Current Issue Excerpts


     How to Get There


The psychic lived in a ticky-tacky house in South Vancouver, did her readings at a Formica kitchen table and began each morning by hanging upside down. She was 76 years old with shocking white hair, pale blue eyes and an avalanche of love. I wanted to be her.

She saw that I was a nurse and in pain and advised me to soak in some ozone rays by the ocean.

    I'm sitting on a log. Here comes a big boat, right toward me. Just before it hits the beach, it grows tracks like a tank and crawls up to a stranded boat. Out jumps a woman, ties a rope to the boat, and hauls it out of there. That night, CBC news does a special report on her. The boat is a hovercraft and she's a nurse, works for the Coast Guard, rescues stranded boats and sick people up and down the coast.

     I will be her.

     The next morning, I call the Coast Guard. To join them, you need to join the armed forces.

     No way.

     You also need an IFA ticket.

     What's that?

     Industrial First Aid. You get it through Workers' Compensation Board.

     I call WCB. IFA attendants work in industry. They have a class starting next week. I sign up. I get the highest mark in class, but this is 1983 and there are no jobs for women in industry. IFA attendants also work in mills and factories. Women don't. Women aren't strong enough. We don't have the skills. Coveralls don't fit us. Men and women can't work together. They don't have separate locker rooms.

     One company in Calgary is hiring IFA attendants for the oil field. I apply...

JUDY SMITH was a medic in the oil industry in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories from 1983 to 1989. Her creative non-fiction book, Native Blood: Nursing on the Reservations (Oberon, 1994) was based on her years of being an Outpost Nurse on remote Indian reserves. Her short prose pieces have been published in various literary magazines, including "Sabotage on the Rigs," printed in Queen's Quarterly in 1998.

«back to Current Issue