rush was faster that he'd expected so more than an hour had
passed before Tom struggled up to the shore. His waterlogged
legs dragged at first, but soon he was moving quickly to stave
off the night's chill. He was further west than he'd figured,
so it was less of a walk back to Wreck Beach, although that
in itself didn't mean it would be either quick or painless.
feel the plastic-wrapped money pouch where he had his and
Weed's identification, as well as a few hundred dollars, and
he was sure it was visible against his pallid skin. Pulling
his shorts from his legs as they dried in the night breeze,
Tom shivered his way along the quiet streets. He needed to
avoid the police so when he saw a slowly cruising car he ducked
into a side street or an alley. He didn't want to be seen
wearing a pair of wet shorts and barefoot. For the police,
that would indicate drugs or alcohol, and he feared their
late when Tom crossed the parking lot at UBC that led to Wreck
Beach. He'd spent his time nursing his feet and worrying about
Weed. If she'd disappeared, or been snatched by the police
now . . .
was on the beach Tom went towards the only fire that was still
burning. Sleeping bags and bundles showed where most of the
sleepers were, and he was just beginning to think he should
have arranged a place to meet Weed when he saw her. She was
sitting on a drift log and peering into the fire she must
have kept going through the night. He could tell she hadn't
slept, and poignantly she was rocking and holding the pathetic
bundle of clothes Tom had left with her. She was wearing his
suitcoat and glancing towards the steps although she wouldn't
be able to see anything in the gloom. Her small frame was
tense, every muscle steel taut.
Tom hissed so he wouldn't wake anyone. Weed jumped and ran
to him, her tears flooding anew. "That's OK, honey. I told
you I'd come back."
him tight. "It's so late. I was worried someone had killed
you, or the cops . . .
I'm here now and I'm not going to leave." Tom lifted the bundle
from her hand and pulled out a change of clothes. While he
changed Weed chattered about her day, her voice brittle with
recent tears. Lisa was still gone, having left with some guy
the day before, and Jamie had been talking to cops.
leaving tomorrow, don't worry," Tom assured her.
Weed was definitive. "I told everyone already."
a bracelet for you," Tom said.
Is it really for me?"
friend gave it to me for you." Tom unwound the chain from
his bundle of cash and put it around Weed's slender wrist.
it? Does she know me?"
Susannah. She's an old woman who lives on Commercial." Tom
knew that homelessness would scarcely frighten Weed.
she know me?" Weed persisted, lifting her arm in the light
of the fire so the bracelet sparkled.
she does." Tom described how Susannah had a strange awareness
despite her religiosity and propensity to violence.
nice," Weed said, yawning.
the hint, Tom settled Weed in the shelter of a log. The wind
was starting to rise over the Strait with the predawn. "You
need to sleep, honey," he said to her and adjusted what clothing
they had as blankets before he built up the fire.
tired," she said as she collapsed into the nest he made. "I
was going to stay up all night."
Tom said gently. "Now you don't need to. I'm going to sleep
against the log beside her Tom put an arm around her thin
shoulders. She burrowed in closer and brushing back her hair
he kissed her forehead.
back," she said softly.
always come back for you, Weed. You're my daughter and I love
you." The word fluttered in front of the fire. Tom had never
said it before, except when an endearment was wrested from
him at trite moments with a girlfriend. He'd certainly never
meant it before.
you too, Dad," Weed said dreamily, and as she drifted into
sleep Tom looked at her in amazement in the flickering light.
Her hair fell back over her face and she pushed her nose into
you," he whispered, feeling the magic on his tongue. He was
consumed with worry about her, but his feelings were more
than that. Although he'd initially been attracted by her need,
he'd come to realize that she touched something deep in him
that he'd never felt. What if I never came back? What if
I just left her here like her mother did? Her stubborn
refusal of reality was easy to imagine, as she sat on the
log by the fire and replayed his return. She would have waited
a few days, until she'd thrust the feelings from her with
a fragile gaiety and pretend not to care. She'd hold the bundle
at night like kids in homes do their stuffed toys, but it
would represent just another in a long line of betrayals.
How many to break a person? Tom wondered to himself.
his mind back to the present, he stretched his sore legs.
He'd walked too many kilometres lately and his muscles were
still knotted with the swim and his fight with the current.
If I'd lost the fight, if my plan of suicide had actually
been accomplished, however accidentally, then Weed would be
alone tonight. "She's not," Tom said aloud and then looked
at her to make sure he hadn't woken her. Setting aside his
fantasies of failure, he decided to concentrate on their future.
do I raise her? What can I do to make her happy? Tom asked
himself, but along the shore he only heard the shifting murmur
of the pebbles in the waves.
awake before Tom the next morning, and she'd organized Jamie,
who'd arrived early to sell beer, to help her with washing
and changing for her new role.
