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A funny, urban love story, Homing is the story of Leah, a woman who’s grown afraid of the outdoors; a ghost that’s lost its way; a musician who’s trying to find his; and Sandy and Harold, a pair of homing pigeons who help get them all back home.



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Published 15 October 2009
Reads 1
EAN13 9780978218584
Language English
Document size 2 MB

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Text copyright © Stephanie Domet, 2007, 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication ma y be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any method, without the prior written consent of the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Domet, Stephanie, 1970- Homing : the whole story (from the inside ou t) / Stephanie Domet.
ISBN 978-0-9782185-8-4
 I. Title. PS8607.O49H64 2007 C813’.6 C200 7-901138-1
Cover Design by Megan Fildes
Printed and bound in Canada
Invisible Publishing Halifax & Montréal www.invisiblepublishing.com
For a few good men. For Chris Domet, who inspired it. For Ray Domet, who would have loved reading it. For Kev Corbett, who put up with me while I wrote it. And for Jeff Domet, who’s always wanted to be in a book I wrote.
LEAH AWOKE TO THE COOING OF THE BIRDS. Tt the sides of the curtains. Redhe room was dark, though slices of light crept in a silk covered the cages, which were perched atop the bookcase. From beneath the fabric, she heard the ruffling of feathers and the soft, guttural cries of the mourning doves. Get up, she imagined them saying, let us try again. She rolled over in the bed, her long black braids a lump at the back of her head. She’d slept curled around her pillows again, and he r limbs unfolded slowly in the early morning dark. She thought about ignoring the birdsong, she thought about crumpling herself up again, pulling up the duvet around her shoulders, closing her eyes and falling back into oblivion. But that was d angerous, she knew. Better to get up, to get on with it, to try again than to give in before she’d even started.
It was good to have the birds depending on her. It meant she had to get up. It wasn’t so much that she cared about them one way or the other, though she supposed somewhere inside herself she did. It was m ore that they would cry and call and cry and call till she got up, drew the sil k from their cages, looked to their seed and their water, and finally gave them a task. They were canny creatures. They knew what they were about. They wanted a job.
Leah opened her eyes fully and looked again at the cages. She could see the outline of one plump bird. Sandy, she thought. She’ s pressed right up against the bars of her cage again. Leah let her hands slide do wn her body in their regular morning inventory, gliding over plump breasts, bell y, hips and thighs. Still there, she told herself. Still all there. At least on the outs ide. She peeled back the duvet and swung herself up to sitting, feet planted square on the floor. She felt she had to move with authority, since it seemed to be the only thing that could get her moving and keep her moving at all these days. She sat for a moment, hands resting on bare knees. She wanted nothing more than to freefall bac k into the pillows, but she knew this torpor wasn’t helping. It fed itself, this ina ctivity.
“Just get up and write the note,” she said out loud . “Do that much, then see about the rest. Do that much, and see where you are.”
She shivered in the cold room and pulled her bathro be on over her skin. She didn’t like the birds to see her naked. They made h er skin crawl. All birds did, with their buggy feathers and beady eyes, and the way th ey seemed to have ideas about things. These two were no different, and were, in fact, perhaps a bit worse. They were intelligent, that was part of it, intelligent enough, anyhow, to find their way out every day and their way back again every night. And though she needed them for that, valued them for that, it still unnerved her to have such sentient beings living in cages on her bookcase. She thought naming them woul d help. Sandy and Harold they were. But it only made things worse. Once they were named, they seemed to develop personalities. Sandy was a go-getter; Harold more even-tempered, more laidback, but still, he got the job done. He was a plodder; Sandy liked to shake things up. And once they had names and personalitie s, things seemed to go downhill for Leah. She was reconsidering the ethics of keeping them in a cage, but the alternative — letting them have the run of the house — was too horrifying to contemplate. She worked hard to hide her revulsion from them, but she lived in fear that her careful facade would slip and that someday soon, Sandy and Harold would divine the truth. Leah hated the birds, but she nee ded them, desperately.
Sandy began to scold as Leah moved toward the cages . She pulled the red silk
covers off and fixed the birds with what she hoped was a cool gaze. She wondered if she was fooling them. The look on Sandy’s face i ndicated otherwise. But Harold was just as placid as ever. She began to think she preferred the male bird, but of course, that was nothing new, and she had to admit such preferences were the root of a number of her troubles. And also, he was a pig eon, and she would do well to keep things in perspective. His brain was the size of a piece of gravel, if that, and whatever personality he seemed to have was certainl y her own projection. She shook some seed into the feeding dishes in the cage s, disengaged the water bottles and took them to the bathroom sink, where she rinse d and refilled them.
