleased to Meet You
Sitting Practice
A History of Forgetting
Bad Imaginings

CAROLINE ADDERSON

The Sky Is Falling

A NOVEL

THOMAS ALLEN PUBLISHERS

TORONTO

Copyright ©
2010
Caroline Adderson

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or information storage and retrieval systems – without the prior written permission of the publisher, or in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Adderson, Caroline,
1963
–
The sky is falling / Caroline Adderson.

ISBN 978-0-88762-613-5

I. Title.

PS8551.D3267S59    2010    C813
'
.543   C2010-903596-8

Editor: Patrick Crean
Cover design: Black Eye Design
Cover image: Oliver Barmbold / Source:
PHOTOCASE

Published by Thomas Allen Publishers,
a division of Thomas Allen & Son Limited,
145
Front Street East, Suite
209
,
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 1E3
Canada

www.thomas-allen.com

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of
The Ontario Arts Council for its publishing program.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which
last year invested $
20
.
1
million in writing and publishing throughout Canada.

We acknowledge the Government of Ontario through the
Ontario Media Development Corporation's Ontario Book Initiative.

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the
Book Publishing Industry Development Program (
BPIDP
) for our publishing activities.

We also acknowledge the support of the British Columbia Arts Council.

10 11 12 13 14    5 4 3 2 1

Printed and bound in Canada

In memory of my mother

Contents

2004

1983

2004

1984

2004

1984

2004

1984

2004

1984

2004

1984

Acknowledgements

2004

Last night I had one of those dreams again. Nothing happened, nothing ever does—no central dramatic event. Usually I'm so busy puzzling over some vague inconsistency, some hint that I'm actually asleep, that I hardly notice the drifts of dread settling all around me. This time I found myself downtown at midday, or so it seemed from the quality of the light, the eyesmacking noonishness, though the empty streets contradicted it. I came to Eaton's, which is Sears now. (This was what I was puzzling over, not the eerie lack of traffic, the bizarre absence of pedestrians, but
Was Eaton's back in business? Since when?
) I pushed open the glass door and wandered around for a bit. Cosmetics. Women's Shoes. Soon I began to feel uneasy. Sick. Something wasn't right. Where was everyone? Well, in the shelters obviously, I realized just as the shrill whine of the approaching missile became audible.

The slap of the newspaper landing on the front porch woke me. These early-rising immigrants who fling the news on our city streets, they're unsung heroes in a way. How many innocent sleepers have they saved from annihilation? I should leave ours a card. I thought of this after my perfectly timed rescue, when I couldn't get back to sleep because of Joe making glottal sounds. Eventually I must have slept because the alarm went off, reset by Joe, who has to be at the hospital early. This time I got up well before the apocalypse.

Our front door mat reads “Go Away.” Lying on the joke, helplessly bound by elastics, was the very paper that had saved me. I carried it to the kitchen, poured the coffee, sat at the table. It had snowed in the night. No. Spring had come. Spring was right outside the window. Filling the frame, our snow-white magnolia, peaking. I thought of
The Cherry Orchard
, all of us reading it on the front porch while we swilled plonk. The truth is every spring when the trees bloom I think about Chekhov and everything that happened, how Pascal betrayed my friend Sonia and she him in turn. We wanted to get rid of all the bombs, but look what happened. It was partly my fault, that bad, bad decision that we took. Only this year it all came together because, when I peeled the rubber bands off the
Vancouver Sun
and laid it flat on the table, Sonia was staring up at me. Not a recent picture, but Sonia when I knew her all those years ago.

The shock of seeing her again, the dis-ease of the dream. The inevitable self-loathing. Pete's picture was below hers. It took me a moment to notice him. As soon as I did, I turned the paper over. It was a funny thing to do, a token of respect, like covering the face of the dead. Except both of them are still alive.

But what about the boy? Whatever happened to him?

1983

I'm not from Vancouver. I came in
1982
to attend the University of British Columbia and, until I met Joe, I didn't know anyone who had been born here. Everyone in the group was from elsewhere, Sonia from up north,
100
Mile House, Pete from Toronto, Belinda—Isis!—from somewhere in Nova Scotia. I don't remember where Carla or Timo were from. Pascal had escaped the same small town in Saskatchewan that Dieter had grown up in, Esterhazy, which turned out not to be a coincidence after all. I'd fled too—a strip-malled neighbourhood of Edmonton where I'd been miserable for no good reason other than there always has to be someone to pick on and it's usually the smart, socially awkward person with the funny last name, skulking the hallways, binder raised up like a shield. Me.

During my first year at university I stayed with my father's sister, my aunt Eva, who manned her stove in a suburb to the east of Vancouver, cooking through cases of dented cans and frostbitten cuts of meat, by the vat, as though against some desperate contingency. Every day I had to travel all the way across town to the city's western point, the UBC campus, a three-bus journey. The commute took an hour and a half or more each way, I explained the following summer to my father, who had wanted me to go to university at home in the first place and now didn't want to pay for me to live in residence. “Read on the bus,” he said. “I get sick,” I lied. In fact, I'd grown so accustomed to the trip I never looked out the window any more, not even to check if my stop was coming up, somehow always feeling for the cord and ringing the bell at just the right moment even while absorbed in the evolution of Doric-order proportions or the impact of the Crimean War on modern warfare. I just wanted to be closer to campus and to get away from my aunt, who seemed more and more an embodiment of all I was destined to become, lonely and eccentric and obsessively cheap. By the end of the summer, I succeeded. I convinced my father that my grade point average was in jeopardy despite the fact that, hitherto, everything I handed in came back scarletted with the letter A.

When I returned to Vancouver in the fall to begin my second year, I stayed with my aunt again while I looked for somewhere closer, the very next day taking the long, familiar bus ride and spending the morning at the Student Housing Office making calls. I had come too late. The inexpensive basement rooms with a hot plate and a bathroom sink to serve all washing functions had been snapped up. The idea of a shared house unnerved me, but I made a few calls anyway only to discover that the cheaper of these had been taken as well. Although I had a full scholarship, it covered only tuition. An apartment was out of the question.

My preferred place to study the previous year had been in the stacks under the old stone Main Library. I went there again after my disappointing morning, descending to the remotest and deepest parts of the bunker-like levels where the obscurest, bookiest-smelling tomes were stored. The carrels were tucked away singly wherever there was a bit of space. Under the glare of the fluorescents, the books emitted their wise scent. (I imagined print powdering off the pages, that I was breathing knowledge.) I found the Russian books and selected one at random. Cyrillic seemed vaguely runic. Latin letters were sprinkled in but the cases were mixed. R was backward. I should have been looking in the classified ads for a room but for the moment I felt so perfectly alone and happy.

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