Road Sailors (Part 1)

Remy and his road buggy

This book is dedicated to my identical twin brother Mike.

Published 2005

©Copyright MMXX

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Culture Shock

Chapter 2 – Alexa

Chapter 3 – Twins Again

Chapter 4 – Smudged

Chapter 5 – First Night

Chapter 6 – Bear Protector

Chapter 7 – Road Buggy

Chapter 8 – The Spy in Brazil

Chapter 9 – “Blue’s looking pretty chipper this morning”

Chapter 10 – The Twin Paradox

Chapter 11 – The Apology

Chapter 12 – Surfing into the Arctic Watershed

Chapter 13 – The Brush with the Golden Eagle

Chapter 14 – The Girl from Whitehorse

Chapter 15 – On My Own

Chapter 16 – The Dream

Chapter 17 – Remy in his Flow

Chapter 18Métis

Chapter 19The Men That Don’t Fit In

Chapter 20 – The Pellet Gun

Chapter 21 – The Lingering Pain of Past Betrayals

Chapter 22 – A Fellow Métis

Chapter 23 – Angry Whiteman Syndrome

Chapter 24 – Bob’s Country Bunker

Chapter 25 – Remy’s Stoicism

Chapter 26 – Seven Sister’s Falls

Chapter 27 – Misunderstood

Chapter 28 – Tattoo Jimmy

Chapter 29 – Alone at Last

Chapter 30 – Thanksgiving

Chapter 31 – Nowhere to Go

Chapter 32 – Landing on Manitoulin Island

Chapter 33Wendigokaan

Chapter 34 – Landowner

“Sawest thou ever thy friend asleep – to know how he looketh? What is usually the countenance of thy friend? It is thine own countenance, in a coarse and imperfect mirror…

Art thou pure air and solitude and bread and medicine to thy friend? Many a one cannot loosen his own fetters, but is nevertheless his friend’s emancipator.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, ’On Friends’

“You cannot travel on the path before you have become the path itself.”

– Gautama Buddha


Chapter 1


“There are, are there not, young plants that fail to produce blossoms,

and blossoms that fail to produce fruit?” – Confucius

Vancouver, British Columbia

Walking down the corridors of the Vancouver International Airport, I look for the crowds that simply aren’t there. After seven years of living in cities throughout Asia, jostling line-ups of people speaking an indecipherable tongue is still the norm for me. Here in Canada the total lack of people is striking. Clean carpets and freshly painted walls adorned with proof of Canadian culture: Inuit masks older than the arrival of Columbus bespeaks powers of wisdom and calm. Totem poles stand 20 feet high like an intricate stick of ancient authority watching all who enter its realm. Silent. Spirits witnessing modern-day life.

When I stop at the custom’s desk, there are only two people standing in line.

It is a new world with the space and quietude and clean air to prove it.

Behind the uniformed customs official, there’s a sign on the wall. Without my eyeglasses on I squint at the sign but it’s blurry. The inertia of living in Greater China is still with me, so I half expect it to say:


Walking through customs to the airport lobby, I grin at the thought of seeing my identical twin brother but he is not here. Instead a bevy of tall Canadians look at me – it could be my droopy handlebar moustache but I’m used to people staring. The norm among the Chinese, gawking, mouths agape, eyes searching the foreigner. So many words unspoken. An international language through the eye. To escape their stares, I take a seat at the bar in the foyer and order a drink. My twin intuition – omnipresent, true, and reliable – tells me there’s been a change of plan.

Remy lives on ‘Indian time.’ Expecting him to be here at the Vancouver Airport at exactly this time on this day after driving across Canada from the east is merely wishful thinking. A rolling stone, above appointments or bothered by deadlines, my twin is an autonomous entity: independent, self-sustaining and oblivious to norms that dominated most. Anything detracting from his sense of freedom is anathema to him. In his own time; a roving one-man country without papers or taxes.

As a precaution I had arranged to stay with an old friend from university. In a phone booth on the other side of the foyer, I call Danny. No answer. I leave a message: “I’ll be at the Cambie Street Hostel in Gastown. Meet me there.”

I pay for the drink and leave the airport in a taxi.

Slowly I begin to relax. Last-minute deadlines before leaving Hong Kong, international borders, papers, passport; it has all finally passed. I’m on no one’s time schedule except my own now. The streets of Vancouver are empty compared to Hong Kong. Not quite deserted but budding, adolescent, like a fawn finding its legs. No honking horns or traffic jams, no scooters weaving through stationery cars. Ordered, planned, crisp, with fresh pavement, curbs manicured with brooms. Green, full-blooded spruce and pine spaced with method and design.

I arrive at the Cambie Street Hostel but instead of getting a room I go into the adjacent high-ceilinged tavern. It smells of old, stale beer, its large tables scarred from years of imbibing. Old as the Canadian Pacific Railway, I feel right at home at this old tavern. I place my bags at my feet under the bar. Melodies from my youth – long-forgotten-yet-familiar mix of Canadian music – jolt me away from the emotional baggage I’m carrying from my many years overseas. It makes me suddenly relish the journey I have before me: finding a house to buy somewhere in Canada with the money I have saved.

I only have to put in the time to look for the right house.

Groups of people in their twenties stand in clusters smoking cigarettes, showing off their tattoos. An old-timer swaggers past me looking at the tattooed youths with suspicion and contempt as if they are trespassing on his property. A new generation who have MTV as their religion; these are the ones who have chosen to rebel against the government war on fun. The cycle repeating itself. Outlaws giving the finger to authority. Armed with mobile phones instead of a six-shooter, these are the descendants of those who were here during the Wild West.

Dusty, dishevelled and full of brawling booze.

The beer, full-bodied and rich in flavour, calms my nerves like an elixir, slow, melting the frost accumulated around my heart. My mind turns to where I have just come from: Hong Kong, distant, crazed, and forever busy; a city that never sleeps.

I call my mother in Toronto to find out where Remy is. He is in Prince George, 600km north of Vancouver. I learn my uncle has a property for sale in Prince George that might be what I’m looking for. Since Remy is crossing the Rocky Mountains near Jasper National Park, he will be meeting me there. Yes, I see the logic of the plan so I call the bus station to find out departure times. Just as I return from the phone, Danny walks in.

“Trapp!” he says. He looks exactly the same as I remember him except he’s leaner. The clear eyes are the same, but he’s now carved from wood. “Great ‘stache but what’s with all the white hair?”

I stand up and give my old university friend a bear hug.

“I’m sure my brother’s hair is just as white,” I say. “It’s in the genes.”

“Didn’t know what day you were coming.” In the mêlée before leaving Hong Kong, I hadn’t confirmed my arrival date with Danny. 

“I haven’t been online for a couple of weeks,” I said. “I sent all my stuff in boxes two weeks ago so I’ve been living out of a suitcase since then. The friend I was staying with didn’t have an Internet connection. But hey, I’m here. And you’re here, so let me get you a pint.” I order a round of beer and we catch up on each other’s lives. I tell him a bit about teaching at the university and about some of my travels but then I see it: the dull eyes, the lack of interest, indifference and a whiff of mild envy. I learn quickly that discovering a new colour, explaining it to another is an exercise in futility, like a hunter relaying a kill to someone who has never experienced the smell of gunpowder or the scent of freshly cut-open flesh.

I ask him what he’s doing now.

“I’m still a waiter,” he says. “The money’s good so it’s OK for now. I mean it’s not so bad. I can’t seem to find a decent job. I don’t know… But I don’t mind being a waiter; it’s good for now.” On my face can only be surprise. Danny graduated on the Dean’s List from one of the best universities in Canada so why is he still waiting on tables? A whiff of the old achy malaise hits me – a waft of despair that rekindles an anger – or more accurately: resentment – as black as night during a new moon in the countryside.

