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Watmough, David.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1984. 152pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-542-2 (cloth) $23.95, 0-88750-543-0 (paper) $12.95.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Boh Kinczyk

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

It's been ten years since the publication of Love & the Waiting Game (Oberon, 1975), David Watmough's first collection of stories about Davey Bryant's Cornish boyhood. In Fury, Davey has grown up (boy, has he grown up!) and seen something of the world.

The narrator, now middle-aged and living "in the calm of Western Canada," looks back to the fury of adolescence in the collection's first five stories. In "Incident in the Forest," thirteen-year-old Davey and his friend Danny track a pervert several miles through Epping Forest. When they catch up to him, they stone him to death. In "The Bicycle Boy," Davey pulls a cruel prank, which almost results in his father's death.

"Fury," the best of the stories of adolescence, begins with Davey adding a monster to his already considerable menagerie, when the local gamekeeper gives him a polecat ferret kitten for his fifteenth birthday. Since ferrets catch rabbits that can be eaten or sold, they pay their own way. Ferrets, though, are dangerous, and in a farmer's barnyard things can get rather bloody. The inevitable barnyard carnage earns Davey a tongue-lashing from his father. The boy promptly marches the ferret, appropriately named Fury, to an old rabbit-warren, lets him go ferreting, blocks up the escape holes, and walks away. Later at the supper table:

it came to me with cruel force that I would not attempt to rescue him; that I would never again go near the place I had left him. And with the forlorn knowledge that treachery could root so easily in a heart that had so proudly professed friendship to all animals, I jumped up from the table and fled to the forgiving quiet of rny attic room.

The stories of adulthood are even richer and more strange. Reading "Above the Mergansers, Below the Salal," I felt as if I were watching something very naughty but could not lake my eyes away. Davey, now thirty and wracked with self-pity, wanders a Vancouver beach in the waning days of summer, amd meets a handsome young man, Ross McDermott. As they walk together on the beach, Davey stumbles, spraining his ankle and fainting. He finds himself being carried in strong arms:

I closed my eyes again. This time in embarrassment, though. Although in theory I'd love at any time to be carried by some big, strong man, I actually felt a complete asshole, being carried like some swooned maiden along that beach. I hoped like hell it was still deserted...

As they head to Ross's place for coffee, the cautious seduction continues. In the car, Davey puts his arm along the seat bench behind the driver and is greeted by a deep rumble from the back seat. Ross's wolf dog, Thor, does not approve. And other things intrude, the most deadly being a novel that Ross has been writing. He insists upon reading it to Davey:

At one point I thought only death-preferably his-could interrupt that remorseless flow-when apart from mental trips around the globe, T had undressed that hunched form a dozen times or more, slept with it, wrestled with it, even punched it! But it was hunger-his hunger-that finally brought my boredom to an end.

Naturally the novel kills the mood-and saves the story. Watmough is a little silly in arranging the strained sprain/swoon but the growing, and dissolving, relationship between the two lonely men is handled boldly and surely.

"Dark Murmurs from Burns Lake" is a fine story too. Dark, masculine, and ugly, it shows how violence in a northern community has become a pastime: "an unholy antidote to boredom."

In every story Watmough has something to say and he says it well. Although Fury will be a very good addition to any Canlit collection, educators should be aware that the subject matter of some stories is decidedly adult.

Boh Kinczyk, Central Elgin C.I., St. Thomas, Ont.
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