Wordcarpenter Books
 Road Sailors

23

"Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage." - Confucius

Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Too wired to sleep we climb into our rigs and drive into the rising sun. The deep, luminous blue of the sky morphs into a crimson and saffron hue and the first arrows of burning light pierce the sky and strike my eyes through my rose-tinted sunglasses. I whistle to the music and shake my head at what I just experienced, mulling over the ideas that were exchanged in the hotel room still aghast that there are others out there clamouring to be the prophesied messenger. Passing more orange and yellow landscapes on the way through Prophet River to Fort St. John, we enter wide-open foothills along a windswept corridor of the Rockies. The chinook winds are like an avalanche of nails screaming sideways that push and pull us back and forth in 100-kilometre winds. I watch Remy's truck being pushed from side to side in front of me like a toy.

Remy is the first to stop but he parks on a peak above a thousand miles of forest where his camper sways violently in the crosswinds. It's the only place to pullover along this stretch of highway so I park behind him but am unable to sleep because of my camper is still being manhandled by the wind. The image of my camper being blown over and then thrown down the small escarpment into the woods is foremost in my mind. The swaying is too violent so I leave Remy there and drive farther down the road. Wind - the stalking silent master that gives air texture - has me clutched in her talons and won't let me go, my two tons of road buggy like a plastic plaything roughhoused and thrown back and forth at the peril of tipping. I drive down the barren highway on bubblegum tires until I find a sheltered side road protected by trees but still visible to the cars so Remy can see me when he goes by. Despite this I'm still convinced that my camper is going to tip over so I lie there in my loft grabbing the sides of my mattress, trying to acclimatize to the swaying. Unnerved on the windy steppe, exhaustion soon overcomes my fear and I fall asleep.

 

A few hours later, the sun is shining in my eyes through the little window in my loft and I hear Remy's familiar voice saying my name.

"Traaaaaaap."

"Come in." He opens the door to my camper.

"Found you! You scallywag, you're always taking off!"

"Well, you parked on a peak right in the middle of a wind tunnel. And your camper isn't even tied down! I thought I was going be blown over."

"Yeah, pretty serious chinooks eh?. But no biggie. Builds character."

"I always thought a chinook was a fish," I reply, deadpan.

"I thought I was going to have to peel you off the shoulder. Major turbulence." We have a smoke and then leave for Dawson Creek with the sun in our hearts. Just before reaching Dawson Creek near a place called Loosegun Lake, we pass a sign that reads:

DANGER

POISONOUS GAS 

Heavy trucks with radioactive symbols on them come and go from a road leading north into the bush. It's an odd sight after days driving through wilderness bliss. We finally turn off at the train station that's mile zero of the Alaska Highway. A red grain mill dominates the old town of Dawson Creek. Oil country, farm kids in pick-up trucks with money in their pockets and booze on their breath, a dangerous combination. No longer a gold rush in the north, it's now an oil rush. Dawson Creek is a rough town with territorial tattoos to show for it that attracts those in need of economic gain from the east and the west. Young kids operate heavy equipment making three times as much as any salary man in Toronto, New York, or Hong Kong. An under-the-table no-brainer just like they do it in China. No taxes please.

We park in front of an old saloon that hasn't changed in a century. Without a word we both walk into the saloon thirsty, windblown and dusty like cowboys. Old log beams stretch over the bar where hundreds of bottles line the walls. Old-timers in lumberjack jackets with white moustaches and beards sit proudly by the wooden railings, smoking their pipes and no-filter cigarettes eying us suspiciously. The beer is stale so we switch to Bloody Marys and move to the smoking room in the back with a pool table. Remy challenges for the table against a large unshaven man with his shirt tail hanging out and greasy hair who is more intent on drinking than playing billiards. Remy wins the table and keeps ordering more Bloody Marys at the same rate he drinks beer. Soon our games become sloppy and balls begin to fly off the table.

