Let’s Keep This Civil

The following is an imagined New Westminster Council public consultation during which it becomes apparent more than a bridge or ferry is needed to connect Q2Q. (Editor’s note: It is a work of fiction, full of self deprecating humour. Don’t read too far into it.) 

Mayor Jackets: Let’s dive in. We are starting the evening with a public discussion of the RFP issued for the Queensborough to Quay pedestrian connection project.

Audience member: [Jumps up from seat.] Quay to Queensborough!

Moderator: Ma’am, you’ll get a chance to speak later.

Audience member: Quay first! We’re number one! [Pumps fist in the air.]

Moderator: [Glares.] Sit down.

Mayor Jackets: Alright, on that note, Councillor Julie is going to summarize the project to date. Julie?

Councillor Julie: Thank you Mayor. We all know the bridge idea has been ruled out; it’s simply too expensive. We can’t accommodate accessibility, ease of river passage and beautiful form while staying within our budget. The Quay residents’ insistence on gold filigree detailing alone puts the city millions over budget. In June, we released a request for proposals to trial a new ferry service between the two communities.

We received a handful of proposals, though none apparently from parties with experience running a ferry service. I will summarize the proposals and then invite the public to speak or ask questions.

Proposal one from “anonymous”: Ive got a boat for you. Its a-boat time you figured out how to build a bridge that doesnt cost 40 million dollars. [Audience applause.]

Okay, well, let’s move on. Proposal two is signed by several Quayside strata presidents: Costco has kayaks on sale. Tell those QBers to use all the money they saved buying in a crappy location to buy their own dang boats and traverse the river on their own dime.

Port Royal audience member: Hey! We paid a premium for that bridge when we bought our house, you know! Paid a premium for nothing!

Quay audience member: You can’t pay for a bridge that doesn’t exist, dummy. It’s not like a view—you can buy a view. And own it. And keep it forever.

Moderator: Please, let Councillor Julie finish. No interruptions. Go on, Julie.

Councillor Julie: Thanks. Our third proposal from a group of Port Royal residents. I think a page must be missing? It seems incomplete. It says: Despite rumours, we do not have a sandy beach on our side. Theres not much to see or do. The trains still whistle in these parts. Your side is better so we understand if you dont want to come over here.

Umm, that was weird. If there’s someone in attendance who can shed light on whether part of that proposal is missing, please speak. [Audience whispers, then silence.]

Hmm. Let’s move on. Our fourth and final proposal, this one from a group of Quay residents: We found an aluminum boat with an outboard motor on Craigslist for $400. Lets use the rest of the bridge money for something more feasible. We were so pleased by the city chopping trees on the riverfront for us but now our neighbours on the back side of our buildings are upset that they dont have a nice view. Is there any way we can use the bridge money to get our sad neighbours a better view?

That’s the last one.

Mayor Jackets: [Furrowed brow.] Are you sure, Councillor?

Councillor Julie: Yep.

Mayor Jackets: I hate to say it, but number four sounds the most promising and raises some excellent points. Let’s hear from the constituents before planning the next steps.

Moderator: One audience member at a time may approach the microphone to make a statement or ask council or our guests a question. Please keep your comments to under two minutes. [Gestures to microphone.]

Audience member: Hi. I’m David. I live in Queensborough. I’m just a bit confused because the mayor just said he wanted to hear from the constituents. But, in Queensborough we aren’t allowed to vote. Well, I mean, we vote for Richmond but I don’t really understand why. So, are we allowed to talk tonight?

Mayor Jackets: David, thanks for your question. I’m troubled to hear this—QB residents are absolutely able to vote in civic elections. It’s the provincial election riding that lumps QB into Richmond. On that note, please go ahead and share you thoughts on Q2Q.

David: I don’t have any Q2Q comments. I just wanted to say that I wouldn’t have voted for you even if I could and I don’t think it’s fair for the mayor to buy the only three-bedroom condominium in the city. [Walks out of building in silence.]

