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True Winter Tales

The Mainlanders by Chris Donahoe

To celebrate the holidays and give you inspiration for our current creative nonfiction competition, we are presenting seven of our favourite stories from last year's True Winter Tales challenge. 

In today's story, a ski trip turns into a memorable visit to Lukey's Boat Lounge in Channel-Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.

snowy road_post.jpgSnow exploded through the ferry doors as they opened. We waited impatiently for the semi-trailers to roll off first. Looking up through the windshield, there was almost no black in the night sky. "We're gonna be knee-deep in virgin powder come morning!" said Pete, giving Josh a birthday punch in the arm.

We crawled into the Port Aux Basques Irving gas station, skis on the roof of the van.

When the first semi pulled in, coming back the other way, I was in the store modelling dollar sunglasses, preparing for our big night out in Corner Brook. The driver entered and filled a cup with coffee. "Yer balls'd have to be biggern yer brain to attempt dat," he said.

A second semi pulled in, the driver brushed snow from his arms and shook his head. When the third pulled in, I knew. "Road's closed," was all the driver said.

St. Christopher's Hotel overlooked the harbour. We convened in Colin's room over some beers.

"Not a very memorable way to turn twenty-one," said Colin.

Josh shrugged, satisfied to be with friends. We all took a drink.

"There's no sense sitting here," said Pete. "We're in Newfoundland, there's a bar open somewhere."

We bundled-up and took a bottle for the road. Around the corner, the lights of a small, green building called like a beacon.

Snow blew into Lukey's Boat Lounge as we entered. The door slammed hard behind us, announcing our arrival. Two weathered men in rubber boots looked up from their game of crib and tumblers of black rum. In the back, a dozen middle-aged women stood around dart boards. One was still holding her dart mid-throw when they turned to inspect us. The country music didn't stop, but it felt like it. We walked straight to the bar.

The bartender was the only one remotely close to our age, dyed blonde and dressed like she was in an L.A. nightclub. "Where you by's from?" she asked, smiling as if the answer was the punchline to her joke.

"Halifax," Colin said. "What's, uh, goin on?"

"Ladies' dart night," she said. "Yer right on time."

Darts were abandoned in their boards, the tables brought together. "Turn up the music!" yelled a woman applying lip-balm who could've been my mother.

"Yer no good to us standin over there," said the one beside her, pulling out chairs. "Sit!"

We were portioned out to the pack, one of us for every three of them, bottles of Black Horse set before us. "Poor bastards. Ain't easy bein from away, but yer here now. Drink to that!"

They pulled up their sweatshirt sleeves, punctuating the conversation with howls and slaps of laughter. "His birthday? Twenty-one? Sacred heart a Jesus!"

That's when the night took a turn.

We never paid for another drink. The dance floor was warm when we left, our voices hoarse and singing. Arm-in-arm, the roaring women disappeared into the blinding storm. On the walk home, we praised the snow like children.

Find out more about our creative nonfiction competition.

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