Wordcarpenter Books
More About Road Sailors
 
Road Sailors is a story about identical twin brothers Trapp and Remy McFlynn who take a three-month road trip across Canada in the fall of 2000. With each twin in their own pick-up truck and camper, the brothers search for a writer's cabin where they can establish a homestead, taking every liberty along the way. The twins haven't seen each other for many years so as they drive deeper into the nooks and crannies of the vastness of their native Canada, they also return to their old humor and mischief, never shying away from a laugh. However as the brothers party their way east from the Pacific Ocean Trapp begins to realize that something might be wrong with his brother. Soon running out of money and not knowing whether he can find a property, Trapp faces challenges that cause him to look at Remy differently. Part memoir, part fiction novel, this book is fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny in parts, beautifully written in tight prose. Get a glimpse into the strange and wonderful world of identical twins in Road Sailors , and prepare to stay up late just reading just one more chapter.
 
 

Chapter 9

"If one learns from others but does not think, one will be bewildered. If, on the other

hand, one thinks but does not learn from others, one will be in peril." - Confucius

Somewhere west of Vanderhoof, British Columbia

Remy is still asleep when I get up, so I take my dog for walk down the road. When she disappears into the bush I notice mushrooms growing along the side of the road and remember what Remy said last night about the wild mushrooms. . I kneel down to examine them closer and see mushroom patches in the forest sunned by the eastern sky. Having acquired my bodyguard against bears, I venture into the mossy forest where there are patches of all sorts of different coloured mushrooms. There are pinkish-red mushrooms, soggy beige mushrooms and mushrooms that are grey, blue, brown, yellow, black and pure white. It is a cornucopia. The pure white mushroom with pointy barbs around the top instinctively makes me regard them as deadly, as do the reddish-pink mushrooms. The soggy beige ones are just plain gooey. Having sampled magic mushrooms in my youth, I am determined to find some but am hampered by the fact that I don't know exactly what they look like before they are dried out. So I examine each mushroom, trying to determine if they are magic or not. After an hour of research, I find a yellowish mushroom that looks identical to the psychedelic mushroom posters of the sixties. It has a long stem and a penis-like head. So with a very light step I set out to pick as many magic mushrooms as I can. With a plastic bag in one hand, I find hundreds of them growing in mossy patches by fallen tree trunks.

So thick with moisture, it feels on the verge of rainfall. I scour the spongy floor, perfumed by fallen trees. Like a rainforest. When my bag is full I return to my camper where I empty it onto newspapers spread out in my dry sink. With Remy still sleeping, I return to the mossy bog with my plastic bag for more. I spend hours picking mushrooms. Finally, after returning with my fourth full bag, there is a protruding mound of mushrooms in my dry sink. Perhaps a bit extreme. I walk to the other side of the road to where Remy is sitting in his metal chair with a mug of coffee in his hand.

"Morning," I say.

"Morning. Good walk?"

"Indeed. The doggie was full of beans."

"Coffee? I have some hot water on."

"Love some padre." He hands me the mug with the single-mug coffee filter on top, scoops a full amount of coffee grounds into the filter followed by the hot water.

"Careful not to overflow now," I say, hoping to usurp any Tom Foolery. Remy administers the water as I hold the mug. Water reaches the lip of the filter.

"Steady." Reluctantly he stops pouring.

"I think I found some magic mushrooms." He scrutinizes my face to see if I'm joking.

"You sure they're magic mushrooms and not poisonous?"

"Not positive but pretty sure. They look just like the magic mushrooms on a Jefferson Airplane poster Tribby had on his wall at university."

"What colour are they?" Instead of describing them I take out about five specimens I had in my pocket. I put them in there because there were the best. Remy begins to laugh.

"You're mad! How many did you pick?"

"Well, there were a lot around and you slept so late." I glance at my watch for emphasis.

"I was having a good dream. It couldn't be interrupted."

"So I picked three or four plastic bags full." He lets out a long sigh.

"And is this for personal consumption?" He shakes his head and doesn't wait for a reply. "What's wrong with you? I can't believe you just picked four bags full of magic mushrooms for personal consumption." I shrug my shoulders because I'm at a loss for words. One can never have too many magic mushrooms I'm thinking in the back of my mind. "What happened to you over in Hong Kong?"

