Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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“Man proposes, God disposes.”

The disposition in this case concerns the rear window on the driver’s side of our Civic.

We’d said goodbye to our daughter, her husband and our granddaughter five minutes before, taken off down one sixteen, turned onto route thirty-three on our way to the Mass Pike, and, in good time, Buffalo, and home.

Nothing. No smash. No crack and pop. A thud, maybe. I swivel my head round to see glass crumble in slow motion, spreading streams and rivulets, a mosaic of shine shattering. It keeps on, like a live thing dying slowly, the life running out through the gleaming cracks.

God doesn’t do stuff like that, does He?

“Honey,” I say to spouse. “We need to pull off the road.”

We do. Spouse looks into the back. In barista lingo (barista in the original Italian ‘bartender’ sense), we’re stirred, not shaken. Very stirred, caught in a surreal diagnostic: “It-doesn’t-make-sense-windows-don’t-just-shatter-or-if-they-do-they-blow-out-not-in.”

We agree that there’s no one there to have thrown anything.

“There wasn’t even a passing car that might have kicked up a stone,” says spouse.

“Well, I think maybe some sort of van went by a second ago.”

But it may have it passed well before.

There is, though, one more thing. We recognize it now as we drive back the way we came. We were right beside a graveyard when it happened.

So maybe, maybe… Maybe it was a duppy …

But why Martin and me? We don’t even live in these parts, and never have, so we won’t have done anything to get any dead person’s duppy upset.

It is hard to escape the sense that this was a deliberate act, meant to prevent our Friday journey home.

And if so, why?

I recall Thornton Wilder’s novel, THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY. Published in 1927 and (for what it’s worth) voted one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century by the American Modern Library, it tells the story of several people who die when an Inca rope suspension bridge collapses in Peru. A friar who sees the accident sets about researching each of their lives, and the events that led up to their being on the bridge at that precise time, trying to find an answer to the question of why each one had to die.

Has God (in whose stories stones keep cropping up) allowed the stone to hit us in order to keep us from being on the road at a time when some bad thing would have happened? Or is it to keep us here so that when we do set out we’ll encounter some terrible fate? Is something bad going to happen in the time that we are here, waiting for the window to be fixed? Is it simply a matter of giving us extra time with our children and granddaughter?

“For who hath known the mind of the Lord?”

But there’s no flash of insight, no revelation we can discern. We’ll just have to wait, and, come Sunday, say our prayers and hope to reach home safe. Meanwhile, we’ll tend to the things that have to be done to make us mobile once more, and we’ll enjoy the brawta time with our family.

And give thanks that the invisible missile struck the rear window and not the driver’s.

And wait upon the Lord to reveal His purposes in due course

Or not.

The business with the vexed duppy is simpler. One prays for the soul of a restless duppy. If one doesn’t know whose duppy it is, then one prays for the whole graveyard. It’s the decent thing to do, a little investment, so that if, in the fullness of time, one finds oneself a restive ghost, one won’t have to resort to smashing car windows. Instead, one hopes there will be a translated former duppy, well placed to bring influence to bear – someone we will have helped to achieve celestial quiet.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Pamela Mordecai

Pamela Mordecai has been many things: a teacher, a trainer of teachers, a TV host, a diplomatic wife, an anthologist, a writer of poems, stories and textbooks for children, and a writer of criticism, fiction, poetry and plays for those challenged by age. Born and raised in Jamaica, educated there and in the U.S.A., Pam has lived in Toronto for the past 15 years.

Go to Pamela Mordecai’s Author Page