As our little boat puttered towards the iceberg he said, “It’s like it’s been carved.”
“A little bigger than any human carving,” I said. I tried to sound bored, as if I had seen it out fishing every day.
“By giants, then. Or aliens, or something. But you know what I mean. Look at the way the ice is curved. How even it is.”
“Wind does that,” I improvised. “There’s nothing to block the wind, so it strikes the ice perfectly evenly, creating that carved effect.”
“Reminds me of this art deco radio cabinet I inherited. Same kind of curves, that sort of row of columns on this side.”
“I always think of buttresses,” I said. “To hold up the sky.” Especially when seen from the other side.
“That symmetrical gap in the middle, though? Makes it look like some sort of gateway.”
“A portal between worlds,” I said.
“Right! Yes, exactly!” His head tilted as he considered. “Can you get us closer? I’d like to climb on if I can.”
He unslung the camera from around his neck, and laid it carefully on the bench beside me. “Just point and it will do the rest. I want a shot of me as if I’ve just come through ‘the Gate’.”
I laughed at that, quite genuinely. “Leave your jacket, then. Make it look like you’ve crossed through the Gate without realizing. Unprepared for the cold on this side.”
“Subtle,” he said. He shrugged out of his jacket, dumping it on the bench next to the camera. Then he stood, steadying himself leaning over the gunwale, like a racer poised before the starter’s pistol. As soon as our little boat bumped up against the ice, he was off and running. It was getting dark and he knew he had to hurry if he wanted the shot.
I turned the boat round and headed out along the coastline, away from the bay, and on with what I’d been planning before he’d interrupted. The jacket was the wrong size, so that went over the side immediately, but the camera and his wallet would be useful.
He must have realized as soon as he reached the gate and turned around, that I was already well past the distance required to frame the shot. His single “Hey!” was surprise, shock, disappointment—not an actual call for me to turn back. A positive sign. He might be quicker, more adaptable, than his gullibility would have suggested. Just his bad luck he’d jumped to the wrong conclusions when he’d happened upon me as I was stealing some local’s boat. A reasonable enough mistake.
There’d be no need for a jacket where he was going, but he’d freeze to death if he stayed where he was. I extended my arms toward him, and made shooing motions. He looked over his shoulder several times to see what I was motioning at, but eventually he got it, and went through. I wished him luck, quite sincerely.
“Iceberg” first appeared in The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Canadian Historic Paintings. 2019 (in print)
Robert Runté is Senior Editor with EssentialEdits.ca. A former professor, he has won three Aurora Awards for his literary criticism. His own fiction has been published in over thirty-five venues, and four of his short stories have been reprinted in ‘best of' collections, most recently Canadian Shorts II. He lives in Lethbridge, Alberta.