Wordcarpenter Books
Road Sailors

19

"Is it not a pleasure, having learned something, to try it out at due intervals?" - Confucius

"Where were you? I had no idea where you were. I was just about to leave. I thought you had gone off drunk last night, driving." It's the stiff upper lip I can see on Remy's face that makes me gentle with my reply.

"I just took a homeless Indian to where she could eat something," I say, having just returned from dropping Theresa off at a soup kitchen down the street where she met some friends. I am parked beside Remy's truck.

"I was just about to leave." Remy's in a bad mood and looks miserable, but I feel energized in the cold morning air. I let him sigh and pout for a few moments. I'm not going to apologize for giving a homeless person a place to stay and for giving her a lift to a soup kitchen.

"So what do you think?" I ask.

"I don't like this place. I had a bad dream last night. It was so vivid, man. And you were in it." I know from the way he says it that I was the bad guy in his dream, so I don't ask. "Dawson City is another 500 kilometres north towards Alaska - a whole day of driving." The thought of another day's drive due north into a colder climate is silly. I simply do not want to live north of Whitehorse. And besides, it would be a thousand kilometres there and back along the same road.

"I don't want to go north," I say. "If you can't get that magnetic force thing working for you here then we may want to head back into the interior and look somewhere a bit warmer." This seems to perk him up and relax his stiff upper lip.

"OK. If we merge along the Alaska Highway then we'll still be above the 60th parallel, so we can still look."

"Well it appears as if we're heading east, back to Junction 37 to Watson Lake."

"All right brother. I'm going to do a die spinnah, so I'll meet up with you ahead. Stick to Highway One all the way."

"Roger that RT," I reply. Remy is still warming up his engine when I leave him in the parking lot. Sometimes I know when Remy prefers to be alone - and this morning is one of them. But I am buoyed by my dream, and full of the feeling one gets from being compassionate to another in need. There is something firmer in my step today knowing that perhaps a corner piece of the puzzle of my own identity has been revealed to me through a dream. I'm not sure why but I hardly dreamed at all when I lived in Hong Kong.

I drive slowly along the Alaska Highway a few minutes until I see ‘The Klondike' - the old steamer used to ferry miners down the Yukon River to Dawson City. I stop and have a long look at the historic steamer. It makes me wonder how many people living up here in the Yukon are descendents of those early gold miners who set sail from the south 2000 kilometers away to find their pot of gold during the Klondike Gold Rush. Were they the fortunate ones who found the coveted gold dust, or those who made money from selling miners the picks and shovels they needed for their quest? Or those who had nothing left and were forced to stay who ran the local government who voted to tear down the cabins along the Yukon River? The men who built this town were guys cut from the same cloth as George Carmack, the man who single-handedly started the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896. As I walk around The Klondike, I relive the story of George Carmack by telling the story to Inge.

"You know how the Klondike Gold Rush started, little puppy dog? Well, I'll tell you. After striking a large find in what was to become Bonanza Creek, big George Carmack casually ordered a couple of whiskeys in Bill McPhee's saloon in a place called Forty Mile. Poor bugger had been working all year so it was his first drink in a long time. It was in August 1896. After a few whiskeys he turned to the crowd in the saloon, raised his hand and called for quiet. ‘Boys,' he said, ‘I've got some good news. There's been a big strike up the river.' With those words the Klondike Gold Rush was ignited. The news reached Seattle that fall so the big putsch began in the spring of 1897 and the rest - as they say - is history." It's strange talking to my dog but she's an excellent listener.

On the road again I think about Theresa and the plight of the natives up here. The Canadian government has been forthcoming with the native peoples and has taken concrete steps to compensate and rehabilitate, but their methods seem to lack finesse. The waterfront was to be built to attract tourists but at the cost of homesteads that have been on the riverside for generations. Why weren't they relocated to new housing?

