HOW LONG KEVIN STOOD THERE, he didn’t know. Movement came gradually, first a blinking, then rubbing of eyes. He turned his head from side-to-side. Just days ago, he had beached his dory in this very spot. The boat was nowhere in sight but that made no never mind. What kind of fool would try to row through such a backlog of rubbish anyway? The only way home was to walk around the shore. Seconds after he came to that conclusion, he stuttered into motion. Home. Had to get home.
But when Kevin arrived, there was no home. There was nothing but a few residents gathered on a hill, staring. All the stages, wharves, flakes, the salted cod, the dories, the skiffs were gone. Sucked up and spat out again. Matchsticks, the lot of them. Everything destroyed. Everything twinkling with glitter, compliments of Mother Nature who had dropped the temperature below freezing overnight. Kevin searched the crowd, his heart floundering. Where were Mavis, Jimmy, Marie, Joseph, Kate, Johnny?
Tom Murphy sidled up to him and put his stump of a hand on Kevin’s shoulder. “A tidal wave, Kev. They’re all gone, b’y. All except for the little one, Kate. The missus is taking care of her....” Kevin turned to Tom whose eyes emitted stark truth. He listed then, like a ship with no ballast. Silent, overcome, he dropped to his knees. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of his salt box house. What in God’s name was it doing sitting at the edge of Miller’s Pond, a few hundred yards from where it was supposed to be?
For days, Kevin wandered, glassy-eyed, seeing and hearing everything, responding to nothing. He watched his friends and neighbours use pulleys and chains to drag his house from Miller’s Pond and put it back on its foundation. He strolled up to the sagging front porch and sat, like he was waiting for his wife and children to walk up the steps. Just sat. For a long time. Two whole days, they told him later.
It was on the third day that the parish priest came and sat beside him. “My son, you’re in shock, yes, but you have to think of Kate now. She’s a miracle child, your Kate.” Kevin felt a hand thump his back. “She’s your miracle child, Kevin,” continued the priest. “God must have spared her for a reason. I know it’s a terrible thing you’re going through, but you have to take care of your little girl. Do you hear me at all, son?”
Kevin heard every word from the priest but couldn’t form a single word of his own.
“The Lord wants you to go on, Kevin, or else He wouldn’t be leaving you with such a miracle. You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of her. She needs her father.”
Kevin’s jaw was clamped. He sat frozen in position, unable to move even his head.
The priest sighed. “I’m sorry, son, but you leave me no choice.” There was a swish of cassock and rattle of beads as he rose to his feet. “Okay, Tom, get yer brothers. He’s all yours.”
Kevin registered the trudging of feet and felt vise-like grips on his wrists and ankles. He offered no resistance to being carried along like a gutted pig; he did not question the destination. He felt his body rise and heard the voice of Tom Murphy. “Let ‘im go, b’ys.” Without a word, the Murphys dropped Kevin into the water trough located on high, unscathed ground, outside Tom’s home. The thin pane of ice that formed during the chilly November night shattered with the force of impact. Knives of cold shot through Kevin’s body. He screamed in agony. And once he started screaming, he couldn’t stop.
Kevin knew they were all watching, listening, doing what they must. The Murphy brothers’ seemingly cruel act had a desired effect. The pain was emotional, not physical; Kevin’s screams were like those of a tortured body but it was his soul that was shrieking.
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