James Haug

My Year on the Labrador Basin

I found a pair of sunglasses in a truck stop in Newfoundland somewhere. White aviator frames and pink lenses. Either I picked them up off the counter where someone left them, or I found them on a spinning rack by the cash register, tried them on, and wore them outside without paying for them.

I should add, the possibility does exist, however remote, that I paid for the glasses. But I doubt that, since my income would not have allowed for impulse buying. Whether I was receiving a modest monthly stipend or that my income derived from the little bit of sheepherding I was doing on the side, I can’t say. Though, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever herded goats, let alone sheep.

To put it plainly: I don’t know how I paid for the sunglasses, if I did actually pay for them. I may have stolen them. I seem to like stealing. Well, the stark fact emerges, like an iceberg from the fog, that I haven’t the slightest idea how I managed to get by on that wintry coast for an entire year. As you can imagine, this omission has impeded progress on my memoir.

Certainly the hardships of the road imposed a kind of chaste austerity that fortified me, although when I think about it I recall few if any roads—oh a lane here and there, and a trail that brought me face to face with a mother bear. I remember clenching a bowie knife in my teeth...

Long nights the northern waters lashed the cliffs. My little cabin withstood those frigid blasts bravely. The sky thundered; lightning ignited the horizon. Each night the lights of a troubled frigate bobbed into view. The brute chill forced on me a bitter isolation, a monkish solitude that purified my soul and quelled in me my lust for material possessions. Never again would I find solace in the things of this world.

At least, I’m fairly sure that’s what happened. I’m fairly sure I’m a better person. Though, truthfully, I don’t recollect how I ever reached that cabin or who I might have rented it from, if indeed I was renting it at all and not merely a squatter. A friend of the family may have loaned it to me for a year, though this seems unlikely, since my family has no friends.

I’ll never forget the view from that lonely truck stop where I got the sunglasses. Trees trees trees. Still it’s unclear to me, I feel compelled to mention, whether there are actually any truck stops in Newfoundland.

Nevertheless, what’s curious to me, as I near the end of this account of my crazy year along the Labrador Basin, is how I can picture no one else in the truck stop. No cashier, no waitresses. The cook is gone. The grill isn’t sizzling, plates aren’t crashing. And no customers. Yes, it could be argued that this is what made it so easy to walk off with the sunglasses.

It could be argued that I stepped out of the truck stop and followed a silver path that wound through a night of junipers.

It could be argued that on top of a small hill I began mapping the stars, and sat for a very long time.