Two hours south of Whitehorse can only be described as wilderness - vast stretches unmarked by the surveyor's hand. Past Jake's Corner, I stop at Johnson's Crossing where I fill up with gas and then go inside the café beside the river. I sit down at a table with a coffee and a freshly made danish, and open a book of poems by Robert Service that's on one of the bookracks. A friendly woman with golden hair and tattoos on her arms doesn't seem to mind. I find a poem titled ‘The Men That Don't Fit In' that catches my eye. When I read it the words rustle and them ignite something inside me. I don't feel as lonely as I have in a long time. I'm rubbing my chin and staring at the caribou head on the wall, pondering the poem and my love of poetry, when Remy walks in.

"How long have you been here?"

"Twenty minutes," I say.

"Is that all? I thought you were way ahead. How's your rig running?"

"Good. Humming. Yours?"

"Some pings and knocks and whatnots but no biggie. It's a sturdy piece, mind you she's thirty years old. Total money's worth already." The woman serves us coffee with a friendly smile. When Remy sits down I hand him the book and point to the poem.

"It's a good one."

"As a rule I don't care for poetry."

"It's up to you," I say flippantly, knowing that these are the words he needs to hear to tweak his curiosity. I get up and pay for the coffees and browse the store a bit more, letting Remy have his space to read. At the counter the woman gives me a big smile.

"Don't tell me," she says. "You're twins." My smile widens, which answers her inquiry. She can't help but gush. "I find twins so fascinating. You're identical aren't you?" I bring my hand up to my short beard that is now starting to grow in earnest, and nod. "I thought so. It's the way you walk! It's exactly the same!"

"Ah, our loping gait." This makes her very happy. Then she leans closer to me.

"Is it true that twins can read each other's minds? Like dreaming and ESP?" Wanting Remy to read the poem, I take the time to tell her about something that happened right before I left Canada for Asia.

"Well, I'll tell you a story. One day I was sitting in a café with an old roommate of mine talking and catching up on each other's lives. My brother had just left with our father after a visit with me during the afternoon. After about an hour at the café with my friend, I returned to my place when my brother called me on the telephone. ‘Trapp' he said. ‘The strangest thing just happened. When Dad and I arrived at his place I could hear sounds coming from behind the door. I asked Dad if he had left the TV on but he said he hadn't. When we walked into his pad, Dad went into the kitchen but I followed the sounds into the guest bedroom. The voice I was hearing became clearer and I realized that it was your voice. I stood there for a minute listening to you, and it sounded like you were in a café speaking to a woman and there was the sound of a TV in the background. I could hear you speaking clear as day. It sounded like you were talking to an old friend. But when I called Dad to come into the room, your voice stopped. Isn't that strange?' At that moment, when he had finished telling me about this, I was the only one in the world who knew that he had somehow been able to hear me talking with my old girlfriend in the café because he didn't know I was there with her. Now, how can you explain that?" Her eyes light up like light bulbs, and then she claps her hands.

"Isn't that something!" By reflex she reaches out and touches my forearm in a gesture of kindness. I pay for the coffees and danishes.

"Those danishes were great. Compliments to the chef." I know she's the baker.

"Oh please, why don't you take these." She hands over a half-dozen danishes in a bag. I make a motion that I can't really accept them but she won't hear anything of it. I graciously accept her gift, enjoying the experience of confirming that indeed Canadians are kind people at heart.

"Thanks. They're perfect for our road trip." I walk back to Remy but he raises his hand not to be disturbed, preferring to stay in the café so he can finish reading the rest of the poem.

"I'm hitting the road," I say. He nods and I leave for the highway.

Driving on the long bridge over the river, the image of Remy reading the poem sticks in my mind's eye. Something restless inside me is comforted when I see that expression on his face, an expression of vitality and truth as if what he is reading holds the secrets to unanswered questions that have been left rolling around in the corners of his mind for years. I recite the lines again to myself:

 

There's a race of men that don't fit in,

A race that can't stay still;

So they break the hearts of kith and kin,

And they roam the world at will.

They range the field and they rove the flood,

And they climb the mountain's crest;

Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,

And they don't know how to rest.

 

If they just went straight they might go far;

They are strong and brave and true;

But they're always tired of the things that are,

And they want the strange and the new.

They say: "Could I find my proper groove,

What a deep mark I would make!"

So they chop and change, and each fresh move

Is only a fresh mistake.

