“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
- Gloria Steinem
Not long after the Toronto launch of Harbour View, Editor J told me a surprising thing: It seems Harbour View is Quattro Books’ top selling Phase 1 novella (Phase 1 meaning the time surrounding the launch). Much of that, I’m certain, has to do with the devoted readership of my little blog. So grateful am I for Dear Readers’ loyalty, I’d like to offer you all two things: one is a holiday season discount on multiple purchases of Harbour View (please see details below), and the other is an excerpt to give you a taste of this little book of mine.
Violet, a resident of Harbourview Centre, is thinking about telling her niece the story behind a beautiful painting she has given her. Herewith, an excerpt from Chapter 4:
There is mail, a pink envelope, greeting-card shaped. It sits propped against the telephone, addressed to Auntie Vi Crenshaw. Melanie, her niece, has finally written. It’s about time.
Violet eases herself into her chair and reaches for the letter-opener, first blowing the dust off of it before inserting it into the corner of the envelope. She must speak to someone about the dust in here, perhaps that nice Sam. He seems to be the only one who gets things done.
A Hallmark card with violets on the cover. Violet sighs and shakes her head, imagining her niece’s delight at finding such a card to send to her.
Dear Auntie Vi:
First of all, I must ask how you are keeping in your new residence. Is the food all right? Have you made some new friends? How is the nursing care? I was so sorry to hear about your broken wrist. I hope it’s healing nicely.
And now I must thank you for the painting, which arrived just after Christmas. Even though the model is naked I have it hanging in the TV room – it goes perfectly with the couch – and every time I look at it I’m thrilled. I wish I could visit and have you tell me the story behind it. The young woman is so beautiful! You can’t quite see her face from behind the piece of silk she’s holding, but somehow she radiates such joy. I just love the golden light – the painter was obviously quite talented. I’ve seen paintings in the National Gallery that aren’t half as good.
Maybe next summer we can have our visit. If Mike can get away from work we plan to make a run to the outlet stores in the States, the almighty Canadian dollar being what it is right now – long may the US recession last! We could stop in Halifax on our way there.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your sending me the painting. You’ve left it in good hands.
A wry smile spreads across Violet’s cheeks. Her wrist is fine, thank you, just a bit achy on cold days. A few months of physiotherapy has left it a little bit bent, but still strong enough to hold a pencil and to brush her teeth. How nice that the painting “goes” with Melanie’s sofa. At least the girl sees the light, the movement, the emotion of the painting. She seems to appreciate the painter’s skill, that much she has taken in over the years Violet has spoken to her of great works of art, shown her what she could. And this one, “Golden Nude,” is truly one of the greatest watercolours Violet has ever seen.
The placement of the silk, suspended over the subject’s face, denies Melanie the one small hint as to who the model was. Those many years ago, the artist placed the silk deliberately, in favour of realizing the flaw he could not bear, the asymmetry of the model’s face. Asymmetry had been repugnant to him, produced a physical reaction in him similar to food poisoning. It was no wonder that the model’s brown eye, paired with the blue one, turned his stomach. No wonder he had to cover it.
But what mystery and joy that one gesture gives the painting! Sunlight pours through the silk from behind the model, and there is no knowing where the silk ends and the model’s hair begins, a cloud of golden light. Her face is irrelevant; the joy radiates from the light she holds aloft.
Perhaps she will tell the story of the nude to Melanie. Violet has given the girl the painting, so she might as well give her the story behind it as well. Summer is a long time from now; who knows if she will be around to tell her? And how much she will tell? There is a lined notebook in the desk drawer, empty but for a Christmas card list she had to abandon when her wrist was broken. Later today she will begin, but for now Violet closes her eyes, leans her head against the wing of her chair and invites sleep to come.
Snow dusts the far mountains, and the sky is of a blue that brings her tears. How desperately the parched land needs rain. There is a dry wind, unpleasant in its restlessness. It seems to come from everywhere; there is no escaping it blowing around her legs and forcing the skirt above her knees. Nearby a flock of wild parrots dips and soars among the trees, making an unseemly racket as they try to outwit the wind. Violet must hurry and get to the studio, she mustn’t be late.
I must say, I’m quite attached to Violet; she’s my kind of outsider.