Will Ferguson's 419

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

View of Calgary from the North Hill, 1911 (Photo: Calgary Public Library)

View of Calgary from the North Hill, 1911 (Photo: Calgary Public Library)

Laura Curtis lives in a shopping mall. Her apartment elevator delivers her into the village of North Hill Centre. Everything she needs is here: food court, pharmacy, gym; hair salon, doctor’s office, chocolate shop. Her life is constrained and careful. She lives alone, works from home editing books about other people’s lives. Keeps things simple. From her apartment window, she watches the city with the cool, steady gaze of a copy editor.

 

Laura’s windows were aligned not with the mountains but toward downtown; they looked onto that sandstone-and-steel city below with its Etch-a-Sketch skyline, a city that was constantly erasing and rewriting itself… She could chart the price of a barrel of oil from her bedroom window by the turning of construction cranes along the skyline. When the price fell below some magical point, the cranes would slow down. And then stop. When the price rose again, the cranes would start up, spinning anew. Faster and faster.

The Heart of the New West. That’s what they called the city. And from up here, it did indeed beat like a heart, like one of those stop-motion films of traffic pulsing on aortal avenues.

Will Ferguson, 419 (Penguin, 2012)


Will Ferguson's 419

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Calgary Stampede midway (Photo: Shelagh McHugh Cherak)

Calgary Stampede midway (Photo: Shelagh McHugh Cherak)

In the wake of her father’s apparent suicide, Calgarian Laura Curtis is “cataloguing memories, compiling an inventory of loss.” Who was this flawed, beloved man who got tangled in the deadly web of a Nigerian 419 scam? She remembers a childhood trip to the Stampede: the rough-and-tumble of the chuckwagon races, the clang and noise of midway rides, carneys touting games of chance. “Throw a ball, win a prize! It’s just that easy.” In her memory, Laura finds traces of the man her father was.

While waiting in line for mini-doughnuts – moist and warm and dusted with cinnamon, the highlight of any Stampede midway visit – Laura had walked ahead, down the line, while her dad held their spot. She’d peered seriously at the menu-board options, decided after great deliberation to get the Big Bag, and was hurrying back when she kicked something underfoot. A twenty-dollar bill.

She ran, breathless, back to her dad. “Look what I found!”

Her elation didn’t last, though. “Sweetie,” he said. “It’s not ours to keep.”

Will Ferguson, 419 (Penguin, 2012)