 

And each forgets, as he strips and runs,

With a brilliant, fitful pace,

It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones

Who win in the lifelong race.

And each forgets that his youth has fled,

Forgets that his prime is past,

Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,

In the glare of the truth at last.

 

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;

He has just done things by half.

Life's been a jolly good joke on him,

And now is the time to laugh.

Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;

He was never meant to win;

He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;

He's a man who won't fit in.

 

The poem speaks to that self in me that no one can ever know the self in us all that is the only witness to our greatest and most profound moments, the self within the soul that is forever without a voice. They are words that give Remy's road sailor nomadic life justification and reason and tell him he is not alone. They are words that acknowledge the life of the lonely traveler in us all, the self that has no one - out of reach from even an identical twin.

 


 

20

"A man is worthy of being a teacher who gets to know what is new by keeping

fresh in his mind what he is already familiar with." - Confucius

Teslin, the Yukon

A day after leaving Whitehorse we wake up just outside of Teslin parked on a logging road just off the Alaska Highway. As usual I get up earlier than Remy as he nurtures his dreamscapes and go for a walk with Inge. After a few minutes of hiking, I bump into an old man riding on an ATV. He stops and I see a little yapping dog in his jacket.

"How're you doing today, son?" he says to me. His pencil moustache is white. A rifle is in a holster attached to the side of the vehicle. I nod at his doggy.

"A good detection system for the bears around here," I say. The dog is still barking.

"Stall ‘im anyway." Laughter makes him sit up in his seat.

"This one is my bear protector." I point at Inge.

"She's a big one."

 "And if I run into a bear? Then what do I do?" Despite my dishevelled appearance and half-grown beard, he can tell I'm not bred in the country so he knows the question is sincere.

"Don't run. If you see a bear somewheres in these mountains, let him know you see him and then ease back non-threatening. Go slow."

"Go slow? When you're looking at a bear that can out-run you? Yeah! Easy words!" The old man thinks this is funny.

"They can outrun you, sure, but they don't want to hurt you." What? They just want to toy with you? Dangerous fiction that will get you eaten alive.

"So what do you do then? Walk slowly away and hope the bear doesn't run after you and swat you down with its claws?"

"Yes son. Make sure you shut up your dog. If you don't she will be the bear's breakfast and you don't have to worry." We share another laugh and I depart back to the campers. Just knowing what to do if I ever were to encounter a bear goes a long way to diffuse my fear of walking in the forests.

When I return Remy is having coffee and studying his map.

"Morning," he says.

"Morning big shooter."

"We should be able to hit Watson Lake today but it's a long drive," he says. I sit down, pour myself a coffee and have a smoke.

"So how is it for you north of the 60th parallel?" I ask.

"It's good actually. It's good. I don't see any planes, but I see a lot of those beacons. Other than that this land is free of prying eyes." My mind turns back to my suspicion that Remy left out some of the story when he told me about his trip to Brazil.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Oui monsieur."

"Did you ever meet that guy down in Brazil with Stuart?" His eyebrows furrow and he looks across at the sparkling lake on the horizon.

"What-"

"The recruiter guy."

"I met a few of his friends down there. And sometimes-"

"Sometimes you think he may have been one of those people who you met inadvertently?" He looks into my eyes.

"Yeah, sometimes I think that may have happened. Stuart was like that."

"But you didn't say you wanted to join the team?" The question causes him get up for more coffee. I stay where I am and pat Inge, letting the question hang in the air. When he comes out of the camper he stands in front of me with a cigarette in his hand.

"Listen, it's impossible for me to lie to you. You know that so I'll tell you this. I told Stuart I was interested but I didn't say a definite ‘yes' to anything. I think I may have met this guy at one of the parties but we never discussed anything concrete. One of the chaps I met I think could have been a recruitment officer and I think I impressed him because that evening I was in good form. You know how I am when I'm having a good time." I nod at his understatement. "But afterwards - after this one night when I met lots of Stuart's friends - I thought about the whole thing and got really scared. So the next day I told Stuart that I wasn't in to joining the firm. But you know these guys speak in code or in roundabout ways. There were a few discussions we had had that I thought could have been misconstrued as me being part of the team, as you call it. And I must admit, I do from time to time think that someone in that great apparatus in the sky does look in on me."