"What?"

"What if these mushrooms are duds? And you accidentally injure your person? Then what?"

"No, no. We have to test them first."

"How are you going to do that?" Loki, the spirit of mischief in Norse mythology, comes upon me like the sun breaking through clouds.

"We can test them by-"

"No-." He's already read my mind.

"By giving a sample to my new bear protector."

"No!"

"It must learn how to earn its name."

"Trapp..."

 "I'll only give her a small tester...first. Then..." My voice trails off.

"What?"

"We'll see. Listen, I won't take anything that's going to injure my person so relax. Everything's fine." I sip my coffee and pick up the map that's beside Remy. "Think we'll hit Smithers today?" I say to change the subject. Again he sighs. Shakes his head.

"Naw, I don't think so. We're leaving too late. Remember, I live on Indian time. Besides, there's no rush. We'll get there in due course." 

Out on the valley road the sun highlights the avalanche chutes that cut through the deep green pine steeped on both mountainsides. Some mountains that face the road show large stretches of red moss - almost a dry rust colour - that looks soft against the rugged grey rock and the broken trunks of pine. The mountains too have a story told by the visible scars exposed under the smiling sun.

Since our road buggies are not considered a trailer; we can legally park anywhere. Maybe that's why Remy always spoke of the mountains and the countless hidden campgrounds and nameless nook-von-crannies as if they were his own property. They are all like his ports of call across Canada. His trip from Manitoba took him across the prairies and over the Rocky Mountains, from Banff through the ice fields of Jasper, and through McBride along the old Yellowhead Indian Trail, and he never once paid a fee. He called it "taxpayer's privilege." It's a life lived rolling on wheels across vast expanses of country, with each turn revealing a different landscape and a new memory. It's one thing to hear someone talk about it, but it's another thing entirely to live it yourself.

We drive through Fort Fraser and Burn's Lake to Houston, where we have a late lunch and refuel. The closer we come to Smithers, the busier the traffic becomes. Eighteen wheelers hurry towards Prince Rupert carrying countless massacred trees and I find their driving obnoxious. Everyone is in a hurry. And there's something about the steepness of the mountains around us that gives me claustrophobia. Hemmed in. Only east or west. Deepening more as we roll west. Despite this, it's a breathtaking landscape and the joy of being here pushes my hunger for mushrooms away and lessens the temptation to sample.

Abruptly the sun kisses the mountaintop in the west signalling the end of the day, so we look for a nook-von-crannie leading away from the highway. Remy passes me and turns off a logging road where we stop for the night at an abandoned quarry. We park ten metres apart, far enough to be out of range from one another. In no time Remy is eating stew he heats from a can while I eat bread and peanut butter and water. The dogs play in the wide-open quarry.

"Do you have a name for your doggie yet?" he asks.

"I think I'm going to name her Inge."

"As in Inge Hammerstrom?"

"Yes, that's the one." For some reason it feels appropriate as a name for my dog.

"Inge. It's good that it ends with a vowel," he says. "That's what you want."

I scoop out a large amount of peanut butter and stick three big mushrooms inside. Then I put the peanut butter-covered mushrooms into my dog's bowl. Inge comes immediately for the food but doesn't eat it. She leaves again to play with Blue. Both of us watch in silence.

"This may be more difficult than I thought," I say. I put in two more peanut-covered mushrooms in her bowl, wash up and then join Remy for a smoke.

