I went back to the New Dawn Centre. I hadn’t planned on it. I hadn’t planned on anything. The only thing I had known for certain was that I had to backtrack, to revisit vital places from my early life, if I was ever going to understand how to live in the present. Call it intuition, I suppose. But I needed to go to the school just as I needed to return to Gods Lake. So I went back to talk. I went back to learn to share the truth I had discovered locked deep inside me. I went back because I wanted to learn how to live with it without drinking. I went back because I needed a solid start on a new road and I knew it would be hard. Sometimes ghosts linger. They hover in the furthest corners, and when you least expect it they lurch out, bearing everything they brought to you when they were alive. I didn’t want to be haunted. I’d lived that way for far too long as it was. So I put in the winter there. I worked closely with Moses and I learned how to lift the lid off my life and inspect what was contained. It was hard work. It terrified me a lot of times, but I made the journey, and when I felt strong, confident, secure with my feelings and my new set of skills, I returned to knock on a door that I hadn’t knocked on in a long, long time. It was just after the first thaw.

When Fred Kelly opened it, his face cracked into a wide grin. He’d aged well. His hair was silver and he’d gained a bit of weight. “Look who’s here,” he said. He held the door open and I walked in.

The house looked the same as when I’d left it. It was orderly and neat, with light pouring in through the windows, and filled with the smell of baking. I wondered how people could live with things set in place, fixed, their places determined by the power of the recollection they contained, the memories they held. It was what made a home, I believed; the things we keep, the sum of us. Fred excused himself and went upstairs, and I found a seat on the living room couch. When he came back, Martha was with him. They stood in the doorway with their arms around each other, looking at me without speaking. I stood up. None of us knew what to say.

“We should sit down,” Martha said finally.

They took chairs opposite the couch. I sat on the very edge of it, my forearms on my knees and my hands clasped together. I tapped my toes nervously on the carpet. Martha stared at me, her eyes shiny with tears, balling the corner of her apron up in her fist. Fred reached over and put a hand over hers.

“Thought I’d know what to say once I got here,” I said. “Turns out I don’t.”

Fred shrugged. “People put way too much stock in words. Sometimes it’s better to just sit. Kinda get used to each other again.”

“I never put stock enough in talk, really. But I’m learning how these days. More than I did before, at least,” I said. “There are things I found out that I never told anyone.”

“About the school,” Fred said quietly.


“We know, Saul. We always knew,” Martha said quietly. “Not specifically. But we were there too.”

“They taught us to hide from ourselves,” Fred said. “It took forever for me to learn how to face my own truth. I ran from it for years and years.”

“It’s hard,” I said.

“The hardest,” he said.

“Were you...?” I asked, the words dwindling off into space. I looked at him and he kept his head down, clasping his hands together.

Then he looked at me placidly and nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Many times.”

I felt tears building and I pinched my lips together and gazed out the window. “Cost me a lot,” I said.

“It costs everything,” Fred said. “It bankrupts us in every way. The lucky ones rebuild. There’s a lot of those kids who never got that chance.”

“I went back there,” I said.

“I still do.”

“Even now?”

“Every year. Just to lay tobacco down and try to find forgiveness.”

“Did you find it?”

He took a drink and set his cup down slowly. “It’s a long road,” he said.

“I don’t know if I can, you know? I don’t know if I even want to.”

“It’s part of it,” Martha said. “It took me a long, long time, and even now I don’t know if I’ve truly done it. More like I just live my life here, and it heals me. Time. Distance. Not thinking about it.”

“Did they rape everyone?” I asked.

There was a long silence. In the distance I could hear the sounds of the mill and a train. I waited and they both looked at the floor.

“It doesn’t have to be sexual to be rape, Saul,” Martha said.

“When they invade your spirit, it’s rape too,” Fred said.

I nodded. “That’s how I felt. Invaded.”

“And now?” Fred asked.

“Now I’m just tired of the way I’ve been living. I want something new built on something old. I wanted to come back. This is the only place I felt like something was possible for me. Don’t know what I want to do. Just want to work on the idea of what’s possible.” I wrung my hands together and looked at them.

Fred reached over and took Martha’s hand. They smiled at each other. “We hoped you would, some day,” she said. “We all wanted to go out and find you, but we knew we couldn’t. We knew you’d have to find your own way. The hardest part was that we knew how hard your road would be—but we had to let you go.”

“They scooped out our insides, Saul. We’re not responsible for that. We’re not responsible for what happened to us. None of us are.” Fred said. “But our healing—that’s up to us. That’s what saved me. Knowing it was my game.”

“Could be a long game,” I said.

“So what if it is?” he said. “Just keep your stick on the ice and your feet moving. Time will take care of itself.”

“I know how to do that,” I said.

“I know you do,” he said.