"Well, why would they care so much about you?" I immediately regret asking the question.

"Because they may think I'm special. Could be the Pahana thing. But at that time I was in Brazil I didn't know - but they have ways of knowing these things. They only need to look at my file to know I have a twin and that we're Métis and that I have certain...abilities."

"Well I hope you don't worry about it too much big guy. I say that because I know we have pretty strong imagination that could play into tangents that may or may not exist. But I know I'm not one to speak." The look in his eyes desperate for understanding and empathy instantly brings a lump to my throat and makes my eyes water. So alone and vulnerable.

"I know what you're saying Trapp. And thanks for that." I look away but not before he sees my watery eyes. I tell myself it's fatigue but I know that he needed to voice this because he doesn't have anyone else to talk to - not like this. Then he puts his hand on my shoulder and it's enough to throw me. I squint the tears away and can't look at him, but I manage a nod as I instinctively cover my mouth with my hand. I feel as close to Remy as I ever have by knowing how much it means to him to be able to speak honestly this way. Pertinent thought expressing real fears left unsaid only gather steam, like water in a teapot over a fire left untouched can only reach the boiling point. It has been crippling him for years.

Back on the road we continue east along the Alaska Highway that begins meandering more and more as we hit the northern reaches of the Stikine Mountains. The civil engineers purposely built the road like a slithering snake so if a convoy of trucks bringing materials to Alaska were attacked by the Japanese during the Second World War, they would be more difficult targets to strike. But that's also why it's so well made: corners are all angled to make your rig turn by itself.

We see lots of elk and caribou and bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the road as if we were driving through a big game reserve in Africa. We pass an Indian reservation outside Watson Lake and then slow down when we reach town. Our trucks are dirty and worn as we pass the famous signpost park on our left. The park, covered with hundreds of signs from all over the world, was started by the American military when they were up here building the highway during the war. After the long haul, we find the local tavern where two other men sit at the bar and nurse pints.

"Where's you come in from?" asks a big-boned trucker at the end of the bar.

"Whitehorse," Remy says. "We stayed in Teslin last night in our campers. Decent drive." The old timer beside the trucker with side burns straightens his posture.

"That's a fair distance, that drive," says the old timer. His face tells of a hundred lifetimes.

"My brother here, who's just returned from seven years in China, is going through shock." Remy pats me on the back as if he's checking to see if I'm all right. I'm both lethargic and wound tight from all the driving.

"Bring anything back with you from China?" asks the trucker. I want to tell the guy that the Chinese believe, as if it were prophecy, that the 21st century will be the "century of the Chinese" - the moment in world history when China will again awaken from its Napoleonic status of being a sleeping giant to become the next superpower. But I'm not up for the verbal jousting that usually follows such a comment.

"Yeah, a Maoist saying," I reply. Both pairs of eyes at the end of the bar are curious. "A frog in a well says: ‘the sky is no bigger than the mouth of my well.'" This seems to comfort the old man but the trucker with the sideburns frowns and ponders its meaning.

"What brings you here?" asks the old timer. His eyes brighten. "Work?"

"We're looking for a homestead," says Remy. The old timer nods but slower this time. The big guy at the end of the bar is sceptical.

"There's no land around here. Only up the Campbell Highway to Faro."

"That's a bit of a way north isn't it?" says Remy.

"'Bout half hour or so I'd say."

"Yeah, an hour," adds the old timer, taking some of the bluster out of his friend.

"What's up there?"

"Nothing," answers the old timer.

"Serviced road?"

"It's serviced," says the trucker defensively. "And it's got good hunting." The old timer nods more vigorously at hearing this.

"Where you's staying?"

"The campground about a mile out of town," says Remy.

"Biggest campground in BC isn't it, that one?" says the old timer.

"Takes half an hour just to get to where you camp!" says the trucker.

"A good twenty minutes, yup," adds the old timer, trying to keeps things out of the realm of hyperbole. "What do you work as, if I may ask?"

