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May. 26, 2020 | Tuesday
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NOTL Writers’ Circle: Moonlight with Tom Thomson
Moonlight with Tom Thomson painting. (Supplied)

Part One

Tom Thomson winked as Marla tucked a daisy into the open paint-box on his lap. She did a double-take and stepped back. There was a discordant crash behind them, and she flinched and looked over her shoulder. Her family was banging on the rainbow-painted piano in the middle of the patio outside the Civic Centre in Huntsville. 

“Ma, come on, let’s go... we’re bored,” her son said. He waved at the colourful mural covering the brick wall behind him. “We’ve seen enough of these damn Group of Seven paintings to last a lifetime.” Her daughter-in-law nodded. Her granddaughter’s fist pounded up and down the keyboard.

Marla ignored their complaints and glanced back at Thomson, her favourite artist, captured for all time, in a bronze sculpture.

She wondered if she was losing her mind.

Thomson sat on a sunny stump, oblivious to the tourists. His dark hair fell over his forehead and he clenched a pipe in his mouth. His eyes met hers and held them. Marla put her arm around his shoulder, leaned against him and took a selfie.

The sky darkened and a storm rumbled in the distance.

“Ma, we’re leaving,” her son said. “A thunderstorm’s coming. We’ll drop you off at the cabin and head back to Toronto.”


Marla perched on the edge of the red Muskoka chair on her dock and raised a glass of merlot to the setting sun. The summer storm had blown over and she was alone. Somewhere out on the lake, a loon called. She lifted her binoculars and scanned the water. There it was, like magic, the female abruptly appeared a few yards away. The loon dipped her head, searching for fish. Then she ducked under the water and disappeared. 

It’s amazing how far they can swim like that underwater, Marla thought. She marked the spot where the loon vanished, and scanned the lake to catch the moment when she surfaced.

A little farther away, the water rippled and a black head popped up. The loon ruffled her wing feathers, then relaxed and drifted in the breeze.

Marla’s family didn’t like the loons. When the birds serenaded at sunset, her family complained.

“That sounds like a bunch of werewolves,” her son said.

“Like someone’s being murdered,” her daughter-in-law said. 

“It’s too scary for me,” her granddaughter said. “I wanna go home.”

After they’d left for Toronto, Marla researched the Internet. She was positive the loons were communicating to each other.

She heard a laughing waver, and the big male bird appeared in the eastern sky. Marla’s skin prickled. She understood what he was saying.

“I’m coming home, babe.” He splash-landed and swam to the female. He circled her, dipping his neck to and fro. The female hooted and preened. They came close together. Nudged and circled. They headed for a small island in the middle of the lake. One afternoon, when she was out canoeing, Marla had noticed their nest there, in the reeds among the rocks. The male had made a bee-line for the canoe and his red eyes glared. He circled the canoe. Marla knew he didn’t like her being so close.

Just like the kids. They said she needed to move on. Perhaps they thought she’d become a burden. Perhaps it was time to plan for the future.

On the kitchen table, beside the art gallery pamphlets she’d picked up in Huntsville, her son had placed a brochure. For a retirement home.

“Lots to do there, Ma,” he said. “Maybe you could take up oil painting. You like that Group of Seven stuff so much.”

Her daughter-in-law said, “If you moved there, you might meet a new guy. Do you ever think about that...maybe marry again?”

Marla wondered if her daughter-in-law imagined her with a random Viagra popping dude. What a joke. 

Maybe the kids were worried they’d lose their inheritance, if she did. 

Would Brady mind? He’d been careful with their finances. Their investments were supposed to last until she was ninety. 

“What then?” she’d asked him one night as they lay in bed. “When it runs out?”

“The government will take over,” he’d said. “You’ll be ok.”

“Maybe I’ll have a fling and take a world cruise.”

He laughed, “Go for it. Better that... than sitting drooling at a retirement home.”

“I might kill myself... if you die.” She rolled onto her side and stared at him.

“That’s a stupid idea,” he said and turned out the light.

“We should plan to go together. Things will be easier that way,” she said.

He hadn’t stuck to her plan. 

She raised the binoculars again and watched the star of Venus rising above the trees.

To be continued next week...