Tag Archives: molly mcbride

(Former) Archaeologist’s Lament Addendum

Excerpt from THE NEXT COMING RACE (as yet unpublished).

Pot hunters held rave-type, secretive, pic-nic-style parties, complete with bar-b-ques and beer, on little known or overlooked archaeological sites. They socialized, ate a good meal, and then broke out the shovels, leaving behind a landscape so littered and cratered you’d think you’d landed on a mock-up of the moon.
I suppose what happened next was my fault. Goaded by the wealth of my online data mining and the voracity with which we’d hatched the previous night’s plan, I emailed the others with my findings, urging them to follow through with our stratagem.
It got exciting two months later. One of the pot hunters suggested they get together and investigate an abandoned and soon to be demolished property south of Stouffville. They used SurveyMonkey to determine the best date and settled on having a tailgate-style dinner prior to the dig. Undaunted by the sheer gall of what the pot hunters had suggested, I emailed every one of the original archaeologists. None of us had the slightest clue as to how to proceed. We knew that prosecuting the buggers would be a difficult task—to date, there had been only one case of successful prosecution documented. The solution, we all agreed, was to be on hand to disperse the rave and then hightail it to the Ministry of Culture to register the site.
So we’d have some official capacity, we’d enlisted Michael’s assistance whose job it would be to flash his badge and look menacing, no grand feat for Michael who had the physique of a well-padded football player and the sombre, stoic gaze of a Terminator on a mission permanently tattooed onto his face.
On the date in question, we caught the looters with their metaphoric pants down, munching on ribs and chicken, guzzling beer and Coke by the cans-full. We drove up the dirt access road at dusk, circled them with our vehicles and parked with our brights on. Mesmerized to paralysis at first, the looters presently scrambled, Hibachis and shovels clanging as they were thrown into the beds of their pickups. One by one they snaked between our cars and drove away.
Our group had participated in no less than three such raids since.
To have that power, to be able to do something to protect our passion from marauders, was exhilarating, if not entirely legal. To that end, we swore each other to secrecy, vowing only ever to meet clandestinely, and only when dictated by the slightly lesser legal activities of our pot-hunting nemeses.
The ghost town of Ballycroy in the northern GTA was our first failure. I’d been monitoring online chatter for weeks, trying to pinpoint the message containing the exact date and time of the party. Once I’d found it, I’d marked it on my smart phone’s calendar. Busy at school, I hadn’t gone back to check for revisions. At some point between entering it into my calendar and the scheduled date, the pothunters had changed their meeting and I’d missed it.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence between us I said, “I fucked up big.”
“Come on, Moll,” Palmer said, “you had no way to know.”
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Michael said.
“Really, Michael?” I said. “Platitudes? Now?”
“Say, is there any cream?” Michael asked. He left the table and took his coffee with him.
“You need to calm down, Moll,” Palmer told me. “Stop beating yourself up.” I looked deep into his dark eyes and saw the calm I sought. How was he able to slough off what had happened so easily? Probably because he wasn’t on point for plan-making. “Crestwood means well, you know he does.” Palmer reached out and pried my hand from the near death-grip it had around the coffee cup, and squeezed.
When Michael returned to the table I apologized.
We agreed I would be the one to go to the Ministry office first thing the next day and register the site. Not that it would stop future looters from spoiling the archaeological record, but if we were ever going to see these guys prosecuted, it was the first step.
About the Author
Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own

First Meeting

I wrote this thinking it fit into the scene I was working on but then realized it was what the sourcces called “Information Dump” and removed it. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but here it is anyway.

This scene documents the first meeting between Molly and Palmer. This time round I imagine Robert Carlyle playing Palmer. Feel free to imagine whomever you feel fills the part as Molly.