"I'm a teacher," I say. ‘But I'm taking a year off teaching to finish a project of mine." I look at the old timer and his eyes say to me: ‘You're still a young chicken with many years left to give to the great collective - a whole life of discipline and hard work and useful labour.' The Great Collective, I think to myself, my ass!

"Natural-born healer," Remy replies belatedly to the question, but before he can field a reply from the two drinkers on their barstools at the end of the bar, he leaves to speak with some natives at a table in front of a roaring fireplace, leaving the two at the bar staring blankly at me. I'm too tired and in too much pain to make small talk and soon find myself at the table with the natives, letting Remy do the talking for the both of us. After a few hours drinking with the Indians trying to numb the pain in my shoulder, I return to the bar where the cook, a sandy-haired young chap with Coke-bottle glasses, is playing a video game at the end of the bar where the old-timer had been sitting. We spark up a conversation and I tell him about our trip.

"I've never been outside of Watson Lake," he says. He is eager to hear of my travels. I tell him some of my adventures in Cambodia and China until Remy returns to the bar. The three of us talk for a while and we spend most of the time laughing. Because of his thick lenses, we both feel empathy because all three of us have bad eyes. Remy takes to him particularly so I take out my journal to write down some thoughts. We buy him beer and Remy makes sure he has a good time. During a break in the conversation, he timidly asks if he can write something in my journal so I hand him a pen. I drink more in an effort to forget about all the money I'm spending on petrol and beer that has been earmarked for my writer's cabin. As the cook writes in my journal and I massage my shoulder, I again join the natives around the fireplace but find their drunken anger is a bit harsh for my tastes. When I walk back to the bar the cook has finished his journal entry and has left.

"I'm too plan Z to go to the campground so I'm going to stay across the street at that other campground," Remy tells me.

"I'm a bit Z too but I refuse to pay any money to stay at a campground," I say. Remy drives to the campground a minute away where he pays for the night, but I climb into my camper right there in the parking lot and fall asleep. The last thing on my mind is that I wish I had one of those old red Maoist signs you can still see in museums that read:

COMRADE BURGLARS,

PLEASE DON'T BOTHER.

THERE'S NOTHING INSIDE.

Late the next morning somebody walks by the door of my camper and stops. Loitering there, I can hear the person talking. When I exit my camper, there is a native leaning against the back of my pick-up truck.

"Hey man, want to buy a watch?" he says to me. He's a young guy with cropped hair and bad acne.

"No thanks."

"Can you buy some booze for me then?"

"Sorry man," I reply, waving my hand at him dismissively. The kid looks disappointed and leaves me alone. Then a plump Indian who is nearby approaches me.

"I'm going to the tavern. Want to come?" I remember his face from last night but cannot remember his name.

"‘Bit early to have a beer, non?"

"No. I'm waiting for a bus but I'm early, and I want to stay out of the cold," he says easy as pie. It is cold - too cold to stand outside and talk - so I follow him into the bar and sit with three other natives in front of the fireplace, all of whom are women. The hair of the dog I tell myself. I'm nearly forty years old and I'm waking up in strange parking lots and drinking with Yukon Indians in the morning. Why? I tell myself I have a duty to see what life is like with the Anishinabe in Canada, that I am part of that culture through blood and that I have an obligation to find out like Remy did. I stay at the bar all afternoon, half waiting for Remy to show up but also enjoying the company of my new friends. After a few hours the women are drunk and Jeremy has missed his bus. They call a taxi but one of the women isn't allowed into the cab because she's too drunk and belligerent. When she is asked to leave the vehicle, she turns from a fun drunk to a shrieking mass of hatred.

"White cunt!" she screams at the woman taxi driver in a ferocity that scares the hell out of me. She screams loud enough that the entire town can hear it. Rage usurps her face and then, just as fast as it appears, evaporates after she slams the door shut. I'm glad I had let them all know earlier that I'm a Métis Indian to quell any anti-white feelings they may harbour.

