By Elsiewhere. Norm’s home. You sat a few metres away, on a tool box, while he sat on the dirt, at your feet, looking down, telling his story, a jack-knife in hand. While he talked, he carved the callouses around his fingernails, and ran the blade over and over, across his slightly black-stubbled face. Then he took a meandering blackberry vine into his palm, and carved it — bit by bit, in the thinnest slices imagineable, until he’d carved it through. Then he repeated the same with another vine, and another, and you couldn’t help wonder whether his skin didn’t feel the thorns. But he was talking and you didn’t want to interrupt his passage through time.
After the blackberry vines, he dug the knife into the dry dirt, pierced a hole into the ground, then ran the blade round and round, like a twister in sky, only this one spiralled under the ground. Like a story unspoken, kept inside.Small bits escaping the hole, skittering out. And you, there, to catch his tiny offering, to write it, to show one of the human stories living beside the tracks on Gladys.
His name is Norm; he’s 47 years old, his father was 100% Scottish, and his mother from a Northwest Territories band (and yes, forced into Residential School). He grew up in Chilliiwack. Worked, for years as a autobody repairman. Put old, wrecked things, back together again….
Norm seldom makes eye contact with anyone because, he says, “the eyes say so much.”
And they do.
Norm’s do. Four times. Once, at the start; once in the middle of your nearly two hour visit — when you ask him to look up — and twice at the end, when he looks you into the eye, unbidden.
Pages and pages and pages of notes, and sensory impressions; and how to spin those into a story that captures the essence of Norm? It’s a story that needs to steep for a while. Distill itself before offering it up for public consumption.
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