Table of Contents
- Title page
- Foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Monarch Blue, by Barbara Litkowski
- The Last Grand Tour of Albertine’s Watch, by Sandra K. Barnidge
- Half-Eaten Cities, by Vajra Chandrasekera
- Darkness Full of Light, by Tony Dietz
- Luna, by David Samuel Hudson
- Tuolumne River Days, by Rebecca Lawton
- The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World, by Jean McNeil
- Orphan Bird, by Leah Newsom
- The Office of Climate Facts, by Mitch Sullivan
- Losing What We Can’t Live Without, by Jean-Louis Trudel
- Honorable Mention: 2018 Contest Semifinalists
- About the Contributors
Losing What We Can’t Live Without
By Jean-Louis Trudel
They raced out of the high country, under lowering skies.
“Will we have time for a meal at my dad’s place?” the woman asked her companion. “This could be your last chance.”
“I’m not tempted.”
“Think of the Dutch sailors who were the last humans to taste dodo meat. Don’t you want to know if they savored each mouthful? Or just gulped it down while joking about their captain?”
“I’m not sure I would’ve been able to even put it in my mouth.”
“Even knowing that it was a historic meal?”
“I’ll watch you eat.”
“But will there be time?”
The man glanced back at the screen embedded in his coat sleeve. The garment, still soaking wet, was draped over the backseat.
“I think so,” he said at last. “The probe’s readings are still close to baseline. We’ve outrun the worst of it.”
“Look on the bright side. Hardly anybody still lives in the valley’s flood zones. A once-in-a-millennium storm can’t do that much damage.”
Not anymore, Nadine thought, not after smaller floods had chased away almost everyone who had once lived near the banks of the St. John River.
“The bad news is …” she whispered, infinitely distant, “that the people who’ve stayed are the hardest to budge.”
“We’ll find a way to convince him. If we don’t drain the battery before we get there.”
Nadine dialled down the car’s speed and the vehicle uttered a sigh of relief as the lower setting reduced the draw on its reserves. Amin was right. It wouldn’t do to run out of amps too soon. She turned her attention back to the newsfeed while Amin closed his eyes, tired out by the hike into the Madawaska woods.
The car drove on, not trying to make small talk. Nadine had turned off its conversation app, but she soon began to yearn for its mindless chatter to make up for the bleakness of the news app.
The Chinese civil war was still raging, chewing up younger generations left adrift by the drought-stricken fields in the north and the drowned cities in the south. The new fish farms in the Arctic Ocean were a happier story, but they were attracting more immigrants to the Mackenzie Valley and stoking the Inuit Insurgency. The European quarrel over citrus quotas between England and Denmark seemed even more futile, as conditions remained marginal for their cultivation. Why plan for it when greenhouse gas levels were starting to stabilize?
She knew the answer to that. Lag. But she didn’t have to like it.
Outside, the road cut across the remnants of burnt-out woods and flood-scored pastures. The ash grey trunks of dead trees rose out of the soil like the spears of old, planted in the ground over a warrior’s tomb. Pointing accusingly to the storm clouds above.
“We’re definitely invited to eat at my dad’s place,” Nadine said at last. “He just texted me that he’s looking forward to seeing us. Emphasis on us.”
“And that’s supposed to be all right now?”
“We may never get another opportunity.”
“That’s the whole point. I’ve managed to resist that questionable temptation until now.”
“He’s my father.”
“I understand. But you’re the one who couldn’t stand his cooking.”
“Just promise me you won’t scream at him.”
“Me? Have I ever yelled at you?”
“You don’t get mad for personal things.”
“Not the small stuff.”
“Am I so small?”
“You’re a world unto yourself. You contain multitudes. What you get wrong is tiny compared to the vastness inside.”
She smiled. For a scientist, Amin was well-read, and she liked that about him.
“Flatterer. I’m not that big.”
“You are, trust me. Everywhere you’ve been, every place you’ve seen, everything you’ve done, it all adds up to your own version of the world. A unique one.”
“So, I’m bigger on the inside.”
“We’re all as great and wonderful as the world we live in.”
He clasped her hand and squeezed so slowly that it felt erotic. Don’t stop, please. It took her mind off the bad news they were bearing.
“And I never complain to the chef if he’s tried his best.”
Raindrops spattered the windscreen. Nadine stared at the watery soldiers, the vanguard of a numberless horde now descending upon the road south after overwhelming the Maine and Québec uplands.