"Not as many buffalo today," I say. Something about being outside the orbit of wild buffalo makes me feel like we're going the wrong way. I'm feeling tense returning to the outskirts of civilization; I hear the call to the wild. Before we get too far away from the wild buffalo I think for a moment that locating in Dawson Creek would be the solution so we could have forays into the wild and yet live in a town with an arena and a library and a decent saloon. 

"I saw some places for sale on the way in, a few anyway," I say to test the waters.

"You want to live here? This is where northern BC meets the Alberta border - practically the heart of the oil fields. It's rough here. And it's Yukon cold. No messin' around here cowboy. You get your fair share of rednecks, which isn't cool. It's dicey. Need to watch your posture and all that stuff. Too much swagger and one of the boys will pull rank and break your nose." A 300-pound guy with a blousy face and full jowls looks at Remy shooting pool and mumbles something about his Indian medicine bundle. I can tell from his demeanour and his rake-thin alcoholic groupies that he doesn't like hippies adorned with Indian beads, but he is part of the dominant demographic group here and there's nothing we can do but stay out of his way.

LONG LIVE THE REIGN OF WORKERS AND POOR PEASANTS!  

"Hungry?" I ask, after I sink the eight ball.

"AWS." Remy nods in understanding as the roughness of Dawson Creek creeps closer to our heels. We go next door to the café where it smells of homemade food. Our hunger causes us to order several large dishes. Hunger is like a ghost that can find no peace, so we drink more Bloody Marys as we impatiently wait for our food. The café is empty. Everyone is next door drinking. We ask the waitress to plug in our walkie-talkies behind the counter as we wait.

"I need somewhere that's conducive to writing, not somewhere that's going to be too cold and too hostile," I say.

"Right. That's why I'm saying that there are better spots than this place."

"And where is that?"

"Maybe in Saskatchewan. There are lots of century-old homesteads that are for sale. Or maybe there's a cabin in the south of BC near Kamloops or Nelson?"

The food arrives and we eat quickly to satiate our hunger. We begin to laugh at each other because of how fast we're eating, which leads to Remy casually flicking a chicken bone at me. It hits me on the forehead. This one act brings back a flood of memories in both of us - past birthday parties and failed dinner parties during university. I'm not surprised that this is followed by a French Fry that hits my cheek. More laughter. I nonchalantly toss a brussel sprout at him, striking his hand but landing on his lap. Remy picks it up and throws it with full rotation of the arm hitting me in the Adam's apple, the brussel sprout bouncing onto my plate. The laughter increases dramatically. I take the orange slice garnish and lob it at him where it happens to land in his half-open mouth, dangling there for a second before falling.

"Direct hit," I say, words that open the floodgates. In an instant we are flinging food at each other without restraint. More brussel sprouts, hot potatoes, uneaten vegetables all fly through the air. The waitress looks from afar but since we have ordered so much food she keeps her distance and lets us play, hoping for a big tip. Remy's laughter affects me like a disease; I can't stop laughing because of his laughter and he doesn't stop laughing because there's no one there to stop him. In a minute or two the front of the café is trashed with various colours of food, but the waitress is rewarded for her tolerance. She ends up getting her big tip when she returns our walkie-talkies fully charged.

At night the mercury drops to freezing. I can't find sleep as I lay in my camper on my left side. My right shoulder is throbbing with pain and my mind swims with thoughts of what to do barely able to tread water. Too much hinges on where we drive from here so Inge and I walk the streets of Dawson Creek for hours in the morning darkness block after block, until the sun reveals the first frost of the year on the front lawns of sleeping homes. I want to stay in this wild part of Canada where there is still wild buffalo. I always saw myself buying a writer's cabin in British Columbia so I know we are at a fork in the road: either we go south to Kamloops or go east towards Ontario where the family is. I don't care as long as I find a place to finish my work.

After hours of walking trying to figure out this puzzle, I realize I'm lost until I cross a street and finally recognize a park I saw four hours before. Inge and I go back to where the campers are still parked in front of the old Dawson Creek saloon where there is a monument commemorating the completion of the Alaska Highway in 1943. Remy appears from his camper and walks to the driver's seat. I can tell he hasn't slept well in the cold. There's something about sleeping in and around concrete and brick that suffocates. We're both born and bred to be among the trees.

