Mount Baldie v.2

I don’t know how much this has changed, but here is the second draft of Mount Baldie, now with green imagery!

Mount Baldie

She must be around four – yes, that feels right. With the feeling comes a knowing. In the dream, she has already learned to swim with the Bubble, that oval bladder covered in woven plastic, which, when worn on her back, holds Molly up in the lake. They still make her wear it even though she has three swimming badges from the Y. She knows that she is four because of the swimming, but also because the only French that she knows is Je m’appelle, oui, and non – she has not yet started Pre-K.

Her brother Sam is there, along with the twins, her cousins. She cannot see his face, but she knows her father is there. Her aunt leads the way through the forest with a sword – her dad has one on his back in a leather envelope, a sheath, she thinks. It is the first time that Molly hears the word machete.

Molly has no sense of the passage of time in the forest. She sees only leaves, no branches, only shoes, no faces. They hike single-file, with Molly right behind her aunt, forcing the others to go at her pace. This keeps Molly from getting tired – and tiring. Part of the reason she has been allowed to go is practical – they cannot leave her alone, but the other part is because she has been (pretty) quiet and not at all whiny that morning, her face pleading to be allowed to go. This way, everyone can come along, and no one has to babysit Molly the Pest.

Soon, her aunt points out a pile of perfectly round little pellets that seem to appear as she calls attention to them. Inches away is another pile of smaller stuff. Molly sees her first pile of deer poo and rabbit turds side by side. Molly feels hemmed in by green, but the path opens up to her aunt, and where she decides to go, it always looks like a proper trail. She does not feel tired – Molly feels, in fact, as if she is floating above the trail, her pink shoes skimming the wet forest floor.

They pass through a clearing – which Molly guesses is called that because it doesn’t have many trees in it. It certainly isn’t clear. It is filled with ferns, which break and tear where they tread on them, the leaves getting stuck in the Velcro of her pink shoes – Molly’s mind remembers forward to when the right one will stink of swamp water, when Molly misses a rock getting out of the canoe.

When they reach the Lookout, which her dad calls Mount Baldie, the twins drop a bottle of RC Cola down the side – Molly’s aunt yells at them for it. She hears it hit the rock below with a flat smack, and then comes the quickening hiss of the soft drink and gas escaping the bottle. In real life, she knows that she is nowhere near the edge at this point, but she sees it anyway. The bottle lands straight up. The cap bursts off and dirty brown cola splashes up impossibly high, hitting the top of the ledge that her cousins are standing on. In reality, she knows it is more of a fizzle – it is a fifteen foot drop. The drop below that was easily a hundred feet though, and Molly still wonders what that would have looked like.

The rock seems to stand out against the trees like a splash of white paint in a patch of grass. There is some moss, but the stone is otherwise bare. To Molly, the Lookout looks like huge hewn steps. Her dad warns her away from the edge, and she is not allowed to look over because it is dangerous. The twins have climbed down onto the next level to retrieve the soda bottle. Molly doesn’t remember coming back down from the woods.


Molly loved the country, and she often thought about how she used to go to her aunt’s cottage with her whole family in the summer. Out of her immediate family, only she and Sam, her older brother, made the trip up these days. Her mom and dad didn’t get along well with her aunt, and they had finally decided it wasn’t worth swallowing their words anymore just for a week of mosquitoes, blackflies and boiled lake water. Her father said that he always ended up doing more work on the house at the country than vacationing. But Molly and Sam couldn’t resist what the country had to offer, and they went up every chance they got, which was less and less as the siblings got older.

Their family called it the country because it was in fact a “country place” in the Canadian understanding of the term. Sam used to call it “Canada”, as if back home had nothing to do with the lakes and unpaved roads “up north”, which was another thing they called it. As if you had to cross some imagined border to get there. As if the real Canada was only found out there. On paper, it was called “Wentworth-Nord.”

