Wordcarpenter Books

Road Sailors

15

"I have yet to meet the man who is as fond of virtue as he is of beauty in women." - Confucius

During the night I have a dream that Remy walked up to me and grasped the amethyst crystal that hangs around my neck. With the amethyst in his hand he said: "Get rid of this!" He enunciated the words so clearly that it sent a chill through me and then I wake up. Without a doubt, it was the most vivid image of my twin brother I have ever experienced in a dream. It's the simplicity and finality of it that makes me to remember it. In fact it's so vivid that I'm not sure if it's a dream or if it really happened.

I awake to the whining of Inge. She's not used to strangers in my camper. Rubbing my face as I lay in my loft, my head is in pain. Damn draught beer, will I ever learn? Paula is still asleep so I grab my jacket and shoes take my dog outside where I splash my face with the ice-cold water of Atlin Lake. Glacial water is better than coffee - wakes me up instantly. Soon Paula emerges from the camper with her hair dishevelled. In the morning sun her pupils are a powdery pale blue that startle me, her skin shining in the sun. How often do you wake up with someone prettier in the morning? I give her a morning kiss but she doesn't respond as warmly as I'd like, which tells me that today is a different day than yesterday.

"Is your dog all right?" She covers her eyes from the sun with her hand so I can't feast on her beauty in the Atlin sun.

"Not sure what it is but I suppose it's only a perturbed doggy."

"Perturbed doggy." Her expression doesn't change but her grin widens.

"She's not used to others staying in my camper I guess."

"Well, I should get back to my friend's. My car may be ready so I can return to Whitehorse today. And I didn't call last night so my friend may be worried." The words hit me like a cold shower. We leave the campground, driving out of Atlin and away from the lake toward one of the subdivisions with homes on two-acre wooded lots. Down a road past a school and across a river and then into a cul-de-sac nestled in a poplar grove.

"Here is good," she says. When I park I'm surprised she invites me into the house.

Antiques and old parts of machines and old tools and slabs of wood all over the front yard. Wooden sheds that house even more clutter like old music equipment and broken-down electronic items. A scrap yard for anything that makes noise. Paula's friend isn't there so we relax in the kitchen. Old wooden drums and native masks and antiques of all kinds on the walls. A hidden museum of Anishinabec culture.

"He's a collector," she says. "He's really serious about it. He was a musician for years, toured all over Canada and the States, but when he came here he couldn't leave because it's so nice. He's been in Atlin for ten years now." I ask her how they know each other.

"I met him in the early nineties when he played in a band at the Belvedere Tavern in Whitehorse." There are four tobacco pouches on the kitchen table and an ashtray a foot wide overflowing with ashes, roaches and cigarette butts. There is a book about the history of rock music with dog-eared pages and unopened bills scattered on the shelf beside the table. Like many bachelor pads, dishes are piled high in the sink. I count four coffee machines on the counter. Everything seems to be made of wood except the kitchen and the old Mountie hat perched on top of a wooden beam in the living room. Instruments range from record players to drums and guitars and violins hanging from the cedar walls.

"Nice place. I can see he's a musician."

"He makes drums and fixes violins for an income. He should be coming back from visiting a friend about my car. Nice guy." I pick up some rolling papers off the table.

"Mind if I roll one up?" She thinks it's good idea so I commence with the engineering just as Paula's friend shows up. I am expecting a hefty rocker with a ponytail and beard but instead walks-in this clean shaven, chisel-featured guy who looks like Kierkegaard at 50 with silvery Einstein hair.

"Found your part," he says, putting a bag of groceries on the crowded counter and looking at us both sitting at the kitchen table.

"David Miller," he says extending his hand to me.

"Trapp McFlynn," I reply, introducing myself into a pair of eyes that at a glimpse reveal to me an encyclopaedic knowledge of life.

"Nice place you have here. I hope you don't mind I'm here." He waves his hand.