In woods spared by fire, foliage would scatter the drops into a fine spray, wetting leaves, needles, trunks, and roots. Helping every cubic centimeter of biomass drink the deluge.
But where trees had gone up in flames or fields spread out as smooth, unobstructed expanses, the droplets would flow into rivulets, fill drainage ditches, feed creeks, and pour into streams. Until the water held in cloud decks a kilometer high, extending over thousands of square kilometers, ended up in the St. John River. Downhill lay the sea, but the huge mass of collected rainwater had to move down New Brunswick’s greatest valley to reach the Atlantic.
Nadine sighed. “As a matter of fact, my mother used to be the chef. People came from miles away to try the menu, knowing what went into it.”
“But nothing close to sapience. She drew the line at dolphins and elephants.”
“Are you saying your father didn’t?”
“He’d point out that humans had hunted all of them. Though I think that was just to get a rise out of her. But he was right. For all we know, our ancestors hunted Neanderthals and Denisovans as well.”
“To make love and have children.”
Nadine tried texting her father again, but he didn’t answer. He was probably busy in the kitchen.
“I’m still amazed people come to the middle of nowhere and pay good money to sample your dad’s scandalous concoctions.”
Amin waved dismissively at the ruins of buildings in the distance and the cracked pavement streaked with muddy drips. The car was adjusting so smoothly to the uneven road surface that the passengers inside hardly noticed.
“The valley isn’t completely abandoned,” Nadine objected. “You don’t leave a place just because you can’t take care of it.”
“Our warning did go out, right?”
“My father may be the only one still unaware. He’s very stubborn about ignoring social media.”
“We’ll be there in plenty of time. Forgive me, dear. There are so few signs of life—I’m getting antsy. I’m not used to it.”
She almost answered that the desolate landscape was itself a human artifact, ravaged by fire, drought, and flood. Humanity at work.
“Even on field trips?” she said instead.
“There’s enough to do in southern Ontario and Québec without venturing into more remote areas.”
Nadine fought a pang of guilt. Had she risked the life of her sweetheart just to show her father that she cared?
“Trust your models. We’re way ahead of the flood.”
The rain stopped. Another car overtook theirs. The land remained empty, scarred with deep gullies where rainbursts had carved into the soil down to the bedrock.
Nadine knew this part of the province better than any city boy. Better even than her climate scientist fiancé. He understood general causes, but she was familiar with individual cases. She’d run enough medical errands to surviving farmsteads and villages to know what life endured in this forsaken quarter of New Brunswick.
The road brought them within sight of the river and both craned their necks to figure out if it was already rising. The original inhabitants had known it as the Wolastoq and called themselves the Wolastoqiyuk. The first Europeans had termed it the Saint-Jean. For the remaining valley-dwellers, it was a restive menace no longer worthy of a name, even when it wasn’t running dry.
Right now, it was a monster threatening to burst its banks, and growing more monstrous by the minute.
“How fast will the peak come down?” she asked.
“It’s now a matter of hours. Look, the sensors are already registering a surge.”
She glanced at the coat drying behind her.
“Can anything slow it down?”
He shook his head.
“None of the dams were able to hold back a flood even in the old days. Just the spring freshet, when all the snow melted, was enough to overtop them if the sluice gates weren’t opened. So, neither Beechwood nor Grand Falls are going to be able to cope with this.”
“How about Mactaquac?”
“I’d rather not talk about it. It’ll just make me mad.”
Silence fell as the car sped south. Nadine grabbed a nap and awoke to discover Amin snoring. Outside, the clouds were lifting and the sun shone slantingly on a series of pristine houses and farms, surrounded by hedges, saplings, and young trees. One of a few fortunate enclaves that had escaped the worst of the climate catastrophes.
The sunlight dappled the skin of her fiancé’s cheek pressed to the window, the patterns shifting as trees waved at the passing car. As if conscious of her gaze, Amin opened his eyes.
“Where are we?”
“Not far now. Nervous?”
He looked at the telltales on his coat’s sleeve. The app was calculating the expected river rise based on the downpour’s duration, its geographical extent, and the specific terrain. The display drew from him a concerned frown.
“Yes, for all sorts of reasons …”
“Believe me. You’ll eat like you’ve never eaten before.”
“And like I’ll never eat again, right? But I’m not going to eat, Nadine.”
