Half-heard, chapter 1

The debut of our weekly serial novel.

Past the endless acres of trees topped with iridescent red Honeycrisp, Cortland and Northern Spy rattling beneath bellies of blue skylines littered with low-hanging clouds along the banks of the Cornwallis River lies kms and kms of invasive weed: black campion, creeping buttercups, coltsfoot, lady's thumb, wormseed, ragweed, toadflax, purslane, ox-eye daisy—expanses of unwanteds province-wide. Fields of dew-laden dandelions glinting like candied gold with their wind-aided diaphanous florets that pirouette over the nape of your neck as you are traversing wide open waving fields of the inland's heart in October's autumn. Here, far outside of the exhausted mines and quarries of the island abandoned and held under unending greyed skies, developmental roars of explosions, wheel loaders, crawler tractors, rock trucks hauling overburden. Here, infinite frontcrawl strokes away from Inverness' kms of sanded seashore that shoulders itself against the sun-swallowing gulf; just as it has since the Bras d'Or terrane drifted off from the South America's Northwestern tip some 500 million years past, in varying sedimentary and volcanic chunks, and will long after its roads and golf terrain erode. The 9,000 acres of soybean combative Palmer amaranth and pigweed, Kings County's undulating seas of golden-brown barley, pickerel weeds that occlude the paths of stocked parr and gaspereau that flow through our southern uplands into the upper end of the city's expansive sewage-swelled mooring.

And then southeast of the Oland Brewery's towering funnel expelling its yeasty noxious hop-smell along an area of indefinable, argued-over extent, and southwest of dawning's cavalcade of clammy and quenched joggers along the Needham drumlin lies 2743 Northwood Terrace. Rows of garbage and blue bags. Jehovah's Witness pamphlets. Car horns. Aural smog. Something Will always calls a "pocket of morning glory" when he wakes with a pitched tent. Humidity. A dog headed north to Bloomfield with a dried tongue dangling. 

And inside 2743 Northwood, A. Welnot—the house's newest addition—is waking from bed and entering the hall from a real deep cryopreservation kind of sleep. He does his morning lurch by Gertraud's room; door slightly ajar, where she's at her drafting table underneath a desk light scribbling into her notebook, a level of concentration pulled out of spite towards the loss of the lambent glow of outside's streetlight that kept vigil while she trudged through work onward from 2am, listening to totally unwrinkled, synth-laden music probably penned by roomie Alex Stuart—music whose only saving quality is its non-invasiveness—humming out of her table-top speakers. He doesn't bother to say hi because she probably won't look up. Outside the faint sound of the forward-throwing screeches of halting public transit. Daycare kids roped together turning up to Fuller. He passes by a mirror and does that near jaw-dislocating mouth-check and tosses his hair around. He limps lead-footed down the stairs. Eyes red and puffed. Dry sulphuric rot of morning mouth. From Trevor's window there is the rap of breeze-blown branches' leaves rattling like finger-cymbal zils. He turns and passes by the living room and Sarah and Alex's bedroom doors, hall walls littered with Food Not Bombs pamphlets, Soviet agitprop, communal grocery receipts and concert posters into the kitchen. The kitchen is like the rest of the house, paint jobs and restorations matching the standard middle-class tack. Lots of brown and orange cabinets and shelves, ceramic tiling, paisley wallpaper bordering the walls and lumpy linoleum and hardwood on the floors. Outside an SUV blares Buckcherry.

A. Welnot goes to the sink to rub 'n' rinse his mug clean, and grabs the rag stewing in the drain's pool of bloated rice grains and murky water. He squeezes the browning rag and feels a gooey slime escape through his fingers and stretch itself down his fist to his wristwatch. 

A startled what-the-fuck tails behind his gasp. He drops the rag and takes a second to study it in the sink and rubs his eyes open with his sleeved forearm. Welnot grabs the fondue fork from Sarah's Fondue Not Bombs social the night before and starts to inspect the glob with a scientist's curiosity. He paces the kitchen for a moment, and then listens to see if anyone has awoken. He puts the fork into the dry rack and watches the rag's snotty membrane jiggle all over itself. He stares into the ceramic sink, glossed with what he believes is something near-unmentionable. It makes him wish he didn't leave his floor-heated apartment and just tolerated the tweed-cap- wearing neighbours and their songwriter circles that stretched the Canadian catalogue thinner than air until 3am night after night.

The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.

Support The Coast

At a time when the city needs local coverage more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support independent journalism. We are committed as always to providing free access to readers, particularly as we confront the impact of COVID-19 in Halifax and beyond.

Read more about the work we do here, or consider making a donation. Thank you for your support!

Comments (1)

Add a comment

Add a Comment


For a couple weeks at this time of year, the blooming cherry trees on Park Avenue make for the ultimate photo backdrop in the city. But what’s the most photogenic location year-round in HRM?

Get more Halifax

The Coast Daily email newsletter is your extra dose of the city Monday through Friday. Sign up and go deep on Halifax.