Moderator: [Clears throat.] Reminder to please keep to the topic of the evening, everyone. Let’s continue.

Audience member: I’m Ravi from downtown. I want to express my concern and skepticism that anyone here saying they live in Queensborough is telling the truth—how could they have made it through the bridge traffic and gotten here on time? Should we really take anything they say seriously, then?

Someone in the crowd: We left last night Ravi! Nice try.

Ravi: My wife took the kids to Port Royal for the July first fireworks last year and they didn’t get home until Labour Day.

Someone in the crowd: Your kids don’t look anything like you! [Crowd laughter.]

Ravi: I, I… [Blushes and leaves the building.]

Moderator: Let’s keep this civil. Next, please.

Audience member: Hi. Eliza from Sapperton. I have a question for council: does Port Royal really have a sandy beach?

Mayor Jackets: You know what? Nobody answer her. [Audible sighs of relief from half the public.] No, no sighs of relief either! Stay on topic, please. Do you have any Q2Q-related questions, Eliza?

Eliza: No. Wait. Is there parking at this beach?

Mayor Jackets: Anyone with anything Q2Q related?

Audience member: [Steps in front of Eliza at the microphone.] Good evening. I think the river is a great divide between those who would live in a flood zone and those who have the sense not to. [Bows and returns to seat.]

Moderator: Okay, look: I think we can all agree to only speak if we have questions or comments related to the ferry-service proposals. Anyone else? I guess not. Councillors?

Mayor Jackets: That was a lively discussion. I think council has a lot to mull over in terms of the four proposals. In light of the final proposal being the most complete and frankly rational, I say we move to write a report on its feasibility.

We should discuss another RFP to see what we can do for those Quay residents who don’t have a nice view. That’s just not what New West is about. Perhaps we can move some mountains for them? Engineering—I’m looking at you. What do you—oh! What’s going on? Please be seated everyone. Oh, no!

[A brawl erupts.]

Audience: Queensborough! Quay! Not in my backyard! Keep away from our beach! Stay on your side of the river! I’ll spit on your view! I wish you were further away! Don’t drag my property value down to your level! Go buy your groceries at Walmart! Oh, you don’t like that? Well then take a 10-hour bus ride to my house and tell me to my face! Queensborough! Quay!

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Fraser

This work of fiction is by author Amy Eileen Hiscock, a New West writer. We are proud to share it on our website. 

I want to look at the morning sky and then feel the Pacific wind and tell you—prognosticate—how the river looks.

Is that even possible?

There must be other things to learn first: how the moon pulls and sways; snow packs, snow melts; King Tides; rainfall near and far. This list is surely not exhaustive.

I am uselessly mystified.

Today, the river has thousands of crests falling in every direction. Eddies disrupt a flow I can’t discern; if I didn’t know where the Fraser met the Pacific I swear I couldn’t tell you the river’s direction.

The mist-rain might originate within the river and not the sky. It’s the same with the grey that creeps and obscures the mountains to the north. It’s like the underworld found a sub-river vent from which to escape and now innumerable hungry ghosts stampede on the water’s surface, silently trampling one another.

However, the Fraser isn’t always morbid.

Just yesterday, the river was a carver’s work in progress. A wooden surface delicately scalloped in countless places, shifting and becoming something intelligible, purposeful. The sun crept through the clouds like a gap through window blinds. Light to see by.

Perhaps I was beginning to understand.

Then I wake this morning and can’t make sense of the river anymore.

You can read about the Doppler Effect and feel you have a decent understanding of sound. You can imagine sound waves as they squiggle out of peoples’ mouths—smaller then bigger, louder then quieter.

With the river, it’s different. There’s no single rule, drawn as a sinuous line on a page. There are: currents; undercurrents; eddies; tides; floods; waves; effluents; velocities; turbulence; densities. This list, as well, is surely not exhaustive.