“In that case, you’ll be hungry like you’ve never been hungry before. Just the smells …”
“Sure, sure. You gotta love the stink of extinction in the air before a meal.”
Nadine didn’t respond, dialling down the car’s velocity again as their destination came into view. The car picked its way through the abandoned streets of Nackawic, the pavement crumpled and potholed. Near the river, most of the houses were falling apart and the commercial buildings were blackened husks, burned down for insurance.
“Stop at the Lost Flavours restaurant,” she ordered.
Their vehicle glided into a parking spot. There were only three other cars. Two old biofuel guzzlers, probably running on a semilegal mix from the algae farms. And a luxury hybrid, a rental model from Moncton driven by the kind of people who could afford a meal at Lost Flavours. Not like her and Amin.
“He won’t like it if you don’t order something,” she added. “He’ll think you don’t understand.”
“I don’t, but since it’s your father … I’ll try.”
She nuzzled Amin’s shoulder before leaving the car. “He’ll like you, I’m sure he will.”
He shrugged, and made sure to bring his coat even though the sun shone again.
The restaurant had once dominated Nackawic’s old riverside district, before other floods, forest fires, and plant closings. Nadine remembered a happier time, when she could run down the street to buy ice cream from the small shop near the bridge or candy from the convenience store. Both had closed before she had left what was becoming a ghost town, even as Lost Flavours was building a dubious international brand, awarded four black stars of infamy by ecotourism guides.
The shells of more recently forsaken bungalows dotted higher ground, rising out of wild, overgrown lots. In front of Lost Flavours, though, a perfectly groomed lawn stretched from the parking lot to the main entrance.
Nadine’s father greeted them from the doorway. “Take your shoes off and walk on the grass. That’s why it’s there.”
The old man smiled at Amin’s confusion. “It’s all about savouring the sinful pleasures of the past.”
“And European invasives?”
“Of course. The beginnings of the great takeover.”
“A hostile one, naturally.”
“You said it. Come on, try the grass. It won’t mind. I won’t mind. I’m so glad I’m meeting at last the man my daughter wants to marry. It’s been too long.”
“You must know how I feel about this place. It goes against everything I believe in.”
“Well, do you like rare species or don’t you? Here, you get to know them even better.”
“By eating them.”
Nadine ignored both men as she took off her shoes and reveled in the forgotten pleasure of bare skin on wet, pliant grass. Amin trudged across the lawn with boots still speckled with Madawaska mud.
“Welcome to the Restaurant at the End of the World! Come on in.”
Nadine kissed her father on both cheeks to get a closer look at him. Robert Leblanc’s face was lined and sagging, but the eyes still held the twinkle of a man on a mission. Yet, the sallowness of his skin worried her.
He’d cut his thinning white hair short since his wife’s death. Perhaps he’d finally figured out that his shock of artificially thickened and dyed hair no longer fooled anyone. Or perhaps he no longer wished to be reminded of his younger days.
“The End of the World? Isn’t that a bit melodramatic?” Amin whispered into Nadine’s ear as she drew back.
She grimaced, and muttered. “I just call it Dad’s World.”
“You’ll figure it out.”
Inside, the décor paid homage to turn-of-the-century America. The background music was vintage Avril Lavigne. A faded “WiFi” sign plastered behind the cash register, a hoodie hanging from a hook (alarmed), and a pile of yellowed newspapers (under glass) made for instant nostalgia. The left-hand wall was decorated with glass boxes exhibiting dead butterflies pinned to cork squares.
Only extinct species were featured, such as the monarch and the blue morpho. As a little girl, Nadine had memorized their names. The Quino checkerspot butterfly. The Ceylon rose swallowtail. Lange’s metalmark. And so many more. Amin looked away, staring long and hard instead at the polar bear skin rug covering the floor in front of the register.
“You’re allowed to walk on it,” Leblanc urged him.
Amin shuddered, unable to tread upon the pelt of a once-living animal. Nadine pushed him towards the table set for the three of them.
“What’s the point of having this here?” he asked, skirting the bear skin.
“It could be a test of your empathy for other beings.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I failed the moment I came through your restaurant’s doors. Am I to conclude your business relied on people without empathy?”
“Not exclusively. Haters of hypocrisy came to make a point by livestreaming their meals. It was never one thing.” He waved them to their seats. “Let’s eat. The flood is coming.”
Nadine looked up. Did her father know about the surge?