Jamie asked and helped him to his feet. "Your little girl
is all excited to leave."
to where Weed sat, freshly scrubbed and packed. "Good morning,
honey." For the first time in his life the phrase had meaning.
Dad." She threw herself into his arms. The word was awkward
in Weed's mouth but Tom could see she was determined to grow
into it. "We're ready," she said expectantly.
to go?" Tom started to kneel to pack.
for a haircut." Weed smiled and beckoned him towards Christine.
"She cuts hair."
really that good." Christine was sheepish.
the best we have, and he needs a good cut. What do you think,
Tom?" Jamie prepped a stump and the scissors.
use a haircut." Tom hadn't thought about camouflage, for he
needed more than clothes to make up for the body he'd left
in the surf. "I'm sure you'll do a good job."
itself reminded Tom of going to the beauty school when he
was a student. He couldn't afford a barber, so he'd let students
experiment on him. Like them, Christine was slow and careful,
and beside her, like a young apprentice, Weed handed her scissors,
and when they'd progressed to shaving, a razor.
were done, Tom rubbed his hand over his new disguise. He stretched
and reached for his bag to bundle the clothes he'd used as
a sleeping mat and blankets. "Thanks, guys," Tom said, and
Christine blushed and looked down as if to gather up the hair.
her collect her scissors. "I should pay you."
Christine said. "Maybe I should do this again. I went to the
hair school but dropped out. I wasn't good enough."
you are," Tom said.
for a leave-taking?" Jamie came up smiling and when Tom glanced
back he saw at least thirty of the beach community, as well
as some of the usual tourists were gathered to see them off.
is for you." Henry shuffled up with his hat and for the first
time Tom saw how bald he was.
Tom glanced into the hat and then lifted his hands as though
to push it away. "You guys can't afford-I mean I have lots
really for Weed," Jamie explained. "She's been here for a
while, Tom." Tom started at the use of his name until he saw
the explanatory smile on Weed's face. "Weed needs a good home,
and the beach isn't it. She told us you're taking her away."
Jamie hesitated until Tom nodded. "Then you'll need some cash."
worry, there's more where that came from," Henry added. "There's
a lot more cash than there are little girls." He patted Weed
awkwardly on the shoulder.
Tom said, and he took the hat and lifted the crumpled bills
from it. "You guys are something."
trust account-which is how Tom thought of it-was in his pocket,
he hugged Jamie while she whispered in his ear, "Take her
away from here. As far away as you can get."
some hands, watching as Weed went to each member of the idiosyncratic
community, hugs here and kisses there, until they were crossing
the beach towards the steps for the last time.
come back someday though, right?" Weed gestured to the people
waving and looked around as if she were trying to fix the
beach in her memory.
His mind was on the gauntlet that was the Vancouver streets.
"We should go to Crab Park. I left some money there."
a long way?"
matter, honey. We're going to take the bus."
confirmed, Weed clung to his hand and counted as they climbed,
each step raising them out of a pit where, Tom realized, they'd
been for a while. He felt her small hand in his, her sweaty
grip jerking in the movement of his stride alongside hers.
"Weed, I think you're amazing," Tom couldn't resist saying.
you're amazing too." Weed swung his arm more vigorously. "Are
there actually crabs in Crab Park? I don't like crabs."
just a name. Why don't you like them?"
are mean to them. They move as fast as they can but some of
the kids catch them and hurt them. It's better to be one on
the bottom of the ocean." Weed gestured behind them. "No one
can catch them there."
true." At the tightening of her grip Tom followed her gaze.
A police car was slowly cruising the parking lot.
OK, honey. We're legal now. When you're a good citizen they
don't mess with you."
and I'm trying to be," Tom answered. "Remember your name:
Weed held his hand as they waited by the bus loop for a crosstown
that would take them to the east side.
were on the bus, Tom began to think about a place to stay
the night. For some reason he'd been fine with sleeping in
the park a few times, and even when he was with Weed they'd
stayed on the beach, but now they needed to think of her health.
After a particularly cold night in Trout Park, he'd had a
cough, he remembered. If Weed got sick . . .
are you thinking about?" Weed was beside him holding their
meagre luggage. She'd insisted on being grown up and Tom had
given her change so she could pay her own fare and then she'd
wanted to hold their bag.
get you a pack," Tom said. "You can carry your stuff then."
a pack before," Weed started to say. After a pause she added,
"I'd like a pack."
woman with a boy smiled at Tom and he felt the warmth that
Weed had brought to his life.
off at the Broadway station and Tom felt like an imposter
amongst the people he'd played bum to just a few days earlier.