"So how was your road trip down to the Hopi Indian reserve? We've never really talked about it." Here it is, the moose on the table now ready to be disembowelled. Finally brought up. When Tom Cardinal had told him about a vision he had had that the long-awaited Messiah would seek him out and learn from him, it planted the idea in Remy that he might be this Messiah. He told Remy that this Messiah had to be an identical twin, but this was before he knew that Remy was himself an identical twin. This stirred something within Remy so he read more about the Hopi prophecies. He discovered that the Messiah - or as the Hopi Indians called him: the Pahana - was not a full-blooded Indian but rather Métis who looked white on the outside but was red on the inside. The prophecies, Remy had told me, also referred to the Messiah as "The True White Brother." So being both an identical twin and Métis, Remy had come to believe that he "might be the guy." He told me that the only way to know for sure was to go to Arizona to speak with the Hopi elders. After all, he said, they were waiting for the arrival of the Pahana. He wasn't kidding around; his solemn seriousness scared me. I wondered if he had gone off the deep end while I had been working overseas. I feared that he had lost touch with who he was. For me it was new territory because Remy had always been very down to earth. Without me around to keep him grounded and to remind him of who he was, he had recreated himself through unchecked intellectual idiosyncrasies and had become carried away. I was frightened for him. I felt that where I should be was with my brother before he slipped over the edge into the abyss. I could sense this Messiah Complex had the potential of getting out of hand. I could tell he thought that he was the Pahana and that he had a ministry to perform through the publication of Tom Cardinal's teachings and his own ideas of humanity and religion. His belief that he could heal people was so thorough that it had swallowed his life. His absolute freedom of self was based on this single premise; all else fell away in deferment to it. It enabled him to let go of the things that hold men to the normal conventions of living. Remy believed that his mortality was not at risk until he had finished his book. So until then, he was the man who could only be killed by the golden bullet. Despite it only being a possibility, Remy's belief in his destiny as the Messiah eliminated any trace of doubt in his voice.

Being a sceptic at heart, I suggested to Remy that the only way for him to know for sure whether he was the Messiah was to go to the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. At the time I didn't realize the possible ramifications of such a road trip to Arizona. In fact I thought it would help to dispel the silly notion of being a Messiah, and would help Remy return to a more normal life. So I sent him the money last year to drive down to Arizona to meet with the elders, but I never heard from him what happened.

"It was cold," he replies. "That bearskin saved my life. Without it I could have perished." My reflex is to brush this off as more hyperbole but I am realizing that Remy is now more about understatement than exaggeration.

"So what did the elders say?" I only know that he had received my money and had gone down to Arizona.

"I didn't have enough money to even stay at the campground down there so I was only there for a night. It's pretty strict getting on the reservation and whatnot but I went into their office and asked to speak to an elder after I said I was Métis and that Tom Cardinal was my teacher. So after 1500 miles getting down there, the woman at the office says I can speak with one of the tribal elders. The elder was a man of few words." He is quiet for a moment as he smokes a cigarette.

"And?"

"So I asked him if I was the Métis Messiah that was expected during the Seventh Stage of mankind. I was even wearing red. He said that he was sure that I may be the Pahana but that he was not able to say if I was the long-awaited Anointed One. But I could tell from the twinkle in his eyes and the words he used that he was telling me that I was The Guy. I mean he couldn't say it outright, so I took it to mean that it wasn't a ‘no.' There wasn't much more to say. Since I couldn't stay overnight on the reservation I was forced to make a decision so I left that night another 1500 miles back to Manitoba."

"So the elder said that he was sure that you might be the Pahana?"

"Exactly."

"Did you tell him you were a twin and Metis Indian and all that stuff?"

"Yeah, but he didn't seem that interested to be honest. My feeling was that there were many people who came looking to be anointed but that only the True White Brother would know in his heart if he was the One or not. So I left the Hopis with that in my head - that only The One will know the truth. It was what was in his eye that said that which couldn't be said." I had to think about this for a second.

"Right."

"And I believe him that he wasn't in a position to say for sure if I was The Guy or not. That's the reality of the situation. So I think it's up to me to write the book of Grandfather's teachings in order to know for sure whether it's me. It will be Grandfather's teachings and my own - sort of a combo-plate."

"A bit inconclusive, non?" I regret the words as soon as I say them.

"Well, the elder looked at me in the eye as if communicating not to me but to my spirit; so on the way back it occurred to me that there was nothing he said to deter me from being the Pahana. Even when I spoke to Grandfather when I returned, he also had the same reaction. It is what the Pahana does that will determine if He is The One. Like Jesus, he was taken for a loony until his ministry gained momentum. It was His works that caused those stuck in the inertia of doubt to see that He was the Messenger they had been waiting for." We both sit in the dark thinking. There is a new and potent emotion swirling around my gut, a perturbation that I know intuitively leads down a road I am afraid to explore. Besides, he is a master of this slippery logic that simply cannot be dislodged.