At work, the silence is broken when my coworker complains about the electronic forms we fill. “The listy-thingy,” she says. Drop-down menu, I scream inside my head. “The… you know,” she says, moving her pinched fingers back and forth. Toggle, I yell again. She is surprised by every error message. Fill out the goddamn required fields, I pretend to shout. I see her staring at the computer with the same stupefied wonder I get peering into the depths of The Mighty Fraser. Her face contorts and reddens.

“I never learned this stuff when I was young, you know,” she says. The contrition in her voice startles me.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t learn anything important when I was growing up either.” She squints her eyes and tilts her head, then looks back to her computer. Conversation over.

Stealthily, I pull up a search engine on my own computer. How to understand a river.

Enter. The results are a pell-mell of scientific formulas, mystic travel pieces, safety warnings and fishing advice. There’s nothing that quite satisfies what I’m looking for. I get back to work.

On the bus home, a cell phone dings the stock iPhone SMS notification. Ten people eagerly grab their phones; ninety percent disappointment ensues. Some guy plays his music before his earbuds are plugged in; he blushes as furiously as he fumbles to silence the hip-hop beat. Angry stares abound. Always make sure your earbuds are plugged in, everyone thinks. Rude loser. When my annoyance subsides, a lonely ache fills my chest.

I get off two stops early; I want to walk along the river.

The city streets slope steeply to the water, making my feet smack hard and loud on the tarmac—I can see now how gravity pushes me like a tiny tributary to where I belong. I zigzag through the alleys, heading into the cool wind off the water.

No one sees as I slip over the chain-link fence that borders the wharf. I scramble through some bushes and sit on the bank. Stare. The river changed again; the mist is gone. With the setting sun, the water’s surface is antique stained glass. Warbled and red, delicate.

I see silhouetted men fishing the river along the Quay. They have plastic buckets to hold their catch. I know, therefore, there is life inside the Fraser. There’s an entire ecosystem under there. I know this—that there is a system—because the salmon cannot be the only species. You can’t survive as a species in isolation. You need something else, which also needs something else, and so on. All the flora and fauna species prop each other up into a house of cards. Still, I can’t imagine life burgeoning under the Fraser. I don’t understand—how can anything survive such a swift current?

I dip my finger into the water and bring it to my mouth. It’s tasteless as tap water. I wonder if I’m going to get sick with Beaver Fever or brain-eating amoeba. Maybe even hepatitis of some sort, if there is human sewage in the river.

There’s a stack of Post-its and a black pen in my pocket. I pull them out. “Water Study”, I scrawl at the top of a sticky. I sketch the water sloshing around a rock near my foot. The result looks like a robin’s egg in a cartoon bird’s nest. I am not Da Vinci. Or was it Medici? Rote facts don’t matter anyhow. I set the sticky and the pen on another rock.

I want to have a feel for something natural. I swear I’m not being retro or ironic or meta. It’s just that I feel baseless. I live at the behest of unnatural forces. There’s this thing inside me that wants me to be closer to the earth. I don’t know what it is, but I tried to listen.

I have tried. I walked down the city street with hundreds of others, holding a cardboard sign. No pipeline, we all agreed. But I think it’s coming anyways. I heard someone whisper to his friend, I know its bad for climate change, but we could really use the jobs. His friend’s eyes widened; she craned her neck to see if anyone overheard. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t speak to a single person.

I went home and saw my photograph—sign in hand—tweeted by Naomi Klein. My phone beeped and lit up all day. “I saw you on Naomi’s Twitter!! OMG! So amazing.” “You go girl, social justice! Xox” and “Saw you were downtown—loved your sign LOL”. I replied: “Thanks”; “Thanks”; “Thanks”. My phone went quiet.

The recycle bin at my apartment was full, so I guiltily stuffed my cardboard sign into the garbage. I just didn’t want to look at it anymore, and recycling day wasn’t for nearly a week. Its okay, I told myself, I ride the bus and I never use disposable coffee pods. Like a priest, I absolve myself of wrong-doings.

The next day I started looking at—really looking at—the river. It confounds me, still, and I admit I’m becoming desperate. I feel as though it might be possible to tap into some primordial chunk of my DNA; it might be possible to have a revelation from within.

