Friday, October 14, 2005

Dinner in Halifax

The reading in Halifax was curious. There were several readings, it seemed, all going on at once, in separate cubicles; also, tables crowded with books, and chattering crowds. I could not hear my voice in the microphone. There was a polite group listening on chairs, but now and then, politely, one or two got up and left. I felt frantic to keep my group there, reading faster and faster, trying to liven up my voice.
At one point, a family slid into a row of seats, two parents and two small children. The parents began to laugh at once, but I knew I was getting to the bit about testicles. I couldn’t avoid reading it. They laughed even harder at that part, and then they politely left.
I sat at another table to sign books, and Lisa Moore introduced a friend. The friend pointed out her beautiful daughter by the windows. The daughter looked like a ballerina. The friend asked Lisa and me to her place for dinner.
The friend had a family of lingering names, every member of the family had a special, lingering name. The father was an artist. The mother was a jazz singer. The daughter showed us a photograph of a dress she was making for herself for her prom. The younger daughter told us she had an imagination. They had a new woodstove. We shelled fresh peas on the table, and the girls ate them raw. The family said that the neighbourhood is safe. You can walk everywhere from here, but sometimes you just need a break, you need a lift.
The food was superb, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the peas.
There was also a gentle dog, a black lab, who rested her head on my lap during dinner. Maybe she hoped that, as a stranger to the house, I would share my food with her, maybe she thought I would feel compelled to do this, out of politeness, yet I chose to believe that the black lab wanted only to be kind to me. I was grateful that nobody in the family shouted at the dog: “Get away from the guest!” Or instructed me: “Just push her away.”


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