The Long Stretch (The Cape Breton Trilogy, Book 1)
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From a gifted storyteller and one of Canada’ s most respected journalists, The Long Stretch is a saga of love and war, the story of those who have "gone away" and those who are compelled to stay. In one apocalyptic night, John Gillis and his estranged cousin Sextus confront a half century of half-truths and suppositions that have shaped and scarred their lives, their families and their insular Cape Breton community. Telling stories that unravel a host of secrets, they begin to realize that they were damaged before they were born, their fathers and a close friend forming an unholy trilogy in a tragic moment of war. Among the roots of a complex and painful relationship, they uncover the truth of a fateful day John has spent 20 years trying to forget. Taut and brilliantly paced, etched with quiet humour and crafted with fiery dialogue, The Long Stretch is a mesmerizing novel in the tradition of Alistair MacLeod, David Adams Richards and Ann-Marie MacDonald.
times then. Bought an old rattletrap of a car in Amos. Then the war started and they went home to celebrate for a while. Then drove to Sydney to join up. The Cape Breton Highlanders took two of them. Turned Jack down. “Bad wind,” he said, tapping his chest with his big middle finger. “Something they didn’t like in there.” Romantic fever. So my father and Angus went to war, and Jack went back to Newfoundland. It was the same as service, they told him. Mining fluorospar in St. Lawrence. Strategic
after night. The fun could be just about anywhere in a radius of fifty miles. That’s how lots of us got killed. Gas was cheap then, about fifty cents a gallon. If you could scrape together three or four dollars you were good for the evening. And Uncle Jack was sending money home, once he got work in Flin Flon. He called Aunt Jessie from somewhere one evening a week after he left. He was still on his way. I could tell by the way she was talking to him that he was drunk. When she got off she said,
cased for years. Ma knew when you were getting in. You rascal.” He’s smiling broadly. “Ma figured it looked queer for Effie to stay on in the house after Grandma. But they decided it should be up to you. And of course your ma, Aunt Mary, thought she should stay. Keep the pipes from freezing. Don’t remember you raising any objection.” “There were other factors,” I say. “I betcha,” he says. “She kept your pipes from freezing that Christmas.” That’s all he can think about. I told myself I was
later. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the gossip. Once I saw them, near the post office, standing talking. The old man was smiling like a boy, hands in his pockets. She was standing with her weight on one leg, the other angled out, casually. Toe poking at bits of gravel. She was wearing a skirt this time. But there was no mistaking her. The hair, tied back, showing her ears. The skirt draped over the extended leg, showed it off nicely. Arms folded under her chest showed that off pretty good
Friday night, listening to the music from the Creignish hall. A fight exploded at the rear of a nearby car where a group of Judiquers were drinking. Two guys pounding at each other, slipping and sliding on the gravel like cows on ice, one getting the worst of it, stumbling toward the pavement backward, then down in a tangle of arms and legs. The other straddles him, smashing at his face. Then the flash of a dome light from a large car near them and my father materializes. And in one swift motion