"What use to a blind
man is the assistant who does not steady him
when he totters or support him when he
falls." - Confucius
isn't right that Remy lost my dog but there are some things you have no control
over, like Remy who answers to his dreams and his own wanderlust - a buck
taking to deer trails through the trees and across the meadows.
drive to the bar where I ask Molly if she's heard of anyone who's seen a lost
dog. Her eyes light up.
that yours? A white dog?"
Where was it?"
saw a white husky running along 5 out here, maybe twenty minutes ago. A big
white dog. Yup."
5? This one?" I point to the road west of the tavern.
hop in my truck and drive along 5 and slow down when I see an oncoming truck.
Undoing my window I wave it down. A bearded face looks at me from the open
window in the dust. Mennonites. I ask the man if he's seen a white dog.
that's the one. How far is it?"
minutes back." The windswept face is pink and lined from the sun but his eyes
twinkle with solar power, kids mumbling in the back seat.
I tip my cowboy hat and drive fast down
Highway 5 until I see her along the road running towards me, ears back in
distress. So small in the wide-open prairie of tall grasses. I pull over and
get out. She stops when I call her name and runs over to me. I hug Inge hard.
Her happiness defies words. I put her in the front seat and see the pads on her
paws are worn down raw. I can't believe I found her.
of going to West Hawk Lake I drive back to the bar to thank Molly.
is that your bro?" Brown-bearded with a ponytail, he approaches and scrutinizes
me with his eyes, searching and identifying a hundred small differences in what
Remy last was. "No, you're not Remy. He said he had a brother but wow! I never
believed him that he had a twin brother. Wanna beer?"
at the moment I'm pretty pissed off with him for losing my dog." He waves his
hand dismissively and I see some green and orange tattoos under his sleeves.
you Tattoo Jimmy?"
brother calls me that." Wrinkles around his eyes come to life, two front teeth
missing like gates left open by the road.
were looking for you a few days ago here."
I heard. You hear everything in this town. So you're looking for property to
buy." I take him up on the beer and postpone my trip to West Hawk Lake.
tell him that's what we're doing. Tattoo Jimmy takes this as a serious thing.
man with land is finally a man. It's that simple." Head shaking, studying my
face and seeing Remy but talking to someone new for the first time - a
stranger. "Yup. No man's a man without land. I'm talking about owning property
with no mortgage. The bank doesn't own it; you
what I'm looking for." Tattoo Jimmy, excon and landowner, tells me that only
when you can stand on your own piece of earth and no one can push you around
have you the right to call yourself a man.
your own property is freedom." Tremendous gravity in his belief.
for a cigarette, a car drives by coming from the direction of Neil's shack. I
ask him if he knows Neil.
bit crusty but nice guy. I crashed at his place a few nights ago. Small cabin."
got that place from his parents, who he killed." I puff from my cigarette as if
I had just heard a comment about the local hockey team, a bad trade that left
their offence anaemic. I raise an eyebrow. "He murdered his father with his
hands and then took the property from his mother and left her with nothing. She
died a few years back."
me it sounds like small town gossip, as valuable as a fish carcass.
went to court but there wasn't enough evidence so he lives in that cabin he
inherited from murdering his own father."
do any time in the joint?"
time." Cold wind fills my ears with the whistle of early autumn.
brings us another round.
Remy know about Neil?"
sure he does but it don't bother him none. But Remy's like that ain't he? Kinda
got a kind heart or something. Jack of Hearts that one. But that gets ‘im in
trouble. People are suspicious of Remy. They don't trust'im. Where does he get
his money? He shows up once in a while, whenever there's a party and then boom!
Disappears again. Sure it's fun to hang out with him but after he leaves he
ain't around to defend himself so people always end up talking. I like Remy but
you get some talking bad about him and people begin to look at him suspicious.
People always want something to talk about and he's an easy target."
ask if he knows the scar on Remy's face. "The one that goes down his face," I
say to him. Remy sued the guy who cut him and the money he got is what he lives
off." His face like a Venetian blind, unmoving.
that's what I mean. If we just knew that then a lot of us wouldn't think he's
an undercover cop. Why didn't he tell us that?"
should he? He never talks about his bad eye. It's personal. And third-party
speculation is really just bad manners. It's nobody's business but his."
can't stop the way people are going to act." We're silent for a minute.
still doesn't erase the way he lives. He only answers to himself. My wife
doesn't want him coming over to my parties because all he does is talk about
Indian stuff. Medicines and that. She gets nervous so I stopped telling Remy
about parties and it burned me because I know he found out about them. And I
think because of that he hit the bottle hard. I seen him in here drunk and
wondering how the hell he was going to keep it together. Every time I thought
it would be the last time I ever seen him."
should go to West Hawk Lake but something makes me want to stay with Tattoo
Jimmy to unlock the mystery of Remy's missing years.
you know Tom Cardinal?" I ask.
know him. Sometimes I wonder if Remy's under his spell or something, like
explain why he thinks he's Jesus Christ. He talks about him all the time as if
he was God ‘imself."
shrug my shoulders. "He's always been a bit of an extremist in his own way," I
say. "But without me around it sounds like it's become a bit out of control. A
few nights ago he almost died - twice. He's become so fatalistic that it's
right. Don't get me wrong, Remy is good
people but there's a screw loose there somewhere and if it ain't tightened
it's going to loosen more and fall off."
he may have a spiritual IQ of 160, I say to myself. Or he might be crazy.
snows during the night and the camper is covered with snow in the morning. The
30-acre property where I stayed is unworthy of serious inquiry so I go east on
the road to West Hawk Lake just as the snowfall turns into a Manitoba blizzard.
I quickly surmise that driving is virtually impossible without the use of my windshield
wipers. I can't see the road in front of me so I pull a u-turn and go to the
only general store in Seven Sister's Falls.
you sell any paperclips?" I ask the woman. "Actually I only need one." The
woman, homely and buxom, picks one up from her till and hands it to me.
can have this one Remy," she says. I'm too harried to make a correction so I
smile warmly and thank her.
pay for duct tape and return to my truck where I unfold half the paperclip,
tape one side of it and then attach it to the small metal piece. I fasten it
with more duct tape, then try it and it works. The tape and metal hold and my
windshield wipers come on. MacIvor. Duct tape and a paperclip.
drive slowly through the blizzard and hardly see any traffic on the way through
the forests of Whiteshell Provincial Park laden with snow, sugar sprinkled on
boughs. It had been seven years since I had seen snow. Crows fly over the road
going from tree to tree above, negotiating the snowflakes descending,
undeterred and determined, black and thick and good.
I arrive I find the big campground but I can't find Remy. It's deserted and
forlorn in the unsoiled snow. After checking virtually every berth of all the
campgrounds, there's no sign of him anywhere. I try the walkie-talkie but the
power is gone. I can't reach him. I can't see him. Remy is gone.