“There are many like me who left Canada because we couldn’t find jobs. Affirmative action should be illegal in my opinion.”

“It is in California.”

“It is? Well then there you have it. Justice is finally catching up.”

“I’m not going to leave Canada to find work, “he says. “I’m not like you. You’ve always been a little different, wouldn’t you agree?” Memories of university life return to me like bullets spewed out of a Gatling gun. Recklessness and rebelliousness conspiring to destroy everything in its path, void of apologies. All burned and charred in a bitter wake.

C’est la vie,” I reply. His shoulders slouch like a balloon with a slow leak.

“What happened to your eye?” he asks. I shake my head slowly and feel self-conscious about one of my windows to my soul.

“Ah, it’s nothing really. I had an eye injury in Hong Kong about six months ago. Some maniac kneed me in the face. He was a mixed martial artist European champion for five years who was running a gym in Hong Kong. It’s still healing from three fractures in the orbital socket.” I point to the broken bones around my eye. “No damage to my eyesight though.” My body language tells him I don’t want to talk about it. I look away and watch the tattooed customers becoming louder, their festering resentment disruptive and destructive, now free to find its place in this new era of mobile phones and Internet bullying. Seething, better locked away. The surface smooth and pleasant hiding the true turbulent emotional core like a lid covering water almost at a boil.

“So what’s your plan Trapp?”

I tell him I’m back to look for a writer’s cabin so I can finish a book I’m writing about China.

“Right now my brother Remy is on his way to Prince George where I’ll meet him. My uncle has 16 acres for sale just outside of Prince George, so I think we’ll begin looking at that as a possible writer’s retreat.”

“Good land?”

“Don’t know. Apparently there aren’t any liveable buildings on the property and a resident beaver has taken over.”

“Beaver? Familiar theme: beavers wrecking things.”

“From there, if we don’t like the property I guess we’ll keep looking around in the mountains until I find something I like – something rustic and cheap.”

“A writer’s cabin in the woods.”

“Exactly. There’s a bus leaving every morning at 8:30 arriving in Prince George 12 hours later so I might take the bus tomorrow or the next day.”

“Well, knowing you Trapp, you won’t stop until you’ve found what you’re looking for. I envy you. It should be a good trip” All the variables of the road ahead come into my mind: the lack of vehicle, the unpredictability of my brother, the absence of pressing deadlines, and how a quest like this seldom yields its intended results.

“How is your brother these days? Is he still as wild as he used to be?”

“He’s well as far as I can tell. I haven’t seen him much over the year.”

“What’s he doing?”

“He’s been studying Native American culture under a medicine man in Manitoba.”

“That sounds cool.”

“He works as a fire-keeper at his sweat lodge.”

“Right on.”

“He’s taken a rather unconventional path. He had a vision one night just after I left Canada when he was living on Vancouver Island, and this vision showed him that he should go east and find a medicine man to study under. So he drove east to Manitoba where he met a Cree elder named Tom Cardinal. And incredibly this native elder had had the same dream and had been expecting him. So he took Remy under his wing. For six years Remy worked as a fire-keeper at Tom Cardinal’s sweat lodge learning his teachings. He has adopted the Anishinabek way of life over the white man’s culture. And he has become a White Indian or Métis.”

“Are you Métis then?”

“Our grandmother was part native, so I guess I am, yeah.” I hadn’t really spent a lot of time thinking about this newly discovered aspect of me. “Remy is right into it man. He was given the spirit name ‘Rainbow Thunderbird’ by his teacher. He has become a shaman – a man who can heal a person’s spirit.” What I didn’t tell him was by embracing this new identity, the extreme aspects of his personality were brought to the fore, like thinking he was the long-awaited Messiah that was prophesied in Native American lore.

After a few more beers, Danny tells me he’s leaving for Kamloops tomorrow to compete in a triathlon.

“Is that why you’re so cut? You must be 20 pounds lighter than the last time I saw you. Your beer muscle is gone.” Just as I say this, he asks me for a cigarette.

“Old habits die hard,” he says, smiling. “One won’t kill me.”

“Speaking of the old days, ever see Alexa around?”

“Sure, she’s around. The flame still burns does it?” If he only knew. Time and distance makes the heart grow fonder or in my case, more daring.

“I want to call her while I’m here,” I say. “You have her number?” He hits a button on his mobile phone and hands it to me. She picks up the phone after a few rings.

“This is your old friend Trapper McFlynn calling.”

“Trapp? Is that really you?”

“Yeah, it’s me. I’m in Vancouver. I’m staying with Danny Rourke tonight.”

“You’ve finally come home?” Her voice cracks just a little bit, only noticeable to one looking for it.

“Can I see you tomorrow? I’m heading up north to Prince George the next day to meet my brother.” There’s a brief pause.

“Yes, I can see you tomorrow. Do you have a bike or access to a car?”

“Bike?” Danny nods when I look at him. “Yes. I have access to a mountain bike.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow at two o’clock in English Bay by the Wharf.” Danny scrutinizes my face after I hang up. Naked and exposed like an open book.

“Boy, that was pretty suave.”

“If I’m in Van, I have to see her,” I say, but we both know that I’ve liked Alexa ever since I first met her 20 years ago. “Is she married yet?” He laughs and shakes his head. He tells me how she was engaged a couple of years ago but it didn’t happen. A shot of excitement runs through me like an arrow tipped with nicotine, then I remind myself that Alexa is the kind of girl who always seems to have a boyfriend. Timing, a target one cannot see but must be struck, is like a stone thrown in the dark at a tree in the distance.

Chapter 2


“Respect yourself and others will respect you.” – Confucius

I was living in a small apartment complex where there was a young woman who lived below who had focused on her career instead of her social life and dating. She was attractive but she had a severe look on her face. There was a nosy old woman in the other apartment beside her who made it her business to interfere with my courtship. I made an effort to get to know the young woman but my advances went unanswered. I blamed it on the nosy old neighbour and, for that reason, lost my temper. With a baseball bat I bludgeoned the old woman to death. When I struck her head it burst open all over the apartment. After killing her, I left the apartment where I saw a view of a graveyard in the distance across the sea. I found a small boat and rowed to the far shores but was pushed back by a huge tidal wave. I was able to surf back to the apartment. When I returned I met the young woman and she was very warm and invited me to her place for dinner. I was overjoyed but then I remembered the murder I had committed and the blood all over the old lady’s apartment. When I arrived for dinner police cars were parked in the driveway. I wanted to walk past the police and play dumb but I was sure there was plenty of evidence pointing to me as the murderer. I was so determined to see the young woman that I walked past the police cars to her door. I stood there unable to decide what to do.

Then I woke up.

Still horizontal and blinking in astonishment, a deep cringing guilt murmurs somewhere in my person. I’m positive I have never killed someone in my dreams before. What did it mean? Who or what did I want to kill?

“You awake old man?”

“I’m awake if there’s coffee,” I groan from the couch with blood on my hands.

“I need to push off now. There’s coffee in the kitchen for you.” Danny takes his bag and flings it over his shoulder, holding his coffee in the other hand.

“I’ll call you to let you know what happens with my search.”

“Yes, keep me in the loop old friend.”

“Good luck with the marathon and the thing,” I say.

Still shocked by the dream, I choke up because somewhere in the back of my mind I’m aware that this will be the last time I see Danny for another long stretch of time.