The people that lived there called it Newaygo Junction – and mostly just Newaygo. It was past St. Sauveur and Moren Heights, near Montford (pronounced Momford by their aunt). It was where the Petit Train du Nord (which is not a train at all any more but rather a trail) ended, that ending still surrounded on either side from time to time by the Canadian Shield, so hard that it had to be blasted – jackhammers were virtually useless. It was a place where trestles and wharfs were not yet extinct, and places called the Lookout still existed, if anybody went looking.

This was where Sam and Molly found themselves one Thursday afternoon in August, sitting back to back in old easy chairs that had faced the dump in the city, and been rescued and brought up by boat to their aunt’s cottage. They had been swimming all morning, and it had been time for a break. Sam was reading one of their uncle’s books – something by Dean Koontz, and Molly was reading one that Sam had just finished. Their cousins were watching television on the couch.

Sam put down his book. “Want to go for a hike?”

Molly glanced at the clock on the wall. It was around two o’clock. “If you want to.”

“Yeah, only, I don’t want to go to the creek or the road, or to the big rock.”

Sam had just eliminated all the half-hour hikes that they usually did.

“You want to walk back to the trestle?” said Molly, grabbing a peach out of the bowl on the little round dining table.

The trestle was actually a bridge under which the boats passed on their way to a gravel lot at one end of the lake. Those that didn’t have road access to their cabins kept their cars there. Their uncle’s van would be parked there.

Molly bit into the peach, which was getting mushy and didn’t taste like much. It had a grainy, juiceless texture.

“Let’s go find the Lookout,” Sam said.

“Sure.” Molly remembered the last time – they had found the Lookout, that was true, but they overshot the trail on the way back and the only thing that had stopped them getting lost was that they ran into the creek, which, from the house, was half an hour in the opposite direction from the Lookout. They had been gone for three hours. This was no surprise – Molly’s directions to the Lookout had come from her recollections of the hike she had made to it when she was four years old.

That was also when Molly realized that she had something in common with her father: she was just a bit scared of heights. There was a crack in one of the ledges of the Lookout. It was wide enough to fit a skinny person and was about eight or nine feet deep. Molly had hesitated, been too scared to just step over it – so Sam had held out his hands to her, palms up, and she had taken both of them, just like a little old lady, and then she had been able to step over. That had been when she was twelve, and Sam sixteen. She was fourteen now, and braver.

Looking down at the lake two years ago, Molly had thought of those models that she had seen in the hobby shop at the mall, with their fake water that, according to the bottle, glistened realistically and never looked dry, even after years of display. She had always thought that their colours were off until now, the texture of the hills too unsubtle. From up at the Lookout, the lake was just a model, and for the first time she did not feel surrounded by it. Even in the woods just twenty feet deeper she always imagined the lake as bounding her on every side, with the sound of motorboats and voices. The lake hadn’t seemed any deeper than those hobby shop displays either. It was a disquieting view, and she hadn’t been able to get a handle on her size relative to it, back then.

Molly wondered if two years would have changed the view a lot. This time, they brought strips of plastic bag to tie around the trees so that they would be able to come back the same way and eventually mark the trail with ribbons like the cross-country skiing paths. It was Sam’s idea, and he chose the red Zellers bags from out of the cupboard for visibility. Molly carried the strips shoved in her miniature knapsack, along with a bottle of water. They hadn’t had any granola bars, and she didn’t want another peach.

They left, passing the outhouse to the path behind it, which was the steepest part of the hike. The rest was gradually up hill and to the left facing into the woods, or to the right if you were facing the lake. The black flies and mosquitoes found them immediately, but they were used to that. They didn’t mark any trees up until they got to the big rock, because there the forest was nearly bare and the paths were well-worn from where their aunt, along with whoever was up and willing to help, dragged down fallen trees for firewood. It was something that they did early in the morning, before the sun penetrated the leaves and heated everything up. At the big rock, they turned towards the Lookout. The plastic strips tore easily when Sam was tying it to the trees, but mostly it tied fine. Molly worried that they wouldn’t have enough strips at the rate that they were going. But Sam used to be a boy scout – it ought to be all right.

