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I'll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

Finalist for The Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2019


After the sudden death of their parents, the MacAllister children return to the run-down summer camp where they spent their childhood. The four sisters and their elder brother haven’t all been together at Camp Macaw in over twenty years—ever since a tragic and mysterious accident.

Over the course of the Labour Day weekend, the siblings must determine what to do with the property, now worth millions. But a stunning condition of their father’s will compels them to face their past—and come to a decision that threatens to tear them apart forever.


July 22, 1998—9:00 p.m.
We only started the lantern ceremony my second-to-last year at Camp Macaw. Yet it’s buried in my summer memories like the smell of the smoke from the weekly campfire, the game we played that made it sound as if we were caught in a rainstorm, or the call-and-response of capture the flag bounding through the woods. Pine and mud, sand and sunscreen.
It was a simple but effective idea: make a sky lantern out of tissue paper, candles, and wire, and then write a wish on its fragile walls. You could add your real heart’s desire because within hours, the lanterns would be lit and released into the sky, floating up and away and landing on some far away shore.
The ceremony began at dusk a few days before the end of the July session. On that last night, I held the lantern I’d built earlier away from my body so I didn’t crush it as I walked to the Swimming Beach along with the rest of camp. Pebbles collected in my sandals, and my best friend, Margaux, giggled when I lifted my foot and gave it a good shake.
“Rock fall warning,” she said.
“Rock-a-bye Baby.”
“Rock, papers, scissors.”
“Rock around the clock.”
“Will you hush, you two?” Ryan said with a touch of annoyance, glancing at us over his shoulder. He was Margaux’s older brother, twenty to our seventeen, a genuine adult, and the object of my penciled-in wish.

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Simon and Schuster