The young surfer offered prayers for a storm. Dark clouds gathered above when she peered out the cracked window framed in splitting wood. Kiera was scheduled to hostess brunch and dinner with a break between, a gap too small to accomplish anything of real consequence.
Blowing off work came easy when warnings on the local news told of dangerous waves on Lake Huron. To surf the greats took spontaneity and dedication to a fickle resource. Kiera knew all too well the water wouldn’t break right without the proper system. The temperamental winter brought the best conditions for a ride of any consequence.
Spencer looked at himself in the rear-view mirror, then back to the girl poking her head out the window along the alley, searching for a resemblance in her face. He couldn’t see it. He was at once relieved and disappointed. An eviction notice was taped to the front door. The locks were changed and Kiera’s housekey was useless. Kiera pushed the waxed, fibreglass surfboard out into the village morning to land on a pile of snow. Spencer’s truck was parked in the lane, the exhaust rising with Kiera’s breath.
“Still no doors for you, eh?” Spencer laughed, trying not to put Kiera off with his concern. He was already zipped into his wetsuit, seven millimetres of rubber to protect him from the cold water to come. Spencer’s outer layer covered the middle-aged belly at his centre.
“The window works for now,” Kiera said, checking the duffle bag at her feet for the gloves, hood, and booties she packed, avoiding Spencer’s fretted glance.
“Breakfast?” He asked as they drove off on the two-lane street lined with trees, bars, and century homes rented by the room.
Spencer tossed a peanut butter and honey sandwich on Kiera’s lap.
The dark blue dawn rose over the ivy-covered stones of the university as Wharncliffe turned into Western Road.
“Seen your mom?”
Kiera chewed the crust from her sandwich. Spencer saw her jaw clench with the thought of her mother between her teeth. She looked away, out the window at the city falling into the surrounding fields. With nothing to break the wind, gusts swept across Highway 4. Spencer kept the pickup from swaying outside the lines barely visible beneath the dusty snow.
“You know you can always crash with us.” Spencer filled the dead, dry air blasting from the truck’s dashboard. “Your mom and I go way back.”
“You got your own kids to worry about.”
“I like you more than those assholes.” Spencer winked at Kiera, trying to hide his delight in getting her to crack a smile.
“I’m going west soon anyway. Only place in the country with real waves.”
“Might see some real waves today. This storm looks pretty mean.”
“I’m talking about the ocean.” Kiera dragged her finger along the inside of the window, drawing waves on the fogging glass.
“Ever seen the ocean?” Spencer asked, his meaty hands keeping the steering wheel steady.
Kiera shook her head, no.
“Plenty of time.”
“Caroline Marks went pro when she was sixteen.”
“What are you, thirteen?”
“And they let you work at that restaurant?”
“Mom told her manager I’m sixteen.” A streak of water ran down the glass from Kiera’s finger, her dreams conjuring the liquid as much as the condensation. “Nationals are in the fall. On Vancouver Island.”
“Nothing like warm water right on your skin when you’re surfing.” Spencer watched the sleet falling sideways beyond the windshield. “If I was going all that way, I’d go south.”
“No passport,” Kiera said. Spencer was saddened by the thought of someone so young unable to colour beyond the lines.
The no parking sign shook in the tempest when Spencer drove his truck onto the frozen sand between Ipperwash Beach and the Kettle Point Reserve. Dunes rippled across the freshwater coast. Spirits made themselves known on the howling wind. Kiera was out of the car before Spencer could voice his apprehensions about paddling out. The board he gifted her years ago was out of the truck’s bed by the time he was freed from his seatbelt. He rushed after the girl he looked up to despite standing a full head taller than she was. The cold gnawed at his ears. Spencer’s nose would have dripped if the snot didn’t freeze in his bushy nostrils. He reached out for Kiera’s arm. She pulled it away and was nearly swept up by the gusts catching her board like a sail.
Mushy, brown water peaked into white crests under the brooding sky, and Kiera navigated the rising wedges on the back of her red seven-footer. Spencer’s lungs filled with icy air and the slicing responsibility he bore for bringing the girl to Huron’s doorstep, where shipwrecks were preserved in the bitter depths. What chances did a feather-weight girl stand if the freshwater storms could claim iron-clad behemoths?
Spencer knew all he could do was paddle out after her and collect her body on his board when she was tossed from the top of a watery giant trying its best to turn solid in the cold. Kiera knew the lineup well, heading straight for the rocks piled high at the point, where the wind and water conspired to reach for the sky. She had a map through the waves. Fear and age led Spencer astray. He broke the ice off his visor to see Kiera’s red board along the peaks and valleys. That’s when a shadow was cast over the man, when a monster rose from the spray to step in front of the low, morning sun. Spencer craned his neck to look up at Kiera cruising down the sloping face. She had a witness to her feat, a disciple. He could only watch and pray she did not falter as he continued searching for some resemblance between them.
Andrew Calderone is an author and filmmaker from Toronto. Borders in the Sand, his second novel, was written while living in the Dominican Republic and is forthcoming from AOS Publishing on May 7th, 2022. His first novel, Thirsty Scholars, was crafted at the Humber School for Writers. Andrew wrote and directed the award-winning films Cold Is My Brother and Exit Interview (CBC). He has studied literature at University College Cork in Ireland, the University of the West Indies in Barbados, York University in Toronto, and is writing his third novel at the University of British Columbia’s School of Creative Writing.