She regretted not getting a chance to pick from the menu. Many visitors came just for the listings of nearly vanished foods that stirred forbidden yearnings. Grain-fed beef washed down with a bottle of Californian or Spanish wine, forgotten delicacies using marshelder, agave, or arrowroot, desserts made with Gros Michel bananas, and pre-genetic engineering coffee or chocolate.
They began with beluga caviar on toast. Amin carefully scraped off the caviar and ate the toast. Nadine enjoyed one slice topped with the salty roe, but she didn’t ask for more. She knew how hard it was to import real caviar from the Caspian Sea. Even with her father’s exemptions for the “historical” and “educational” purpose of Lost Flavours, the black-market cost remained prohibitive.
“Next up,” Leblanc announced, “a choice of soups. Great white shark fin soup. Or leatherback turtle soup. Or soup made with bullfrog legs. A century ago, crates of live bullfrogs were shipped all around the world to restaurants in need of exotic delicacies. Some say that these bullfrog exports propagated the deadly chytrid fungus that delivered the coup de grâce to amphibian populations already stressed by climate change and habitat destruction.”
Amin nodded grimly. “Well, if bullfrogs aren’t truly endangered, just accomplices in other extinctions, I can order the latter with a clear conscience.”
“You’ll even be doing the environment a favor. Some bullfrogs have become invasives outside of North America.”
Once Amin slurped down his ethically correct soup, Leblanc returned from the kitchen to confirm the available entrées. A turtle egg omelette. Bluefin tuna carpaccio with Texas wild rice pilau. Or a pangolin stir fry.
He set down a plate with samples of each to tempt Nadine and her husband-to-be. This time, however, Amin proved obdurate. “I’m not having anything unless you justify yourself.”
Leblanc cocked his head to one side.
“We should eat our sins.”
“To make them disappear? That sounds very … Christian.”
“As a reminder of God’s crucifixion, communion is also a penance. Now that we’re crucifying Gaia, we shouldn’t be allowed to forget who nailed her to the cross.”
“You’re making it real?”
“Here, when you eat a slice of grilled dugong, you know it could be the last one. Ever. The odds are increasingly stacked against the survival of the species I’m procuring.”
Nadine picked up the thread. “The Dutch sailors who dined on the last dodos … if they knew the bird had become very rare, it didn’t stop them. Their final hunt was even written up. Here, before you know it, you’re yielding to an animal appetite even though it means participating in a change of the natural order.”
Her father nodded, spearing a niblet of pangolin. “Try something, not for the first time, but for the final one. Because that’s what humans have been doing ever since the last ice age. Some of our ancestors may have gorged upon the last mammoth. Now’s your chance to do the same. I’m offering you an opportunity to share in a fundamental human experience.”
“My wife and I opened the place so that nobody could ever pretend otherwise.”
Amin surrendered, glancing at his coat’s telltales. “I’ll have the tuna.”
Thanks, Nadine mouthed at Amin when her father turned away. When her fiancé had to place a strip of raw tuna flesh on his tongue, though, he stopped, the fork just brushing his lips.
“Somewhere, a species is screaming,” he murmured.
“The whole planet has been screaming and nobody listened.”
Eyes screwed shut, Amin closed his teeth around the glistening meat. He chewed once or twice, gulped it down.
“I’m not sure I needed this to listen better.”
Leblanc’s features unknotted. He looked so relieved that Nadine put off telling him about the flood. She puzzled it out. If Amin’s acceptance meant so much to her father, it was because he needed it …. She relaxed, filled with warm feelings she was in no hurry to set aside.
After coming back from the kitchen with another round of dishes, the old man sat down with them, but he hardly touched anything on his own plate.
“For dessert, a glimpse of the future of fine cuisine.”
He brought out assorted sweets. Candied strips of jellyfish, chocolate-coated ants, and honey-glazed locusts.
Amin tasted a few, unenthusiastically, and Nadine herself stuck with the locusts. Her father finally brought out digestifs. A couple of classic génépi liqueurs made with endangered species of the Artemisia genus. And a traditional Caribbean mamajuana concocted with dried guaiacum wood.
“None for me,” Amin said. “Just coffee.”
On Nadine’s tongue, the mouthful of mamajuana was smooth yet powerfully corrosive. The bitterness of the lignum vitae made her wince.
When coffee was served, Amin looked again at the screen on his coat. Though he had reduced it to tile size, the main indicators were still visible.
“It’s begun,” he said quietly.
