The Republic of Nothing

The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce

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Authors: Lesley Choyce
Tags: FIC019000
wind a bandage tightly. He staggered back to his feet and up to my mother. He kissed her cheek, found it clammy and screamed. “Bernie, I think she’s dying!”
    Bernie handed me the baby, wrapped only in a single, bloody piece of ripped sheet. She was coated with blood and mucous and, despite that, I held the tiny, bluish face close to my cheek and began to sing, “Old McDonald had a Farm.”
    When the next rolling wave, more powerful than the last, slammed into our house, I saw my grandfather trying to stop the bleeding of my father while Bernie was pushing air into my mother’s lungs with her own mouth. My father, at that minute, looked out the window and, -with a vision of pure terror in his eyes, pleaded with some unnamed, unseen force to allow his wife to live.
    The eye of a hurricane is an incongruous event in the middle of such turmoil. Even as the next wave, weaker now than the last, made a dull thud into the walls of our house, the sun broke through and sent down a single shaft of light into our yard which was now part of the Atlantic Ocean. The light spilled almost gently into the water of the front yard and little Casey ceased her crying and fell asleep in my arms, perfectly contented, it would seem, to have been born amidst this holocaust.
    My mother coughed and vomited and began to breathe, and my father sat down beside her and put his arm around her. Bernie pulled out needle and thread and began to stitch my mother back together. I had to turn away. I could not watch but I held tightly onto the little bundle of flesh and life that was my sister.
    And when the hurricane returned and we were all, in varying degrees, alive, I gave my little sister to my father to hold and he could not stop himself from smiling. He began to tell her that she had been more than a little trouble, but that it’s probably a good sign of a busy, challenging life to come. Bernie and Jack made some tea, poured some more rum, and kept vigil as I curled up under my bed, even though the floorboards leaked water, because that’s where Mike was still sleeping through it all, like it was no big deal. I rested my head on Mike’s mangy back and listened to his sad, soft snore and fell asleep through the next blast of wind and wave, wondering if this was the normal way of the world, wondering perhaps if it would be like this every day from here on, if the easy times were behind me.

    I think the hurricane did more than just clear the island of old sheds, scour the rocks clean, drown the St. Johns and bring my sister into the world. In retrospect I might say that something big was changing somewhere or everywhere and Whalebone, independent as it was, would not be left out. Politics were changing, people were changing. Many were on the move. Some of their own volition, some as refugees.
    And refugees had found their way to our island before: my drifting mother, Mr. Kirk’s father, Mrs. Bernie Todd and her husband, both wanting to escape this century. Then Casey herself, coming out of the womb the wrong way and strangling, near death, as if some tug of war was taking place and forces on the other side of life did not want her to arrive. Shewas a quiet, worried-looking baby. Her skin did not settle on a human colour for several days and there was damage to her tiny neck where the umbilical cord, the very conduit of earthly sustenance, had tried to destroy her.
    The morning after the storm Hants Buckler arrived on our doorstep to tell us of the wonders that were washing ashore. He said that he’d found wooden boxes of theatrical clothing that appeared floating outside his doorstep — fancy waistcoats and wigs and pointed shoes. Later, Jack would adopt these duds and come closer to realizing his dream of living in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. He now had the garb from each and had a hard time deciding which century he preferred.
    Hants had also found live fish left flapping on the boards of his

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