With the pot of coffee done, I take Danny’s mountain bike down the front steps and cycle along the empty side streets designated with bike lanes. Salted air sprinkled with the sea, sluggish and happy, lush in its richness, it is like flavoured oxygen with the power to heal long-abused lungs. Comparing the well-paved streets of western Canada, riding in Hong Kong was like pedalling up and down the tops of volcanoes sticking through the surface of the South China Sea, rounded, crowded obstacles calling on gravity to slow the legs on streets way too narrow.

Crossing the Burrard Street Bridge, I enter English Bay and follow the bike path to the Ministry of Transportation. My driver’s licence had expired years before so renewing it is a necessity

Inside the government office is cool and empty, the grey walls barren and unpropitious. The woman behind the counter is shockingly obese, maybe 300 pounds. It feels eerie inside the transportation office, as if it were a stage for actors going through a familiar script-reading towing the party line. I expect a gruff greeting – as is usual in Asia – but am surprised by the affable greeting from the woman with many chins under a dyed canopy of short hair. She instructs me to another counter where drivers licences are renewed. Walking there I see a sign behind her. For a second I think it reads:




A sign I had seen many times during the course of traveling through communist China, for a moment I am confused. I hang, perplexed by the words ‘proletarian efficiency’ – an oxymoron to the extreme – and a classic piece of communist propaganda. For a moment I’m lost in thought, but when I look closer at the sign with my eyeglasses on, I see that it reads:



I don’t remember signs like this being here seven years ago, but at least it isn’t a crowded room with spit on the floor. A flitter of anxiety nibbles at me at the thought that Canada has moved closer to a socialist totalitarian regime. It is an anxiety long known to me but that had become dormant since I left the country. It is a fear of mine that constant policing and laws of morality have replaced the laissez-faire freedom of my childhood.

This being the most likely reason for Remy to embrace the Indian way of life.

Another startlingly obese, short-haired woman behind the counter asks me for ID. Now photographed and officially living at Danny Rourke’s address on Water Street in Vancouver, I’m now back on the Canadian grid. In five minutes I have renewed my licence and am given a temporary card that is valid for three months. It’s like Swiss efficiency compared to doing the simplest administrative tasks in Asia where getting my ID card requires personal data such as yearly income and blood type.

I cycle to the waterfront where I see Alexa stopping on the corner in front of the Wharf. Perfect timing. When I pull up on my bike, we are both smiling and speechless. After our embrace she steps back and looks at me deliberately, seeing new lines on my face and noticing my bad eye. Alexa’s hand reaches out to the front of my shirt and pulls me towards her.

“Where have you been?” The tone of her question has a disapproving, almost maternal tone. Cross but happy.

“Many different shores and many new vistas,” I reply. People try to walk past us on the sidewalk so I suggest we ride. I lead the way down a shaded side street that runs parallel to Stanley Park where I jump the curb, pedal past pedestrians and find the bike trail leading into the park. We pass some roller-bladers and a cluster of Chinese walking with baby strollers along the shoreline. We soon find peace beyond the rowing club past the old cannon on the east side of Stanley Park. We try to talk as we ride but there are too many people, many of them immigrants from Asia, which causes me to crave escape from the city. Too much of that. Saturation point. Time to find my own space full of trees, peace and quietude.

On one of the fields there is a game of cricket being played, so we find a place to watch from the boundary of the pitch despite the grass being covered with Canadian goose shit. The players look sharp wearing the requisite whites in front of the Tudor-style clubhouse on the hill behind the wicket keeper.

“So what are you going to do now, mister super-traveler of the world?” The smile on her face is girlish. Her shirt flutters in the salty breeze, still lithe and firm under her blouse. Her light brown hair in the breeze is like a curtain of silk caressed by the invisible hand of God. Her ocean-blue eyes sparkle in the sun so eager to hear my plans. If anything, Alexa’s beauty had become more pronounced after seven years.

“Find my writer’s retreat in the woods where you’ll come and live with me to help skin beaver pelts. I will need leather garments for this excursion.” A blush appears on her cheeks, but as she turns her head to the cricket match there’s a crease in her brow. I stroke my droopy moustache and think of why someone as beautiful as Alexa would be stressed.

“How’s work these days?” I ask. “How’s your photography?” She brightens. 

“It’s going well. I’m about to open a new gallery in Kenya.” The words stay there in the stirring coastal air, heavy and leaden and dull. For a moment everything is quiet under the afternoon sky, but it’s interrupted by the crack of a cricket bat, followed by a roar of clapping. Both of us look over at the batters running between the wickets when we see the ball rumbling fast along the ground towards us. The ball hits an incongruity on the field that causes it to veer directly towards me but I don’t move. With Alexa directly behind me, calm as melted butter, I raise my hand to catch the ball when it’s officially out of play. Before I throw the ball to the player in front of us, I study her face. I see it: that look of love, of pride, of faith and security, firm in her emotional commitment to me. There is yearning there, a loss – an unrequited love 20 years old.

A profound sadness stirs in my heart and I begin to feel a sense of loss.

“So you’re going off to Africa to do what exactly?”

“I’m opening a gallery there to benefit orphans from the civil war.” There is hope on her face. Too much compassion can kill a woman.


“Because they are in need and I can help them.”

“But why Kenya? What’s your particular connection to Africa?”

“I’ve always liked Kenya and there are starving children there. It’s a project I’ll see through.” She says it to me as if I have not seen the nobility and selflessness in the deed, as if I’m stupid and backwards. What I see now is one of the seven deadly sins in her eyes, pride that has now replaced the compassion.

“What about marriage and having kids?”

“What about them? Why have kids with all these starving children in Somalia and Kenya? I can help. You’ve seen it on TV. I’m not doing anything here in Vancouver so why not go make a difference in a place that really needs it? Canadians are well provided for. I just think having kids is selfish when others don’t have enough to eat. I don’t want to have kids because the world is overpopulated.”

“The world is over-populated in third world countries, but how does that translate into you not getting married and not having kids versus spending your last years in your thirties in disease-ridden Africa where it’s very likely you’ll pick up a disease or parasite, like malaria or dengue fever, that will last for the rest of your life? A friend of mine who joined Medicines Sans Frontiers had five different diseases after nine months in Africa and was forced to leave for Hong Kong to recover. Nine months in Africa wrecked his health. You should see him. You should hear what he has to say about it. It’s very serious business.” The words just streamed out of me, uncensored.

“I know you care,” she says, reaching for my hand. Her hand gives me a jolt. A deep stirring of love mixed with the exasperation I feel at the tragedy about to happen. I’m more ticked off at the power of television that at her ignorance. The fundamental thrust of it is honourable but the sacrifice outweighed the effect. Misfortune and calamity only inches away.

Back on our bikes we ride around the perimeter of Stanley Park. After we round the western tip past the jagged rocks, we stop for fish and chips on the beach in English Bay.

“Did you hear about Daphne?” she asks as we’re sitting at a table on the patio beside the water. I was hoping she could fill me in on our mutual university friends.

“No, I haven’t spoken to her in years. How is she?”

“She had a miscarriage.” Something in my stomach drops. An ugly bile winnows upwards from my guts, repugnant and distasteful. The evil-flavoured choleric taste on my tongue incongruous beside the sandy shore and beautiful scenery. Askew social basket. At first I think I have mistaken what she said because I see a twinkle in her eye. I look at the ocean realizing my appetite has left me. There is nothing I can say.

I change the subject to Danny and his Ironman.

“Danny lives right over there,” I say pointing to Kitsilano across the water.

“You’re staying with Danny?” She knows I am but asks me anyway.