She popped them back in their brackets and said, “It won’t be long, now, guys. Let me just make the coffee and think about it some , and I’ll get you set up before too long. Just hang in there.”
She didn’t know when she’d started talking like a folksy camp councillor, but she had, and there it was. Not much she could do about it now, and besides, she really didn’t talk to very many people these days, so what did it matter how she sounded? She was pretty sure the birds didn’t care, and if they did — oh well. They were birds. They would simply have to cope.
She padded down the stairs to the kitchen and in he r head she began to compose that day’s note. She wondered about strikin g the right tone. She wanted to be forceful but not too aggressive. It was importan t, she felt, to proceed with caution. And though she had not yet received a repl y or really a sign of any kind, the birds, at least, returned to her with their note sh eaths empty, so she had to assume the letters were hitting their mark. Shedecidedto assume they were, rather. It was better that way.
In the kitchen, she scooped coffee beans into the g rinder, pushed the lid down and flipped the switch. The sudden noise made the c at jump, and she said, “It’s okay buddy, it’s just the coffee grinder. Same thin g every morning, right?“
Jesus, I’m turning into Saint Francis of Assisi, sh e thought but didn’t say. She was already doing a fair bit of talking out loud wh en she was alone, and sure, she could pass it off as talking to the birds or the ca t, but she was only marginally comfortable with that. She dumped the ground coffee into the basket filter, filled the pot with water, poured that into the machine, flipp ed the switch and waited for the familiar burbling and the soothing aroma. She didn’ t even care anymore if she actually drank a cup of coffee, but making it had b ecome very important. It was a thing people did in the morning, and so she would d o it and it would help keep her on track. At least, that was the plan. So far it ha d worked, but she had to admit she didn’t hold out a lot of hope for it long-term. Still, she tried not to be pessimistic too far into the future. She tried to keep her crabbing to a situational basis. Not always easy, but a worthy goal to strive for, she thought.
As the coffeemaker cranked and groaned, she leaned against the counter and drew a pencil from the pocket of her robe. She twirled it between her fingers and thought. The cat leapt lightly from his perch on th e rocking chair in the corner and stretch-walked across the kitchen toward her, purring intently. He got up close and wound around her ankles a bit, purring the entire time.
“You want crunchies?” she asked him, in a completel y superfluous way. It was obvious what he wanted, and inevitable that she wou ld put out. She scooped out a cup of dry food and slid it into his bowl. He immed iately abandoned her ankles and
applied himself to his breakfast, eating noisily. T his left her free to think. She tapped the pencil’s eraser end against her teeth, tasting a hint of the rubber. It made her think of September, the real new year, the true tim e of renewal. How she longed for the feeling she got from a fresh package of lined l ooseleaf paper. Or the ever-expanding realm of the possible represented by a ne w box of pencil crayons, their points all uniform and perfect. But what she felt instead was the grubbiness of mid-winter, all brown snow and chapped lips, and scarf that smelled like four months worth of expelled breath trapped forever in synthetic fibres. She sighed and closed her eyes. Maybe she should go back to bed after all . Turn off the coffeemaker, put the silk back over the cages, slip back into bed an d back into dark unconsciousness. But no, she’d done that already, for too many days. She had to work on the project. She had to at least write the note. She pulled a square of royal blue paper from the pa ck of origami sheets on the counter. She licked the end of the pencil as she’d seen it done in old movies. She didn’t notice if it had any effect on the graphite, but she’d grown to like the ritual, and, a little bit, she’d grown to like the taste. S he thought for a moment, elbows leaning on the countertop, her butt sticking out an d swaying gently, absently. Finally, her hand began to move over the square of paper.After midnight, she wrote,in the silence, intensive, the machines turned away discreetly, as if to grant you privacy at last. She stopped writing, looked over at the cat, who sat back from his bowl and licked his paw. She looked back at wha t she’d written, hesitated for a moment and then nodded. “Okay,” she said out loud. “Alright. Okay.”
She folded it into a little frog and, cradling it in the palm of her hand, climbed the stairs once more to her bedroom where the birds waited, one trusting, and one impatient, for her to return.