Now, with a haircut and a shave, he looked like a dad picking
up his kid from school. Except, Tom grimaced, for
the plastic bag of clothes.
a delight to watch. She walked with him and then skipped ahead
to read bulletin boards, and when they passed the one Tom
had used to pretend to look at apartments, it suddenly occurred
to him that she'd had no breakfast. And likely, since he'd
been gone the night before, no dinner either. "Have you eaten
some pizza from Jamie last night."
honey. I was thinking of stuff we had to do and forgot."
me whenever you're hungry," Tom demanded.
Weed laughed and pulled on his arm.
around for a restaurant and finally settled on the Deux Soleil,
another vegetarian place on the Drive. "It's expensive though."
Weed looked longingly at the sliding windows that opened the
tables to the air.
money, and let's make an agreement."
not be cheap about food."
Weed shook his hand as if she'd seen the gesture in movies
from the fifties.
were settled at a table and the dread-locked staff had shuffled
around them with their menus and lemon-flavoured water, Tom
said Weed should order.
she said disbelievingly.
as it's healthy. And find something for me too." Tom settled
into the chair and watched her bright eyes scamper over the
menu, front to back and then front again.
waiter came back she was ready. "A veggie burger for Dad."
She pointed so the waiter wouldn't mistake who she meant.
"And spinach lasagna for me."
is healthy. Popeye healthy. And you need a burger if you're
going to take care of me."
and the waiter grinned. "Do you want a dessert, honey?"
of cake?" Weed asked tentatively. At his nod she said, "We
stiffly at first, Tom noted, perhaps trying on a kind of formality
she thought the occasion demanded. She looked around the café,
watching the people come in and pay and leave. She made note
of the paintings on the wall and where the bathroom was. She
acted as though she had to memorize everything, and Tom thought
about how rare a restaurant visit must have been in her life.
He knew so little about her, he thought. What was life
with her mother like? Were they so poor they'd never eaten
are you thinking?" Weed asked, her brown eyes firmly on his,
her brow furrowed.
just wondering about your life before I adopted you." Tom
decided to tell the truth. "I was thinking about your mother."
gone, isn't she?"
know. I'm sorry, Weed."
not your fault."
That's not why I'm sorry."
Weed was deflecting the conversation and Tom didn't mind.
bad for you. I want you to have a great life and sometimes
I think you got off to a rocky start."
couldn't help it," Weed said matter-of-factly. "She wanted
to be better."
about you? Did you get off to a rocky start?"
know. My life was different than yours."
remember much about being your age. My earliest memories seem
fuzzy to me, as if they didn't happen or happened to someone
turned the conversation but Tom didn't mind pulling his past
out for examination if she wanted to wait to air her own.
"I invented my grandfather. I didn't remember mine so when
people at school, people around me, were talking about their
grandparents, I used my friend's."
their grandfather was yours?" The concept didn't seem unfamiliar
to her and Tom wondered about that until he remembered they
were father and daughter in paperwork only and traveling under
kind of sad now that I say it."
you were sad."
honey. But I'm happy now and . . ." The food arrived and Tom's
words were cut off by saliva as they both realized they were
famished. Following Weed's dictates, they each split their
food in half and then shared, explaining while they ate what
was good about this dish or that.
burger is messy," she told him, and he said her lasagna was
too filling. Tom ate slowly to ensure that Weed had enough,
finally understanding the mothers who starve so their children
might eat. Once she was done he continued slowly, picking
through the last of his burger, complete with its garnish
and sprig of parsley, until the cake arrived.
large enough that the waiter had kindly provided two plates
and a knife. Weed was fastidious about fairness, Tom noted,
and she made sure he took his full share. Once the cake was
done and they were pleasantly full, Tom sent Weed to the bathroom
while he paid the bill.
standing by the till when she came out, and her eyes first
went to the table they'd shared and he saw the loss come over
her face. He almost cried out, but then she found him, and
with relief flooding her face, she stumbled through the casually
arranged chairs and tables.
were on the street, Tom told her again that he was never going
to leave her.
But stuff happens."
us. You're too important to me. You're part of me now. I could
just as easily leave my arm."
arm?" Weed was suddenly gleeful.
them," Tom answered, thinking about how deep abandonment runs
in a child. She might always see the chair empty first. "Let's
get a pack for you," Tom changed the subject. "And some more
ones are OK." Weed put her hand in her pocket to show the
fit of the trousers he'd bought her.
you need a dress."
something very middleclass about a dress. The cops might even
leave us alone."