"I need some fuel," he says. I follow Remy to a gas station where we fill up and then have a coffee. Standing in front of our rigs we can see for miles and enjoy the colourful fall landscape of Dawson Creek.

"Let's go east to where our Ojibway blood is," he says. "Somewhere in Ontario, like Georgian Bay or the Bruce Peninsula or Manitoulin Island." Maybe that's it I think, a yearning to match my Ojibway blood to the landscape. Maybe that's why I haven't found a home in British Columbia. And perhaps that's the secret to finding the right geomancy.

"I don't know Remy," I say.

"Ontario is the size of France and Germany combined. There are lots of lakes and nook-von-crannies there, probably more that anywhere else in Canada. The British knew what they were doing. It's where we spent most of our lives no matter how you slice it." Birch trees, finger lakes, fallen maple leaves with the rich aroma of autumn.

"But I want to stay here, near the buffalo. There's nothing wrong with Dawson Creek. They even have an arena." I say these words out of desperation and we both know they ring hollow.

"In Dawson Creek? There's no one here you know." An 18-wheeler passes us and the trucker releases his air brakes, which makes Remy curse. We sip our coffee in silence for a while. The old grain elevator across the road comforts me because nothing else symbolizes Canada more to me that a red grain elevator. The love I have for my country is returning like a re-acquaintance with your first love.

 "Why don't we head to Manitoba? You can meet some of my friends and maybe we can make it back to Mom's for Thanksgiving?"

"Thanksgiving? That's only a week and a half away. We can't-"

"Yes we can, but it's whether we want to or not. With you just being back from the Far East after so long away, it would be great to visit Toronto and see Mom. There are lots of cottages and cabins in Ontario north of Toronto, more than up here anyway. And it would very cool to surprise Mom." I think about the cost of crossing the country.

"It's too expensive. I'm too poor." I'm a wreck and I'm coming apart at the seams. Shoulder pain, exhaustion and dwindling finances. Remy can sense it so he puts his hand on my good shoulder.

"It's OK man. Better to make the hard decision here than to buy in BC and regret it for years. Besides, you're not poor brother. Poor is a lack of integrity, kindness, love and humour." He doesn't let me go until I look at him directly in the eye. I can see as much emotion in his eyes as mine. Fatigue is chipping away at us both, but he has a knack for knowing when to show compassion to someone in need.

Back in our rigs and on the road, in no time we cross the border into Alberta where I quickly learn that the drivers here are different. Alberta thinks it's more beautiful than it is, and tries too hard to be Canada's Texas when really it's really Canada's Alabama. The roads are so hacked up along the north that I begin to suspect that the cracks in the pavement have been purposely put there by truck companies to make sure all people buy pick-up trucks. We take the buggies slow because of the deep cracks in the road and get our share of angry honks from passing cowboys. The mountains have morphed into rolling hills and the ubiquitous coniferous forests change to the occasional patch of poplars. There is an element of the anti-government rogue in these parts, signs of lawlessness like bumper stickers saying "Back off government" and "This land is ours." On the radio I find the first period of the Calgary-Edmonton hockey game, a pre-season game that is the biggest rivalry in the Canadian West, and on par with the Montreal-Toronto rivalry. When we pass through Edmonton and its endless malls and gas stations and fast-food restaurants, it's easy to see that the locals are hockey fanatics. All the signs outside taverns boast:

THE OILERS: THE BEST TEAM IN HOCKEY

Hockey is a religion here in this frontier town after which nothing exists but buffalo, elk and bighorn sheep. It's an outpost where oil pays the bills and hockey passes the time.

