it your guiding principle to do your best for others and
be trustworthy in what you say. Do not accept as friend
who is not as good as you." - Confucius
branches brush the tops of our campers as we quietly shuffle through the sleepy
town of Beausejour on our way towards Seven Sister's Falls. Placid, benign and
charming, we pass by the Brokenhead River Campground where Remy lived years
before, once spending an entire winter in his trailer with only a small
Beausejour the countryside is full of 100-acre farms neatly placed
side-by-side. Birds fly in the full moon sky as we drive down the main street
in Seven Sister's Falls nestled on the boundary of Whiteshell Provincial Park.
Twenty minutes from Beausejour, there's only one store in town and a dozen
homes. It's also where Tom Cardinal's sweat lodge is located.
small tavern beside the general store, the bartender thinks she recognizes Remy
when she sees me walk in first.
what the cat dragged in," she says. I tell her I'm Remy's twin. She puts her
hands to her face.
twin! Oh I always believed him but
they never did." Her ringed fingers point to three or four patrons that are
drinking at a table, hunched-over fixtures, part of the beer-stained wood.
Molly, looks like you've met my twin brother!" Remy says behind me.
is so strange! You do have a twin
brother Remy!" A ripple of interest causing upheaval. She follows him past the
bar to the table and introduces me to the group, nameless names to featureless
faces. My eyes twitch from fatigue and my stomach screams for hot food.
thought you were pulling my wire all these years," says a skinny man with a
trimmed moustache sitting in front of a slot machine in the corner, his words
slurred, wet and almost without form.
where you been to now Remy?" asks Jerry, who whispers through a microphone that
has a wire coming out of his neck. Part electronic, part flesh.
Yukon." When he has garnered the collective ‘oohs' and ‘aahs,' he's encouraged
to continue. "And we went to Atlin - the original location of Atlantis.
Beautiful and remote - too remote
actually when push came to shove. But it was good. We were touched by a golden
eagle that swooped down on my brother's shoulder." They study me, eyes
expecting me to dance or pull a rabbit from behind my ear.
You get all over the place don't you?" says Molly.
then we went to Whitehorse and clear on across the old Yellowhead Indian Trail
and down the Red River Valley to right here. We saw the wild buffalo
Grandfather always said existed around the northern BC-Alberta border." Ronnie
gets up out of his stool in front of the slot machine like oozing plasma
thinking it had a backbone.
buffalo? You're shitt'n me."
me telling you about how Grandfather always said the Cree believed the wild
buffalo being extinct was a white man's myth? And that there were large herds
still roaming in northern Alberta in some valley only accessible through a
waterfall? Well, we found a couple of herds living wild in the bush. A couple
of them stood there on the road and wouldn't let me pass. The Cree legend is
true. There are still wild buffalo roaming in the north-west."
you travel so much, Remy," says Molly, all eyelashes and gushing like a proud
done more than five thousand kilometres so far without so much as a scratch
until tonight. Got a flat tire, no problem though. Got it fixed and made it
here. Trapp and I have the same rigs, see out there." We can all see my rig
through the front window of the tavern. Ronnie nods.
go for a smoke," he says so we go out to the front of the pub. Still not used
to smoke-free pubs, they are something new to me since I left the Far East.
been a good camper this one but tonight..."
camper almost crushed him to death," I say, completing Remy's sentence. Remy
waves off the hyperbole. He's too excited at me meeting his friends, so I drop
know I used to work for Ronnie."
I work at the dam down the street - at Seven Sisters Falls. That's where I
hired Remy to drive around the lawnmower for a summer."
best job I ever had. All I did was ride around on that lawn mower like a dirt
bike! And got paid for it! A little plan W. Perfect." But I notice Ronnie
looking as if there was some unfinished business. Residue best left unsaid.
old man walks up to us from the sidewalk, surveying the new faces. His blue
eyes show tragedy and a soul that has seen life, the hooded eyes stopping on
Remy. His hand goes up to his white stubble and then he looks at me and then
back on Remy.
how are you my friend?" Remy shakes his hand in a proud-to-know-you manner.