Second year. Department Star Trek Movie Marathon. Bored studying, I’d attended alone. Palmer, Dr. Richardson, manned the concessions. I watched him interact with the others in line in front of me. The stories the high school teachers told us about university profs still vivid in my mind, I  grew more and more petrified at the thought of an informal interaction with a prof—any prof—as the line drew me near. Though I knew nothing of Palmer at the time, Dr. Richardson, the department head, had a reputation for being a hard-ass. Watching his mouth as he spoke, the way he flung his hair—the perfect mix of sandy brown, dirty blond, and grey—out of his eyes, the curve of his nose, I was surprised at how personable a man with his reputation could be. When at last it was my turn to order, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to speak.

                “What can I get for you?” he said with a smile.

                I checked out the display of items in stock. “I’ll have a popcorn and a Vernors, please.”

                He nodded over his shoulder. “Popcorn’ll be a while.” This was followed by a very awkward silence. I looked over my shoulder at the people rapidly filling the auditorium and hoped my jacket would be enough to save me my spot. “Well,” he said, “it appears we have a bit of time.”

I nodded and forced a smile; I hoped it looked natural.

“So. All American girl, are you?” I noticed he trilled his Rs slightly and wondered which culture was of influence.


“Really?” He seemed truly astonished.  So what if I don’t go around saying “eh” or mispronouncing “about”.

“Yep. Born and raised. Why?”

“Vernors claims to be the oldest ginger ale in the States.”

“Really?” I said, not feigning interest at all.

“Yeah.” He shook his head to force the bangs from his eyes. When that didn’t work, he used his thumb to push them out of the way. “Dates back to the 1850s or so.”

“It’s more a nostalgic thing for me. My grandfather drank it.”

“So he’s the American, then.”

                “Canadian. Well, British originally, but he immigrated here when he was still very young.”

                Dr. Richardson smiled a polite smile and nodded at my response. Then the awkward and very pregnant silence rose once more.

“So,” he said at last, “are you an archaeology student?”

Where was my popcorn? I was no good at small talk. And he was only slightly better than I. “Anthropology,” I answered.

                “You should switch.” He winked and nodded his head once. “Archaeology’s cooler.”

“I’ll take that under advisement,” I said with a chuckle.” Thanks.”

                The popcorn continued to pop behind the glass of the movie theatre popper the club had rented for the week. It smelled of childhood and Disney movies. Then the opening fanfare of the movie sounded.

                “You should come back later,” he said. “You’ll miss the beginning”.

“No I won’t. This is my favourite one of the series. I must’ve seen it like a dozen times.”

                He laughed once. “Noob,” he said.

“See that guy? The one with the blue shirt and pointy ears over there? He’s seen the movie 32 times. And that guy dressed in leather with the bad wig and dreds? 53 times. That guy? The one in the red jacket and white bib? Over 100 times.”

“So what’s your number?” I asked him, intentionally provocative. The awkward silence gone, engaged in real conversation like we were, I was beginning to see why he was so popular amongst my female peers in the department.

“I haven’t seen the movie yet.”

                “Not even once?”

                “Well I guess technically, this will be my first time then, won’t it?” He leaned forward on the counter between us, as if to let me in on a secret. “I saw a couple a few episodes of the original series when I was younger. Never quite got the hang of it, I’m afraid.”

“But you study anthropology. Star Trek’s all about culture. It’s about all the cultures in the universe coming together. It’s about hope in a world where hope is a rare commodity. It tells us that if we can just learn to get along the human race still has a future.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” he said. A student had begun to bag the fresh popcorn. Dr. Richardson handed one the bags to me. “I don’t study anthropology. I study archaeology. You should switch. Way cooler.”

I smiled in thanks and said that I should go. He told me to enjoy. When I got back to my seat I looked back at him. The light in the concession stand was the only one in the room besides the projection on the screen. Dr. Suzanne Pascoe, the Egyptology prof approached him from behind and placed a hand on the small of his back. He turned to her and they embraced.

After the movie I saw Dr. Richardson hold her coat for her. He seated it on her shoulders and then reached in behind the collar to lift her long, blonde waves from beneath the jacket. He kissed the back of her neck while it was exposed and then let her hair flow naturally down her neck and back. As I put my own jacket on, I wished I had someone that would treat me with the same tenderness and intimacy as the moment we, unbeknownst to them, had just shared.