The cold sand and rocks under my ass are the best thing that’s happened all day.

The reddened surface of the Fraser pulls me in like the warm glow of fire. First a toe. Then another. Until it’s foot, ankle, shin, knee.

Immersion Study, I think.

Thighs, hips, navel, breasts. How else will I ever understand?

Neck, chin, nose, forehead.

This is it. I will get carried away with my thoughts until I reach the depth of understanding I’m looking for.

The Ghosts of Havenholm (Part Five)

This is an ongoing series written and illustrated by JJ Lee. New to Havenholm? Start at the beginning!


The story so far: Oscar is the spirit of a boy trapped on the hill of Havenholm, where a supernatural river surrounds him and his ghostly friends Willa and Tough Tom. Beneath its waves swims a monster created by a wizard named Maurais. Maurais is seemingly immortal and sustains himself by stealing the souls of deceased children. Willa believes they will find the means to break Maurais’ dark spell in the ruins of her burnt-out home.

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Willa forged ahead with ease through the woods but when she turned she discovered Oscar had fallen far behind. She made her way back to him. “What’s the matter?”

“Just a second,” said Oscar. “I just need to catch my breath.”

“That would make sense if you actually still breathed.”

He made a wan smile and bent over. They were going back to the spot where Oscar first encountered Willa, where his then-mortal hand passed through her spectral one, where he ran, and where his heart stopped.

“Look, it’s okay. I died there too.”

“That house is your house?”

“Yes. I lived there.”

“How can you go back?”

“I didn’t. I never went to my place. Then you came and changed everything. I was there because of you.”

“But why?”

“Don’t you see? You make everything different. He needed my soul and he didn’t get it. He needed yours and he didn’t get it. We got you instead. We needed help and now you’re here.”

Oscar said, “You must think I’m chicken.”

Only when Willa set a hand on his shoulder did Oscar realize he was on his knees, half slumped in the snow. He picked himself up.

“Don’t tell Tough Tom, but the place still gives me the heebie jeebies.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“And, like, we’re the ghosts, right?”

“Oscar, you were meant to help us.”

“Dead or alive.”

“Tough Tom says it’s fate.”

As they set off again, Oscar intoned, “Luke, it is your destiny.”

“What?”

Empire Strikes Back.”

Oscar had watched Return of the Jedi that past summer and had filled Willa with the more-than-relevant details of 1980s childhood, with a particular emphasis on the great saga of his time.

“Right,” she said. “One of the Star movies.”

“The last I’ll ever see. When I think about it, I should be more afraid of you.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Murderer.”

“I didn’t mean it.”

“Sorry, my ass. With friends like you, who needs soul-sucking river monsters?”

It may have been at this particular moment, as they finally found their way through the wild brush and stepped onto the meadow, as he teased her and she laughed, that Oscar noticed Willa’s smile was quite pretty. It faded, however, like the sun behind a cloud, when they reached where Willa’s house once stood. Oscar stood in the centre of the ruins and slowly turned around to survey what remained, all the while avoiding casting his eyes toward the spot where he met his demise. “So, where do we start?”

Willa pointed at the foundations of the north wall, the one facing uphill. “This is where the kitchen was.”

She glided to a spot near the middle. “My parents kept a book in a box in the cupboards. I want you to dig around and find it.”

“Geez,” said Oscar. He was not one for doing chores. If he were watching TV or working on a model boat or plane at his desk and his mother called his name, he wouldn’t hear it. Of course, if she switched to calling his dad’s, well then, in a majestic feat of selective hearing, Oscar would rush to get to her before his dad did. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m the lookout.”

“For what?”

“I thought you said you wanted to help.”

Oscar could not dig with his hands. The ground, under the snow and bits of ice, was compact and hard. He found he could clasp a piece of wood and scrape at the rubble and debris: layers of soil, rocks, old roof tiles, and scorched and rotted bits of rafter. Soon the wood became inadequate to the task, but Oscar came upon a chrome table leg. He used it as a pick and crowbar. The work would have been back-breaking for the living, but for Oscar the problem was his mind going numb with concentration.