Past the turn off for Fort McMurray, the real hub of oil exploration in the province, the rolling hills disappear and the land begins to merge into flat farmland marked by miles of fences. Oil donkeys that once covered the fields of Alberta now have stiff necks; I don't see one that is pumping. There is a strange absence of wildlife in Alberta compared to the lush foliage and wild game of British Columbia, maybe too many rifles and not enough tree huggers here. The forests are gone and the landscape is sparse; trees have been used for firewood and fences and homesteads. The only wildlife I see are the thousands of Canadian Geese flying south in a long arrows. I drive over roadkill left by truckers. It's littered with porcupines, foxes and groundhogs.

My walkie-talkie rings.

"This is the Tall Standing One. Over," I say.

"Roger that, Standing Puppy. This is Rainbow Thunderbird calling from a few minutes ahead of you. Shall we take a break from these maniac drivers if we see a store that sells cowboy hats s'il vous plait? While we're passing through cowboy country, I want to snag one. I've wanted a real cowboy hat for a long time. Whaddya think pilgrim? Maybe some cowboy boots too. Over." I know he doesn't have any money above his go juice ration but the idea of finding a real cowboy hat makes me overlook that.

"I'm game Loping Gait. Will follow your lead. Over."

"Roger that Small Pine. Take my cue. Over and out." I replace the unit into my breast pocket and catch up to Remy. West of Edmonton in a town called Vegreville we hit a stretch of stores running parallel to the railroad tracks that has a rodeo theme. Remy pulls into the parking lot past the old train station and I follow.

The store has everything Western: jackets, hats, boots, ropes, tack - all the vital ingredients in the cowboy kit that one needs to look the part. Behind the cashier the entire wall is covered with every kind of cowboy hat you can think of. I try on several pairs of boots but we both end up in the hat section where there is a style and colour that appeals to both of us. The hats are made not of leather but of finely woven straw. Cut in the cowboy hat style, there is a leather rope around the head and a wire running through the brim of the hat that gives it structure. Remy grabs a thickly woven hat the colour of flaxen straw that matches his beard, and I choose a finely-woven straw cowboy hat slightly lighter in complexion. The hats are identical except for the texture of the weave.

Looking at the mirror I see my unshaven chin is now sporting some serious growth. Remy and I are becoming more and more alike in appearance. I begin to laugh at how the hat already looks as if he has been wearing it for years. He begins to laugh when I put on my cowboy hat. For a minute we stand in front of the hat stand laughing at each other ignoring the stares from the girls behind the counter. The hats are such a good fit that I put them on my credit card. We leave quickly before I buckle and spend more money.

The night makes eastern Alberta feel wintry and cruel and the cracks in the road bang at my suspension with stubborn persistence. We purposely drive late into the night to cross the border into Saskatchewan and into a different time zone, where we see a campground beside a river and park for the night. There is no one there by the birch-bark tepee beside the river and no one around to honk. We have escaped the angry white man syndrome of Alberta and fall into a deep, contented sleep beside the bosom of the river and tepee.

 


 

24

"The virtue of the gentleman is like wind; the virtue of the small man is like grass.

"Let the wind blow over the grass and it is sure to bend." - Confucius

Maidstone, Saskatchewan

I rise early and brew coffee on my small propane stove while Remy sleeps in. Wearing my new cowboy hat, I hike the circumference of the campground with Inge, carrying a mug of hot coffee in my hand. The air fresh and the wind soft and the aroma of soil rich and wheat fields and grain elevators stretch as far as the eye can see. Eager to get an early start, I'm happy to see Remy reading his maps and drinking coffee when I return. He's also wearing his new cowboy hat.

"'Morning."

"'Morning," I reply.

"We're in Maidstone, Saskatchewan."

"You and your maps Remy."

"Ah, but knowing where you are on a map is the first rule of road sailing."

"And what's the second rule?"

"To always have a compass," he says. "We crossed the border about 20 kilometres up the road before we turned in last night."

"It took us almost a week to cross northern BC but it only took us a day to cross Alberta," I say.

"Alberta drivers...It's too bad. Wish I could find a bumper sticker that says: ‘ALL TAILGATERS SHOULD BE DRAWN AND QUARTERED!'" I nod in agreement.

