At this point, the story is about Angus’ return, and it’s fraught with predictable stressors. Everything is unsettled from the first page: “The train lurches and he almost loses his balance and quickly has to replace his hand on the baggage rack.”
Each experiences their own disparate emotions as they approach the land to which Angus returns; where they are united is in this sense of displacement, and also their compassion—all evidenced by a simple scene on the ferry, where they sympathize with the seagull who is apart from his flock:
“There is one mottled brown, who feels very ill at ease and flies low and to the left of the noisy main flock. When he ventures into the thick of the fray his fellows scream and peck at him and drive him away. All three of us try to toss our pieces of cheese sandwich to him or into the water directly before him. He is so lonesome and all alone.”
(It occurs to me that the writers whose stories I most enjoy are likely those who reach out to feed that lonesome and lonely gull—The MacLeod Test.)
When they finally arrive at Angus’s family home, we are even more sure that the story is about Angus’s return. “They carry our suitcases to a taxi and then we all bounce along a very rough street and up a hill, bump, bump, and stop before a large dark house which we enter.”
His mother aims for fair-mindedness and acknowledges that it must be difficult for Mary, whose understanding and experience of life are so different. Angus’ wife Mary must be a city girl, even if she’s not always lived in Montreal specifically, and she has definite opinions about bump, bump streets and drinking: she knows nothing of the fishing and mining communities on the Cape.
For his mom, the Cape is where the world begins and it’s where the world ends: “But it seems that we can only stay forever if we stay right here. As we have stayed to the seventh generation. Because in the end that is all there is – just staying.”
His father does not relate to Mary’s position in any way, however, and in one instance Mary’s shock is so clearly and directly expressed that he exits the scene and ends early their first night reunited. “’Well, time for the working class to be in bed. Good night all.’ He goes up the stairs walking very heavily and we can hear his boots as he thumps them on the floor.”
It’s easy to relate to this simple story of a holiday, where everyone feels removed from everyone else, either because of their actual differences or because similarities have faded while they’ve been inhabiting different spaces. The Celtic cadence in the syntax is hypnotic, the chronology is straightforward, and readers move in and out of the Cape on the train, right along with the family of three.
It’s possible to sustain the idea that the story is about Angus’s return from beginning to end. But MacLeod includes so many mechanical elements of movement through the narrative, that readers are invited to peer at the refraction of returns, to allow our gaze to flit from character to character, from one return to another.