In my Ford I drive them first to the liquor store and then to their reservation just outside of Watson Lake where they invite me in for a drink. Marlene, the Indian who owns the house, curses a blue streak because she has lost her keys so we stand outside and drink until one of them returns with a neighbour who has a spare key. I can tell this has happened before as one of the windows beside the door is smashed and boarded up. The neighbour with the key gives me a disapproving look and then unlocks the door. Beer bottles litter the room and junk and broken toys make walking hazardous. I have never seen a house so filthy. Dirt and candy wrappers and soiled pillows in the corners and mould growing on the dishes in the sink. A brand new computer sits half-unpacked on the dining room table with dust on the wrapping paper, so I tell Marlene I can fix up her computer. I take the plastic off and blow off the dust and re-arrange the pieces on the table, connecting all the cords and finally plugging it in. It has been sitting on the table for who knows how long, and all it needed was someone to connect the cables to the CPU and plug it in. Jeremy is happy the computer works and plays on it for five minutes until he becomes bored.

Soon the party dies down so I take my leave and tiptoe between the passed-out bodies on the floor and drive through the reservation. There are some newer homes but they're small and few compared to the wooden shacks that look half-abandoned with lawnmowers and rusted car parts and broken wooden chairs sprawled across weed-strewn lawns. It begins to rain so I put on the windshield wipers but I accidentally pull off the knob. I spend a few minutes trying to fix it but am unable to refasten it. When I return to town after a brief drive around the desolate reservation, I swagger into a store to look for road sailing equipment, but instead of finding a propane stove I find a Winchester pellet gun for sale. The rifle is a remembrance branch. When Remy and I were in grade four and living in British Columbia, we had a pellet gun and could never shoot it enough. We loved it. The rifle was eventually lost in one of our many moves but it has remained something I always associate with my brother. With the Winchester air rifle in my hands, I am overwhelmed by a flood of memories: the barn behind our house that we used to shoot at from our balcony; the dirt-biking trails behind our backyard where we rode our mini-bikes with the pellet gun strapped to our back; Kelly Simmons the Jehovah's Witness chasing us in his bulky three-wheeler; and Mark Delerme leading the way in his YAMAHA 80cc trail bike. Even now, thirty years later, I can still see Remy riding his KAWASAKI 75cc mini-bike and laughing. Every time I watched him riding his mini-bike I laughed at him as he had laughed at me. We loved those mini bikes. If one twin had one the other had to have the same thing, so our father bought identical green mini-bikes for us. But there was only one pellet gun and yet somehow we were able to share it. It brought Remy and me closer together since it was only him and I who snuck it out of the house for spontaneous after-supper and weekend excursions into parts unknown.

After reliving these forgotten memories, I pull out my wallet to count my money. Knowing Remy would love the pellet gun yet aware my petrol fund is quickly drying up, I go to the cashier with the rifle and a big bag of candles.

"Where are your pellets?" I ask the woman behind the counter. She places four different types of pellets in front of me: super-accurate pellets, hunting pellets, hyper-velocity pellets and blunt-nosed pellets.

"I'll take one of each - all four." I plan to test each one to see which one I like best, and knowing Remy wisdom tells me to get a good supply of ammunition.

I leave the store with the rifle box under my arm keenly aware that I am carrying a weapon. I quicken my pace and carefully slip the rifle into the passenger seat before anyone can see me. When I get into my rig, I hear a familiar voice coming from behind me. Startled, I turn to see Remy walking towards me.

"Oh! Shit!" I yell. Remy is laughing.

"Where were you? I was just about to leave. I didn't know where you were."

"Drinking with Indians - long story."

"I can't believe I just bumped into you." Remy looks at the box. That unmistakable look of mischief crosses his face when he sees the picture of the rifle on the box. "Is that-"

"Yes." I know mischief covers my face with equal intensity.

"Ah! Memories!"

"Winchester 1.77mm air rifle. The real McCoy."

"Let's go get some beer and food and then go to the campground out of town."

"You've been?" I ask.

"It's huge. I went there earlier to look for you. You need to see it. That old timer was right: it takes twenty minutes just to get through the forest to the grounds!"

"OK, you go and get the beer and I'll grab some food and then let's meet at the campground," I say, trying to ignore the alacrity in my voice.

"Cool. Trust me when I say you'll know where I am in the campground. I'll be in the first berth!"

