Marion was there and sensed from the look on James’ face that all was not well. The Blacksmith gave a nod of solemnity and kept his children close by him to avoid them seeing too much. The young lad hung back looking anxious and not quite sure what to do with himself. He didn’t seem to want to take the baby from James when James offered it to him. James didn’t really know what to do with it or why Jane had given it to him in the first place, but it didn’t seem right to let go of it just yet, especially if the father was not wanting to take charge – but then again who could blame such a young boy for not knowing what to do in such a situation. James decided that he’d take the baby for a stroll as if it were alive and talk to it, more to calm himself down than anything. Marion joined him and linked arms as he strolled around the decks. The baby was given the long, unedited, version of James’ life. He made sure that the baby knew the true definition of ‘Sassenach’ before he handed it over to Jane who had reappeared after a gruelling amount of time below decks. He had also, without anyone else other than Marion noticing, given the baby a kiss on the forehead and whispered a few words into its ear.
‘Is fhearr teine beag a gharas na teine mor l loisgeas.’
Funnily enough, the beach and park are always his favourites – lots of space and lots of secluded spots away from prying eyes. There are the many and varied dunes that lead away from the beach back to the car parks. You can go hours without seeing a soul – perfect for stripping a soul too weak and frightened to refuse the requests, demands, threats of “take it off!” Then there’s the park that goes on forever, it seems, and its numerous spaces occasioned by careful planting of trees and bushes that date back to Victorian times – almost as if they wanted things like this to go on; almost as if the leaves stand in for those now long dead and buried, as they look down in quiet complicity at the abuse taking place. And best of all – it’s free. No car parking fees and no admission charges. The price she pays for these excursions being much higher than any you can quantify with money. Yes, this particular daughter regularly has to experience things that will alter her life forever – all because of a general apathy towards her welfare, which stems from the most selfish of reasons. Kids can be a pain though.
Artwork by Billy Frank Alexander
‘I will tell you how my ancestors in the spirit world first encountered the white man and had no reason to fear him for he needed protection and so we protected him. This land is good to people in the summer months but spring, autumn and winter can be hard. We teach the white man how to survive and we like what the white man brings with him. My ancestors saw a clever man in the white man and were happy to learn from him. The white man was happy to learn from my ancestors but then they grow tired and think that they know better. Conflict starts and the white man and Ongweh’onweh start to see things different. More white man come and build settlements for the white man on lands that my ancestors have lived on for a long time. We natives are no longer welcome in our own land. This is how the Six Nations begins because we seek peace with the white man – not war. We are happy to share our land for there is room for all but white man does not want to share. Together our brothers and sisters are strong and the white man finds it hard to treat us bad and take more of our lands. They still want to find ways to treat us bad but our unity keeps us safe. Long ago the six nations fight against each other as separate tribes and peace did not exist between us. Then the Peacemaker came and set out on his journey and met Hayo’wetha – you might know him as Hiowatha?’
A few of the other passengers moved slowly away sensing that they were in the midst of a mad man and this helped to filter out some of the din from their ceaseless yapping. The water had lost the briny-waft that he’d begun to grow sick of during the weeks he’d spent aboard the Roderick. He was now able to smell the land around him. Trees were being burnt somewhere. Somewhere else, grass had been freshly cut. The water below him gave off a pungent, sweet aroma. His own bodily sweat mingled with these. Animal manure, be it horse, cow or whatever else lived on this land, made its presence known. The noise of the birds echoed from the trees on the river’s banks. Small animals darted in and out of the water as the swell from the boat pushed up to them and broke against the banks. Light reflecting ripples on the water gave away the presence of fish picking at food on its surface. The thwack of timber being cut in the distance could just about be heard as the steady pulse accompanying all the other sights, sounds and smells.