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Carols llama.jpg

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Myles Cook is having a rough time. Not only has his mother run off with Jocelyn, her yoga instructor, Myles and his dad have moved to a tiny rural island on BC's west coast to live in a log cabin.

Garcia Island is nothing like Myles' old home in the city; there are no stores, the WiFi is sketchy, and let's face it, the people are strange. There's Clyde, the old guy in the silver airstream trailer who carves erotic demon sculptures from wood, Daisy Archibald, the island coven's high priestess (whom Myles secretly believes is a hack), and Axel Jespersen—a recumbent cyclist and angora goat farmer who is just plain nasty!


Finally, there is Norm next door, a man who teaches Myles a little about llamas and a lot about life. Factor in a taxidermy raccoon (with superpowers), a first crush, and a whole lot of growing pains, and Myles quickly discovers that truth really is stranger than fiction.


But people can be full of surprises, and as the saying goes, you can't always judge a book by its cover. And sometimes, when things are out of your control, the best thing you can do is simply stand tall, take a deep breath and just go with the flow. (Well, you can try!)


CHAPTER 1 - An Alien Landscape

HAVE you ever been snatched from a perfectly good life only to be deposited on a strange and alien planet? Or woken to find that everything you thought you knew had morphed into something completely unrecognizable? Because that's what happened to me. I was plucked from the familiar buzz and whir of Vancouver—the city where I've lived my entire fourteen years—and dumped on a rural B.C. Gulf Island, one where feral sheep run wild, and the Wifi is sketchy. Welcome to Garcia Island.

Dad and I now live in a log cabin, which is really just one big room. The bathroom and my bedroom (aka closet) are at one end, and the kitchen and Dad's slightly more oversized "closet" are at the other. A woodstove resembling a giant rusty teapot sits in the middle of the living room. It says 'Winterson' on the front of it, but you can’t make out the "o" and the "n," so it looks like it says "Winters." I think it must be at least one hundred years old. The stove is how we will be heating our new home. It also requires that we split wood. With an axe. In the rain.


Everything is wood: the floors, the walls, the trim, even the couch left here by the previous tenant is crafted from alder logs, I think.


When we first arrived at the cabin, there were cobwebs in every corner, old rat traps on the porch, and I even found a tiny, dried mouse lying motionless in front of the stove in the kitchen. It had a fruit loop (orange) clutched between its little petrified paws. I wonder if it's some kind of omen?

Anyway, at one end of my room is a tiny window that opens sideways. There's also a leaky skylight in the middle of the ceiling. All that fits into the room is a twin bed and a three-drawer dresser. After my old room back in the city, which had space for my desk, PlayStation, and a bunch of other stuff, this one feels pretty cramped. And when I stand up straight, the top of my head almost touches the ceiling.


I also think my room used to be a garden tool shed, and whoever lived here before Dad and I must have dragged it across the yard and attached it to the side of the cabin. I think this because there are faint outlines of garden tools made in black felt pen—hammers and garden shears and such—visible on the far wall.


If I look out the window, I have a clear view of the llamas that live next door. Speaking of which, I never knew llamas were such dicks! When Dad and I were unpacking the van this afternoon, I went over to say hello, and the biggest one—a brown and white dude with an embarrassing 80s boy-band haircut—spat right in my face. Nice.


Dad said all alpacas spit and that I shouldn't take it personally, and I said I thought they were llamas, to which he didn't even bother to reply. Instead, he just heaved out his La-Z-Boy recliner from the back of the van and motioned for me to pick up an end.


I think Dad is under the impression that he will be transforming into some super-rugged outdoors person by moving to this tiny island. Today he put on a flannel shirt and Levi's, which is bizarre because my father has never worn a pair of jeans in his life, at least not that I'm aware of. And when we got off the ferry, we made a stop at the general store so that he could buy an axe and a giant coil of rope. When I asked him what the rope was for, he just shrugged and said, Dunno, but I feel like rope might be a good thing for us rural folk to have on hand. Yeah. He actually said that: us rural folk.

We hadn't been at the cabin more than twenty minutes when Dad started talking to the woman next door, a thirty-something woman named Misty. She's pretty and lives in a rambling farmhouse with her seventy-one-year-old father, whose name is Norm.


Dad was leaning casually against the fence (while I was struggling to get our coffee table out of the van), and I heard him say that this change “would be great for Myles and would help toughen him up.” And I'm like, excuse me? What does he mean, toughen me up? I am seriously offended. My own father, selling me out to our hot neighbour before all our stuff is even out of the van. Thanks, Dad.

What makes it even worse is that Dad told me an hour ago that Misty has invited us to dinner tomorrow night. I argued that we had just moved in, so maybe we should just chill out and make some burgers on the ol' barby. Crack a couple of beers; that sort of thing.  But my dad said it wasn’t BBQing season; it was December, and I was only fourteen years old, so nix on the beer. Then he added that we were going to Misty and Norm's tomorrow night and that it would be rude to refuse when they are so welcoming, so I wasn’t allowed to even think about getting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or deep vein thrombosis.


Right, like being a hypochondriac is something I choose to be for the sheer joy of it.

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