"Well I guess we both have books to write and things to do."

"Yes, indeed we do." It is late so we both retire to our campers for the night. I try to push it out of my mind but to no avail. Restless in the cold, I hardly sleep.

In the morning when I jump down from my camper into the quarry, Remy's dog sprints over to me, frantically wagging her tail as if she's in the middle of a run.

"Goooood doggies," I mumble at both dogs as Blue and Inge begin to play. Not wanting to wake up Remy, I take the dogs out for a walk down the deserted logging road. As I walk along the road and smoke a cigarette, I can't help look for more mushrooms but I'm disappointed when I can't find any. Eventually I turn around and begin walking back to my camper but soon notice that Blue is still running around with a manic look in her eyes and her tongue hanging out. When I return to the campers, Remy is stirring. It's barely eight in the morning so it's early for him.

"Morning," he says, as per our custom.

"Morning," I reply. As the water heats up on his propane stove, I notice all the dog tracks in the sand around the quarry.

"See all these tracks all over the place?" I say pointing at them. "Looks like something happened." Remy drinks his coffee pensively as he looks at all the tracks.

"Your dog was out all night?" I ask him.

"She wouldn't come in last night so I left her out. But look..." Remy points to the far sand wall where there are dog prints on almost all parts of the quarry's edge. Dog tracks are all over the sand enclave. There are also paw tracks around our rigs in the sandpit where we're parked.

"That is weird." Just at that moment, we both turn around and look at the empty bowl where I had left the mushrooms the night before. It's Remy who has a double take.

"Oh no. No. Did you-" He stops. He knows what happened but he isn't able to verbalize it.

"Blue's looking pretty chipper this morning," I say. The words just float there in the air.

"Inge was in your camper all night?"

"She was. She was very quiet." Remy ignores the words. We both look again at the empty bowl. There isn't any trace of peanut butter left at all; it has been licked clean.

"How many mushrooms did you put in there?" he asks me, motioning towards the bowl. I want to say only three mushrooms but no matter how hard I try I can't find it in me to lie to Remy, even a little bit.

"Well, I put in three mushrooms but she wouldn't eat it," I say. Remy keeps his eyes on mine.

"How many mushrooms were in the peanut butter Trapp?" The tone is firm. Remy watches his dog running in circles around Inge. A manic and cockeyed canine.

"And then I added another mushroom - or two."

"Five!" Remy is silent for a moment, drinking his coffee and finding more tracks behind my camper. Despite the hair on his face, I can see his stiff upper lip. Blue is jumping with glee around my dog with its tongue protruding loosely out of its mouth.

"Lots of spunk in that dog of yours this morning," I add for good measure. I skip my morning coffee and prepare for the day's journey.

 

Chapter 17

"What can a man do with music who is not benevolent?" - Confucius

Tagish, the Yukon

I get up early and take a drive to find Tagish Estates that the German in Atlin told me about, but they end up being too claustrophobic - square lots with few trees built in the middle of a field without any water around. The land simply isn't sexy enough so I return to our makeshift camp where I meet up with Remy. We decide to take our coffee to go in an effort to reach Whitehorse before nightfall.

The sun shines to its fullest in the blue sky as we pass wintergreen forests carpeted with butterscotch pine needles. Grace and justice in the balance of nature that stirs the healthy aspects of my instinct. Old knots in my person begin to unwind as we drive deeper north into the Yukon. Nothing but trees and rock un-manicured by the hand of hand and illustrations of the battle of nature with fallen trees and creeks crashing through the brush overtaking ground lost to the advent of time.

We enter Whitehorse through a valley bleached by the sun. All along the east side of the highway the mountain range is parched white from the sunsets. I don't know what the official colours of Whitehorse are but they should be white and blue: the bright white sheen of exposed rock on the mountain slopes facing west and the light blue of the cloudless sky.

In town Remy and I pass several busy taverns and then stop at a hotel bar, where there are natives hanging out in the parking lot. Remy parks way to the other side, maybe thirty yards away from the hotel, whereas I park halfway between the two extremes, far enough away from the loitering Indians and out of visual distance of Remy. Parked and relieved we made Whitehorse, I go to Remy's camper.

