Monday, May 18, 2009

Life imitates art . . . or one of my stories, at least

Just had one of those quintessential Yellowknife experiences.

In early April, Pierre and I were vacationing in Calgary and Pierre bought a new vehicle. His plan was to fly back to Yellowknife as planned, get insurance and plates, fly back to Calgary and drive the vehicle home. He had to work out of town for a couple of days before heading back south, but no problemo, we’d had a long cold winter. And then we got several days of surprisingly warm weather.


Here’s the thing. Yellowknife is not on an all-weather road. The highway that connects us to the outside world crosses the Mackenzie River close to the town of Fort Providence. There is no bridge (although one is being built). In the spring/summer, a ferry takes vehicles across; in the winter there is an ice bridge. During the spring melt and the fall freeze, when there is neither an ice road nor an operating ferry, there’s no way to get across.

“Leaving Yellowknife,” the last story in my soon-to-be-published collection of short stories The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Tales of Northern Life, deals with this very phenomenon. My protagonist, the not-so-angelic Angela, has been offered a prime job in southern Canada. She races south in her beloved car before the ice bridge closes and she is stranded in the NWT for another month before the ferry starts running.

I’m not going to tell you what happens to Angela, but Pierre didn’t make it. It became clear he could not get to Calgary and then make it back up to the NWT in time to get across the quickly disintegrating ice road. So he re-booked his ticket. I think he gave himself about three weeks, which should have been enough time. But then the weather turned cold, and the dates for the ferry kept getting pushed back.

I was predicting that he’d end up in Alberta for days longer than he wanted to, but it all worked out. The ferry started running a couple of days before he got to the crossing, and he’s home safe and sound with a carload of bedding plants. (Yahoo!) Now I just have to keep them alive until it’s warm enough to plant them.

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