"A friend of Paula's is a friend of mine. Coffee? I'm putting some on." He works a cappuccino machine like he built it himself. I hold up the joint still unlit.

"Good timing," I say.

"By all means. This is a smoke-free house except for this room." That explains the ashtray. They talk about the car as I'm busy smoking the joint. When I pass it to David Miller, he takes it and attacks it in three short puffs, and then hands it to Paula as if it's a hot potato. She smokes it leisurely and hands to me. I quicken my puffs in accordance with the technique of the man of the house to show respect. He takes the joint and again hammers out three efficient puffs, holding the smoke in his lungs as he turns back to the coffee. I tell him I drink black coffee so he serves me a sublime cup that comes from somewhere other than earth. Ambrosian.

He sits down in the free chair with his coffee and his eyes now all ablaze and asks me how I ended up in Atlin. I tell him I'm looking for property and about how my brother and I are trying to find the right geomancy in the land. He nods and is very interested in the word ‘geomancy.' He finds a dictionary, looks it up and reads the definition.

"Geomancy is ‘the divination of the symmetrical parallels inherent in the layout of the landscape.' OK, what does ‘divination' mean exactly?" He flips to another page, finds the word and then pensively summarizes the meaning as "the ability to read the future."

"So if you can find the right geomancy then you should be able to see into the future a bit." 

"That's hip." There's something noticeably symmetrical about David Miller. He looks like a man in perfect balance, as if he's a mirror of the land in which he lives.

"So how did you end up here?" I ask him.

"I toured with my band for years - almost twenty years of playing. I loved it but it gets to you after a while. I was living out of a suitcase and rambling from stage to stage all over Canada, but I knew it wasn't going to last forever. I knew that one day I would need to find my own spot of land where I could keep all my things and never have to worry about being a wanderer again. So as I toured I always kept my eyes open for a place that had this sort of geomancy you speak of. I dug Whitehorse when I played there. It's a rocking town all right. In Whitehorse I wrote music and lived life like I never had before. There's some magic in this land up here, but when I came to Atlin I knew as soon as I arrived that this was the home I had been looking for my whole life. This was where some of my dreams had taken place. Those three peaks over the lake: I had seen them a hundred times in my dreams. I knew this was where I could live in peace." With tobacco from one of the Player's Light pouches on the table, he rolls a cigarette. Steady hands.

"How did you know?"

"The land made me feel calm. I didn't feel as if I was only passing through like a guest on someone's ranch staying on borrowed time. I felt like I owned this land; that I had been here before in a previous life. It sounds corny but all I saw were my spiritual cousins who shared an unnamed secret with me by living here. Strangely, the madness of the world made sense from here where I can watch it from above and laugh at the senseless melee with everyone killing each other for a moment in the spotlight or for a bulky bank account."

"Don't start on that," says Paula with a snort. David Miller ignores her, butts out his cigarette and immediately begins to roll another one.

"Finding the right land is like slipping on an old shoe you thought you had lost years ago. The fit, the colour, the smell, the creases in the leather and the size all work together that tell you your search has culminated to this point in time. All subsequent travel is merely a case of leaving home for a while. Happiness becomes truly possible. And once you find your foundation and home base, then you can begin to fortify. And that's a great feeling." He lights another cigarette and starts to make more coffee. I lean over and kiss Paula because I'm digging the vibe, but she backs away.

"I had fun last night," she says quietly but there is something missing, that vital ingredient that shows me that the play is still on and the game is still alive. I am a shooting star to her with a lifespan of one night.

David serves more coffee and I cannot help but become detached. Sensing my detachment, David switches gears with grace and social ease.

"There is a place on the next road over here for sale. You should check it out but there's no house - just the lot. What makes it special is that it has an old Indian trail that goes up to the original Yellowhead Mountain Trail that connects to Edmonton. In fact it connects to old Indian trails that one could walk all the way to the Atlantic Ocean if you want." We finish the coffee and I mutter that I should get back to find my brother at the campground, but before I take my leave I ask him if he has any advice for me in finding the right spot.