"There's a tepee over there. Did you see it?"

"Yes. I did see that." Remy goes into his camper and pours some more coffee. Like the change in scenery I change my diet from Dill pickles and crackers and begin a new zeitgeist of rye bread and honey. Famished, I wolf down three sandwiches in minutes.

"Let's try to hit Manitoba by tomorrow. We have to go east and dip south as we go."

"Any ideas how we ditch these 18-wheelers?" I ask.

"Yes!" His finger thrusts into the air. "We could take this Highway 4 south and then cruise due east away from the traffic aguey along Highway 15. It's what I've been trying to figure out this morning. There are so many roads across the prairies there's no sense in taking a crowded one."

"My thoughts exactly."

We pack up from the campground with the birch-bark tepee and depart for North Battleford and Saskatoon. The dew on the grassy plains dries under the emerging sun causing steam to rise like smoke from a brush fire. It is so flat that the sky dominates the prairies and grain elevators appear massive and mark the plots of wheat fields. In British Columbia one is isolated by mountains and forests but here one is isolated by sheer horizontal space. From a farm looking across the field you can hardly see the next farm under a sky so open you can almost touch the clouds. Clusters of a few hundred homes and windbreak trees pepper the sea of land every 100 kilometres or so like an island oasis, but anywhere outside the towns you are exposed to a great vastness that only speaks the language of the prairie winds.

Drivers are noticeably more polite east of the Alberta border maybe because roads are better. If Alberta puts their oil money into their Heritage Fund then the Saskatchewan government puts their revenue into road signs. Surely it must be the road sign capital of the world. Do not pass signs, lane change signs, turn-off signs, mileage signs, buckle-up signs, detour signs, creek signs - one after another they line the roadside in each stretch of highway. Remy and I turn off onto Highway 4, a quieter road that heads due south. Immediately the traffic disappears. We drive like a couple of prairie schooners alone and unmolested by other vehicles under the vast blue sky. We pass a field with thousands of white birds covering acres of farmland. There are so many birds that for a moment the sky darkens from swirling flocks. I finally pull ahead of Remy and motion to him to pull over on the shoulder.

"I gotta take a picture of this. C'mon," I say with my camera in my hand. Remy steps out of the truck and stands there completely unaware of the photo I take.

"Did you take it?" I'm pretty sure he heard the click but I ignore his question because the candid photo I wanted has already been taken.

"Let's put it on self-timer." I place the camera on the hood of my rig and press the button. I manhandle him to where we stand in front of the countless of white birds.

"Say ‘mobile teepees...'" The shutter clicks and the moment is captured. It is the only photo taken of both of us together. 

"This is where Gabriel Dumont hunted buffalo. Imagine that!" says Remy. "The prairies are like the plains of Africa, baby. Dumont and the boys knew that. We need to get some horses!"

"Or some dirt bikes." Both of us think of our little Kawasaki mini-bikes.

"The Battle of Battleford and Duck Lake were just north of here. And so was the Battle of Fish Creek, where Riel rode around with a bronze cross oblivious to the hail of bullets whizzing by his niblet. Gabriel Dumont took a bullet in the head but was all right. He was more upset about his younger brother being killed." The wind pushes the hair off my forehead like an invisible hand of God.

"Did you know that at the Battle of Fish Creek, the Métis suffered four dead and two wounded and the Dominion forces suffered ten dead and 45 wounded but the Métis were outnumbered 2000 to 200 - or ten to one. That was the last battle of the Métis Rebellion of 1885. It all happened right around here." It's different to me knowing I have in my blood a mixture of two cultures - the fire of the white man tempered by the earth of the red man, a melding of the two, an estuary, that marks my character.