Nadine nodded to show she’d heard, but a different concern was overriding her awareness of the ticking clock.
“You don’t look so well, dad.”
“Old age is catching up to me, I guess.”
“Don’t lie to a doctor. I can tell it’s more than that.”
Her first impression had been deceiving. During the meal, she had noticed his trembling hands. His voice was still strong, but his eyes sometimes lost focus. Nadine had been hoping for one last happy dinner together. She didn’t want to mar it with a quarrel over the care he would need. Not yet.
Amin lent a hand with an easier question.
“Where do you get all this food?”
“I import a lot of it, via a network that starts out legit but eventually extends into local black markets. When it gets here, it has all the sustainability certificates I need. But I don’t rely on just the imports. Come, I’ll show you the rest.”
The greenhouses behind the restaurant were huge, extending over a flat stretch of land running down to the riverbank. Nadine stared at the water lapping at the base of the farthest wall.
“The water’s high.”
“It’s stopped raining, but the level will keep rising,” Amin said.
“Really, now?” Leblanc commented, and Nadine wondered again.
Entry was strictly controlled. Her father didn’t let them skip a single security measure. Amin remarked that it was like going into a Level 4 biohazard facility.
“My Spaceship Earth, I call it.”
Inside, there were still more doors, to preserve the plants from cross-contamination in the absence of pesticides. Lamps, misters, and shades combined to recreate a variety of growing conditions. Wind turbines on the heights above the river supplied the power needed to run the air purifiers and other machinery. The eggbeater design wasn’t as efficient as the larger models, but it was low-maintenance, its generator lodged in its concrete base. Freelancers stopped by occasionally to service it, hitching rides from the truckers.
There were plants that no longer grew anywhere else. “A friend of mine, a coconspirator if you will, sends me seeds from Svalbard from time to time.”
Small plots flourished with the help of artificial lighting, growing crops adapted to hotter and moister conditions. Herbs and spices and heirloom varieties of common breeds.
There were also animals. One wing hosted row upon row of cages for a variety of rodents and rare birds. Leblanc walked them through the aisles and sections, growing reflective as he pointed out prized specimens.
“When my generation was born, these animals didn’t have to live in cages and pits. And the plants, and insects …”
Amin hung back and exchanged a look with Nadine, who nodded. Dad’s World. A world now vanishing from memory.
“Why did you leave, again?” he murmured.
“It had to do with my mother, in part. And Dad forgot one thing.”
She ignored her father.
“People get used to living in deserts,” she said. “They no longer notice a silent spring, a meadow without butterflies, or a snowless winter. Planting a fork in a tender gobbet of hippo flesh means something to those who remember the original animal. But if there is no real recollection …. The Dutch sailors who slaughtered the last dodos didn’t realize what they were doing because decades had already passed since the bird was commonplace. To them, the dodo was just an oddity.”
“But if people are told how it used to …”
Nadine shook her head. “I gave up when I noticed the customers who just came for the food. Those for whom a meal at Lost Flavours was just another expensive experience they’d brag about later.”
“But when they did, they told their friends about the idea of the place,” Leblanc insisted. “That’s worth something.”
Nadine shrugged, unwilling to resume an old argument. Amin’s now-obsessive check of his sleeve cut them short as he raised a hand and expanded the screen.
“Soon now. I expect the main surge in an hour.”
Nadine led the way out, somehow happy that Amin had seen her father’s restaurant and greenhouses at their best.
The old man looked at them. “You didn’t come here just to introduce me to your fiancé, right?”
“A massive flood is coming down the valley,” Amin said. “And it’s likely to rise at least that high.”
They all looked back at the old brick factory behind them. Amin’s finger aimed for the last row of windows, clearly above the roofs of the restaurant and greenhouses. Nadine had spent part of the trip trying to come up with a better solution than retreat.
“You should’ve told me earlier,” her father complained. “We could have …”
“How much could you have saved, realistically? We’ll take what we can in our car and in yours.”
“Maybe it won’t rise that high. If I stay …”
“You’ve dodged bullets before, dad, but this is a bullet train coming down the tracks. That’s what you get for living in a flood zone. The whole neighborhood is within reach of this flash flood, according to Amin.”
“What does he know?”
“He does this for a living. He planted a flood gauge way upriver, so we could follow the water’s rise by remote.”
Leblanc kept his gaze trained on Nadine’s face, looking for a sign of hope. “The dams …”
“They never helped before. What’s left of Fredericton’s riverside neighborhoods is being evacuated.”
