Books·Canadian

The Rules of Engagement

A novel by Catherine Bush.

Catherine Bush

Despite her hatred of physical violence, Arcadia Hearne is a researcher who studies contemporary war. Specializing in issues of risk and military intervention, she methodically surveys the rich arsenal of current global conflicts available to her dispassionate intellect. Ironically, she can't seem to come to terms with her own inner conflicts, desperately trying to balance the scales of emotional risk and emotional pain.

Arcadia is haunted by a violent episode in her past, an incident involving two university students, both her lovers, who resort to an old-fashioned pistol duel in a Toronto ravine to decide who will win her love. Hidden in the trees, Arcadia can't bring herself to intervene. Guilt-ridden and confused, she flees to London, England, as she says, looking for protection from violence through knowledge, through explanations, but not through love. Only when she meets Amir, her new lover, whom she discovers to be an (idealistic) passport forger, does she begin her reconciliation with her past. (From HarperCollins)

From the book

Lux was coming. Already she was somewhere in the wide expanse of London. My awareness of her presence unsettled me vaguely. Sometimes, before she flew in to visit, I dreamed strange dreams. Like a breeze, she stirred things up.

Midafternoon, I rode the Northern Line home to meet her and stared at the people scrunched on the surrounding banks of seats. Across the aisle, a man in aviator shades sat sketching in a notebook — I wondered if wearing dark glasses in the underground made the world easier to draw. Another man, sweating profusely, clutched a tabloid paper without reading it. Beside him, a woman in a golden sari clamped two polythene bags of groceries between her feet. Out of curiosity, I tried to imagine how each would look transformed by anger. How would the soft, relaxed line of the first man's lips contort, or the sad-eyed desolation of the second man's face, or the woman's dreamy distraction? I studied the first man's hands, dark fingers grasping a pencil, the thick wales of ruddy skin over the other man's knuckles. The woman's fingers were laced and folded over the pleats of cloth in her lap. I wondered what violence was capable of and what was the worst act of violence they had committed in their lives so far. Had any of them ever punched someone, or drawn blood? If so, how did they explain their actions to themselves?


From The Rules of Engagement by Catherine Bush ©2001. Published by HarperCollins.

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