“If only I could do what you can do,” said Willa.

Oscar grunted, “It would speed things up, that’s for sure.”

The chrome leg slipped through his hands. Oscar stepped over the foundations into what was once the backyard and sat down on crumbling concrete steps. “Do you think I could do what you can do? Fly and appear and disappear?”

Willa kept her eyes on the woods and treetops as she answered. “Tough Tom says you can. I’ve tried, but he says I haven’t tried hard enough. He says there are different kinds of ghosts because there are different kinds of souls. How you become a ghost makes you a certain kind of ghost.”

“I see.” And Oscar did. He imagined Willa’s house bursting into flames. The smoke kills her and then the flames take her, turning her into smoke. What did death do to her soul? If Willa had her chance to deal with Maurais, what would she do to him? He thought of Maurais’ soul. He thought of Maurais haunting them. Oscar shivered. “At the end of Empire Strikes Back, Luke starts to be like his father.”

“You mean the old guy?”

“No, Darth Vader. The bad guy. He becomes like the guy he’s trying to beat.”

“Is this the one with the teddy bears?”

“They’re Ewoks, and that was Return of the Jedi.” He wanted to explain that Luke saved his enemy’s soul instead of destroying it, which he thought was kind of neat, but he knew Willa wouldn’t like to hear about it. Oscar sighed and stood. He glared at the table leg and tried to focus.

“Don’t move,” said Willa. As she started to fade, she pointed down the hill to the incongruous scene of a car driving on the wavy surface of the river that trapped them on Havenholm. Of course, Oscar knew from the driver’s perspective, that of the living, that the band of water was simply a road of gravel and dirt. “Have you seen it before?”

“I…don’t think so. No.”

The car was long and low, matte black. Long fins topped with chrome extended along the trunk. Though it was midday, the taillights smoldered like embers. The engine rumbled and the pulse air and its sound throbbed up the hill and through the veil between life and death, sending tremors through both Oscar and Willa. The car rolled slowly, as if its occupants were sight-seeing or going on a Sunday drive. It went around the bend towards Maurais’ side of the hill and disappeared from sight.

“Did you see who was driving?”

Oscar said, “No.”

“I think we should go back to the tree.”

“Do you think it was him?”

“I don’t know. We should go back now.”

Oscar took his makeshift tool and, in the way only a thirteen-year-old would, speared it through a layer of rotting floorboards. It struck something metallic and hollow.

Willa reappeared next to Oscar. “Dig. But hurry.”

He jabbed and scraped away until he uncovered a rusted cash box. Clumps of clay and stones clung to it like barnacles. “I can’t open it.”

Willa wasn’t listening. Her eyes were fixed on a nearby, leafless tree. On its branch perched a black bird. At least, that’s what Oscar thought it was until he noticed it had neither beak nor eyes. Its legs were made of dried twigs. It appeared to be a clump of black feathers that someone had twisted, tangled, and knotted with twine into the shape of flying creature. But it was no bird. It hopped along the branch until it reached the trunk and began to knock itself against the tree. It made the tock-tock of a woodpecker. From deep in the woods sounded a reply. Then another, then another, until a chorus rose, a hundred crazed cuckoo clocks, ticking and tocking from the walls of a madman’s workshop. Willa looked up to see a flock of black feathers swarming towards them. She grabbed Oscar’s hand and ran.

 

The Ghosts of Havenholm (Part Four)

This is a series written and illustrated by JJ Lee. 

Part One |  Part Two  |  Part Three

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CHAPTER SIX

The story so far: When Oscar moves to a shunned neighbourhood with a dark history, he is sure his meagre social life will become completely dead. After a fatal tumble, he makes friends with the child ghosts of Havenholm. All of their souls are stranded on the hill because a soul-sucking monster swims the supernatural waters that surround Havenholm.