"Ah, I'm not good at giving advice Trapp, but I can tell you the words I live by. The man of half truth lives a half life. The man of lies lives a false life. The man of truth lives a full life. You must be true to yourself in order to find what you are looking for. Don't cut corners. Remain true to your gut." When I shake his hand and say good-bye, I'm comforted that I'm not the only person who has sought their own piece of sanity in a world hell-bent on killing.

At my rig I give Paula a peck on the cheek, knowing it will be the last time.

"Thank you," she says. The words hang there, purposeful, heavy with meaning, her baritone resonating in my knees. I curse myself for not using a prophylactic. In my gut I think she's thanking me for the offspring now taking root inside her. Perhaps she's used me for my genes. After all she's about my age and her biological clock is running out. Then my dream comes back to me and I frantically remove my amethyst on the leather string from around my neck.

"Here, something to remember me by." I give her my amethyst crystal. "Who knows, I may see you in Whitehorse one day." She touches my cheek and smiles warmly. Then she is gone. She doesn't look back. The tone and sincerity of her words hover, pregnant with meaning, a farewell to a footnote that she will see for the rest of her days.

I pull away and pass some lots for sale but they aren't what I'm looking for. The properties I see on the way back to the lake make me depressed. Paula's chilly body language echo through the hallway of my mind, making me think the worst. The words "single mother" buzz around in that hallway like a hornet that won't go away.

Arriving back at the lake, Remy's camper is there and the door is open. After I park outside the campground where I spent the night with Paula, I go over to the door when Remy steps out with his omnipresent mug of coffee.

"I had a dream last night that you should get rid of that amethyst around your neck," he says. I can tell immediately that he's not happy today.

"Really."

"You know I take my dreams seriously so I thought I should tell you." An eerie tingling goes up my spine.

"I had a dream last night that you told me to get rid of my amethyst. Coincidence. It was as vivid as any dream I've ever had."

"Do you still have it on?"

"I gave it away this morning," I reply, unwilling to say who I gave it to.

"Did that evil woman stay over?" His tone is constricted.

"Yes, I had company. But she was far from evil."

"She did?" Remy is genuinely shocked. I assumed he had heard us this morning. "I told you she had some bad spirits in her. Now I just hope she didn't hand off any evil spirits to you." I serve myself some coffee from Remy's mini coffee filter. The water is still hot but as I turn to take my first sip the mug slips out of my hand onto the small rocks at my feet. The metal mug makes a loud clanking sound when it lands.

"See what I mean?" he says, as I lean down and pick up the mug.

"What am I supposed to say to that? You think Paula has some bad spirits and now I have them because she slept over, and that's the cause of me dropping the mug? C'mon Remy. Give me a break!" I'm dehydrated and suffering from the pasties, which is causing me to overheat.

"It's not my fault she's evil."

"What?"

"It's not my fault she's evil," he says.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"I'm just saying..."

"Some times you sound pretty crazy man. I'm serious."

"I know it must sound pretty crazy but my teacher believes I'm the guy."

"What? The Messiah?" The pause between the question and the answer is a long second.

"Yes. Jesus and Muhammad. I've had dreams of them both." There is a finality in his tone that I find provocative. Conflict, the bane between twins. Nothing is worse. Dander rising like a rogue wave usurping sand castles on the beach erasing the frozen beauty of the architecture.

"Just because you had a dream about them you think-"

"No. It's more than that. I know it sounds insane but the prophecies say that the Pahana will be a hippy with a bad eye and will like his medicines. That what it says." I throw up my hands. The irrationality of his Messiah Complex is pissing me off and my tolerance is wearing thin. I need to get away before I say something mean because I can feel myself returning to that familiar place of anger, a place where I have spent so much time during the last few years of my life overseas.

