I am as pleased as any writer has the right to be (giddy, in fact) over having just signed a contract for a new novel to be published by Oolichan Books in the fall of 2009. This story, tentatively titled Delivery had about four years of musing and scribbling and was in a lumpen rough draft when I began the UBC MFA program in fall of 2007. Though I had planned to focus on a non-fiction project as a thesis, I made an eleventh hour decision to at least get some input on the novel by taking Catherine Bush’s novel course. After two semesters of workshopping and feverish writing, I decided to go with the novel. So a tremendous push through the fall and winter of 2007/2008, and in May 2008 I graduated with a novel in hand. Ooolichan had published my short story collection in May 2008, so I cautiously asked if they’d be interested in looking at another manuscript. Interested, and as enthusiastic and warm in their response as they’d been all through the work on A Crack in the Wall and back to me in a matter of weeks with the offer of a contract.
So next fall Lynn, the sardonic grandmother who has been shouting around inside my head for at least six years, will come to life in the pages of this new book. Delivery is the story of a woman with too much loss in her recent life to come to terms with what she thinks is an ill-thought adoption decision on her daughter’s part. So she does what any distraught grandmother would do — packs the baby into a laundry basket, straps her securely in place on the back seat of the car and runs away to an island. A story told in two voices; mother and daughter, Lynn, and Heather, the prickly daughter who decided perfunctorily at the age of twelve that from thereon she would call her mom and dad “Lynn” and “Jack”. Short sample of each:
In the night Lynn wakens to the sound of dripping rain. The sheets are clammy with a faint tinge of male musk. Lynn turns her face to Beegee’s soft hair. The primal newborn smell, growing fainter day by day, still takes Lynn back twenty years. She’s sure she inhales a memory of Heather from this child. Even farther back, Lynn knows she carries the memory of Marty’s newborn scent even though she only held him for a fleeting few seconds before he was whisked away. Two weeks later, when she finally pressed her nose to his skin once more, the smell was lost.
All she wants is sleep, a few more hours of forgetfulness, but her brain has returned to the road, remembering every curve and stop, reversing all the way back to Calgary. When sleep finally returns, she dreams she’s never left, never gone farther than the car, baby and laundry basket in her arms. There she sits waiting for Heather to come to her senses. To realize that asking a woman to deliver her granddaughter to the permanent care of strangers is too much. In the dream, Lynn chooses fight instead of flight and is on her way back to the house when she wakens again, her heart banging against her breastbone. The dog stands beside the bed, watching her across the towel-bundled baby.
“Oh jeez.” Lynn takes a deep breath then another. “I think I was going into the house to shake some sense into her, Loki,” she whispers.
It takes Heather until well into the evening to track Marty, and he doesn’t want to come over. He’s meeting his latest woman and some of her friends at a martini bar. Martini bar? Normally, she would roll her eyes and say goodbye. Good luck. But there is this freakin’ baseball in her throat even though she keeps telling herself Beegee is safe – she’s with Lynn, isn’t she? She can’t shake the thought that something terrible has happened to both of them.
“Dump her. There is no way you’re going to last with someone who drinks martinis so you may as well save yourself time and money. Go pick up someone at a sports bar. But first come over here. I need to talk to you.”
“No, you’re gonna love Kaylee. Meet us down there.”
“I can’t meet you in a bar, you moron. The front of my shirt is soaked with milk every hour on the hour.”
He groans. “Damn, Heather! I’m sorry. I forgot about you having to feed the baby.” She imagines him hitting his forehead with his fist. “Of course you can’t bring the baby to a bar. Hey, maybe Lynn would watch her for while.”
What does Marty know about looking after a three-week-old baby? What did she know until three weeks ago? She cuts to the chase. “Lynn’s not here. Neither is Beegee.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean they’re missing.”
“Since when? What’s going on?”
She fights to keep from screaming. Hysteria is not the way to deal with Marty. Scares him spitless. “Since Friday.”
“Holy shit! Have you called the cops? What about Dad?”
“Just come. I’ll tell you about it when you get here. And don’t bring any Krissy or Kylie or Karri with you.”