“Yes, nice pad. Cool neighbourhood near the outdoor pool and park. Looks like he’s been training hard.” Between the three of us we’ve shared a lot of laughs.

“Is he gay?” she asks, eyes wide open.

“No, I don’t think so,” I reply, startled. Just because Danny’s single and handsome, she thinks he’s a homosexual? Clearly I’m not use to the societal norms of Canada yet. I reach for one of her French fries and dip it into the mayonnaise on her plate.

“I still think you should come stay with me in my writer’s retreat to help me skin the deer I’ll need for my food during the winter months.” I reach for her hand.

“When are you leaving?” she asks in a disapproving tone. I think about her question as I look out to the ocean, and then make a decision.

“Tomorrow. I’m going to take a bus up to Prince George tomorrow morning to meet Remy.”

“How is your brother Trapp? Is he OK or is he still drinking a lot?” I am put off by the question, offended by her bluntness.

“He’s all right but I haven’t seen him in a while. But that’s part of this journey: to find a home and to get to know my twin brother again.” I’m not sure if she can sense the tension in my voice, but I can. “It’s been way too long since we’ve hung out for a long period of time.” I didn’t want to mention that he now thinks he is the long-awaited Messiah, that he may have lost touch with reality and that he might believe he is the only one able to save the world.

“The last time you two were together you had a fight, didn’t you?”

“Good memory,” I reply, “but that was a while ago now – over seven years. Water under the bridge.”

In the silence only the soft waves kissing the shore are heard. The kiss, the touch, the caress that never comes, now somehow wrecked.

Chapter 3


“In his errors a man is true to type.

Observe the errors and you will know the man.” – Confucius

In the morning I sip coffee from my thermos as I sit on the bench at the bus station watching latecomers arrive. Some stand impatiently stuffing their faces with fast food and doughnuts and cups of coffee the size of a pint. Their droopy overweight bodies scream for exercise but they don’t seem to hear. One seldom sees that in Greater China: across-the-board obesity from an insatiable appetite for fast-food. A man’s chubby fingers poke more food into his mouth as his wife talks with her mouth full. She complains about the government that I’m sure has given her enough money to become so fat. Her cynical barbs spare no one. Everything and everyone is cut down, like a chain saw hell-bent on destruction. I shake my head in disgust for what Canada is becoming. Something in me wants to scream. For a second I wonder if I have made the right decision to return to Canada, but then I see the gum and cigarette butts on the pavement around the benches and it calms me because I am comforted that it’s like any other bus station in the world.

And most of all it reminds me that I’m now on the road again.

I bury my head in Pierre Burton’s The Last Spike – required reading for the journey along the railway to central BC. I am the last to board the bus but am still able to find a free double seat behind a young girl with headphones blaring music from a Sony Walkman. She has it cranked way up.

The Greyhound moves through Abbotsford and Chilliwack east along the Trans-Canada Highway to Hope where we turn north onto Highway 97 up the Fraser River Canyon. In the town of Hope the bus stops, which leaves the inside of the bus completely silent except for the loud rock music coming from the girl’s headphones in front of me. The bus driver speaks into his microphone.

“For the sake of mutual comfort on the coach, please turn down any music devices that may be too loud for your neighbours. It’s also considerate for me on this drive down the Fraser Canyon. Thank you.” People look at her but she smiles defiantly without any expression of remorse. I disembark with the passengers to stretch my legs. The air is different here along the Fraser River. Already I can smell the richness of the red pines and cedars.

The perfume of Mother Nature.

Soon we chase the railroad tracks north where we hit our first of many tunnels around Yale. I learn from The Last Spike that Yale was built as a railroad town in 1882. During that time had more saloons per acre than any place in the world. It is said that there was a saloon every third building “overflowing with men in various stages of intoxication,” but today there is no one on the dusty streets. It’s almost a ghost town. The railway tracks cut across the vertical rock cliffs along the Fraser River scaled by protruding lips of tunnelled track overhanging the swift-moving ice-blue water scarred by past avalanches and rockslides. Bulwarks and railings hold steel tracks against the canyon wall along a sixty-mile stretch of track that is considered the most difficult railway construction on the continent with 17 tunnels. Some parts are so spectacular I feel I’m passing through a life-size train set on location of some science-fiction movie.

The cliffs soon change dramatically from straight vertical drops to slightly angled grades that are covered with sand-coloured soil where pine trees grow in the most unlikely places. Some of the sixty-odd wooden trestles holding the track to the cliffs look so decrepit that they would fall if I threw a stone at them.

Past Spuzzum there’s an old sign for an approaching tunnel that reads:


The bus is suddenly lost in darkness as we drive through the side of the mountain along the canyon. The light at the end of the tunnel can be seen and the only thing I can hear is the sound of the canyon winds urgently whispering through the cracks in the windows. This part of the track on the way to Lytton cost the CPR the most money per rail laid on the entire Trans-Canada line and also had the highest death rate. There’s a reason it’s named ‘Hell’s Cave.’ Many of the deaths were Chinese labourers. People make a big deal that the CPR was built on the backs of Chinese labour, but it’s erroneous. It was the small size of the Chinese that proved advantageous for this stretch of track along the Fraser Canyon. Despite the anti-Chinese sentiment at the time, which was captured by the Prime Minister’s outdated statement at the time that the Chinese were “an alien race in every sense, that would not and could not be expected to assimilate with our Aryan population,” Canada imported 10,000 Chinese for this part of the line with another 4,000 coming north from the States. There was a higher death rate among the Chinese, but they proved worthy builders. They ingratiated themselves with the hard-drinking, hard-living railway workers with an alcoholic concoction that the tracklayers called ‘Chinese gin.’ I can only guess that this Chinese gin was their beloved rice wine, which I had sampled in China on several occasions.

Very harsh. Pure firewater indeed.

The mountains become steeper and the valley grows colder as the bus passes through Cache Creek and Clinton onwards to 100-Mile House and William’s Lake. The Thompson River Valley is severe and barren despite its rugged beauty. Narrow walls of mountain block the sun making me feel hemmed in, but off the rock I can hear echoes of the old song the tracklayers used to sing:

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.

After Quesnel we climb higher towards the plateau of Prince George. The town, nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is fast approaching so my thoughts turn to my brother. I think about how Remy has been road-tripping Canada for most of the last decade, from Vancouver Island to the tidal fluctuations of the Bay of Fundy in the Maritimes. While I have worked in Asia, Remy has been chalking up thousands of miles exploring Canada. Like me, he has lived a gypsy life, living out of a suitcase for years. Even during university he would take a year off to travel and then return to school the following year over a span of seven years. But there was a reason for Remy’s restlessness. He turned his back on a conventional urban life after he was hit in the eye with a beer bottle back in high school. I know he blames me for it since the assault happened when he was defending me in a fight. It wasn’t much of a fight, but when he stepped in to defend me he was hit from behind with a beer bottle by the guy’s brother. The full, unopened bottle smashed on his head and cut his face, eyelid and eyeball. 270 stitches and two operations later, he had some of his eyesight back in his left eye. He has a blind spot around the lower corner of his eye, but it’s the long pink scar that runs below the eye and down his cheek for all to see that is the real legacy of that night. Omnipresent and always a reminder. There is no question that the assault was a turning point in both our lives. In a way we were no longer identical twins: people could tell us apart because of the four-inch scar running down his face. And Remy changed. He grew his hair long and traveled to South America and Europe. He couldn’t play hockey anymore so he began to smoke and party. Throwing caution to the wind, he moved into his fraternity during his first year at university just after our parents divorced. The money he received from a lawsuit enabled him to live the kind of life he wanted to live. When his money began to run low, he stayed in Canada and traveled because he was adamant to live his own way.

