Authors: Nalo Hopkinson
From award-winning author Nalo Hopkinson comes a triumphant and startlingly fresh novel of love, loss, and reclamation.
Calamity, originally christened Chastity, is confronting two of life’s biggest dramas. First is the death of her father, a rigid, principled man who rejected a pregnant Calamity when she was sixteen years old. Contrary as the tides around her Caribbean island home and still angry about the indignities of the past, Calamity tended the old man in his last years, only to finally become the orphan she’d always felt like. The second drama: she’s starting menopause. And with this change of life comes the return of a special gift she has not felt since her childhood—she can find lost things. Now after a little tingling in the hands and a hot flash, objects suddenly appear out of nowhere.
Then one morning a missing item washes up on the shore that is not her old toy truck or her hairbrush, but a bruised yet cheerful four-year-old boy, his ropy hair matted with shells. When Calamity decides to take the orphaned child into her care, she not only brings greater strain to her relationship with her now-adult daughter, but creates new unexpected upheaval in her life. For fostering this child will force Calamity to confront all the memories and mysteries of her own childhood and the disappearance of her mother so many years before.
In Calamity, Nalo Hopkinson has created an unswervingly honest portrait of a woman who discovers in her middle years that there is still more room to grow.
also by Nalo Hopkinson
The Salt Roads
Brown Girl in the Ring
Skin Folk (short stories)
edited by Nalo Hopkinson
Mojo: Conjure Stories
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2007 by Nalo Hopkinson
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Original poetry on pages 1, 217, and 316 are from “Uncle Time”
by Dennis Scott copyright © 1973.
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Book design by Fearn de Vicq
Printed in the United States of America
FIRST EDITION: FEBRUARY 2007
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Warner Books and the “W” logo are trademarks of Time Warner Inc. or an affiliated company. Used under license by Hachette Book Group USA, which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The new moon’s arms / Nalo Hopkinson.-1st ed.
Summary: “A mainstream magical realism novel set in the Caribbean on the fictional island of Dolorosse. It tells the story of a 50-something grandmother whose mother disappeared when she was a teenager and whose father has just passed away as she begins menopause. With this physical change of life comes a return of a special power for finding lost things, something she hasn’t been able to do since childhood”-Provided by publisher.
I. Grandmothers-Fiction. 2. Caribbean area-Fiction. I. Title.
I worked almost three years on this novel. In that time, it changed quite significantly, more than once. My deepest thanks to everyone who helped me with my research, read endless drafts and excerpts and gave their feedback, listened when I got whiny, fed me when I got hungry, lent or gave me money when I was broke, and generally provided an utterly humbling base of support. The list below is as complete as my memory and my notes can make it.
Daniel Archambault, Sarah Banani, Tobias Buckell, Rich Bynum, Grandma Ermine Campbell, Carol Camper, Carol Cooper, Steven Dang, Esther Figueroa, David Findlay, Mici Gold, Jeanne Gomoll, Kathy Goonan, Peter Halasz, Liz Henry, Patricia Hodgell, Keita Hopkinson, Matt Hughes, Juba Kalamka, Paul Klaehn, Ellen Klages, Dave Laderoute, Jaime Levine, Don Maass, Freda Manning, Farah Mendlesohn, Nnedimma Okorafor-Mbachu, Victor Raymond, Kate Schaefer, Dennis Scott, Joy Scott, Susanna Sturgis, Peter Watts, Pat York, Fem-SF, the miracle that is the Interwebs, Green College (University of British Columbia), my blog readers, the Writing Squad (Hiromi Goto, Larissa Lai, Martin Mordecai, Pamela Mordecai, Jennifer Stevenson).
And, for those who don’t know, a
, when it’s not a fruit, is a party.
Uncle Time is a ole, ole man…
All year long ’im wash ’im foot in the sea
Long, lazy years on the wet san’
An’ shake the coconut tree-dem quiet-like with ’im sea wind laughter,
Scraping away the lan’…
—Dennis Scott, “Uncle Time”
CROWD HAD GATHERED AROUND MRS
. The commotion at the graveside vibrated with suppressed hilarity. Me, I wasn’t able to keep properly solemn. When my shoulders had started shaking with silent laughter, I’d ducked behind the plain pine coffin still on its stand outside the grave.
I bit my lips to keep the giggles in, and peeked around the coffin to watch the goings-on.
Mrs. Winter had given up the attempt to discreetly pull her bloomers back up. Through the milling legs of the mourners, I could see her trying desperately instead to kick off the pale pink nylon that had slithered down from her haunches and snagged around her ankles.
Her kick sent a tiny flash of gold skittering across the cemetery lawn to land near me. I glanced down. I picked up the small tangle of gold-coloured wire and put it in my jacket pocket for later. Right now, I had some high drama to watch.
Pastor Paul, ever helpful, bent to the ground at Mrs. Winter’s feet and reached for his parishioner’s panties. Lord help me Jesus, he was really going to pick them up! But he drew his fingers back. He looked mortified. Maybe he was thinking how the panties had recently been snugged up to Mrs. Winter’s naked flesh. I thought my belly was going to bust, I was trying so hard not to laugh aloud. I bet you Dadda would have laughed with me, if he wasn’t in that coffin right now.
Mrs. Winter got the tip of one of her pumps caught in the froth of pink nylon. She cheeped in dismay and fell heavily to the ground. Lawdamercy! I bent right over, shaking with laughter, trying to not pee myself from it.
Pastor Paul and Mrs. Winter’s son Leroy were pulling on her arms now, trying to get her off the ground. “Oh, Dadda, oh,” I whispered through my giggles. “Wherever you are, I hope you seeing this.” I held my belly and wept tears of mirth. Serve the old bat right for insulting me like that. Not a day went by at work that she didn’t find some sly way to sink in the knife. She had to do the same thing at my father’s funeral, too?
Mrs. Winter was halfway up. She had one arm hooked around Leroy’s neck, and Pastor Paul was pushing her from behind. A few of the mourners asked her if she was all right. “Oh, migod,” was all she said; “oh, migod.” My laughter was edging up on hysteria. Too much; death and mirth all at once. I rested my hands on my knees and took little panting breaths to calm myself. I couldn’t hide behind the coffin forever.
At least the tingling in my hand had stopped. A few minutes earlier, standing at the open grave, I’d suddenly felt too warm, and my hand had gotten pins and needles.
I took the scrap of wire out of my pocket. It had been crushed flat. I pulled on the loops of wire until something of its original shape began to emerge. I had a good look at it, and gasped.
I held the pin up against the sunlight. It caught a spark of light, threw blades of sunshine at my eyes. It had gotten warped over the years, forced into service to hold up Mrs. Winter’s loose drawers. It used to be a decorative pin for wearing on a blouse, its gold wire looped in the shape of an ornate C, T, and L:
Chastity Theresa Lambkin
. My girlhood name. Mumma’d given me that pin for my eighth birthday. Years ago, after they’d declared Mumma dead and we’d had the memorial service for her, little Chastity-girl me had noticed it missing. And missing it had stayed; no time to look for it in all the commotion of the hearing, of moving to my aunt and uncle’s, and the children at school whispering to each other whenever they saw me.
Where in blazes Mrs. Winter had found my pin?
“Mum? What’s going on?”
Ife was standing there, holding young Stanley’s hand. Ife’s black dress hung off her shoulders, its hem crooked.
Stanley gave me a shy little wave.