November 15, 2001
Diana Gabaldon fans all over the world
will certainly recognize the above as that all-purpose Scottish
sound meaning anything from "Indeed?" to "Yeah?
You and whose army?" to an invitation to participate
in activities too lewd and lovely to put name to. Similarly,
fans will identify with the small moans and soft cries of
delight emanating from my own ruby red lips as I cruise
gently into Gabaldon's latest book in the Outlander series,
The Fiery Cross.
It was a long dry spell, four years
and endless teasers, since the Calling of the Clans at the
end of Drums of Autumn. Yes, we heard, it would be out early
in 2000. Nope, postponed till fall. Ah, sorry, probably
spring, '01; July, no, October, yes definitely November.
And then, November sixth and not one moment before. But
it's here now, already on the National Post Best Seller
list (which means 25% off the cover price at Mac's) and
it does not disappoint. Taking up the day after the calling
of the clans, Fiery Cross continues the epic tale of rebellion
and love and betrayal, interspersed lavishly with details
of daily life in 18th century Scotland and America. This
is history, richly textured and stunningly well-presented,
living and breathing on every page, and at the center of
it all, a love so fierce and strong that it transcends all.
Unlike Gabaldon's earlier books which
I inhaled at a gulp, stopping for neither feed nor water
until I was done, I'm reading this wonderful fruitcake of
a book slowly, savouring its composition and flavour, wrapping
myself in the vibrancy and warmth of its characters. After
each day, during which I have attempted to be all things
to all people and have, as usual, failed miserably, it is
my reward to myself.
< >"Here, mo nighean donn,
" I tell my poor battered psyche, "Jocasta has
been tied up and beaten, Jamie and Claire have just interrupted
the torture-death of a mozie auld poutworm by his abused
wife and one of the best characters is about to be found
hanging and left for dead. Relax and enjoy!!"
Paradoxically, The Fiery Cross is
both too long and too short. I wanted the book to go on
forever, supplying me with the drama and adventure so obviously
missing from my life. At the same time, I kept thinking,
'Here. If she had ended it right here, she could have had
a whole 'nother book out in two years instead of the usual
four.' In any event, God keep Ms. Gabaldon safe and hearty,
I've already begun wondering when the next one will be out.
But speaking of adventure, it's not
as if my life is totally incident free.
Last week, on my way downtown, I pulled
over on Hamilton and stopped to pick up a young man, a practice
severely frowned upon by the fellow who shares my bed and
board. It was a sunny day, but windy, and he was hunched
over as if he was cold. And anyway, I thought, someone new
to talk to. Talk AT, more like. He didn't have a whole lot
to say, and kept his head turned, looking out the side window.
But was OK, I can keep a conversation trundling along without
much help, the way Phil tells it, just having a warm body
within hearing range is all that's required.
So I didn't mind that my travelling
companion was not disposed to do much more than grunt at
my witticisms and observations. Nor did I take too much
note when he started to open the door as I slowed for the
stop light by the Mall. What I did object to was the way
he grabbed up my purse from the space between the seats
as he bolted onto the side was and took off at a dead run.
Now, there wasn't much in that old
purse. A handful of new and nearly new Kleenex. A comb with
three or four teeth missing. A lipstick that is worn nearly
to its shallow tin holder and I have to use a toothpick
to dig out if I need some which I always do but rarely bother
to (are you still with me?) Toothpicks (see above.) A little
Swiss army knife advertising Coyote Air in Teslin. A leather
wallet with few pennies in the coin pocket, a used ticket
from a long-ago concert at the Art Center and a napkin with
the name and address of a truck driver who used to stop
at the Lodge a lot and called me one morning to come and
have coffee with him at Macdonald's, just for old time's
sake. In addition, there was a little zipper case with a
couple of credit cards, a screwdriver and a few grayish
Tums that have been rolling around in there, quite possibly
since my last pregnancy.
It wasn't losing that old purse, or
the wallet. My pockets are always full of new and used Kleenix.
I'd been carrying the truckdrivers name around for several
years and had never called him and any chance of having
heartburn brought on by pregnancy had been severely reduced
some ten or twelve years ago. The cards could easily be
cancelled and replaced.
No, it was none of those things that
prompted my next action. It was the thought of having to
go home and confess to Phil that I'd been up to my old tricks
in spite of his constant harping. "Hey! Stop!"
I yelled as I leaped, gazelle-like, from the car, slipped
and fell splat on my dignity right in the middle of the
By the time, I'd recovered my breath
and wiped the hair out of my face, my purse was back in
my hands and a nice young gentleman was helping me to my
feet. Turns out, he'd heard my shout, had reached out a
hand automatically and snagged my purse on its way by. The
young thief had continued on his way without missing a beat.
I gave my benefactor a heartfelt hug
of thanks and offered him a ride down to Main Street. "Actually,
I'm going all the way to Riverdale, my Mom is in Macaulay
there, so I could drop you anywhere between here and there.
She's 98 years old, lived by herself until last year, now
she's there. I'm taking her a cold potato sandwich, she
likes a little snack at bedtime, so do I but I'd rather
have a slice of cold pizza
I thought for a moment the young fellow
was going to accept the ride but I guess he need the exercise
because he closed the door rather abruptly and started downtown
at a pretty good clip. As I drew abreast of him I rolled
down the window and hollered, "Thanks again. Sure you
don't want a ride? I could take you wherever
But I was talking to thin air, he'd turned down a side street
and was practically running and I continued on my way feeling
pretty good about the whole affair.
I'd had a little adventure. There was
no harm done. And certainly, there was no need to worry
the family about it. Especially Phil. He worries so loudly.
And tends to use words like "dumb" and "irresponsible"
and even "featherbrain." I hate when he uses "featherbrain."
Even when I deserve it.
As to the deserving, last weekend,
our daughter Jo and her two boys, Andrew and Ryan, came
for supper and an evening of cards. Andrew turned immediately
to the TV, which was already tuned to the requisite Hockey
Night in Canada. Ten-year-old Ryan took the small rocking
chair beside his grandfather, with whom he has closely bonded,
the result of recent afternoon spent in each other's company,
wherein, much to Ry's complete and utter delight, Phil chose
to reveal the secrets of a misspent and rather dramatic
After a word or two with Andrew with
regards to Chris Joseph's latest performance, Phil glanced
down at his younger grandson. "So," he asked,
mano a mano, "how's your love life?" Ryan
gave the question serious thought. "Not so good, "
he finally admitted. "I know just what you mean,"
Phil commented soberly. "Mine's not so hot either."
Ry mulled that over for a moment and
then turned to his mother who was following the conversation
with some fascination. "Did you hear that, Mom? Just
one more thing that Grampa and I have in common!"
< >Mmphm. Maybe Grampa should try
wearing a kilt. And not calling names.