He lived his life by putting himself where he wanted to be, and by doing this he had slowly become rootless.

When the Greyhound bus finally reaches the welcome sign to Prince George, I can smell the pollution in the air. Three pulp-and-paper mills spew thick smoke out of massive smoke stacks a few hundred metres from the roadside on the outskirts of town. A terrible unnatural odour hovering between the mountain peaks to the east and west. Cancerous and dry, an air-born powder foreign to the palate and lungs.

As the bus pulls up to the station I immediately spot Remy walking along the sidewalk. I can tell from his loping gait, beard and long hair that it’s him. Seeing the bus arrive, Remy quickens his pace as he crosses the street. I’m the last passenger to exit the bus. There, just outside of the affray in front of the luggage compartments, I see Remy smiling at me. He looks taller than before in his Kodiak boots, and bigger as if he had become a tall Dutchman. A thousand thoughts flash through my mind, and an avalanche of memories mar any hope of catching the words to voice any of them. What I can’t help thinking in this mental flurry surprises me: Is that what my beard looks like?

“Heyyyyyy” we both say at the same time, embracing as brothers do.

“Trapp my brother! How’re ya do’in?”

“Remyyyyyy.” We both laugh as we look at each other, him with his full-grown beard and his Indian beads around his neck, and me with my Nietzschean moustache and ponytail. I have never seen Remy with a beard so I am intrigued to see how my own beard looks. It’s a very strange feeling. He slaps me on the back and grabs my shoulder, pushing and pulling me – manhandling me like a bear would a cub.

“You madman! All the way from Hong Kong. I didn’t think you would come back after – what? – a decade?”


Nice one!

“I’m back my brother. It’s time to find a homestead,” I say, unable to wipe the smile off my face. His smile stretches into newfound wrinkles – the same, I’m sure, as the ones I have earned overseas. His hands look huge when he picks up my big bag from the luggage compartment. I stand there gawking at him after so much time. His movements reflect the way I always thought I moved but more than that, he’s filled out so he looks larger than his six-foot two frame. After so long apart, these similarities jump out at me with more force.

Something about him is lit up as we walk away from the bus station.

“So that’s what my beard looks like,” I say.

“You like the Duddy?” he asks. I laugh at a piece of the old twin language. It’s strange how much one word can do for memory recall. Ten years just like that. Who else is there in the world who knows that expression? No one else knows our secret language except Remy and me and some of our old friends. A childlike excitement hits me at the thought of resuscitating our language after lying dormant during so many years apart.

When we reach his truck and camper, Remy looks purposefully into the front seat and says:

Goooood doggie…” I see a fluffy-haired dog looking at us from the passenger seat.

“You have a dog?” Remy keeps walking towards the back of the camper.

“Yep. That’s Blue. She’s a medicine doggie.” I look closely at the dog under the streetlight; the dog’s hair has a distinctly blue hue.

“It’s blue,” I say loud enough for him to hear.

“That’s why I named her Blue.” He opens the back door and places my bags on the floor of his camper. “Picked her up in Manitoba after the Sundance two summers ago. Best dog I’ve ever had. Bought her for 50 bucks from a Native. She’s a goooood doggie.” Remy closes the door of the camper, securing it with a small bungee cord. I sit beside Blue in the passenger seat, who is frantically wagging her tail and licking my face, excited to see a face so similar to her master.

“So I was thinking we could go to Uncle Peter’s land instead of going to a bar,” he says. “Too much testicular atrophy here in PG.” I haven’t heard that expression before but I immediately know what he means. “I’m low on cake and besides, I bought some plan Z.” It has been seven years since I heard any of the plans. Identical twins are known to create their own secret language and Remy and I are no different. We have plans for almost every letter of the alphabet invented over the years. And here is Remy using one of the plans as if it were just another word that everyone in the world knows. It’s the twin language and the choice and combination of words he uses that reminds me most of how similar our minds work.

“Good. Have you seen Uncle Peter’s piece yet?”

“I stayed there the last two nights in my camper. Cold as a witches’ tit up here and it’s only the first of September. But it was strange experience. I had some unusual dreams last night and this morning I woke up with the driest tongue I’ve ever had in my life – and that’s saying a lot.” Always relishing a sense for the dramatic, I regard it as exaggerating so I shake my head and wave my hand, dismissing it as hyperbole.

“You’ll see, pilgrim,” he says.

On the way out of town we pass a camper and pick-up truck with a ‘FOR SALE’ sign in its window.

“See that truck?” he says, pointing at it. “I’ve checked it out. It looks very solid and the camper’s the same as mine – the best that exists for mobile living. But it’s a Ford. And you know how I feel about Fords.” I do know about his robust distaste for all products Ford. “It’s an ‘87 or ’88 and it’s all ready to go. You don’t need to get it certified here in BC unlike Ontario, so you can buy it as is as long as she runs. Very unsick.”

“I was thinking more in terms of a van,” I say. But the idea of sleeping in a camper is more appealing to me than sleeping in the back of a van, especially so high up in the mountains.

“Hmmmm… Not sure if a van is the right calibre for the terrain we’ll face mon frere. Pick-ups are the best road buggies. Trust me.”

“But a pick-up truck? I don’t know, man.” Buying a pick-up truck had never crossed my mind.

“You’ve been in Hong Kong too long my brother. I know what you mean because that’s what I thought: I’d never buy a pick-up truck. But a pick-up is really the only suitable vehicle for the real Canada that we’ll be seeing. And listen, the guy selling it is a mechanic. It has good tires and suspension. He’s asking three grand though, for both truck and camper combo. But if you can take the hack with the cake, then you’ll have yourself your own home on wheels. It’ll be better than sleeping in a van.”

Once we’re out of the city of Prince George, Remy reaches into a case of beer below his radio, pulls out a bottle and hands me a beer. Then he opens one for himself.

“To our journey,” he says.

“To our quest to find a homestead,” I reply. We clink bottles and drink, looking ahead with a twin twinkle of mischief in our eyes. Reincarnation of Loki in a multiple of two, unleashed and fully cocked with nothing but time and open space.

Chapter 4


“The gentleman helps others to realize what is good in them; he does not help them to realize

what is bad in them. The small man does the opposite.” – Confucius

10km outside Prince George, British Columbia

From the road I can see my uncle’s property is surrounded by rocky mountaintops and is separated from his neighbours by a thick patch of forest with a stream running through it. Protected and safe. A corner of the world to call your own. Along the foot of the mountain there is a big field that has a few years’ worth of alpha-alpha to harvest and several broken-down log sheds and a barn behind a cluster of trees protecting a wood cabin.

“I didn’t think there were any buildings on the property,” I say as we drive past the open field.

“There are actually. Maybe six or seven buildings but they’re all derelict. The barns and sheds have been submerged by a beaver pond.” Remy pulls into the driveway under overhanging branches of birch and spruce that protect the entrance. The roof on the main cabin is full of holes and part of a wall has been dismantled. He can see me looking at the cabin in hope that it can be salvaged.

“It’s pretty harsh,” he says, jabbing his thumb toward the cabin. “It’s full of mildew and mould. There’s stuff growing out of the floors.” We park behind the cabin next to a half-torn-down shed. It looks like no one has been here in a decade. Weeds and bushes have overtaken the property. Planks of wood strewn across the land haphazardly behind the main cabin. Half dismantled and abandoned. Nature taking over, selfish for more. For a moment I wonder if my uncle has ever been here.

“Did he buy this place over the Internet?”

