Tom & Charlie — a Kaslo Tale

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Jesalyn Tremblay

Jesalyn Tremblay is a fifteen year old JVH student who is a blossoming and ambitious writer. She was born in Meadow Creek to her loving and inspiring parents, Martin and Marlaine Tremblay. Jesalyn, better known as Jes, found her love for writing at the tender age of seven, when her teacher introduced a creative writing project to the class. “Ever since then I guess I’ve just been hooked on writing. I always liked that I controlled the course of the story and no one was there to tell me what to do or how to write. I’ve learned you can almost surrender yourself to a story and pour you heart and soul and every last emotion you have built up inside, and express it on paper. I always imagine that I am weaving as much as writing a story, crossing each character or event over one another and bringing them together at the end.” Jesalyn hopes to make a career as a writer, and “publish a few books.”

 

 

 

TOM & CHARLIE — A KASLO TALE

by Jesalyn Tremblay

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The train whistled and whined as it pulled into the small mining town of Kaslo. The snow came down hard, pelting the station, quickly covering its roof. Charlie McNab tipped his hat to the conductor as he stepped off the car. He looked around at his new home and took a deep breath of the crisp November breeze blowing in from the lake. He grabbed his bag and strode down the boardwalk. Glancing up and squinting into the blowing flakes, he spied Tom. His older brother’s face was covered in dirt and soot, momentos from his day of work in the mines, but his gleaming white teeth shone through from ear to ear.

“Welcome to paradise,” he said as he gave Charlie a brief hug before shaking his hand.

They quickly set off back to Tom’s place, a modest wooden shack located at the base of the trail leading up to the mine where he currently worked. The smell of smoke and sweat stung Charlie’s nostrils. Standing outside the front door, he looked up the ridge and watched a line of tired miners marching down for the night, each one as greasy and dirty as the next.

“We’re hoping to break through to the other side by the end of the week,” Tom said as they walked into the shack. Tom headed straight for a basin of water sitting on a small table across the room, and washed his hands and face before plopping into a poorly made chair at the somewhat battered kitchen table.

“How is everyone back home?” he asked as Charlie took the seat across from him.

“Not well at all, I’m afraid.”

Tom nodded, a concerned look crossing his face as he got up and grabbed two shot glasses from a shelf above the basin, and filled each to the brim with a light brown liquid poured from a dusty bottle.

“How bad is it?” he queried as he returned to the table, carefully handed his younger brother a glass, and sank back down onto his chair with a sigh.

Charlie shook his head. “Bad enough that they sent me out here to live with you.” Charlie gulped down the amber liquor in his glass, then immediately spat it out, spraying both tabletop and brother. Tom laughed as his brother wiped his face with a sleeve. Charlie sputtered and scowled, finally mustering a muttered, “What is this awful stuff?!”

Tom was still laughing as he held up the bottle. “This here is what us miners call mine juice.”

The two brothers talked until their lids grew heavy. Charlie’s mouth still stung from the-so called “mine juice” as he finally got up and headed for his bunk, both grateful to be back with his brother, and miffed he’d been reminded he still wasn’t man enough to hold his liquor. “Make sure to be up at dawn,” Tom called after him.

The next morning the peaks of the Purcells across the lake were turning purple, then pink as Charlie slipped on his work clothes and went to find Tom. He found him around the side of the shack, rummaging through a pile of old tools. Glancing up at his approaching brother, Tom threw him a pick axe and pointed up toward the ridge. “Up we go,” was all he said.

They were maybe three-quarters of the way up when a winded Charlie called out for a break. The combination of the heavy axe, the steep terrain, and having to trudge through a layer of new snow was taking its toll. Tom looked back with a frown.

“What exactly are we mining for anyway?” Charlie asked, as much to distract his brother from commenting on his lack of conditioning as out of genuine curiosity.

Tom shook his head in disbelief. “You really don’t know much, do you?” Charlie shook his head as Tom continued, “Silver, of course. Now come on, let’s go, you’ve got to keep up.”

Once arrived, Charlie soon discovered that working in the mine was like being in an Arctic snowstorm in a swimming suit. Every inch of him was frozen — the only warmth he felt radiated from the blisters on his otherwise frozen hands. The work was hard and relentless, the only light in the murk provided by flickering lanterns that showed the way out, whenever the call came to head to the surface to wait out the blasting that extended the shaft.

An occasional rumble would shake the mine. An alarmed Charlie was calmed by the more experienced men, who explained this was just an avalanche rampaging down the other side of the ridge — they were safe and sound down here.

To Charlie’s surprise, the day passed in a blur. Before he knew it, he and Tom were headed back down the mountain. They were happily chattering about the day’s small events when, halfway down the ridge, an ear splitting crack stopped them in their tracks.

“Avalanche!” Tom cried as he grabbed his brother and flung him forward down the mountain. But it was too late. They turned and watched in horror as a maelstrom of snow, ice, and trees hurtled toward them. At the last moment Tom turned his back on the approaching doom and hugged his younger brother tightly to his chest, as if somehow this small gesture of familial love could protect them both from Nature’s indifferent fury.

“Good-bye Charlie” he shouted in his brother’s ear, just as the avalanche reached them.

They were swept out of sight, never to be seen again.


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