Finding the campground is easy but the road leading to it is a nightmare. Ruts and potholes and washouts ravage the gravel road as I go deeper into the wilderness, and I don't find any signs indicating where the campground is. After a long twenty minutes negotiating bumps and incongruities I have almost given up finding any sign of life when suddenly I see a small sign pointing to a turn off. There are no other people in the campground. The actual campground is a circle of berths cut out from a dense, mature pine forest in the middle of the bush. Finally I see Remy who is sitting at a picnic table at the end of the first berth. He laughs at me when I walk towards him with the rifle hanging lazily over my right arm as if it's a cat sleeping on my forearm.

"Snagglepussy el grande!" he says.

"Oui mon frere. A full snagglepussy el grande."

"Have you given it a teste yet?"

"No, not yet. I wanted to baptize it here with you." I know I have exercised good twin etiquette by waiting for him before testing out the rifle. I aim at a tree, pull the trigger and hit it. This simple equation of events causes robust laugher in us both. I reload then place an empty Coors Light can on a branch. TING! I hit it on my first try. The sound it causes us to laugh harder. Remy demands to shoot the rifle. Since shooting the gun causes a raw barb of pain in my shoulder, I hand Remy the rifle to shut him up. I reset the beer can on a higher branch. TING! Remy hits it on his first try. We both laugh a little harder. Remy shoots the can again but misses it. I laugh this time as Remy reloads. TING! Remy hits the can again but it remains on the branch. TING! He hits the can and it falls off the branch. Soon there are Coors Light beer cans hanging from branches all over the place as well as cans perched on the picnic table and strategically located boulders. The TING sound is enough of a reward for the first hour or so, but then the plexi-glass encasing of the campground sign becomes the preferred target. I take the rifle and shoot at the sign in the distance. THAWP! confirms a direct hit, and the half-second delay between the release of the pellet and the THAWP is cause for added laughter. However it becomes less desirable when we discover that the plexi-glass is too strong to break and that the pellet only leaves a two-millimetre circle of lead dust. No cracks. No embedded pellets. With Inge chasing the sounds of the pellets hitting targets, Remy's shots become increasingly closer to the dog.

"Your dog is getting in the way," he says.

"My dog is ten yards away from the sign."

"There's a cross-breeze through the opening of the trees,' he warns. Remy shoots and hits the sign in the distance. I warn him not to hit Inge so he knows I'm watching. Then, weakening himself more and more on alcohol and suppressing his mischievous giggling, Remy offers me a bet.

"Two bucks if I can hit my rig from here." Quickly agreeing, he lets off a volley. PANG! The pellet strikes his white-seventies-camper siding leaving a long black mark. Remy screams with laughter. I take out a two-dollar coin and hand it to him. I linger a moment before I follow Remy back to his camper but halfway there he begins to laugh. I instantly recognize the laugh and know what he's up to.

"No," I say. Remy's laughter becomes more boisterous. "If you shoot my camper, you might begin a war." From this point on Remy keeps trying to sneak in a shot at my camper. He continues to shoot the beer cans and the plexi-glass sign but soon grows bored. Then I hear a loud WHAWP! A pellet smashes my water can that is tied down to the roof of my camper. Remy's guilt is manifest in a hard, almost painful laughter that borders on hysteria. Shouting at him only adds kindling to the fire of laughter. I didn't think he'll choose the path of war by hitting my rig because it's my gun. Then Remy, starting to look drunk, aims for the dog again.

"Remy!" He drops the barrel.

"What?" Then he surreptitiously changes his aim towards my camper. He shoots. PANG! There is an unmistakable soft metal-on-metal sound of a lead pellet hitting tin. I see a dark mark almost a centimetre long right in the middle of my shiny-white-seventies-camper siding. Remy is laughing as hard as I've ever seen him. He watches me playing it calm but then I begin to laugh too, not so much from his infectious laughter but because I can't help but think what his camper is going to look like after I get the gun back and ping his camper. Laughter seizes both of us to a manic state. Alcohol, tobacco and firearms and twins unsupervised in the bush is a combination that can only lead to criminal activity.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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