“Who knows? It’s a pretty big 16 acres. It goes all the way over there to the trees.” Remy points to where the tree line stops at the base of a small mountain. “To that mountain over there and then to the edge of this overgrown pond.” When I get out of the truck I can see the pond eating up the main barn, which is partly submerged in water.

“The beaver pond?”

“Yeah, I’ll show you.” We grab a couple of beers and I follow Remy through the pine and cedar trees along a trail that he has recently forged. Foliage and undergrowth, completely protected from cars driving along the road. A world unto itself. Ducking through a network of shrubs, we reach the pond where there are two massive birch trees beside the water. Same height and breadth; identical.

“I was here at night for the sunset,” he says. We sit there both looking at the pond and the setting sun in the west. There is so much I want to say, so much I feel right now being with my brother after so long that I don’t know where to begin. Overwhelmed, we have seven years to catch up on. Looking at Remy I can see he is experiencing the same overload. Both of us drinking and smiling.

“The resident beaver swims around and flaps its tail to talk with me,” he says. “There’s a beaver dam at the end of the pond right on the edge of the property. It’s flooded the land and taken those sheds with it. Too bad we don’t have a canoe.” Water like glass reflects the reddish orange of the setting sun, so calm that in a canoe we could glide across it with one stroke of the paddle. Howling coyotes in the trees by the foot of the mountain and other muffled sounds of wildlife. An unexpected fear stirs somewhere deep within me.

“Are there bears around here?”

“You could say that. Black bears and Grizzlies, but I’ve only seen black bears so far.” I feel exposed sitting here in the woods by a pond with nothing between us and a bear attack. Exposure and the chill of oncoming darkness send a spasm of cold down my back. 

“You know that I don’t have many fears, but there is one animal that scares me more than anything else and it’s the bear. I don’t know why. I can’t really explain it. I had this dream once when I was living in Taiwan of you and me running away from a bear. Did I ever tell you that dream?” Remy shook his head.

“No, but I’ve dreamed of bears too.”

“In my dream we are running away from a big black bear. As it’s catching up with you, I run over to the bear so it begins to chase me instead. When it’s gaining on me I find a mountain bike on the hill so I hop on the bike and pedal down the hill. You are safe but the bear is now determined to get me. As the bear is catching up to me and just about to nibble at my heels, I pass across the border onto American soil and the bear stops. That’s when I woke up. It was so vivid I wrote it down and gave it to my students to study. I even gave them a test on it. Even now, six years after having the dream, I can still remember it vividly.”

“That’s interesting because bears are one of my totem animals. Bears are heavy-duty medicine. Spiritually I’m a black bear; that’s why I need my space. I have no fear of them.” He lights a cigarette. “Since you’ve dreamt of a bear, it’s an animal that will protect you, not harm you.”

“I mean, are bears common here? There weren’t any in Hong Kong. Over there I had to watch for bamboo snakes and six-inch spiders.”

“You don’t have to worry about snakes and spiders in these parts. It’s way different here. Canada is like Africa if you look at it from a west-as-south and the east-as-north perspective. Different terrain, different climates, different wild animals and even different peoples in the different geographic time zones, just like Africa. But one can only really know this by living the semi-nomadic life I live.”

“So you’re saying we’re in a bear zone?”


Not comforted in the slightest, I ask him how he would protect himself against a possible bear attack.

“Blue has on occasion protected me from wild game. And if you plan to go bushwhacking then you need some sort of buffer against running into dangerous mammalia. We’re right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains here cowboy. Actually we’re between the Rockies and the Coastal Mountains. Prince George is in a plateau in the middle of two mountain ranges. We’re something like 6000 feet above sea level right now. It’s barely out of August and it may go down to zero tonight.”

I can see his breath when he speaks.

“I should be warm enough in my tent, shouldn’t I? My sleeping bag is effective up to five below.” Remy chuckles and shakes his head a little.

“You should get a rig like mine. In a couple of weeks it’s going to be too cold to sleep outside in a tent. Trust me. This isn’t southeast Asia.” Suddenly there’s a loud THWAHMP! The pond is full of ripples.

“There’s the beaver saying hello. He knows we’re here.” I look at Remy and see how at home he is in nature. With his full-grown beard he looks like a real mountain man in the tradition of Jim Bridger.

“Is it a friendly beaver?” It’s a question I would never ask anyone other than my twin brother because I know he would never attack me with sarcasm. Between twins, having the courage to be honest is valued more than anything else.

“Yes, it is a friendly beaver. And this is a healing pond.” We both sit silently watching the ripples on the water. Kodiak boots, worked-in denims, Indian leather jacket and a bushy brown beard make Remy look like Gabriel Dumont – the fierce and respected Métis buffalo hunter and loyal friend of Louis Riel during the Red River Rebellion 130 years ago.

“How’s that?” I ask, beginning to be aware of a new reservoir of knowledge he has.

“Because when you look into the pond you see yourself.”

“Why is that healing?”

“A mirror shows you that he who attacks the mirror also attacks himself. Soon the attacker will reap what he has sown.” At the same time we both look to the water for the beaver. I shrug my shoulders. I can’t see how attacking a reflective pond can heal someone who attacks it.

“Well,” he continues, “because the attacker is showing his own shortcomings and therefore can see his own faults.” I look at him and then stand beside the pond. I can see my reflection only a little since the sun is now behind the mountains. I pull at the handles of my moustache but for the first time feel as though my moustache is not enough. I look at Remy’s beard and realize that that’s what I want.

“Well, with beavers and wolves and waterfalls and all this wilderness all over the place, there must be bears around, so I’m not liking the idea of sleeping outside in my tent up here.” I look at Blue and feel the need for a protective dog.

“Especially with such a close water source like this pond,” he says. I shiver. “You might think about getting yourself a dog.” I realize this is another thing I miss: Remy expressing the exact thoughts that are in my head.

“Nice one. A bear protector.”


With the sun now completely out of sight for the day, I tell him that I need to pitch my tent before it gets dark so we walk back along the trail to the driveway and open more beer. I pull out my tent and sleeping bag and throw them on the grass near the cabin, just out of sight of Remy’s camper. But first, perhaps as procrastination, I get my flashlight to check out the abandoned main cabin. The floor of the cabin is wet and soft and strewn with organic matter. Part of the roof is exposed to the sky and there is a large pile of saw dust in the corner of the main room where part of the wall is missing. No furniture except for an old, torn-apart couch with mould growing all over it. Bedrooms are both enshrouded with debris. Too bad I think as I return to pitch my tent, the cabin is way past the point of recovery.

The environment is dictating my hand more than I expected. The tent will not suffice, and sharing Remy’s camper is out of the question. But three thousand dollars for a twenty-year-old pick-up truck and camper is way out of my budget. An old van might be a better option only because it’s cheaper. In the back of my mind something tells me that this one-month journey to find a writer’s cabin will take longer and take us farther than I think.

When I’m done pitching my tent, I go to Remy’s camper. There are talismans and beads and crystals adorning the walls and countertop. My eyes take a moment to register what I am looking at when I look at his bed. In the semi-darkness I see a large black-haired blanket.

“It’s my bear rug,” he says. “I use it to keep me warm when it gets really cold.” That’s when I see the bear head, complete with teeth.

“You sleep with that over you? That bear skull and the whole thing?” The only thing missing from the bear rug are the claws.

“It protects me from the negative. As I said, the bear is one of my totem animals. It’s medicine for me. Here…” Remy reaches out and rolls his bear rug back to the far end of his bed, and then he puts his pillow gently on top of the bear’s head. For some reason it helps me relax.

