The Coldest December

A Short Story Collection to Remember the Halifax Explosion

Original Stories by Nova Scotia Authors: Sheila McDougall, Phil Yeats, Lawren Snodgrass, Catherine A. MacKenzie, Polly J. Brown, Diane Lynn McGyver, Cheryl Lynn Davis, Bronwen Piper, Barbara-Jean Moxsom, Liana Olive Quinn and Annemarie Hartnett.


Sheila McDougall

The Coldest DecemberHIS EYES WERE AS BLUE as the May forget-me-nots on Citadel Hill where they first picnicked on the cool spring earth. As blue as the cornflowers Mother grew in her summer garden. As blue as the harbour below, reflecting the summer sky.

When she’d go on, he’d colour up and shake his head in protest. “Don’t be daft,” he’d scold, but she could tell he liked it.

He liked her, too, more than her friends Jane and Mary who accompanied her to the waterfront that day. His cheeky compliments, spoken in accented English foreign to her ears, told her so.

He was short, not much taller than Kate, and slight of build. He looked no more than a boy, a handsome youth in his middy and seaman’s cap, but his wit set him apart from the other young men jostling for notice.

Kate was where her parents had specifically told her not to be on the early spring day when she first met Able Seaman Mick MacIntyre. They had cautioned her to steer clear of the sailors stationed in Halifax, the smart alecs who loitered on the waterfront in their off hours, awaiting word of when they would ship out to God-only-knew-where God-only-knew-when. They reserved their harshest rebukes for the Brits who had no long-term investment in Canada and who looked down their noses at “the colonies”.

“A limey will use pretty words to get up your skirt,” her father warned, “but once you’re in the family way, he will ship out never to be seen again, and your mother and I will be left with another mouth to feed.”

Kate was sick of her parents’ nag and jabber, their cautions about staying “a good girl”, and the war in general. Anger—or was it worry?—lined their faces. In any case, there were few light moments in their household.

Her 12-year-old brother moaned about food rationing. His sweet tooth longed for sugar and butter and the fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls smeared with melted icing when he came in from the cold at the end of a school day. When he whined, their mother retorted, “Don’t blame me; blame the war.” She took his complaints personally, as if he was accusing her of keeping the best for herself. Kate was rarely hungry: butterflies of infatuation had stolen her appetite.


…to continue reading, pick up a copy of The Coldest December.

The Coldest December

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