She accepted Tom's understanding of the adult world.
Salvation Army thrift store at the foot of Commercial and
Hastings, Tom at first thought they recognized him as the
one who'd bought Weed's clothes just a few days earlier. They
said nothing, however, and instead made a great to-do about
fitting Weed for a dress.
they'd wandered through the girls clothes, and Weed had no
more idea than Tom what to get, but soon a young woman with
a pierced eyebrow came to help.
you a pretty girl," she said, and Tom saw Weed blush and look
out the window.
looking for a dress," he began abruptly.
occasion?" The assistant was still looking at Weed.
like a party," Weed said with a grin, and Tom couldn't help
case, let's see what we have." She led them over one more
aisle and Tom leaned on the racks while Weed was catered to.
It was a pleasant sight, Weed picking through and rejecting
dress after dress, making a game of it, until a flower print
paisley caught her eye.
do you think of this one, Dad?"
what was behind the question. "It would look great on you."
to the change rooms and Tom looked at the children's shoes.
Weed could use new shoes too.
says she wants you to come see," the clerk beckoned. Tom started
at the name at first, and then realised that Weed knew something
about how her real name would be received.
standing in front of the change rooms looking in a mirror
and then looking at Tom as he approached. She was beaming,
but cautious enough not to let it show. The dress itself was
cute on her, and since it was dark greens and black, it wouldn't
show the dirt too much if they were caught living rough. Tom
was reminded of a picture he'd seen of a child living on the
streets of early 1900's London, a girl whose boots were so
tattered that she'd taken them off for the photo. Standing
in her bare feet, posing for the camera that was his regard,
somehow Weed captured the same poignant fragility and Sam
was overcome with an urge to keep her safe, to give her everything
she'd been denied.
do you think?"
you're beautiful," Tom said. "You're the most beautiful daughter
a man could have. We should get you some shoes though."
do that." The clerk held her hand out to Weed and they went
to yet another aisle. Tom wished he could do more for Weed
than treat her to a meal and some used clothes, but he swore
to himself that he'd give her everything she needed as he
followed them to the children's section.
new shoes were a plain brown and had good support, for Tom
was thinking about all the walking they might have to do.
He also picked out a light jacket for her. Taking the clerk
aside for a moment, asked her where he could buy socks and
not from the city and don't get in that much," Tom explained.
a Bi-way right down the street." She pointed to the Second
Narrows Bridge. "Stuff's pretty cheap there." She seemed to
understand their situation.
Tom paid, Weed played with her compass and the gold bracelet
Susannah had given her, moving them in and out of view and
checking the result in the mirror near the cashier. "Nice
little girl you have there," the old woman behind the counter
said. Tom glanced up to see if she were teasing, she had spoken
so flatly, but then he realized as she shifted herself on
the box she used as a temporary seat, that she was stating
what to her was an irrefutable fact.
Tom agreed, and lifting the packs they'd bought to house their
new goods he took Weed's hand and they left the store.
going to the Bi-way?" Weed asked.
get you some stuff," Tom agreed.
and stuff too."
is like we're shopping. Like we're getting ready for a trip."
we? Jamie said we should go."
are we going to go?" Weed's pack bobbed on her back and one
hand was clasping his and the other holding her compass.
know, honey. But we're going somewhere special." Tom hoped
he could make his promise come true. In fact, he had no idea
what they should do. He'd traveled so little, other than resorts
and that scarcely counted, that he didn't know what the rest
of Canada looked like. "Lake Okanagan is supposed to be nice."
We could get there in a day, and then you could go swimming."
swim though. Does that mean I can't go?"
never occurred to Tom that Weed wouldn't be able to swim,
especially after he'd seen her play near the water, but as
he returned to his memories he realized he'd never seen her
in the water. "I'll teach you. It'll be fun."
how? Who taught you?"
I know how. That's how I found you," Tom said. "I swam to
you last night. I'll tell you about it sometime," Tom said
to the question she was already framing.
Bi-way they found another pleasant clerk who was more cheerful
with Tom than he would have thought the job demanded, and
he explained how they'd been traveling and the airline had
lost their luggage. Once that was out of the way, and they
were confirmed as good stable people, the clerk helped them.
She picked out socks and underwear for Weed with an experience
that made Tom ask finally, "You have kids?"
she grinned. "One ten and the other eight, like Sylvia here.
You could tell?"
just the way you are around her, and that you know what to
shampoo, some soap, and I don't know, whatever else."
your mother?" The clerk addressed Weed directly.
a moment, the consummate actor plunged directly into her role.
the woman said helplessly, looking at Tom apologetically.