When I find Inge she can sense I'm angry. As I lift her up she squirms a bit and slips out of my hands. I grab her as she falls to the ground but as I do I wrench my shoulder, feeling a sharp pain where the pin the surgeons had put in my shoulder connects to the tendons. It feels like the pin has ripped out. I'm too mad to yell.

"I need some time alone," I shout at Remy. He ignores me for a moment.

"I'll meet you here Friday at four," he says. As I slip my truck into gear, a sharp pain pierces my shoulder joint and I know for sure I have torn something, but in my red-hot anger, I revel in the pain.


 16
 
"When you make a mistake, do not be afraid of mending your ways." - Confucius
 

A cemetery just out of town with old gravestones half fallen in overgrown grass. Airplane propellers in the corner make me stop. I walk around the headstones without stepping on any bones, trying to relax and get my mind off Remy. Reading the tombstones is like a snapshot of its past: a chap from Londonderry killed in a mining accident, 28 years old; an African who froze to death in 1899; pilots buried with their plane's propeller lying on their grave. Fritz Miller is in the centre of the cemetery with a massive menhir. He died in 1904 at age 32 only six years after striking gold in Gold Creek with Kenneth McClaren. A Prussian killed here during the Second World War. Someone was killed by gunshot mistaken for a bear, and another was ‘found dead along the Trail, 1898.' I know from Remy there were over 5,000 people here in 1898 for the Atlin Gold Rush. The cemetery is filled with an entire generation of families that lie side by side, mostly from Ireland, Cornwall and Scandinavia. There are two Japanese graves right in the far corner almost completely overgrown by vegetation. Memories of my time living in Tokyo bring back that distinct rancor that I was so used to for so many years, a state of being that I desperately want to forget.

I drive up the road to where I find a small lookout beside a steep waterfall and old wooden bridge. I park and go hiking for a while with Inge along the river and then return. The waterfall beside me is soothing to my ears so I decide to spend the night there. With candles, I try to read but doze off to the sound of water crashing against rocks, hoping that my candles will keep me warm.

I wake up early the following morning from the fierce pain in my shoulder as if I've torn the metal pin from the white of the muscle, or ripped it from the tendons. Ignoring the pain, I take Inge out for a longer walk past the old wooden bridge down a gravel road. I can tell from the lack of tire tracks that the road is unused. After a few hours of walking, I see an old road with a sign that says:

GOLD PANNING 

It only takes me 15 minutes along the overgrown trail until I'm standing beside Gold Creek with my hands full of sand and my fingers freezing like icicles. Wooden sluices in pieces a century old that tell of a gold rush now forgotten, overshadowed by the Klondike and Dawson City short-changing Atlin's place in history. I walk up and down the creek bed doing some superficial panning but the pain in my shoulder is too sharp. I find a few pure white rocks that look as if they are emitting light so I put them into a special pocket for Remy. I can't help but feel remorse for calling him crazy because I know he is earnest to reconnect with me after my long hiatus His enthusiasm about being the Messiah has taken on new proportions of severity and I wonder if it's because I didn't question it more when he first brought it up. Since I've been so accommodating and open-minded to the idea, I'm now getting a taste of how far he has gone along the road towards psychological neurosis. I don't want to use the words ‘mental illness' but in my cold sober mind that is precisely what I see. And yet, for some reason, I believe that I have the power to reel him back from the brink. I need to confront the situation as a realist so I can figure out a way for him to get over this idea of being the saviour of mankind and come back to the mundane normality of reality. I keep on coming back to the thought that since he's my identical twin brother, if this extremism is in him then it must be in me too but merely in a different form. Is my recklessness merely another manifestation of his belief of being a prophet? Do we have a natural inclination to be imbalanced? Do we have an innate partiality to engage in different forms of extremism? I'm too timid to think this through so I let it plague me as I sit in silence beside Gold Creek among the trees of Atlin isolated so far from anyone. What will Remy do if I reject him again? It's not an option. I won't. Besides, why can I find so many faults in him while I pass with flying colours? He who is without sin cast the first stone. I have so much scar tissue and I sense there's something wrong, but I can't seem to see what it is. Do I resent him for being crazy? Like him, perhaps I also have a blind spot to what ails me.