“Sit down brother. Make yourself comfortable. This is my home. Bought and paid for, no mortgage. I guess you could say I’m the only one in the family who completely owns their own home.” Thinking it’s a joke I chuckle, but then I realize it’s a simple statement of fact.

“That’s what I am after: buying my piece with no mortgage,” I reply, nodding at him. “But with the little amount of coin I have, it’ll be tough to find something that even resembles a home.”

“I have confidence in you man. You have a long track record of going out and getting what you want. So what do you think of the camper?” I look around and nod.

“More space than I thought.”

“These campers are designed for pick-up trucks. It sleeps four: two up there in the loft and two here where the table goes.” The loft, as he calls it, is packed with boxes and Native regalia. “I took out the table and sleep here all the time.  I like to keep it open like this.”

“Is it warm enough?”

“I have an electric heater I can plug in if I’m at a campsite with an outlet, but when it really gets cold my bear skin keeps me warm enough.” One side of his camper is a long kitchen counter with a dry sink and cupboards. There’s even a closet.

“B.O. plenty of space,”[1] I say. He chuckles at the use of twinspeak and then pulls out a baggy of weed and begins rolling a joint.

“I met this guy down at the saloon the other night who was selling some plan W[2] so I stocked up on my supply.”

“I should have snagged some in Gastown last night.” It’s always good twin etiquette to have your own supply and never to rely on your twin’s resource base.

“So what do you think about this place as a potential homestead?” I ask.

“It’s too cold here, man. And there’s the air issue. You’ll see in the morning.”

“It’s not that bad here is it?”

“I’ll bet you ten bucks you’ll wake up with the driest tongue in the history of mankind.” He uses the same words I usually use: in the history of mankind.  It gives me a weird sensation as I don’t think we have ever used those words between us before. It’s an expression I began to use when living in the Philippines five years ago.

“I’ll take that bet matey. Ten bucks, you’re on.” We shake hands to make it binding. I don’t think there is anything more binding than a handshake between identical twins.

“So then where are you thinking is a good place for the homestead?” I ask. Remy lights the joint and thinks for a few seconds.

“I’m thinking the land with the best geomancy in this country is in northern BC, near the Yukon in a place called Atlin. It’s where the Indians believes Atlantis was once located before the Great Flood.”

“You’re serious?”

“Yeah, and it’s called Atlin. Weird eh? And since the magnetic force from the North Pole is so strong up there, any electronic eavesdropping or surveillance from satellites won’t have the ability to follow me. I have an electronic device in my arm you know.” Coyotes growl in the distance and the wind knocks at the camper door. Eccentric I think; Remy is still eccentric.

“Atlin is where I think we’ll find the retreat we’re looking for,” he says. “It’s like a natural jamming force that comes from the magnetic pole and it throws off any electronic forces. My research shows that northern BC and the Yukon are the only areas in North America that one can live free of modern spying devices like satellites. I should be able to heal better up there.” Remy gets up and picks out a turquoise bead from an abalone shell on the counter.

“Ah, I almost forgot. This is a gift for you,” he says. “It’s a turquoise rock that will give you the power of eloquence.” For a second I’m not sure if giving me a rock is a joke, but I am solemn as I accept it. He also hands me a cigarette. “Whenever you give presents we, as Métis Indians, should always give a tobacco offering too.” There had always been a rumour that our mother’s side of the family had some native blood. Having a passion for history, as well as a degree in history from the University of Toronto, Remy investigated our family tree and discovered that we did have some Ojibwa blood from our great-great grandmother. But I wasn’t convinced.

Neither of us looks even slightly native.

“Thanks Remy.” I start to tie it onto my silver chain along with the amethyst hanging from a leather string already around my neck.

“Wait! I should smudge it first before you put it on.” He takes out some dried sage from beside a pile of plants lying in the dry sink and neatly slides two fingers up the stalk of a sage branch. All the leaves end up between his two fingers, which he drops into another abalone shell beside the sink. Remy repeats this action again with a second branch and then takes his lighter and ignites the sage. Thick, fragrant smoke rises from the shell, quickly covering me in a cloud of smoke. Remy takes an eagle wing (a series of eagle feathers that have been fastened together to make a wing), and begins to brush the sage smoke at me.

“Hold out your arms,” he says. He smudges me around the head and torso and then finally my feet before he does it again to my back. Only then, when the camper is filled with smoke, is my new turquoise rock ready to go on the chain around my neck. When we finally sit down, we can hardly see each other through the smoke in the candlelight, but we can both hear each other’s laughter.

Chapter 5


“If a man is correct in his own person, then there will be obedience without

orders being given; but if he is not correct in his own person,

there will not be obedience even though orders are given.” – Confucius

Outside my tent in the early morning I stand with my arms wrapped around myself as tight as I can. Coldness has penetrated deep inside my bones as if the marrow is frosted. I have forgotten how cold it can get in the mountains at night in Canada. I’m used to sweating amid green ferns and palm trees in the semi-tropical climate. Last night I needed every inch of my sleeping bag to keep from shivering, but worse than this is my tongue. It’s as dry and coarse as a sun-dried sheet of sandpaper. I jump up and down in front of my tent to warm up and desperately try to get saliva on my tongue. My tongue is so dry that it almost cracks when I move it. I take out my wallet and remove a ten-dollar bill, placing it in my front pocket.

A bet is a bet.

Still vigorously working on saliva production in my mouth, I walk over to the old log sheds half-submerged under the beaver pond. Birch branches are already stirring in the warming air as the sun sneaks up from the east over the pond. A splash can be heard from beyond the shrubs and trees. In the intense morning sunlight so high up in the Rocky Mountains, I put on my sunglasses and watch crows the size of small dogs fly across the sky towards the forest on the other side of the open field. I can’t get close enough to get inside the barn because of the water so I decide to walk across the field. The tall grass with the morning dew soaks my hiking shoes and socks after a few minutes. The sun pierces the sheen of dew and blasts the cold from the flaxen grass bringing life and hope. The smell is fresh and green and good like a new beginning and a second chance.

This is the Canada I remember; this is why I chose to come back to my native land; this is the sparkle that is Canada’s hidden gem.

I reach the dense forest at the far end of the field where the stream runs down the mountain, patient and trickling enough to hear it. I peer into the darkness where the land slopes away, sounds of stirring wildlife that unleash my imagination. I shiver and then let out a sound, something less than a scream. I have warmed up now so I know the shiver is not from the cold but from my fear of what lies in the woods. What’s to stop a black bear from coming out of the forest right now? Remy is right. I do need a bear protector. I think of how Remy has absolutely no fear of them, which causes me to remember an expatriate doctor from the States I knew when I worked in Hong Kong who had researched twins and was fascinated by the fact that I had decided to leave my twin brother to live independently overseas. It was from this doctor that I learned about mirror twins. He told me that mirror twins are the closest of all types of identical twins because with mirror twins the egg splits between the ninth and twelfth day of gestation. All identical twins come from the same egg but mirror twins remain as one egg the longest before the egg splits into two identical foetuses. So in effect Remy and I were “one” and “the same” for over a week before we became “two.” Any longer than 12 days as the same egg and there is an extremely high risk of being conjoined (or ‘Siamese’) twins. He said it wasn’t possible for two people to be as close as mirror twins.

So even for twins, Remy and I are about as close as twins can be.

