"It is only the
most intelligent and the most stupid
who are not
susceptible to change." - Confucius
Prince George, British Columbia
brown Dodge past the pulp-and-paper mills towards Prince George, Remy is
stroking his beard and looking all around him soaking up the greenery, talking,
pointing, patting his dog. A grin on his face that he can't wipe off. His
posture square with the wheel and his arm fitting comfortably on the armrest by
his right elbow. A cigarette dangles from his lips between outbursts of words.
He tells me how this is our time to finally catch up and do some road-tripping
and how we have to make the most of this opportunity and that he knows of some
places we could look for a place because he hoped - if the property is big
enough - that he can camp on the land I buy. His hand flails when he talks,
emphasizing his points with light beaming from his eyes when he speaks of
anything spiritual. His voice calms and he speaks with authority when he
discusses healing the human spirit, ready to breathe fire at anyone who doubts
him. His long head hunches at the neck over the steering wheel and his
sunglasses absorb the glare of the sun as his red bandana keeps his hair out of
his eyes. He drives slowly - so slowly that almost everyone who is behind him
passes us when they have a chance. But this doesn't bother him. He acts as if
they don't exist, unless they tailgate. That's when he flips up his rear-view
mirror and cuts his speed down by a third until they pass. He ignores the honks
that come as if they are quacks from a duck in a nearby lake, still preoccupied
with juggling the ten things on his mind: the conversation with me, patting his
dog, humming to the music from the radio, changing lanes, navigating back to
Prince George, sipping coffee from his thermos, keeping the truck in the middle
of the lane, smoking a cigarette as if that were the only thing he was doing. But I have always trusted
Remy behind the wheel. It's a gift he has always had. If it could be done on
the road, he could do it. He knows how to treat a truck to maximize what she
has in her. He's always had a special ability with four-wheeled vehicles,
whereas my special ability is with two-wheeled vehicles. Four wheels is his
North Pole, two wheels is my South Pole - two separate areas of expertise yet
We pull into
the parking lot of the mechanic's garage where the black truck is for sale. We
walk around the Ford while Remy points to the chassis and looks at wires
underneath that I don't know anything about. When he walks I notice his loping
gait is more pronounced than it has ever been before. He sort of skids his ass
along the pavement, moving his eyes along a level horizontal plane as if pulled
by an invisible wire. To me his loping gait is always the first thing I notice
about my brother, but now, after so long apart, it's so distinguishing that I
have to laugh. I'm sure I walk the same way because people have told me but of
course can never see it myself. A new addition to his look is his jeans.
Hanging so low around his boots they look as if they are about to fall off.
When I ask him about his droopy denims, he tells me his belt buckle is done up
on the loosest of all the knots because modern trousers are poorly designed.
They constrict digestion by cutting off of the natural flow of the intestines.
His solution is to keep his belt as loose as he can "to ensure regular
digestion and thus movement and absorption of nutrients." Always a method to
his madness, an underpinning of logic.
"If you get
this buggy we can really cruise, man. With a map and go-juice we can go anywhere in these rigs. Seriously. Think
about it: anywhere." I feel the bug immediately and itch to buy the damn
truck now so we can hit the road. He's right. This vehicle is ideal for looking
for property. Then it strikes me how strange it will be for identical twins to
be cruising in the exact same equipment except one rig is brown and the other
walks up to us. A massive man.
"She's a good
truck this one," he says with some bluster.
"I hope so
for that price," I reply, well practiced in the art of bargaining from my time
is strong too."
"A bit of
rust," I say, pointing at the door of the Ford. The mechanic looks a bit
offended, and then with the demeanour of a parent speaking to a child proceeds
"This is a Ford half-ton pick-up. It's the biggest
selling pick-up truck in history. All old Ford's rust, you know that. But the
body is as strong as a bitch for a twenty-year-old truck." He points to the
suspension. "Tight suspension, I did that myself. Sturdy Goodrich tires. Put
them on six months ago." He speaks like a mechanic, with the same pride and awe
of seeing not a hunk of metal but a miracle of interchanging parts.
mechanic here?" Remy asks.
"I work on my
cars, yeah. I run a fleet of taxis." He gestures towards a half-dozen yellow
cars. "I own the place. Where are you two from? Brothers' aren't you?"
brothers" I say.
who haven't seen each other for a long time."
night." The mechanic looks at us both, back and forth and nods.
youse twins goin' then?"
maybe out to Prince Rupert or maybe up to Atlin in the north." The way Remy
says it shows he doesn't think the mechanic will know where Atlin is.