“Surely you’re not surprised. You saw it coming even before you opened the restaurant.”
“After your mother’s death, I didn’t think I’d live long enough. For a time, I thought … I was afraid I’d thrown away her life, wasted her love and youth, just to make a point about a threat that would never quite materialize now that emissions are decreasing.”
“Your mother was there. The full effects of the warming were still far off.”
“It’s going to get very real once the flood hits Mactaquac Dam. It’s ten years past its best-before date. Amin thinks it will collapse, and the surge will sweep through downtown Fredericton.”
“Go then, and leave me here!”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Why insist on living?”
Amin moved closer. He usually managed to make people forget his broad-shouldered frame, but he was no longer concerned with remaining an unobtrusive presence. He raised his voice. “If you were expecting to be left to die, you raised your daughter all wrong.”
Leblanc blinked, ignoring Amin to address his daughter.
“But I can’t leave. This is … your mother loved to cook in that kitchen. I can tell you being the chef suited her, it sure did.”
Nadine hugged him. “I know, dad. I know you loved her.”
“It was my life’s work.”
Amin spoke up suddenly, catching Nadine’s hand as he did so. “Not only. I’m marrying your daughter and you should be proud of her.”
“I am. I’ve always been, but …”
“Then tell me what you hoped for,” Amin said. “The meal was delicious, and shameful, and I understand what you intended to do. But tell me now what future you wished for.”
Nadine expected her father to give his usual speech, but he’d come up with a new one.
“Once upon a time, slavery reduced people to an economic resource,” he started, looking at Amin. “We managed to abolish it. When we want to, we’re able to do things that are hard and that are just. Industrialization reduced the environment to a resource to be used up or soiled. To change that, we put a price not just on what we got from the environment, but on what we destroyed to get it. Above all, this place is … was about remembering what we sacrificed by not sacrificing.”
“I see. I wondered about that, since some menu items weren’t lost because of climate change. But you were making a larger point all those years.”
“Think now of what you can still gain, dad,” Nadine said in her father’s ear.
Did he, prompted by Amin, think of more hopeful tomorrows? Of seeing his grandchildren?
“It’s clear you did this because you care for the future,” Amin said, echoing her own thoughts. “You taught your daughter to care too. And she isn’t the only one.”
“Listen to him, dad. I thought he might scream at you because he also cares. But he’s right. You’re not alone.”
“I guess I’ll have to be happy with that.” His eyes crinkled, looking at her. “Very well, daughter of mine, I’ll come with you. Just help me with one last thing.”
And so they walked back to the greenhouses, leaving the doors open. As they returned to the car with freezers filled with precious seeds and genome samples, they unlatched cages and shattered panes of glass. The floodwaters would flow freely and rapidly.
“More invasives,” Amin predicted wryly.
Her father laughed. When the water rose, the St. John River would surge through the greenhouses and carry downstream these survivors of a vanished world. Some of the nimbler animals might swim to shore and scamper away. Some of the seeds and tubers might sprout from the silt and loam deposited by the flood.
The Wolastoq valley would be colonized once again by outsiders. Nadine wondered if an entire valley, transformed into a wreck of yesterday’s world, might win more attention than her father’s drowned restaurant. The world held in his restaurant’s kitchens and greenhouses had perhaps been too big to think about.
She recalled Amin’s earlier appraisal of the vastness locked inside her. Weren’t contained worlds easier to love and mourn? Individuals rather than species? Places rather than an entire biosphere?
His eyes on the river, Amin entered the car. “Shall we go?”
Her father lingered outside, his hand on the car door. At last, he yielded with a sigh. They’d already swept through the restaurant one last time, ushering out the last customers, and setting the waiter-cum-cook’s helper on his way with some of the rarer seeds.
Leblanc joined them inside the car weighed down by his life’s gleanings, and they drove until they were out of harm’s way. From the stopped car, they watched the valley. The water rose fast, furious and foaming.
“It came down as a rainburst, up north, in Madawaska,” she said for her father’s benefit. It already felt like it had happened a lifetime ago.
Drenched by the sudden downpour, Nadine and Amin had waited out the storm inside the car, hoping it wouldn’t wash the road away. Afterwards, Amin, who knew every major watercourse in North America, had realized the runoff would end up in the St. John River.
“We had to think of what could be saved,” she concluded. “But I knew what I didn’t want to lose.”
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