An Unexpected Kindness /9
Local students show off their literary stuff in the 2018 McEntyre Writing Competition
Introduction by Wayne Larsen
Illustrated by Jennifer Cook
In what has become an annual tradition in Westmount schools, the McEntyre Writing Competition always attracts a wide variety of thoughtful and creative entries, and the 2018 edition was no exception.
Endowed by the late Peter McEntyre, mayor of Westmount from 1969 to 1971, the competition encourages young writers to express themselves on a designated topic, each designed to get the creative juices flowing. It is coordinated each year by the Westmount Public Library.
In 2018, “An Unexpected Kindness” was the topic assigned to students in grades 1 through 11.
Westmount Magazine presents the full texts of the first-place entries in each grade category, as supplied by the Westmount Public Library. As well, this year these will be accompanied by Westmounter Jennifer Cook’s charming illustrations.
Here we present Grade 10.
TENTH GRADE | FIRST PRIZE | WESTMOUNT HIGH SCHOOL
The Journal of an Ambivalent Topographer
The sun’s rays warmed my back as I forage further into the unknown. The bush out here is dense and unforgiving, but wildly beautiful; this forest is overwhelmed by vibrant species, ones I’ve never encountered near the capital. As for my search, no progress has been made other than some changes to the presumed topography of the region… rocky hills erupt indiscriminately as far as I can see. The fog is making it difficult to locate any signs of natives.
After a quick break to rest, I started up the nearest hill to try to get a view of my surroundings. The day seemed to be calming down as the sun’s last beams shimmered over my head, and with every climbing step I worried more about finding a place to camp. I started to think about home to ease my mind, back to the intendant’s speech last week. His final words still rung in my head; “Keep in mind we are only here to claim what has been rightfully fought for and won by our valiant army; our land! Natives do not understand the Jaws and complexity of our modern society. They are rebellious and vicious savages.”
When I thought about what it would be like to encounter them, my heart beated rapidly. I sometimes would regret taking this mapping assignment for the colony, but it sure granted adequate opportunity for adventure, and cobbling never appealed to me anyways.
I had just made it to the top of the hill and noticed a stream in the distance. I took off my rucksack and placed it by my feet. Suddenly, the thin rock under me split straight down the center, and I began to plummet down the hillside. Twigs, pine needles and exposed slate rock scraped my entire side as I descended, gaining speed, and when I finally hit the bottom my arm emanated a piercing *crack* that shook every nearby bird out of its perch.
A pool of blood formed on the rock beneath me. The adrenaline I expected from such an accident never came. As I began to fade in and out of consciousness, two figures appeared and loomed above me.
* * *
The first thing I remember was the brilliant light of the sun glowing through my eyelids, and they fluttered open. I felt slightly nauseous, and soon realised I was on a moving vehicle. I sat up and couldn’t believe what I saw; I was sitting on a raft amongst three other individuals whom I presumed to be members of a local tribe. My first instinct told me to jump and swim for my life, but a searing pain in my arm argued otherwise. I was baffled that these half-naked, wild people hadn’t cut me open or roasted me like the stories I had heard in the capital. It was dream-like. One of the passengers, an enchantingly beautiful young woman, looked me dead in the eyes before breaking away and poking the man nearest to me. He turned around to look at me, an aggravated look spread across his wide face. Horror overwhelmed my heart and stomach as he twisted around the paddle in his grip and pointed the butt-end straight between my eyes. My pulse raced, and water surged on either side of the square raft. I realised I was as good as dead. The man slowly drew back his paddle, and I thought I was safe, until he swung it back around into the side of my head, knocking me out cold.
* * *
The next time I woke up I was on land. Two dozen natives surrounded me, watching, observing. I was quite intimidated, but one of them, an older man, reached out his hand to me. He said, pointing to himself: “Odakota”. I introduced myself to them as Alfred Porter.
I had expected more hostility from these people, but from that moment everyone began to accept my presence. It was the oddest experience, I had no idea how to react.
I have come across indigenous people, and it is not at all what I could have ever imagined. They’ve cared for me and helped repair what I believe to be a broken arm. They’ve fed me and provided shelter. I don’t know how I’ll ever make it out of here and report their presence in the northeast, especially since it seems that they are nomadic people who travel by river.
* * *
The natives have migrated downstream and brought me with them. I must say, a lot of what King Tunifus has spread concerning the habits of native people, to my knowledge, has been propaganda. The intendant also must’ve misinterpreted their level of intelligence; a tribe member who I believe to be Odakota’s right-hand man, Awanatu, showed me his amazingly detailed maps following the migrations of local mammals.
* * *
Because of something I felt today, I stopped recording in my journal. A light rainstorm came in the evening and began to grow heavier.
Whilst in the forest with Nova and her mother, Sooleawa, collecting various items, presumably for cooking or healing, I noticed a flag marker placed down roughly a hundred metres away.
My heart skipped a beat as I realised with a foreboding certainty that another explorer had arrived near us.
Without explanation to the others, I ran endlessly until I found his last campsite, and finally, the explorer himself. I gave the impression to have been slightly off course and played my arm off as a mere scrape. I redirected him southwards, explaining there was nothing to the northeast but rocky hills. We parted ways.
I never reported the native tribe I encountered during my first – and last, mapping expedition. I’m not sure exactly why, but I never could have betrayed the trust of such loving and kind people, no matter my loyalty to the capital.
Jennifer Cook, with over 28 years in graphic design, brings her expertise to each creative solution she produces for businesses world-wide. Paired with her love of research, she learns the soul of each client’s story to build a successful visual portfolio, which can include a combination of strategic graphic design, brand development, illustration, and social media. For fun, she started a daily illustrated social media series What my Coffee says to me to inspire and promote good mental health. To find out more on how she can meet your visual marketing needs, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.