After River: A Novel by Donna Milner

By Donna Milner

Earlier than River, every thing was once ideal. . . . growing to be up on a Canadian dairy farm lower than miles from the yankee border, fifteen-year-old Natalie Ward is aware little of the surface global. yet her loving, close-knit kinfolk is the envy of old and young alike within the within sight city of Atwood. Natalie adores her 3 brothers—especially Boyer, the eldest, whom she idolizes. yet every little thing alterations one scorching July afternoon in 1966 while a long-haired stranger seems to be at their door—a soft-spoken American, a Vietnam warfare resister, who will attempt the family's morals and ideology, and set in movement catastrophic occasions that would shatter Natalie's relationships with these she so much dearly loves.

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As I rummage through my underwear drawer I am suddenly startled by the thought of what to wear to a funeral. My mother’s funeral. Vern’s unspoken thought is more reality than probability. The idea of attending a ceremony in St Anthony’s Church, of sitting in the front pew while a priest’s monotonous voice chants 28 AFTER RIVER the ceremony and speaks of my mother’s life, is almost too much. I stand in the middle of my closet, underpants in one hand, and bras in the other, and hold my breath to stifle the sneeze I feel building between my eyes.

I’m just anxious to get going,’ I say and start to pull away. ‘Not just this morning,’ he says. ’ He releases me, then steps back with a crooked smile. He holds his arms out in an open-handed gesture of surrender. He won’t keep me against my will, I know, but he’ll do his best to interrupt this dance of leaving. That is Vern. His strength is what has kept me with him this long, his strength in being able to let go. But he’s right. It’s just a matter of time. This is what I do. I run. I leave. He’s the first man to recognize this, or the first one to place it in the light where we both have to look at it.

Each afternoon Jenny brought Mom over to visit – as if I was the one who was the invalid. I ventured outside only for my daily runs. In the early mornings, in the half-light of dawn, I ran north along the highway, avoiding the streets of the sleeping town. I wore a hooded jacket and kept my head down whenever a car approached. Still, it’s unlikely that anyone old enough to remember the Ward Dairy Farm would recognize this lean, middle-aged woman as the chubby farmer’s daughter who once delivered milk to their doors.

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