We continue south down the road until we turn due east on Highway 15 and we drive between the prairie grass rolling in waves from the wind that makes it feel as if I'm surfing on ripples of wheat. Crops of shiny gold glow in neat squares beside century farms painted red and tractors the size of small apartment buildings working the land under the yellow-orange sun. We pass through a town called Amazon where the winds nearly blow Remy off the road in front of me. Driving in high winds on a long flat patch in a camper is like a boxing match: each move of the steering wheel to the left and to the right is a punch against the invisible force. Witnessing the winds whip Remy's rig to the shoulder so easily convinces me that there must be a case of a road sailor capsizing in high winds, or at least of a camper blowing off a truck. These winds are as powerful as the chinooks we drove through at the foot of the Rockies in northern British Columbia.

We stop for fuel in a place called Craven but it's so clean and pristine we doubt there's a tavern around. Remy asks the gas attendant and gets directions to the lone bar in town. I couldn't live here because there are not enough trees and no places to hike, which is a requirement for the homestead. Off the main street we find a roadhouse and on the front lawn there's a large electric guitar in neon lights. We park at the entrance.

"Bob's Country Bunker!" says Remy.

"Exactly!" No one in the tavern except a bartender and someone playing one of the gambling machines. Remy puts money in the jukebox and I buy the beer and we meet at the pool table. Strangely, all the music Remy selects are favourite songs of mine, and most of them are obscure.

"You can finally meet Tattoo Jimmy and Dougie Bell, my two buddies in Manitoba," he says to me as he racks up the balls. "These two guys are my best friends in Manitoba. I partied with them when I wasn't preparing for a sweat lodge with Grandfather. You'd like Dougie Bell. He has all sorts of toys: dirt bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs - the works. He ran the unofficial pub in Seven Sister's Falls where everyone would go after the local bar closed."

"My break," I say. He nods in agreement.

"And then there's Tattoo Jimmy who is notorious for his three-day parties on his farm. Great guy." The waitress comes over with a loaded tray of green shooters. Her brunette friend from the bar follows her.

"On the house," she says. Remy and I look at each other in an effort to see what we've done to deserve them.

"For playing good music," says the brunette, a small woman with severe features. She hands Remy and I the green-coloured liquor, raises her drink and we shoot it down.

"Anything's good that's not country music," says the waitress.

"Yes, I hear you on that," replies Remy. "We've been driving all day." They both smile and hand us more sweet liquor.

"We saw you drive up," replies the creamy-skinned waitress.

"In our road biggies."

"They're neat road buggies." They laugh at the term and blush as we all shoot another free shot from the bartender's tray.

"What brings you to Craven?" Her voice is as creamy and soft as her skin. I tell her about the homestead.

"Good idea. There are some nice places in Manitoba and Ontario. Manitoulin Island I heard is good for that kind of thing. Like lots of artists go there. Writers. Painters."

"You should put Manitoulin on your radar, Trapp. It's good place to check out," he says. 

"You two are twins, right?" The waitress blushes. We both nod.

"I hope your parents never dressed you the same."

"No, never happened. Thank God."

"You like being twins?"

"Yes," says Remy. "I've missed this fella. He's been overseas wandering like a nomad - from Tokyo to Taiwan, and from the Philippines to Hong Kong and somewhere in China. He's a wanderer like me, or should I say like Cain." The waitress straightens her posture when she hears the name Cain.

"You probably know the story of Cain and Abel, right?" We both nod. "OK, so you know that the traditional interpretation of the story is that Cain is a murderer because he kills his brother out of jealousy. Right?" More nodding as we take a pause from shooting pool. "A Cabalist's view- you know the Cabala?" 

"An ancient Hebrew text," says Remy, trying to encourage her to say what she has to say.

"Well, according to the Cabalist's view, Cain is called Yaqam, meaning he is elevated, raised and exalted above Abel. This gives a reason why God accepts Abel's offering and rejects Cain's."

"Why's that?"

"Abel is a shepherd content to tend flocks of sheep and so he offers God a sheep as his offering. But Cain is first a tiller of soil and then a farmer. He imitates God by creating new life in the garden. God recognizes the godliness in Cain so when Cain offers God the fruit of his labour, Cain commits an act of self-worship and thus his efforts are rejected. Cain's offering reflects a lack of self-knowledge." I'm not sure I follow what her point is so I look to Remy who looks equally perplexed.