"Cool vibe! Looks like a party town," he says, relishing his new geography. "It's Saturday night pilgrim." Remy flicks his hair back and looks like the brother I knew when we were kids. He rolls up a joint and I bite into a Dill pickle and slobber on the front of my jacket.

"So you like this place?"

"Yeah, so far. We'll see how my dreams are tonight. I haven't seen any planes following me today or UFOs, but then again I haven't been looking for them." I really don't know if he's joking or not, which bothers me. There should never be a cleavage in our mutual understanding.

"No UFOs, that's good."

"Above the 60th parallel. A new vista. No electronic turbulence. The natural magnetic force from the pole is throwing radar out of whack so those peoples who follow me can't track me. We're protected here. My implant in my arm isn't transmitting." The knot of worry returns to my gut so I guzzle more beer before we leave for the bar. Remy follows my pace of libation intake.

"Where's your implant?" I ask as nonchalantly as I can, as if I'm asking about the weather. He rolls up his sleeve and shows me a half-inch long scar on his forearm near his elbow.

"I got it when I was pierced. Have I ever shown this to you before?"

"No."

"Sometimes I feel like ripping it out but it would be too bloody." I tell him about the dream I had a few nights ago, about throwing the stone and then the two boys putting an electronic device in my arm.

"Interesting," he says. "And yet you still don't believe me."

"I never said that."

"I can see it in your eyes Trapp. He who is free of sin cast the first stone," he says. The same words coming out of his mouth. Another eerie coincidence.

"What do you think it means?"

"Seriously?" I nod. "You arrived in Canada and are now throwing a stone to find a new home in the country, like a fisherman casting his line in the water. But finding a home might be more difficult than you think and might cause some blood. But you also have to search with respect for the laws of spiritual cleanliness and for the people of this land and for the land itself. You must learn to have love in your heart and get rid of anger and resentment that is still there. God will watch you and activate the electronic device in your arm until you learn how to love your neighbour. Only then will you have the devices removed and grow into a bigger man." There is a creeping, prickly sensation that wanders up the back of my neck in the silence. I shake my head in amazement.

"Easier said than done," I mutter.

"But you said it yourself. You decided to clean up the blood with profound sincerity only if they treated you with respect, right?"

"Yeah, so?"

"So that's how you do it. You need that genuine, unfeigned affection in your heart for everyone and you will see how they will all react in kind, the same way as the Indian with the cheekbones in your dream."

"So why did the children remove the electronic device from my arm after I helped clean up the mess? Because I showed respect?"

"Because the guilt from committing the act was causing you the pain. Once you faced up to it by cleaning up the mess you made and treating those you assaulted with respect and humility, the pain that had troubled you disappeared." I sit in silence thinking about it.

"How-" I begin to ask but Remy already knows my question.

"Because dreams are an important part of the Red Man's culture. Reading dreams is a way of figuring out how to heal people - and yourself. They are divine signs from the Creator."

"Is-"

"Yes. That why I sleep-in and write my dreams down." He lights another candle and we both drink more beer.

"Well I think it may mean something else."

"What's that, cowboy?"

"I thought it might symbolize my resistance to accepting my Indian blood. You seem to have embraced it whole-heartedly but I'm still resisting it. I grew up white and now, in my late thirties, we learn that we're part Indian? It's a bit much, non? And it's a serious hit, enough at least to cause a paradigm shift. So I've been keeping the whole thing at bay. After all, we're only about one-sixteenth Red Man or something like that."

"So then the dream is showing you that you should embrace your Indian side."

"Well, yeah. Once I decided to help clean up the blood, the Indian with the cheekbones and the two kids responded positively to me. Showing respect is a big deal in native culture, isn't it? So when I changed, the searing pain in my arm ceased. Once I stopped walking away from the issue and treated the natives - and by extension the native way of life - with respect, I was treated with respect. Or in other words, once I respected the notion of being Metis, the pain disappeared."

"Highly sallassie," he says pensively.

"Perhaps the Creator is telling me to go native like you?"