Oscar, being a ghost, did not need sleep. Sometimes, however, when he settled into a corner of the sunken library, he could fall into a nothingness without dreams. Time could slip by without his reckoning.

        “It’s just weird that the leaves were falling and now there’s snow,” he called out to the darkness of their stuffy refuge.

Willa stirred from her corner. “That’s ghost time.”

“It’s nearly Christmas, isn’t it?”

She nodded. “You can see it from the big tree. They’re stringing up lights on Main Street. You should take a look. It’s pretty.”

Oscar had avoided going up the tree since the day he became a ghost. The tree stood taller than any tree in the world of the living. It grew so high that no ghost had ever reached the top. From its high branches, you could see farther and further than normal. Oscar saw his body from the tree. His lifeless form lay in the tall grass across from his home.

        “I don’t know.”

        “You should go up. I see your mum and dad sometimes.”

        “Really?”

        “Yeah. Your dad goes to the college and your mum goes to the hospital.”

        “Is she sick?”

        “I don’t know. She goes every morning that I’ve seen.”

        Oscar’s  heart ached. He already felt terrible when he imagined how his death affected them, but the possibility of his mother dying plunged him into misery. Bleak thoughts washed over him like waves crashing over a boat in a storm. If his mother died, would he get to see her? Did he wish his mother dead? Would the monster get her? It wasn’t supposed too. It only wanted children. But what if its appetite changed? And even if her soul was allowed to go where it was meant to, where was that place?

        “I don’t want her to die.”

        “She looks more sad than sick. Don’t worry.”

        Willa rose and searched under the library’s desks, tables, lecterns, benches, and chairs until she found the twins, the ghosts of three-year-old Virginia and Andrew. They had stacked books into the shape of a canoe. They paddled with imaginary oars. “We are crossing the river.”

        “That’s very nice,” said Willa. “But try not to make a terrible mess. Tough Tom gets cross when he can’t find a book.”

        “We won’t,” they replied in unison.

        Oscar asked, “Where does Tough Tom go?”

        “He keeps watch.”

        “Over what? The monster?”

        “No. Not the river or the monster. He watches the man who lit the fires that killed Virginia, Andrew, and me. He watches the man who wants our souls. He watches Maurais.”

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        The twins started to whimper but Willa seethed and ignored their distress. “He was here when my mum and dad worked here. He was the groundskeeper. And he was more than that. My parents worried that Maurais was around when Havenholm was a school for the deaf and blind. He was here when Tough Tom was a boy. He tended the gardens and paths in the woods from Tough Tom’s time until the day I died. But he also dug holes and tunnels into Havenholm looking for something.”

        “He killed your parents?”

        “Oscar, he killed everyone.”

        The twins huddled at the bottom of their boat of books, overcome with unwanted memories. Willa knelt down and hugged them. She whispered into their ears. Words Oscar could not catch. The twins calmed. Willa stood up. “If you’re ready to know more, we should talk outside.”

        Brilliant winter daylight streamed into the library when Oscar opened the door. Willa managed the crumbling stairs with ease. Oscar slipped and scrambled until he emerged among the giant roots of the great tree. Through its crown, Oscar saw a cold, clear blue sky. If he was alive, steam would have come from his breath. Willa pointed north to the other side of the hill. “Maurais lives over there. In a house. On our side.”

        “I thought all the buildings on our side of the road… river…whatever, are gone.”

        “They all are, except his. He used to creep out at night and roam the forest. At least that’s what my mum and dad believed. After the second fire when Tough Tom saved me and the twins, he wouldn’t let Maurais wander the hill anymore.”

        “Why doesn’t he just get him?” Oscar asked. Oscar knew, living or dead, the ancient ghost was the most powerful being he had ever seen. Tough Tom was like The Hulk or Superman trapped in an eight-year-old’s body.

        “Tough Tom chased Maurais from most of the hill but he can’t get into his house. Something keeps him out.”

        “Can’t he break the door, or a wall?”

        “Maurais is a wizard, I think. He uses magic to keep us out. The same magic that makes the road into a river and the monster.”

