Narrative Writing Group resumes


I have begun participating in another narrative writing group at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Clinic for HIV-related Concerns.

Today’s exercise: Write about a person. Show the person through what s/he does (actions), says (dialogue), and through the places (settings) this person inhabits.

Patience with Patients

The shop window’s curtain of wind-chimes sounded like a carillon as I walked into “Amy’s Gifts”. Indeed there had been warnings of gale-force winds on the Weather Network earlier in the morning. Those stiff winds carried the pungent smells of the nearby fishery across Digby.

“Kind of a wild day,” I said as a woman who was probably Amy greeted me while she fiddled with a radio beside the cash register.

“God almighty, the CBC can’t come back fast enough for me!” Amy declared. “Yes the rain and wind is bad today,” she continued, “but it’s whether you like it or not!”

I laughed out loud at her play on words.

“So are you on that bus that just came in?” she asked.

I said I was, although Digby had more than its share of buses at the moment, so I couldn’t be certain that mine was the one she was referring to. The ferry to Saint John was due to leave in just over an hour and the town was experiencing something of a traffic jam. Earlier concerns that the weather might suspend ferry service were put to rest when we sent our bus driver ahead with the coach.

I began to browse through the store.

“You just let me know if I can help you with anything, dear,” Amy said, looking over her reading glasses. Very thin, with a hint of blue rinse in her graying hair, I guessed Amy to be in her early fifties. Her face was quite wrinkled, perhaps an indication of a life with a few knocks.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll just roam around for a few minutes.”

There did not seem to be any souvenir scallops, although I’m certain I wouldn’t have recognized Digby’s claim to fame anyway. There was an aisle full of local, colourfully-painted wood carvings, another with moccasins, and still another with nothing but tea pots. I began thumbing my way through a bin of Maritime-themed compact discs when the wind-chimes again started to clatter.

A woman rushed in, saying, “I’ve finally made a decision. I’m’ going to relieve you of one set of chimes from the window,” she told Amy.

After pointing out her choice, Amy carefully took the chimes down, then pulled out sheets of tissue paper from a side counter.

“My dear, would you be a nurse by any chance?” she asked the woman.

Looking startled, Deborah (whose tour name-tag also revealed that she was from Washington State) replied, “Why yes. Yes I am.”

“I just had a feeling you was,” said Amy. “You just look like you’ve got the gift.”

Carefully wrapping each chime in its own tissue paper Amy began a monologue, interrupted only by an occasional “Well” or “Is that right?” from Deborah.

“You know I almost died giving birth to my daughter. Yep, my kidneys failed and poor little Jessie nearly didn’t make it into this world. They had to took me overs to Halifax, to a maternity I.C.U., they called it. What a mess! My husband was God knows where on the boat and he had to be found and so he gets into a helicopter, if you please, and flies to Halifax! I think he was likely there before we were.

Anyway Jessie was born, and me with no anesthetic, and they got me settled down but, God, what a fright! You know those kidneys haven’t been the same since. I’ve had more trouble and problems down there. But, thank God, Jessie is alright. She’s nearly twenty-seven now.”

“Twenty-seven?” I thought. “Amy has either been waiting for a nurse to visit her store for a long time or else the sage of Jessie’s birth is all she ever talks about.”

By this time I had picked up a couple of sand dollars to buy and had been patiently waiting for several minutes behind the nurse as Amy talked on and on.

It occurred to me that I probably would not have tolerated such a wait in Toronto but, then, this wasn’t Toronto and I was just enjoying a good, long soak in my environment.

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2 thoughts on “Narrative Writing Group resumes

  1. I attended several sessions of the “Narrative Group” at Mount Sinai and it changed my life. No kidding, it was THAT important to me. Alan Peterkin and Julie were wonderful facilitators. You’re a very good writer and I’ve been following your blog for some time. Good Luck!

  2. Thanks for the comments. It’s nice to know someone is reading! You’re right about Alan and Julie. They are top-notch facilitators.

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