"So Cain's lack of self-knowledge led to his downfall of being cast out to wander the earth?" he asks. "Is that what you're saying?"

"Or are you saying that Cain's lack of self-knowledge led to Abel's downfall?" I ask.

"Actually you're both right. Like God, Cain has the ability to create. Cain's ignorance of his divine nature led to Cain's jealous anger, which caused Abel's death. But it also led to Cain's curse from God to be a homeless wanderer on the earth."

"So Cain wasn't aware that he had God's power to create. But because Abel was not a creator like God, his offering was not an act of self-worship. The two brothers were different. Cain didn't realize that he was different to Abel. One was of the Creator and one was not."

"That's right."

"He wasn't aware of the divine nature of his person and because of that, was rebuked by God." Something has tweaked Remy's interest. "And so Cain was cursed to roam the world without a home."

"Perhaps he was cursed to roam the world in an effort for him to finally gain self-knowledge?" I suggest.

"The point is that Cain has long been regarded as the bad guy, but the reason for his act of murder is what has been overlooked. He was part God since he has the ability to create, and this lack of awareness led to his tragedy. It's ignorance that led to Abel's death and Cain being cast out." The waitress is obviously someone who knows her Bible.

"He who creates is honouring the gift of the Creator," Remy says.

"Why are you telling us this?" I ask gently.

"Because as identical twins, I wonder if you are like Cain and Abel, or if you are two Cains or two Abels. It's a question I've wondered about ever since I was a kid going to Sunday school." Jesus, I thought to myself, Remy and I are like Cain. We want to both create books. We have both been wandering the earth alone. Have we achieved self-knowledge?

The waitress follows Remy outside for a cigarette and I soon forget about Cain and Abel as those tangle foot shooters hit me stronger than I anticipate. After more pool and jukebox music, the bar closes and I soon find myself on a shooting frenzy with my pellet gun outside the bar, stubborn and hell-bent for Watson Lake payback. Using the big neon guitar on the front lawn as cover, I fire a pellet at Remy's camper. A dull thud of lead hitting soft metal is heard after each shot causing me spasms of laughter. Inge rolls around with me on the grass as I shoot more pellets at Remy's camper. I keep expecting Remy to roll out of his camper after each shot but he is dead asleep so I readjust my sights and fire at the tavern sign beside Remy's rig. I'm laughing like a madman, firing without my eyeglasses on. It's the last thing I remember.

In the morning I wake up on the lawn with the rifle in my hands and my cowboy hat bent out of shape. Inge is lying beside me on the grass beside the big guitar.

"Good sleep?" I open my eyes and I'm not sure where I am. A car goes by and Inge begins to wag her tail beside me as pain screeches through my shoulder. I squint up at Remy and then look over at his camper with guilt when I see a splattering of centimetre-long black marks. When I assess his face I can tell he hasn't noticed my shooting spree yet, but I must look guilty as hell.

"I was shooting at that sign over there," I say, leaning on my elbow. "Laughed myself to sleep I reckon." Remy points at the sign.

"That thing?" I still don't have my eyeglasses on but there's only one sign in that direction.

"Yes, that one."

"That's not a sign. It's a propane tank!" He cracks up laughing as I sit up and blink the sleep out of my eyes in disbelief.

"A propane tank?" It is a propane tank with painted words on it that looks like a sign.

 "You could have blown it up with a spark! Classic! Look at you passed out on the lawn under Bob's Country Bunker guitar with a rifle in your arms and a white dog sleeping beside you. The citizens of Craven are going to have a good laugh over their bacon and eggs and coffee this morning!" Remy's laughter is infectious. "Such recklessness." I squint at the tank and see the words: ‘Joy Propane Ltd.' written on it. The irony is not lost to us. I'm not embarrassed but surprised. Something needs to change; this wildness cannot continue.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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