Ali Bryan's "The Rink"

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Calgarians skating on the Elbow River, circa 1913. (Photo: Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

Calgarians skating on the Elbow River, circa 1913. (Photo: Calgary Public Library Postcards from the Past)

All winter, Ali Bryan watches her husband build a skating rink in their Calgary backyard. Hoses take over the kitchen; the back gate is frozen shut. She wonders what he is thinking as he stands night after night in the cold adding a new layer of water on top of a plastic tarp. When the rink is ready, Bryan marvels at what her husband has constructed. In spring, the ice thaws but the dream of his rink endures.

 

It is April and the un-bungeed part of the tarp blows in the wind, at one point folding itself in half over the portion of the rink that has not yet melted. Along the fence, the ice is still eight inches thick. From the neighboring road it’s an eyesore. I pull back the tarp; anchor it down with rocks like it’s a picnic blanket. Methodically, I chip away at the remaining ice. Assaulting it with a shovel, then flinging the blocks into the green space beyond the yard. It is both therapeutic and exhausting. I work alone in the quiet of the afternoon, undoing the layers. Stripping away the hours of time my husband spent in the darkness of winter building the rink. I can’t tell if the ice looks negative or positive, beautiful or deformed. It is just heavy. Weighed down by the private thoughts of its maker, those profound and those superficial. Him. I debate whether to stop because it feels like I’m dismantling something sacred. Like I’m cutting down a tree. But I keep working because it’s almost May and the grass beneath the tarp has been buried for almost six months. I suspect it craves sunlight and air the way we all do after a long winter. I detach the tarp, fold it into a shapeless heap by the edge of the fence and stand ankle deep in the yard. The remains of the rink, now a watery graveyard of thoughts, from which summer will emerge.

 

Ali Bryan, “The Rink,” 40 Below: Alberta’s Winter Anthology, Volume 2 (Edmonton: Wufniks Press, 2015)