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Meghan Nesmith Excerpt, 2010 Fall

     “What is it?”
     Ben slips, his foot almost sliding into the outline of the North Pole. It’s Lin.She’s holding his arm now. He can hear his crazy heart.
     “Sorry. Did I scare you?”
     “Yes.” Yes! He will have to work on his reflexes.
     “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
     “I know, but you did.”
     “I’m sorry.”
     Lin says sorry a lot. At the diner, too – like the time she brought him the smooshy potatoes instead of french fries. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Like a million times. Ben noticed because it’s one of his favourite words.
     “So what is it?”
     Oh man. He looks up at Lin, who is watching Baffin Island like it’s going to move.
     Can’t you tell?”
     Lin looks some more.
     “It’s a map.”
     “How’d you know?” 
     “Well, you’ve done a great job with the topography.”
     “Yes. You can see how the land rises out of the sea. Are these mountain ridges?”
She’s pointing at the Arctic Cordillera. Ben had used his knuckles to raise the crests. He nods. They are pretty good. “Are you going somewhere?”
     “Maybe.” Half-truth.
     “Somewhere.” Half-truth. Her eyes on his map make his stomach hurt, like she’s looking right at his gut. She stomps her feet, but carefully – Ben can tell she wants him to know that she won’t smash anything. Lin’s breath makes shapes in the air like ghosts lighting little fires.
     "It’s really perfect, Ben. I think it’s perfect.”
     Well, yeah. He knows that. But it’s nice to hear. Lin is nice. He’s not sure why she’s hanging out with Sam, who is his brother but really not at all nice. He knows Lin is sad, but he doesn’t know why. That’s the worst feeling in the world. The knowing-someone-is-sad-but-not-knowing-why feeling. Everyone should have a map to their sadness, Ben thinks, for the people who want to go find it.