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Fiction: The Story of Canada

Hazel

Hazel

Hazel by Seth title
Hazel pane 1
It took them a week to find me. I almost despaired. They found me here. Here ...
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In this quiet, restful grove of trees. Though back then, it was neither quiet nor restful.
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I was driving home, along Weston Road, that grey Friday evening.
Hazel pane 4
The radio forecast rain. "Big deal!" It had already been raining for the last three days.
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Maybe I should have given that some consideration.
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I turned down Phillips Street. No traffic to speak of. Odd.
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I braked. Phillips now ended in a lake of black water. "What in ...?"
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I glanced toward the horizon. A solid wall of dense rain was coming quickly at me.
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So quickly ... that the pool in front of me ... was now all around me.
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A moment later ... I was scrambling up onto the roof of my car. For dear life.
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The "pool" had become a torrent!
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I don't swim ... well. So I waited.
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This was Ontario. This was 1954.
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Help would come.
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To my great relief, a firetruck appeared on the distant "shore."
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A ladder rose up. But too late.
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By then I had been swept from my slippery perch.
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I thought of my wife ... as the cold water pulled me under. A lovely person.
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Fade to black.
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The water deposited my body in a soggy grove of broken trees. "There's one down there." What few leaves survived were vivid red and yellow.
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For me, this grove remains perpetual autumn. Perpetual night. And I am always here. This place is quiet and restful.
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And I am calm. Untroubled.
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Even when October rains fall.
Hazel credit
Factual information from "Hurricane Hazel" by Jim Gifford, Dundurn Group, 2004.

A country is not just its people and places, but its stories. On the occasion of Canada’s sesquicentennial, The Globe and Mail has invited a group of writers – from home and abroad – to celebrate the country’s history in fiction. The results will be published throughout the course of 2017.

Author’s Note: I was a teenager in the 1970s when Ontario weathered a record number of snowstorms and tornados. I remember the thrill felt as clouds gathered, radios crackled and lightning flashed on the horizon. Stories of Hurricane Hazel, the mother of all Canadian storms, lingered in the air each time the skies darkened.

Seth’s books include Wimbledon Green, George Sprott and It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, as well as the long-running comic-book series Palookaville. He is the designer for The Complete Peanuts, among other books, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, and worked with Lemony Snicket on All the Wrong Questions, a series of books for young readers. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

CREDITS: Interactive design and development by DANIELLE WEBB