"Or is showing you the way to healing the anger in your heart." Exposed and naked, I feel like I'm in a fishbowl for others to see but that I cannot. It's all a bit close to the bone for me so we finish our beers and explore Whitehorse. In the Arctic air, we walk to the Belvedere Hotel, the place where David Miller played with his band many years ago, which is also the oldest-looking tavern in downtown. The last part of the walk we are arm-and-arm and swaying in exaggerated turns like a meandering stream. We both have drunk our share of beer and the alcohol has gone a long way to ease my anxiety about satellites and FUBAR radar. Pausing for a moment when we get to the wooden doors of the tavern, we both straighten our posture and walk into the bar trying to look relatively sober. The long drive north has exhausted me. We sit at a table in front of a band on stage. Remy is full of beans and can't sit still.

"Well, we made it," he says.

"We have indeed." I'm flat and deflated so Remy jumps up and starts bopping up and down like a yo-yo on the dance floor with a little brunette swinging her hips. His dancing technique is infectious: halfway through the song there are a half dozen people on the dance floor but by the end of it there are a dozen people up there being as silly as Remy. He is in rhythm and in his flow and his body has become one with the guitar and he twangs himself like he is at the mercy of the music and completely dedicated to the beat. The band plays several encores and there is Remy's head going up and down, clearly the tallest of all the dancers in front of the stage. But he has a slight bend in his posture that makes him stand out from the rest. I can't help feeling sad as I watch him from the table and nurse my beer witnessed such a brash display of his freedom of self. Where does it come from? Am I too sinned with pride to let loose like that?

During one of the breaks Remy talks to the keyboardist and they go out for a smoke with a few of the band members. When they come back and hit the stage they jump into a cool riff and then the guitarist strums a series of solos that has the keyboardist shaking his head up and down looking at Remy who is like a malleable pogo-stick the way he dodges the beat and leans back as if someone if pulling his hair. "Houy! Hiiiiigh!" he yells. Grunts and groans are smothered by the notes blasting out of the Gibson and the bass in the midst of smashing percussion that hammers home the groove and lights spray to the corners of the saloon and come back to the dance floor as if controlled by Remy's fingertips. His head balls around, hair all over the place, and his feet move as if governed by Bacchus himself. People are drawn to him like metal to a magnet: a hub of energy that those around him feed off gaining some elixir of life like the magic potion of Getafix of Gaul that makes you levitate against gravity and look down on that other life that holds you back and doesn't let you breathe. Like birds around a feeder they suck from Remy and bask in his light offering no acknowledgment that it is he who is giving them the excuse to shed their skin and master the Now. This is his bar, his place and tonight Whitehorse is his city but Remy doesn't live in a town or city, he lives in a country. Five thousand kilometres of traveling and sleeping in his camper and he is single-handedly energizing the whole pub. People who see him bouncing around say this is where the party is; Whitehorse, the Yukon, this band, this bar, right now is all Remy knows. This is the movie and tomorrow doesn't exist - the iron is hot now! He bounces right up to the singer on the stage and bellows lyrics of a cover song he knows by heart and I hear the signature cadence of his voice coming from the speakers in all four corners of the saloon. Even the old timers and regulars at the long bar turn and watch the sudden party that has sprung up spoking outwards from one lone figure with the big head and long hair all over the place. The song goes on as some extended remix with more guitar solos and the keyboardist going crazy with an arm flailing like Remy. I can see Remy's medicine bundle flopping up and down on his hip from his belt that follows his movements and smokers come out of the smoking room and follow the buzz on the dance floor. The floor is over-flowing now and the air is thick with screaming guitars and lights flashing and drumsticks whipping the skins all balanced on a bass riff that holds the entire precipice afloat with one tall dancer a beacon of energy emitting joy without a care in the world.

I, on the other hand, sit in the corner with droopy posture and piercing shoulder pain unable to shake a profound sadness in my heart. Yes, I think to myself, we're both mirror extremists, one in the north and the other in the south.
 

Chapter 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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"For some of us are bums, for who work has no charms,

And some of us are farmers, a-working for our farms,

But all are jolly fellows, who come from near and far,

To work up in the Rockies on the CPR." 
 

 

"It is only the most intelligent and the most stupid

who are not susceptible to change." - Confucius
 
 

 
 
 

 

 

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