Canada |

The Waterproof Bible: an excerpt

by Andrew Kaufman

1 The woman who couldn’t keep her feelings to herself The limousine taking Rebecca Reynolds and Lewis Taylor to the funeral had stalled in the middle of an intersection. The long black car faced west on Queen, straddling Broadview Avenue in the east end of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Rebecca and Lewis sat on opposite ends of the bench seat, and no one sat between them. Although they were both grieving the loss of Lisa Taylor—Rebecca’s little sister and Lewis’s wife—the two were similar in few other ways. Lewis was relatively short. Both his suit and his haircut were fashionable. Rebecca was quite tall, her naturally brown hair cut in a shoulder-length bob, and she wore a simple black dress. But as the driver repeatedly turned the key in the ignition, they each stared out their own window, mirroring each other. Rebecca idly wondered if it was a problem with the engine or whether they’d simply run out of gas. She ran her hands over her skirt until the fabric was without wrinkles. She realized that this corner was close to E.Z. Self Storage, where she rented unit #207. She played with her clutch, snapping the clasp open and closed. Then she looked down at the carpeted floor and remembered that she was in a limousine, travelling to her sister’s funeral. Her grief, sadness and guilt returned. As Rebecca felt these emotions, Lewis became overwhelmed with them as well. The grief, sadness and guilt were heavy and painful. It had been three days and eleven hours since he’d discovered his wife’s body, but until now Lewis had felt nothing. A sense of relief flooded through him. Then he remembered that he was sitting beside Rebecca and that these feelings weren’t his own, but hers. “Oh,” Lewis said. “Yeah,” Rebecca replied. “Yeah,” Lewis repeated. The grief radiating from his sister-in-law only made Lewis more aware of his failure and Rebecca’s overwhelming ability to push her emotions into the world as surely as her lungs pushed out her breath. Rebecca had been able to project her emotions since the day she was born, when everything was dark and then suddenly it was bright and there were colours. Rebecca didn’t know where she was going. She hadn’t known there was somewhere to go. It hurt and there was no way to resist. She couldn’t focus her eyes, didn’t know she had eyes, and didn’t know that the light and the colours were coming through them. When hands first touched her, Rebecca didn’t know what hands were, what skin was, what touch was. Only that the thub-thub was missing. There had been darkness and the thub-thub, and they’d been consistent and soothing, but now both were missing. The newborn Rebecca became quite distressed. Feelings of great anxiety and fear went through her and they did not stop there. They went into the room. They went inside everyone. The doctor stopped and stared at the baby in his hands. The nurses turned from the stainless steel tray and stared helplessly at each other. The hum of the machines became audible. “What’s wrong with her? What’s wrong?” Rebecca’s mother asked. The doctor didn’t know what was wrong, so he did what he normally did. Cutting the cord, he laid the baby across her mother’s chest. Rebecca heard the thub-thub. She closed her eyes and the darkness was back. She began to feel calm and safe, and she broadcast these feelings to everyone in the room. The doctor and nurses sighed. The mother put her hands on top of the baby. The delivery room became still and quiet, and Rebecca fell asleep. Not every one of Rebecca’s feelings travelled the same distance—the more intense her emotion, the farther it went. To feel her happiness at finding her favourite show on TV you’d have to be very close to her head, almost touching it. But when she fell in love, people a full city block away knew. This caused many problems, since the things Rebecca wanted most to keep to herself were the ones she broadcast the farthest. The limousine was still stalled in the middle of the intersection when Rebecca looked out her window and noticed a white Honda Civic rapidly approaching. It did not slow down. “That car is going to hit us,” she said, quietly. Having felt Rebecca’s anxiety, Lewis had already turned his head. When the white Honda Civic was less than half a block away and still showed no signs of stopping, Lewis and Rebecca noticed something extraordinarily peculiar. “Do you see that?” Lewis asked. “Yes,” Rebecca replied. The driver of the Honda Civic seemed to have green skin. Just as they noticed this, the creature finally hit the brakes. The back wheels locked, the tires squealed, the smell of burnt rubber was pungent, but the white Honda Civic kept skidding towards the limousine. With only inches remaining between its front bumper and the back door of the limousine on Rebecca’s side, the car finally stopped. For ten seconds the occupants of both vehicles sat motionless, staring at each other through the two planes of glass separating them. Lewis and Rebecca were so focused on the green-skinned woman that neither heard the driver restart the engine. The limo lurched forward, pushing them back against their seats. Another sudden stop a moment later threw them to the floor. Rebecca’s face was pressed against the carpet, which smelled of both bleach and champagne. Scrambling, she got out of the limousine. She was so intent on catching another glimpse of the white Honda Civic’s driver that she didn’t stoop to pick up the contents of her purse, which had spilled onto the road. Rebecca exited the limo and Lewis soon joined her, as did the limo driver. The three of them stood in the middle of the intersection. Rebecca noticed that the car had Nova Scotia plates as it travelled south on Broadview, picked up speed and took the first left without signalling. “That was close,” the driver said. Rebecca nodded in agreement. Lewis raised his hands and began backing away. He’d been confident that the grief he so desperately wanted to feel would soon arrive. But now, having nearly been killed by a woman with green skin, it was easy to believe that stranger things could happen and that his grieving might never begin. Keeping his hands raised and ignoring the honking of the cars whose path he blocked, Lewis continued to back away from the limousine. “Lewis? Where are you going?” Rebecca asked, projecting her confusion across two lanes of traffic. “I can’t go to the funeral.” “Why not?” “Because she’ll be there. She’ll see me. She’ll know.” “Know what?” “I’m so sorry.” Gesturing with his right hand, Lewis hailed a taxi, which stopped in front of him. “You’ll regret this,” Rebecca shouted. Her anger reached pedestrians on the far side of the street, causing some to stop and stare while others scurried away. Lewis climbed inside the cab and shut the door. He looked straight ahead but continued to feel Rebecca’s anger as clearly as if it were his own. *** Excerpted from The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Kaufman. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Please see HERE for more information.