To get my mind off of these things, I visit the realtor in town to find out what's available. Backing out from my spot beside the waterfall, I bump into a tree. Looking at the damage there's only a small dent, not as bad as I thought. For a second I think I might in fact be cursed, but then I tell myself it's ridiculous.

Arriving at the realtor's office near the lake, I see a man inside so I nod to him through the window and enter.

"What can I do for you?" A white-haired man looks up from his computer. The name on the business card I take from the pile on his desk is Jurgen Reinhardt.

"I'm looking for property to purchase but more in the lower end," I say.

"How low is low?" He retrieves a pencil from his desk drawer.

"Twenty-five thousand maybe, thirty. I'm after a writer's cabin. Something rustic." Jurgen Reinhardt scratches his head and frowns.

"There's not much at all in that range. Even if you build you still need to buy the land." There is a German accent in the words he speaks.

"What about throwing down a trailer or something?"

"It's too cold here in the wintertime for a trailer. Trust me. You may want to try Tagish Estates up on Highway 8. Maybe you can get something with a small cabin, but for more than thirty." Jurgen Reinhardt is a man who prefers not to deal in low-end real estate deals, but more than that there's a dry Gestapo arrogance that speaks to me between the lines. When he does speak it's so succinct that there doesn't seem to be anymore to say. He suggests one property for sale in a cul-de-sac near David Miller's house but makes it clear there is no building on the lot. The land is $50,000. When he is finishes giving me the address, his face grows cold like ice. I reflexively stand up, thank him for his time and leave.

Back in my rig I keep hearing his crystal dry voice that makes me wonder if Jurgen Reinhardt had ever been in World War Two. With his closely cropped white hair, chilly eyes and severe upper lip, he could have been a war veteran who escaped through ODESSA during the carnage after the war. Atlin is pretty far out of the way and an excellent place to hide. There is no way he could be a third-generation descendent of some of the early settlers from Prussia who came over with Miller and McClaren because that wouldn't explain his accent. No, must be my imagination, that activity of the mind that leads astray.

I walk the property Jurgen Reinhardt told me about but it's not what I want. There is one however that's beautiful. It's the property that David Miller told me about.

Walking the property with Inge, I find the old Indian trail and follow it for miles past tree stands for hunting and past a river where someone has built a small footbridge to the riverbank. Patches of poplar trees give the forest vibrancy, as if magic is reflecting off the yellow leaves that shine like mirrors in the light-giving sun. But it's the network of mountain trails and snowmobile paths on the property that makes it special. Old history embedded in the land like the lines on a face bespeaking past adventures. The main trail is likely part of the old trade route used in the eighteenth century by fur traders that leads to the Red River Valley - the path of the first European explorers. I climb the trail way up into the mountains until the sun is in the western sky. Cold like an unwanted lover, descends, diminishing the oy I'm experiencing. I love the vibe of the land and engage in a flurry of calculations in my head, but no matter how hard I try I can't afford the property.

When the sun goes down over the tress, I return to the misty waterfall where I retire for the day. Wolfing down a tin of smoked oysters and crackers in less than a minute, I stare into the thundering waterfall wondering if I want country living to be this remote. When I go to sleep under the northern lights, I have a disturbing dream.