Eyes sad and watery, an old man's story visible for all to see, inviting and
still around so life can't be that bad." Neil ignores Ronnie who ignores Neil.
is my identical twin brother, Trapp." He studies my tired face.
can see the resemblance but when your beard comes in fuller, then you'll be
twins." Neil laughs from his gut, pure as the albumin of an unopened egg.
Ronnie stumbles over to his pick-up truck.
not driving, are you?" I say. He slams his door closed.
just down the road. He'll be OK," says Neil, as we go back inside the bar.
Molly stands up when she sees Neil, who waits at the bar as we sit at the table
with Remy's friends.
are you doing back?" asks Neil loudly from the bar.
looking for property to buy."
of it around here," he says.
bar's for sale," says Molly. "You two would be perfect to get this place." She smiles as she ponders the idea.
"There's plenty of space upstairs in the master quarters and in the corner
room. You could run the bar - that would be easy for you Remy."
idea. I'd be drinking everyday, which may not be wise." The idea intrigues me
for a moment but the practicality of it would be that no writing would ever get
done. Neil motions to leave so Remy stands up.
so soon? You just got here Neil."
don't you and your brother come back to my house and we can drink beer." And he
adds in a whisper: "It's too stuffy in here." Looking at me without saying
anything, I can tell he wants to leave because Tattoo Jimmy and Dougie Bell are
still at large. We finish our beer in one gulp.
be back later," he says to Molly. Her face is sad for a moment until he waves.
Remy and I go out to our trucks and wait for Neil to buy a case of beer in the
is a bit of an outcast here," Remy says to me beside our rigs. "People don't
like him but I think he's got a good heart. Lonely, seen life." Neil comes out
of the lobby and puts the case of beer in my camper and shows me the way to his
place, one minute from the pub. We both park in Neil's driveway and enter a
two-room wooden shack no bigger than 300 square feet. Inside my eyes are drawn
to the dirt floor, worn and dry almost like rock. I stumble on an uneven part
when I sit on the small couch against the wall in the kitchen. Remy hands me a
beer and Neil sits in the rocking chair beside the kitchen table. Paint peels
on the windowless wall behind him stained with nicotine that drips in slow
pad," says Remy. "See? This is what we're after. Something modest: a bedroom
and a kitchen." Remy and I look at each other for a moment, his eyes are
serious as they look down to the floor. A frayed calendar hangs askew and
writer's cabin should be modest. Keeps the distractions away," I say.
is good country," says Remy. "There's a place down the street: 30 acres and a
broken-down old home. Twenty-nine grand they want. I looked at it last summer.
What's that? A thousand an acre? That's what we're looking for."
the home liveable?" He shakes his head.
can build something or get a trailer." I shake my head in disagreement.
want some acreage but we need a cabin or cottage on the property. Building will
be too expensive and complicated. And it'll take too long."
could get a trailer, or live in my camper with a generator." An ache descends
on me from nowhere, my beer still unsipped in my hand. When I lift it a shard
of jagged pain pierces the core of my shoulder.
living in our campers right now and it's already too cold at night," I say.
"Only candles are keeping me warm."
gets cold here in the winter months. Remy knows that," says Neil. When he asks
me if I'm in pain I tell him about the pin in my shoulder.
try Oxy Contin?" Both of us look at
we both say at the same time.
have some." He pulls out a small plastic bottle. "You're welcome to try some if
you like. It's good for pain." He pours out some pills.
unnatural. Manmade. I will smoke weed because it's from the Creator but I won't
take a pill that's made from man." We both look at Remy. "You go ahead though.
Take them and be merry." Remy waves his hand dismissively as if speaking to two
kids who want to take an unnecessary risk by eating a poisonous berry of the
nightshade family. Neil holds three pills in the palm of his hand.
could use some pain relief." They are tiny pills so I pop them into my mouth,
still used to taking more than what is recommended because of my size while
living amongst smaller people in greater China.
good?" I ask after I ingest the pills. All I know about it the drug is that
it's given to patients after surgery for pain. I think I might as well give it
a test spin with my shoulder since the opportunity may never come again. A torn
tendon bordering a stainless steel pin in the heart of the socket is not like a
blister or hangnail.
enough the first time - more than
enough." Neil turns on a small radio on top of his fridge.
Remy says, shaking his head. "Reckless with unfamiliar tech. Bad combo."