        Oscar remembered the last day he played with Simon. They brought balls of mud, bricks, and rocks to the overpass in his old neighbourhood and dropped them onto passing cars. “If I could throw like Tough Tom, I’d pick up a boulder and chuck it at his house and squish him.”

        Willa barked a harsh guffaw. “We tried that. It bounced off. Anyhow, I want him to come up to the hill.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

Willa gave him a look that sent shivers down his spine. He knew what she wanted. Tough Tom said it plain and simple the first day they met: “vengeance.” Willa’s only wish.

“I don’t understand why you wanted me. That night I saw you in the tall grass, you kept pointing at a spot. What did you want?”

“There hadn’t been a child on Havenholm in years. When I saw you, I thought you could help. I can barely do anything.”

Willa swiped at a low branch hanging from the great tree. It hardly moved. A few snowflakes fell. “I’m not like Tough Tom. I can open a door or blow some curtains if I try hard enough, but I can’t dig. And Tough Tom has to keep an eye on Maurais. I thought you could help me, but then you fell.”

She cast her eyes downward. “I’m sorry about that.”

Since that day, Oscar had time to think about the circumstances of his demise. Willa had frightened him, but she also saved him from the river. If he felt anger, it was at the water and the soul-sucker and being trapped on Havenholm. From being kept from speaking to his mother and father one final time, letting them know it would be okay (even if it was a lie) before passing into the land of the dead. Whatever lay across the water, wherever, and whatever Death was, it called to him. So, yes…anger, now that Oscar thought about it.

When Tough Tom explained that Willa sought vengeance on Maurais, he shuddered. The emotions seemed reasonable on one level.  Oscar understood a child could have terrible tantrums (he had a few of his own), but vengeance seemed too deep for someone as young as Willa. Then again, Willa was older than Oscar’s parents, wasn’t she? Time was different on Havenholm. Oscar felt hundreds of years old. Maybe it had to do with staying beyond your time, and having no choice.

In the ghost stories Oscar had heard, the phantoms were always frustrated and hateful. Oscar felt frustrated and hateful. Maybe he could not heave rocks like Tough Tom. Maybe he could not flit through the underbrush and trees like Willa. But he could do something. Oscar swatted a branch. It whipped back and forth. A clump of snow and ice fell to the ground.

With his face set with a grim expression beyond his years, Oscar declared, “I can help.”

Featured Artist: Biliana Velkova

This month our featured artist  is a familiar face to many of you. Biliana Velkova is the Arts Coordinator for the City of New Westminster, an an accomplished artist in her own right.

About the Project:

The Silver Centre Series (2008) is a project of compiled found photographs from a senior’s home. The photographs were of seniors celebration special events such as craft fairs, luau dinners, and Christmas parties. They were being discarded and were going to be lost forever. The artist consolidated this history into a set of six photographs to preserve this incredible archive of celebrations.

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biliana-velkovaAbout the Artist:

Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Biliana Velkova is currently based on Vancouver and works in New Westminster. Her practise incorporates photography, performance, and humour to explore the significance of consumerist culture, diaspora, and social identity. She has an MFA from the University of Saskatchewan and a BFA from Concordia University. www.bilianavelkova.com

Featured Artist: PJ Patten

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PJ Patten is a New Westminster based visual artist who draws his influences from the ancient Japanese art of Haiga and the skate/surf/punk culture of Southern California. PJ was born in Japan and raised in Huntington Beach, California. He first got his start in the art world by designing images for skateboards and surfboards. He then spent ten years living at a remote Buddhist temple, where he apprenticed in both lost wax and sand casting methods for bronze casting, and in traditional and modern book-binding methods.

PJ has made a new life for himself including in New West being stepfather to two young boys. His current creative focus is on his graphic novel Tower25, an illustrated memoir of his time as a homeless recovering addict. This novel takes the reader on a journey of PJ’s mindscape while he sorts out and reclaims his life.

All of the images were freehanded with ink and colored using Copic Markers