Sam started talking about his new girlfriend, Nina, and how he wished that she had been able to make it up to the country that year – she was a good swimmer and would love the lake.

“Seriously, she taught me the butterfly and everything – I bet she could swim across the lake like the twins if I followed her in the boat.”

“You need another person. With two people, you have one to row and watch out for other boats and one to watch Nina. It helps to be two in case you need to pull the swimmer into the boat. I could help with that. I know how to use a defibrillator – I mean, an AED, you know – not like an actual –”

“Yeah, I get it. But Auntie does it all the time for the twins. She would be better at it. But you could come along.”

“Well, anyway. Nina isn’t even actually here so it doesn’t matter – and if she does come, you know Auntie won’t let you share a room, and I’m not sharing a bed with her.”

“Why don’t you like Nina?”

“She’s all right,” said Molly. “I just don’t think Auntie will go for it, is all.”

Sam shrugged and kept hiking, holding back branches so they wouldn’t hit Molly when he passed through them. “We must nearly be there – I can almost see the sky through the trees.”

Molly started to apologize about Nina, to tell Sam about how she just didn’t want to be a third wheel if Nina came up, but Sam had run ahead – one day he might run into something dangerous – and he couldn’t hear her. She could hear him snapping branches where he passed.

“Find anything?” called out Molly. She couldn’t tell what direction Sam’s voice came back at her from.

“No, but this way is definitely downhill – I don’t know – maybe we should head back up.”

“It’s not at the very top of the mountain, Sam,” said Molly, glad to finally be able to contribute. “It has to be on the edge.”

“Well, which way would you go?”

Molly fussed with the strips of plastic, finally noticing that, on the strips that came from the bottom of the Zellers bags, it said “BIODEGRADABLE WITHIN 12-15 MONTHS.” Molly didn’t mention anything to Sam. She pointed right, to where the trees seemed to thin out a little more, and she could see sky. “I think this is the right way.”

As they hiked on, Sam leading, they came to a clearing full of ferns. Molly spotted a hunting perch in one of the trees – she wasn’t sure what they were called, but it was a bright red seat – and she remembered it from two years ago. She nudged Sam, and they tried to work out which direction to go from there. A couple of times, they ran into fallen trees hidden among the ferns, and Molly barked her ankles no fewer than four times. She set her teeth and didn’t cry out.

They went on that way for a few minutes, aligning themselves like the bearings on a compass. They were close – another five minutes and they stepped onto the side – or edge – of the mountain proper. They had arrived at the Lookout, the God’s-eye view.

Even in miniature, there was a clarity that was enhanced by the distance about the lake and the valley below her. A strange pocket of air rose up and caught between her lungs and her mouth. She felt small and insignificant – but in a way it was only because the lake now looked so small and insignificant, and relative to that, she was even smaller. There was another feeling tied in to that  – she felt triumph. Maybe it was being able to see the lake all at once like this, contained within this one view, or something like that. She felt some form of ownership regarding the lake, and imagined that this was a sensation that a queen or a king might know when they surveyed their demesne. Everything that surrounded Molly was so much bigger than her, but she could perceive it all.

Molly smiled at Sam, knowing that he was feeling the same thing. Of course, he smiled back. They were the same – they shared this sensibility uniquely between the two of them.She wondered how she could have ever worried about Sam not finding time to hang out with her. She was holding on to the majestic feelings that filled her up there on the Lookout. That shared feeling of theirs.

“We’ll have to show Nina this,” said Sam. “When she comes.”

Molly was silent for a long moment. She kicked a tuft of moss over the edge. A single thought ran through Molly’s mind and came out of her mouth before she could secure it. “You know, this would be a good place to have an accident.”

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