In my dream I threw an egg-sized stone into the distance and hit something that caused a big splash. When I chucked the rock I knew it would land just out of range of what I could see, but I didn't think it would hit anything or anyone. When I threw the stone it felt good to hear the clicking of the joint in my sore shoulder without any sharp pain. And it was an excellent throw, but when the stone landed I could see it splash blood against the side of a mountain. It looked dramatic when it splashed the blood against the wall of rock, but when I walked towards the mountainside, a large Red Indian with long black hair and sharp cheekbones appeared in front of me, pointing and gesticulating like a madman. He used his arms to point to where the stone landed and indicated that I was the one who threw it. Because the man was so presumptuous that it was me who threw the stone, I chose to act as if it wasn't me. I pointed at the big mess of blood on the wall and shrugged. As soon as I began walking away from the man, he nodded at two children near him who approached me. I ignored them too but was aware they were following me. When the two boys were beside me, one of them inserted what turned out to be a very small barbed arrow into my right shoulder. The barbed arrow was small and black, and was like a sliver, which had a light on the end of it. It caused me searing pain when I began to walk away from them, so I was forced to stop. I realized that I had some sort of beacon device in my arm that wouldn't let me leave without fixing what I had done. But this moment was more significant than just deciding to help. I decided I would only help fix the damage I had caused if they were kind and respectful to me. My attitude to help was sincere if this condition was met so I returned to the angry Indian with sharp cheekbones and helped clean up the mess, and as I did I was treated with respect. It was only through the sincerity of my effort that the children were told they could remove the device from my arm. When I left them, I was much bigger than I was before. Despite the event only taking an afternoon, when I walked away my body was almost twice as big as it had been before.

In the late morning beside the waterfall with only cold water to drink I mull over my dream trying to find meaning in it because I know there must be a message - like all dreams do - but I can't find the Rosetta Stone to decipher it. I am left in a state of unfulfilled curiosity.

I leave the waterfall without hitting the tree this time and meet Remy at the campground after filling the afternoon with chores. I walk to his back door just as he steps out of his camper.

"Trapp! Ready to go?" The surprise I feel registers on my face.

"You don't want to stay?"

"There's something strange about Atlin," he says. "I mean I can feel a difference but this is such a small village. No, I say we go to a bigger town but stay north of the 60th parallel. We should go north to remain out of range of the radar. Whitehorse maybe."

"Whitehorse?" How far do we need to go?

"Sure. It's north of the 60th." I notice that Blue isn't around.

"Where's Blue?"

"I let him go." He looks across the lake and squints. "He was wild at heart and he left me so I let him go." He is quiet for a minute.

"Well, what-"

"I was way out in the forest and he ran off into the bush. I waited and waited and then tried to find him in the scrub but it was too hard. I think he wanted his freedom." He takes out his cigarettes and lights one. "I waited until sundown but Blue didn't show. I think Blue may have been meant to be an offering from me to Atlantis. I haven't quite figured it out yet but there is some sense to it happening here."

"Can we-"

"No, I've looked for him already. He's lost." The wind catches the map in Remy's hand. I can see he's upset about it so we don't discuss it further.

"Whitehorse is pretty north, man," I say. ‘You think you can find a place up there where you won't be followed?" After my dream I feel suddenly quite sympathetic to Remy's notion of having an electronic device in his arm and the importance of getting off the grid. "There's this trail I wanted to show you and this property you should check out."

"I've seen the waterfall up the river and some properties for sale but nothing we're looking for. It's not for us. It's pricey here man. Let's gazelle to Whitehorse. It's far above the 60th parallel. We're actually just south of the 60th parallel here, so I think that may be part of the piece. Anyway, it's too small here. It's a bit phybic. Whitehorse isn't that far because we're already pretty far north. It'll take us a day or so if we leave now." I shake my head in defeat. Slippery logic from a partial mind is something that cannot be tackled.

"OK, Whitehorse," I say. "And listen, sorry about the other day." He waves his hand.

"Forget about it. I'm just glad you got rid of that amethyst. Let's just leave it at that. Dart?" When I accept the Player's Light I know it's all that's needed for a mutual apology.

Remy leads the way north out of Atlin past the three peaks and we begin the bumpy ride back to the Alaska Highway. The sun sets over Alaska when we turn at Jake's Corner and we are forced to pullover in Tagish, a small town halfway to Whitehorse. We find a small hunting road branching off of the main highway and park amid some bushes. I don't see Remy again until morning.

 

 

 

 

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