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She understands Blue Mountain

Department of English Creative Writing Award in Fiction
April 21, 2023
By Marion Munday

A woman with red hair styled in braids is sitting and smiling at the camera, making a peace sign with her fingers. She is wearing a blue and black patterned sweater and is seated in front of a calm river with a dense forest in the background. The sky is overcast. Marion Munday is the 2022-23 winner of the Department of English Creative Writing Award in Fiction.

The following is excerpted from a longer work.

My daughter drove away in my milk-truck when she was seventeen. I was playing my guitar in the parking lot outside of her swim meet. I couldn’t come in because I’d been banned from entering the pool without shoes. I’m not sure why she chose that day to leave. I’d started a traffic jam by standing in a parking spot and cars were rolling down their windows to shout at me. She walked right up and unclipped the keys from my belt-loop. She didn’t say a word when she left, but then again, she hadn’t been speaking much to me for the past couple of years. 

I didn’t have my truck for the next year or so. People liked that I delivered milk in glass bottles and played my banjo or guitar on their porches. I made money that way. I didn’t try to find her that year. I ran out of money and played only for myself and the coyotes to hear. I knew she would find me if she wanted to. And she did, she wrote to me a year later, simply where she was and that she was well. Then one day, she was pregnant. Then later, she gave birth. Then a week ago, she was coming. 

“When did this happen?” my daughter’s talking about the house. The mound of black in the middle. The ash around the edge that blows and sprinkles all over the girl’s face so that she becomes freckled. 

“Oh, months ago now,” I say, pulling down the sleeves of my flannel. 

“It looks like a grave,” she says, not looking at me. 

My daughter was a girl with her back turned. Always staring at some far-off point like she was waiting for a hand to claw itself up from the earth or a dolphin to jump up from the waves. She was concentrated and dismissive. I would come home with a case-full of coins and box of mint cookies with so many stories to tell and she would sit at the table, chewing her apple down to the core until it was finished.

The barn is one big room with a firepit in the middle and a grate over it with a kettle. The girl hugs the rocking horse and follows me around. I place a cast iron pot in her little fingers and she nearly collapses under the weight of it. 

“We’re going to make jam,” I bend down. “Do you wanna hear some music, young one” I tap my spoon on her pot; “clang clang, rattle-bang-bang!” The girl laughs and I look over at her mother, digging for a coat in her suitcase.  “Look! She likes music! She’ll be singing soon enough,” I shout. 

The girl is curious when I pull out my violin. I open the case and her eyes flash gold like they’re reflecting a treasure inside. I show her how to rub the bow with rosin and she holds the piece of amber to her eye. I drag the bow along the A string. 

The first time I heard the sound of a violin it was coming from an open window. It was a screeching, ugly sound and then it was beautiful. I love music like that, music bent as branches and twisted as brambles. I liked the violin and then the fiddle and then I liked the guitar. I liked everything with strings but nothing electric. I liked the softness of the strings on my fingers and the way the notes brightened when I took a pick to them. 

I hear the girl’s voice in my head now. It sounds like a pebble dropped into a clear pond. She’s asking me something about the mountain, what’s on Blue Mountain? As if at every peak a lamb is perched, waiting to be fed. 

Yonder stands Blue Mountain. I sing one of my songs to her and her pupils go big. Yonder stands Blue Mountain.

This girl is nothing like my daughter, no, this girl isn’t interested in other people. She’ll be happy out here in the woods, striking flint against steel. She’ll be satisfied just by watching the sky change color and tracing the patterns of the stars in the night sky. She’ll like to see her breath in the winter air and train a dog to walk beside her without a leash. 

I pour three jars of blueberry jam onto a pot on the fire and let the smoke rise up through the hole in the ceiling. The sun is setting and little halos of light pattern the walls. The smell is sweet and then a note of sour and I remember it wasn’t jam in those jars but wine. 

“Are you still drinking?”  my daughter asks. She wraps the girl in a blue puffer coat with snowflakes on it. 

I shake my head and look up to the ceiling, “Time to light some candles, the sun’s setting earlier and earlier,” I say, “You should see it in here at night it’s beautiful, nothing like it,” I like my candlesticks long and skinny, sticking out of green wine bottles.  I place one in front of them and hold a match to it. 

“Jesus Christ,” she mutters. 

“Tomorrow we can hike up the mountain,” I say, “Like old times,” 

I missed her up here. I missed both of them even though I hadn’t known the girl before. 

There’s a bruise on my daughter’s cheek that I didn’t notice and I know I should ask her why she decided to come. If I ask her why she’s here, I’m afraid she’ll leave again. My daughter makes it hard for you to speak to her, maybe that’s why the girl can’t talk yet. 

Marion Munday is a writer from Toronto. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in creative writing at Concordia. 

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