Community & Current Events

Excerpt: The Law of Dreams

By: Peter Behrens

Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Excerpt: The Law of Dreams

By: Peter Behrens
He would slip from the cabin before the rest of them were awake and come down the mountain, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. With his dog, he'd course the slick, foggy slope, then down along the river and across Carmichael's meadows. Feet brushing cold wet silver grass. Slipping the straw rope off the fanatic dog, freeing her to nose under hedges, at dry burrows, her tail swinging.

Approaching the farm, they'd pass Carmichael's rich black mountain of manure and the stone haggard, crowded with hay.

The Carmichael farmyard was flanked by stone walls six feet high, built to withstand – built for war. The only entrance an iron gate.

The yard was paved with blue stone. He had always distrusted the alien firmness of the stone on his heels. And the gaunt, whitewashed farmhouse eyeing him so bitterly: the whitewashed face of disregard.

He had always felt deficient here. He had tried convincing himself he did not but why else the constant self-argument, the tingle of thoughts inside his head rising up like doves off a perch, fluttering and billing, all confusion?

He would come hoping to catch a glimpse of Phoebe Carmichael in the steel light of morning, milk pail in her hand.

His old playmate. He had known her all his life, as he knew everyone.

Seeing him waiting at the gate, she'd offer him a drink.

– You wouldn't get it any fresher.

– No, miss.

He loved Phoebe's narrow pink feet on the blue stones. Her bare forearms, and the clean fabric of her gown and apron.

She was the only female of the Carmichaels. Her mother a consumptive, dead at 29 and buried in the yard of the Presbytarian church at Mountshannon.

Setting the pail down on the cobbles, Phoebe took a blue china cup from a pocket of her apron and handed it to him.

Dipping the cup then raising it to his lips, he's pause before tasting the milk.

– Try some yourself, miss?

– No I will not, Fergus. But you go ahead.

The milk scent sweet and cloudy. He'd drink in two swallows, warm and thick with fat, coating his teeth.

– Thank you, miss.

– You're welcome.

And every night he'd lie awake, in the cabin on the mountain, listening to his parents breathe. Phoebe became an ember in his mind, burning down through his thoughts, glowing. Could she feel what he felt? Did she lie awake in her father's house, thrilled with trouble, wishing for a tug on the warm red line connecting them?

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Excerpted from The Law of Dreams, copyright 2007 by Peter Behrens. Excerpted with permission from House of Anansi Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Community & Current Events

Excerpt: The Law of Dreams