Monday, March 03, 2014

Reader's Diary #1100- Susan Calder: Last Watch

Usually when my family plans a vacation I like to spend the time leading up to it reading stuff written by people from our destination. For March break this year, we're planning something more low key than in the past: Alberta. That's right, a simple road trip around our nearest neighbours to the south. But, as I'm sure there are as many great authors there as elsewhere, I'm sticking with the normal routine.

Today's story, "Last Watch" by Susan Calder is about those most iconic of Albertan images: schooners and lighthouses. (The Calgary Tower is a lighthouse, right?) It's a flash fiction story, or to be even more precise and shorter, it's a postcard story.

For a brief period of my childhood, my father was a lighthouse keeper. Though it meant he'd be gone for a month at a time, I used to love it when the red and white coast guard helicopter would land in our backyard to pick him up and carry him off to the island where he was stationed. And my grandfather worked a large part of his life on schooners, relying on those memories to carve intricately detailed schooners that he'd then pass off to his grandchildren. So, with emotional memories attached to both of these images, I really wanted to like Susan Calder's "Last Watch."

Unfortunately I found it hokey. An automated lighthouse is going to replace the lighthouse keeper at precisely midnight? How convenient for dramatic effect. A schooner, the likes of which he hasn't seen in 50 years, is in danger on Henk's very last night? Maybe it's meant to be Henk, the lighthouse keeper, reliving the glory days, but it comes across like the Hollywood trope of a cop, a day away from retirement, who is about to be pulled back into action.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments.)

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