"Atlin! Jeez. That's a fair ways from here. But
no problem. This truck will get you there. She's designed for these roads.
She'll take youse up to the Yukon no problem at all. And here, look at the
camper. I made it bigger last summer, because..." He puts his hand around his
bulging gut, which hangs over his waistline. "Because I like my space." He opens
the back door. "I cut down the size of the table to give me more room in the
kitchen. It's handy-"
"To reach for
beers," says Remy. We all have a laugh because that's what we're all thinking.
The mechanic steps inside the camper and I follow. It's high enough by an inch
or two to stand. Roughly the same design as Remy's camper but newer by a few
"So how much
are you asking? It says $3000 but seems a bit much."
every dollar of that three thousand. I love this rig, and I'm sorry to part with
it but I bought a larger trailer." The mechanic looks down for a moment and
then points through one of the small side windows to a large Winnebago parked beside the garage.
"I see. Lots
of space in that. More than this one." I ask him if I can take a test spin.
have a valid license? Sorry I have to ask."
"Yeah, I do."
show it to me? Once this guy drove one of my cars and-"
problem." I take out my temporary license and unfold it for the mechanic. "It's
valid for three months beginning a few days ago." The mechanic's eyes narrow
and after some cursory reading nods and hands the document back to me as well
as the ignition key. The engine starts on the first turn. I steer the Ford to a
side street and then take a turn, accelerating enough to feel its power,
surprising for a truck with a camper on the back weighing over a ton. The Ford
handles beautifully and for a moment I have difficulty keeping a straight face.
The rig is ideal. The mechanic is firmly placed in his seat with his seatbelt
strapped so I purposely hit some potholes head-on, the truck absorbing them as
if they are small cracks in the pavement. I drive back to the mechanic's lot
and am ready to make an offer. When I step down from the high-up seat and look
at Remy, I'm sure he can see the impatient glimmer in my eye. In front of the
Ford the mechanic appears to be a bit ticked off at my reckless driving.
twenty-five hundred?" I offer.
that's too low. This camper is worth two thousand on its own. And the rig,
well, I don't want to sell it but my old lady... Let's just say I need the
money." He looks for a moment like a broken man.
"I can't part
with it for less than twenty-eight. Sorry about that." The mechanic walks away
and doesn't look back. I know I don't have that much money on me so I
reluctantly walk back to Remy's pick-up and we leave.
"Lots of play
in the wheel," I reply, "but it's too much cake."
"It's a solid
hardgood Trapp. Staying in the tent again tonight could be tough now that you
know that camper exists." He's right.
"So you think
I should buy it?"
a reliable vehicle and the camper is refurbished and he doesn't want to part
with it but he has to because he opted for more room in that crappy Winnebago. Man, I think you should snag it if you can swing the fundage." The thought of
staying in my tent tonight makes me feel shivery under the glaring windshield.
"I need that
money for the homestead."
something between now and then. You know that life is what happens when you're
making plans," he says, quoting John Lennon. "I respect your thing for your
house piece but the road is no place for a wimpy van with small wheels and a
stuffy backseat. It's claustrophobic el
grande. You need decent tools and this puppy will get you to where you need
to go. Once you get your place then you can ditch the camper and you'll have a
pick-up as your mobile. It's a win-win Trapp. The roads in Canada are here for
us to use my brother. Canada is as big as Africa, and it is our duty to explore
her because she is ours and we owe it to her to respect her through knowing
enough," I say after a minute. It's true; the time between now and the purchase
of the house will be our moment so I might as well be smart about it. I'd
rather be in this rig during a storm than a van. "Okay then. I'll need a bear
protector too so let's go get one and stop at the bank on the way."
is small so just around the corner we find a bank machine. I withdraw from my
credit card and then we drive down the street to the SPCA where we park and go
for where I might be able to find a dog to adopt, preferably a two-year old
female," I say to the clerk. "Am I in the right place?" The woman smiles at the
two of us.
"Yes, just go
through those doors and down the hall to the last door on your right. In there
you can look at the dogs we have." She points to where the kennels are so Remy
and I walk down the pristine-white hallway that's so bright and disinfected
it's suffocating. We reach the last door on the right that Remy has to yank
open. We enter, dogs begin to bark, one in particular at which Remy points.