* * *
In the house next door, Henry sat in his boxer shorts; his guitar perched on his knee, one hand around its neck. A joint burned in the saucer on the floor, and Henry scratched his belly absently with his free hand. Th ere was a lot going on, that was for sure, but he knew he had to try to stay on sche dule. He looked again at the song list taped to the side of his guitar, to its shapely hip. He shook his hair out behind him, thinking it might help to clear his head. He s trummed a few experimental chords, cleared his throat, gazed out the window. W aited to feel that the moment was upon him, waited to feel like it was time to ge t to it. And get to it he must. If he didn’t practise, he couldn’t play, and if he didn’t play, he’d never get a record deal. And without a record deal he’d be just another dirty hippie working at the juice bar forever. Or selling hemp bracelets on the street, p laying hacky sack between customers. Oh god, how he did not want that for his life. He was projecting big things for himself, big things. But projecting wasn ’t enough. He had to actually produce. He looked at the joint still smoking in th e saucer. Part of the problem, he wondered, or part of the solution? He wasn’t going to figure it out today, that was for sure. He was already too high for that. He plucked it out of the saucer, took one more drag and pinched it out. Time to stop fucking around, he thought. What’s first on the list? He strummed again, A, then G. And then he was away, at last and thank fuck, he thought. Here we go. He put his whole body into it, closed his eyes a little and leaned toward his instrument as if it were a be autiful girl he couldn’t get enough of.
* * *
Leah stopped mid-climb on the stairs. There it was again, that song. She froze, thinking of Nathan, thinking of what Psychic Sue ha d said. “When you hear that song,” she said Nathan was saying, “it’s me singing it for you.” Leah leaned her head against the cool, smooth plaster of the wall that joined her house to the house next door and wished that were so. If only she were climbing the stairs to find her brother sitting on the chair in the study, lovely b lond guitar on his lap, his hands moving over the strings, his voice not quite doing justice to the tune. If only the strains of that song were coming from her kitchen, her backyard, from the living or dining room. If only Nathan were here in the shower singing, knocking her down the way he did when they were kids, putting his knees o n her arms and pinning her to the floor, typing the words out on her chest. If on ly it were he singing the words that always made her cry, then teasing her about being a crybaby. If only that. She clutched the royal blue paper frog between her fing ers. If only she had some assurance that the project was the right one, that it stood any chance of working. She took a deep breath and tapped her head once, a little harder than gently, against the wall. Sandy was whirting and cooing lik e crazy now. Leah sighed and started her climb anew.
* * *
Nathan paced. It felt like all he knew how to do an ymore. And it made him feel better to take the library lawn in lengths, his fists balled to keep him from flapping his arms the way he had as a child. It helped him to think. He paced endlessly, arms straight, fists balled, bottom lip pulled in. It was a nice p lace to pace, actually. A wide sidewalk cut into the lawn diagonally, from Spring Garden Road on one side, to Grafton on the other. If he was feeling like a chan ge, he could pace the shorter path from the library steps to Brunswick Street. He trie d to do this only during the day, though. The route took him a bit behind the old sto ne building, away from people. It made him nervous to be away like that, to be out of sight, and to have passersby and strangers hidden to him. He preferred the busyn ess of the longer path and stuck mainly to it. Also, it was close to the statu e of Winston Churchill and when he could stand to have his arms folded behind him instead of straight at his sides, Nathan liked occasionally to walk like the great ma n, though he didn’t find it changed the quality of his thoughts at all. When he got tired, he sat on the steps, and they were fine steps for sitting. Now and again he would slip into the library when someone else pulled open its heavy wooden doors. Inside, he’d browse the aisles of fiction, looking for murder mysteries he hadn’t read and running his long thin fingers over the spines of first editions and Faulkner books he’d loved. He didn’t read much these days though. Titles, mostly, and no w and again the book reviews pinned to the bulletin board. He just didn’t have the patience for reading, he found. Besides he didn’t have a library card and the servi ce at the main branch was terrible. The sulky teens with their cystic acne, their multiple piercings, their unhappiness. He couldn’t get them to focus on him l ong enough to tell him he’d need two pieces of ID to get a library card, and an yway, he didn’t know what had happened to his ID, so it wasn’t worth it. He would only come into the library for a change of scenery or for company if there wasn’t mu ch happening out on the paths or the steps. Besides, he didn’t want to miss a delivery, and as far as he knew, the bird wouldn’t try to come inside. Someone would hav e to open the door for it