Extremism never far away when the opportunity presents itself.
"So you two brothers going to live
together in the same place?" The question stops both of us.
might live on the property in my trailer," Remy replies. "But far from my
brother! I'm hoping Trapp finds a place that has lots of space so I can
surround myself with trees and feel like I'm living in the bush - like Gabriel
Métis hunter. Louis Riel's right-hand man."
needs his own space," I say.
living together under the same roof ain't always a good idea," says the old
man, rocking a bit in his chair. Calm. Grounded.
we need land," says Remy.
the cheapest land is in BC and yet now we're going to Ontario."
land and farms in Ontario my boy. More of ‘em, that's why. Early settlers. Pioneers.
Many of them are falling apart now." The hardened look of a wise man transforms
Neil from a skinny pauper to profound sage.
cold here during January but it depends on what you want. Your family from
Toronto mainly," says Remy. "And our mother hasn't seen this guy in years." The
thought of going to Toronto makes me anxious and impatient, wafer-thin fluff
unready for re-introduction - an unfinished piece of pottery, leaky and oblong.
Maybe I'm still freaked out from Remy's brush with death on the shoulder of the
highway and his inexplicable faith in his destiny.
does that have to do with our house hunt?" I ask.
has a lot to do with it. Mom and Dad are starting to get old, Trapp." Remy's
voice becomes softer. "You've been away a long time. Dad's all white now. And
Mom isn't moving as well as she was even last year."
not my problem," I say. I'm surprised at the coldness in my voice.
life can only be empty without her youngest son in her life. Sure, it has a lot
to do with it." Remy is looking at me curiously. I sigh and feel the throbbing
of the tissue tear sharper but ebbing.
close to Mommy and Daddy? Holy catfish! You must be joking," says Neil,
slapping his bony hand on his bony thigh. "You don't have to live close to your
folks. They can handle themselves." I rub my eyes and try to focus but my
eyeglasses put everything out of focus.
something about Neil I like, an honesty and his down-to-earth acceptance of the
grit. Remy has always had a knack for befriending the lonely, those islands
without the lumber to complete the bridge to the other side. I can tell he
doesn't want to be alone. He gets up after looking at my hiking shoes.
need some cowboy boots? I gotta pair here that don't fit me no more. Still good
mind you." From the small closet he hands me a pair scuffed and cracked and
worn, a life story pressed into the leather. I take off my wet hiking shoes and
slip them on and I walk around the dirt floor no more than three strides to the
door. Like a glove, the toes have the benefit of space from the mileage etched
in the sinew.
solid foundation. The heel is firm." I take out my tobacco pouch and hand the
old man a cigarette, thanking him for his boots. I lean back on the couch and
feel half a foot longer. The pills are making my eyelids heavy, leaden shades
slipping to gravity.
pain in my shoulder is gone." But I can't see my brother.
some coffee?" I sigh and my chin falls on my chest.
want some coffee?" Neil's voice is now stripped raw from talking and smoking,
ripped sandpaper dry throat. There is light through the open door. He sits at
the kitchen table sipping coffee and wearing a different flannel shirt,
cigarettes in the pocket.
brother just left."
boots are great," I say remembering where I am and then briefly close my eyes
I'll have some coffee," I reply. "Please, thanks." Neil stands by the sink
washing dishes. Refreshed, I stand up from the couch. "Best way to work-in the
leather is to walk in ‘em eh?" Walking on the dirt floor, my foot and boot are
make some," he says. I think it's strange that he needs to brew another pot. I
look at my watch but the numbers mean nothing to me. It's clear I've lost track
of time so I open the door and I smell the freshness of morning, rich prairie
air unsullied and pure.
I find the door to my camper open and there is no sign of my dog anywhere on
the property. And Remy's truck is gone.
think Remy may have picked up your dog."
Didn't he just leave?"
came back. He was here looking for Tattoo Jimmy."
was going to Doug Bell's. You know where it is?"
think I do. He pointed it out on the way into town yesterday." A flood of ideas
racing in my head.
mean two days ago." I smile at him in good humour. Thinking it was a joke, I
thank him again for the boots and leave for Doug Bell's place. I can't lose
Remy, and I need to find Inge.