"That's the dog you should get. The one
that barks at you first." It is a medium-sized brown-haired cross between a
Shepherd and a Labrador with the saddest eyes I've ever seen.
male," I say. I walk past each dog looking carefully for a sign of it reaching
out to me. Passing some young puppies and some old timers, I come to two pure
white dogs at the end of the kennel. One of them has a fresh eye wound. I check
the chart hanging on the cage. "Malamute/Shepherd cross" it says. The bigger
one, the male, is nine years old and the one with the scratched eye is two
years old and female. Remy looks at them curiously.
look exactly like Teetchema." I
haven't heard Remy say her name in years, but he's right. Both dogs are
identical to the dog Remy had seven years ago. Remy had her for years until he
was forced to shoot her after it bit a child on an Indian reserve in
Bactchewana Bay on Lake Superior. Remy was asked to kill his own dog, something
I don't think he has ever overcome. He told me it was the Indian way to kill
any canine if they ever drew human blood. It's strange but here in front of us
is the identical twin of that dog. I blink and try to ignore the coincidence
but I can't.
part wolf just like Teetchema," I
say. Remy is lost in thought looking at the two white dogs. The most striking
thing about the dog is one of her eyes: it's pure white. It's her brown eye
that has the abrasion, like my right eye I injured last year in Hong Kong. It's
the dog's eye injury, as well as our own eye injuries, that we're both thinking
about in front of the cage.
Island White Wolf," he says. "The wolf is the totem animal for the western gate
on the medicine wheel. It means loyalty and perseverance. It's good medicine
Trapp and she's two years old so she's the right age." Loyalty is what I want
and there's something about her wagging tail and the lack of barking that I
like. The older white male growls at us.
just like Teetchema when I had to put
her down. But we must not speak of the dead. But let me say this, if it's one
thing I've learned about native beliefs and dogs it's that white dogs keep away
the positive, not the negative. That's why Natives almost always have black
dogs, or at least some black in them.
Black keeps away the negative." I shake my head at him as if it's nonsense.
keep away the positive, is that what you're saying?"
exactly." We both walk back down the kennel towards the brown dog with sad
eyes. I watch it bark and drool. When I put my hand through the bars to pat it,
the dog becomes so excited that he bites my hand a little too hard, which
scares me. Pulling my hand away, I move back to the white dogs in the corner. I
reach out to her and she licks my hand, gently. Calm temperament. Manageable.
Not irrational. Goooooood doggie. Low
maintenance. Bear protector.
"I'm going to
get this one. It's the eye. I can't help it. She's my bear protector." When I
walk away I look back for Remy's approval, but I can only see him shaking his
head as if he's unable to prevent a tragedy about to happen. I go back to the
vet in the foyer and tell her I want the female white shepherd. Using my uncle
Peter's address outside of Prince George, I'm able to get her.
McFlynn, all your papers are in order. Remember that she was just neutered four
days ago so careful not to rip her stitches open. They are designed to dissolve
in dog saliva when they begin licking them. She can go with you now if you
like, or you can come back tomorrow when she's a bit better. She may be a
little subdued because of the medication we gave her."
"Might as well
pick her up now," I say. I follow the vet through the doors down the
disinfected hallway where she goes through a door behind the kennel. I go to
the other side of the cage where I see Remy patting the sad brown dog. When she
opens the backdoor the elder male dog is upset at the movement of events. We
can hear the male growling when the dogs are separated. The growling stops with
a yelp. The male returns to the cage and the backdoor is shut.
We meet the
vet in the claustrophobic hallway where she hands the dog over to me. Remy and
I begin to laugh. I'm laughing from excitement of having a new dog, but I know
Remy is laughing at me for making the same mistake as he had before. He's
thinking that all that befell him will soon happen to me.
"You two have
identical laughs," says the vet. "Did you know that?" We both nod. "You're
brothers?" More nods. "Twins?" We answer ‘yes' at the same time. "Which one is
"He is by
five minutes," I say jabbing my thumb towards Remy. He looks at the vet
older twin but the more irresponsible one."
"Oh, is that
so? Well, there has to be one in every family." Her words buoy Remy as we walk
outside to the parking lot into the smelly
air of Prince George.
think about fortifying our technology supply if we can," he says.
that guy I know down the street in that old saloon we passed. I think he sells
all sorts of stuff. We could go see him tonight. His name's Frank. He's native
and very cool."
should definitely fortify our plan W
supply for the road," I say nodding in agreement.
‘Tis wise to snagglepussy aujourd'hui." There's a word I haven't
heard in a long time.
let's go back to see the mechanic first. I want to make another offer."