OK," Tom said to placate her. "We're coping."
purchases weighing a little more on them in their new packs,
Tom glanced at the time. "You know, honey. We could go see
to date her."
tell you that?" At her nod, Tom continued, "She could get
a chance to meet you and we'd have a good bed for the night
and . . . figure out what we're going to do," Tom finished
long as it's alright. Does she know about me?"
But we'll tell her about the adoption." Weed's grin was blinding
and Tom stopped in the street to hug her.
to meet her," Weed said finally, her eyes brimming.
to pick up some money from the bank." Tom already anticipated
Weed's giggle as he led her to Crab Park.
in the shade on a bench until the path cleared, and Weed kept
her curiosity at bay until Tom jumped to lift the brick where
he kept the rest of his money. "That's your bank?" Weed whispered.
on the bank of the water," Tom explained and she laughed.
"OK, now that we're done with that," Tom threw William's identification
into the trash as they walked down Hastings, "let's go to
just about to walk to the bridge when he recalled that they
could at least take the bus. They waited outside the Husky
station, keeping a weather eye open for cops but a lot of
that worry was gone. When their bus came, Tom checked the
time and realized they would get to Enice's about an hour
after she came home from work.
bus dropped them at the end of her street, Tom started up
the hill heavy with misgivings. What if Enice found the
whole situation too strange? What if she didn't like Weed?
be fine." Weed squeezed his hand, and Tom realized he was
he said, unconvinced, but confirming his statement by their
approach he let Weed go up to the door and ring the bell.
Enice questioned, and then knelt to say hello to Weed. "What's
your name, princess?"
Weed answered simply.
come on in." Enice stood and backed into the door, trying
to read Tom's expression. "It looks like someone has a story
halfway through the explanation about how Weed came into his
life, leaving out details such as his faked death and their
plan to run, when Enice interrupted, "Oh, I almost forgot.
Some guy called for you." Tom tensed and Weed put her hand
in his. "Some guy wanting T-shirts, or something to do with
Tom breathed again.
that's the name. Said he'd call back but he left a number."
what he wants," Tom said almost to himself.
like a job," Enice said hopefully.
Tom beckoned to the phone. At her gesture he called Ray. He'd
never had a phone number for him before.
voice that answered seemed to be in a restaurant, at least
from the background noise, and when Ray came on he could barely
hear him. Finally Ray said something in Chinese to whoever
was near him and they quieted instantly.
it's . . ." Tom wasn't sure what name to use.
been trying to get a hold of you," Ray said, having in his
intuitive way recognized Tom's voice. "I heard about your
death and all." Tom could hear Ray's grin even through the
plastic of the receiver. "Thought you could use a job."
to ask how Ray had heard, but he guessed it was on the news.
Enice avoided local news, too depressing she said, so she
wouldn't have known she had a ghost in her living room. Rather
than start that conversation, Tom asked about the job.
you what," Ray said. "I'll head over if that's OK with Enice
and let you know what we need."
Tom agreed after cupping the receiver and asking Enice.
he'd hung up did Tom realize that he'd not given Ray the address.
Ray must have gotten it from Enice when he'd called earlier.
was fast." Enice was stiff. At his glance, she said, "In the
bathroom. What the hell are you doing? Since when do you just
get a kid off the street?" Enice was whispering but her voice
alone, Nice. What was I supposed to do? Let her die there?
You know what it's like out there."
just go picking up a kid like they're a stray. Her mother
left her sure, but what about social services?" Even as she
spoke she saw Tom's expression and snorted. "Well, you'll
have to do a better job than them."
like her?" Tom deflected.
a sweetheart. And she loves you to bits. It's cute seeing
you two together. But it's still a bit-" Enice changed the
subject as soon as Weed came out of the bathroom. "We should
get this girl of yours a bath. When's this Ray person coming?"
soon. That's OK?"
Enice didn't sound convinced. "You need a job now that you
have a family."
the bitterness in her voice, but he told himself to ignore
it. Enice hadn't really wanted children and when he'd told
her he didn't, that was before. Now his life was organized
around Weed's happiness and he had no way to contact that
went to run a bath and Tom helped Weed dig the shampoo and
other toiletries out of her pack. "I like carrying my own
stuff," Weed declared, and Tom willingly agreed.
nice," Weed whispered. "E-nice."
let her hear you say that. I used to make that joke and she
didn't like it."
a joke. So nothing to be sorry for."
getting a job?"
sure what Ray is up to." Tom looked toward the window.
still leaving though, right?"
so." He tried to sound definitive.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]