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After River: A Novel by Donna Milner

By Donna Milner

Sooner than River, every thing used to be ideal. . . . starting to be up on a Canadian dairy farm lower than miles from the yank border, fifteen-year-old Natalie Ward is aware little of the surface international. yet her loving, close-knit relatives 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 thing alterations one sizzling July afternoon in 1966 while a long-haired stranger seems at their door—a soft-spoken American, a Vietnam warfare resister, who will try the family's morals and ideology, and set in movement catastrophic occasions that would shatter Natalie's relationships with these she such a lot dearly loves.

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One Sunday evening, just before I turned six, I stood anxiously in the sunroom doorway. I peered out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of Boyer and Father Mac returning from a walk. Behind me Mom, Dad, Morgan and Carl settled themselves in front of the television. ’ A priest? Boyer a priest? I knew very little about priests, but I did know they lived alone and had no family. ’ He jabbed Carl in the ribs. Carl rolled on the couch, holding his side, ‘What a dummy,’ he hooted. ’ Mom leaned forward in her recliner.

How easy it would be to have him come with me, take care of me. But I have never burdened him with my past. It’s too late to start now. I reach up and stroke his cheek. ‘Nothing,’ I say then turn away to switch on the walk-in closet light. 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.

Would I change everything that happened afterward, have it so he never became part of our lives? I would. Of course I would. But the past cannot be altered; it can only be lived with. Or buried. On that July afternoon I watched Mom unlatch the gate. For a moment I wondered if she knew when she hired him, that the young man who stood on the other side of the fence was one of those ‘long-haired freaks’, as my father called them. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be around when Dad, and my brothers, came back with the next load of hay.

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