I remember very clearly what he said when I asked how one knows if one is a mirror twin. “Usually each twin has opposite characteristics,” he replied. “For example one twin will be right-handed and the other left-handed.” It was at that moment with these words that I knew for sure that Remy and I are mirror twins. Remy threw the ball with his left hand when we were really young. He’s a natural left-hander, but since we’re twins he was brought up to be a right-hander like me. It explains why he golfs and bats left, and I right. But there are other differences. I have one crown on my head and he has two crowns. His cowlick is on the right side and mine on the left. My left foot is slightly bigger than my right foot, but his right foot is slightly bigger than his left foot. He has a tiny cluster of hair on the underside of his left arm while I have the exact same cluster of hair on the underside of my right arm. He has a persistent zit on his left cheekbone while I have the same persistent little bugger of a zit on my right cheekbone. He’s dislocated his left shoulder and I’ve had surgery from dislocating my right shoulder. He’s chipped his front left tooth while I’ve chipped my front right tooth. But there are more things that make us identical opposites, aspects of our individual person that give it all a certain symmetry. His eye injury was to his left eye while mine was to my right eye. He studied history at university while I studied philosophy. He wants to write a book that will heal the world while I want to write a book that will inspire the world. His master’s degree is in international business and mine in international relations. He grinds his teeth when he sleeps on the left side while I have worn my teeth down from grinding my teeth on the right. He has lived and worked and traveled in Europe and South America while I have lived and worked and traveled in Asia and Australia. It has just ended up this way.

The list is long but there is a unique correlation between us that supports that we are mirror twins, and Remy’s complete lack of fear and acceptance of bears is another example of this.

Of course there are the obvious similarities, such as our unusual loping gait. We’re exactly the same height and weight, and we have the exact same cadence in our laugh. And we have the same sense of humour and the same taste in women and music. But the most intriguing aspect of being twins is how we will have a dream at night and wake up knowing that the dream was a premonition. If I have a dream with Remy in it and he’s in distress, nine times out of ten when I call him the next day he’s had a bad night.

How does one explain that?

Standing so exposed at the edge of the woods where I can hear wild animals go about their business is foolish without a dog, so I retrace my tracks across the acres of open field. As I walk I feel a nagging guilt at being AWOL from Remy for so long. I feel selfish for taking for granted the magic of being a twin. I begin to wonder if it was my absence that first started Remy on his nomadic life, and perhaps one of the primary causes of the turbulence he has had over the last seven years. It all seems to have begun when I left for the Far East after a fight we had that precipitated my departure from Canada.

When I reach my tent, Remy is sitting outside his camper with a mug of steaming coffee in his hand and his dog at his feet.

“’Morning,” I say.

“’Morning,” he replies. Same voice, same tone as me. “Coffee? I have some here.”

“Yes, nice one. In my tent I have-“

“It’s OK. I have a mug here for you.” Remy steps into his camper and returns with a big mug and a small filter on top of it, full of fresh coffee grounds. He hands it to me and then pours hot water from a large blue kettle, but he purposely fills it up to the rim so that if I shake or move even a little the hot water will fall on my fingers holding the mug. I begin to laugh because the water is right at the maximum limit. My laughter makes the meniscus tremble and then spill over, which makes Remy laugh. I’m careful to angle the filter to one side so the boiling water doesn’t burn my hand.

Why is there always Tom Foolery between us even if it’s somewhere in the Rocky Mountains at the crack of dawn?

Already we’re sharing our first laugh of the day despite the fact it’s at my expense. Schadenfreuden. Plenty of that between Remy and me but all in good fun, and seldom past a certain point when fun turns into danger.

“That was close,” I say. “Dubious pouring technique.” Just then Blue decides to check me out again. She sniffs my denims, which takes her nose up to my crotch. Remy laughs more as I try to move out of the way.

Goooood doggie,” he says, encouraging the dog and causing me to spill more hot water. This time the water spills on my fingers, which makes me take the mug into my other hand, fling my burnt hand in the air and yell out. But just as quickly as this, Remy changes the subject, acting as if there was no spillage.

“Good walk?” The coffee is poured and Remy removes the mobile filter.

“Yeah, good until I got to that forest edge over there. Thought I heard bears. My bear phobia has been evolving over the last 12 hours.”

“That’s cool. Black?” he asks. I nod at the double entendre.

“I usually take it with milk but in the bush I’ll take it black.” The coffee smells of home. To me coffee always smells of home but with Remy beside me at this moment I feel that here, right now, in the middle of the mountains, I am home.

I savour the aroma as Remy looks at my soaking feet.

“You need some decent boots.”

“Yes, boots are on my list. And that black Ford we saw yesterday. I think it might be a good call.”

“It looks like a good piece,” he says. “If you have enough coin, we should see it today. It would be a wise hard-good to snag.” I sip my coffee and can feel the residual chill in my bones evaporate into muted steam like a mild sauna within my own skin. That’s when I pull out the ten-dollar bill and hand it to Remy.

“You were right about the dry tongue.” I place the bill squarely in his hand, adhering to the strict code of conduct between twins. “Driest tongue in the history of mankind, I’ll say!” We share another laugh and then both turn towards the sun that is slowly emerging over the beaver pond. The sun feels closer here in the mountains and brighter. I’m surprised to see him put on almost the exact same prescription sunglasses as me, which I have worn religiously every day for years. There is always something reassuring about these small coincidences. I know he has noticed the same thing but neither of us make a comment. It reminds me of the present I have for him.

I rummage through my pockets.

“This is for you brother. The real McCoy.” He holds it in his large hands curiously. “It’s a Chinese moustache comb made of sandalwood with teeth that smell of finely cut wood.” I pull out mine, which is identical, and demonstrate the preferred brushing technique on my bushy moustache. When Remy tries it the handlebars on his moustache instantly become fluffy and sunlit.

“I thought your ‘stache could use the same kick on the sides there,” I say. Then I hand him a cigarette as a tobacco offering.

“Thanks bro.” He combs his moustache again and then looks at mine.

“A bit of an Asterix piece.” The hair on his upper lip is now fluffy and blonde in the sun. We stand quietly and sip our coffee.

“Let’s go see that Ford pick-up,” I say. “Another night in my tent and I think I’ll pull some sort of muscle.”

Chapter 6


“It is only the most intelligent and the most stupid

who are not susceptible to change.” – Confucius

Just outside Prince George, British Columbia

Driving his brown Dodge past the pulp-and-paper mills towards Prince George, Remy is stroking his beard and looking all around him soaking up the greenery, talking, pointing, patting his dog. A grin on his face that he can’t wipe off. His posture square with the wheel and his arm fitting comfortably on the armrest by his right elbow. A cigarette dangles from his lips between outbursts of words. He tells me how this is our time to finally catch up and do some road-tripping and how we have to make the most of this opportunity and that he knows of some places we could look for a place because he hoped – if the property is big enough – that he can camp on the land I buy. His hand flails when he talks, emphasizing his points with light beaming from his eyes when he speaks of anything spiritual. His voice calms and he speaks with authority when he discusses healing the human spirit, ready to breathe fire at anyone who doubts him. His long head hunches at the neck over the steering wheel and his sunglasses absorb the glare of the sun as his red bandana keeps his hair out of his eyes. He drives slowly – so slowly that almost everyone who is behind him passes us when they have a chance. But this doesn’t bother him. He acts as if they don’t exist, unless they tailgate. That’s when he flips up his rear-view mirror and cuts his speed down by a third until they pass. He ignores the honks that come as if they are quacks from a duck in a nearby lake, still preoccupied with juggling the ten things on his mind: the conversation with me, patting his dog, humming to the music from the radio, changing lanes, navigating back to Prince George, sipping coffee from his thermos, keeping the truck in the middle of the lane, smoking a cigarette as if that were the only thing he was doing. But I have always trusted Remy behind the wheel. It’s a gift he has always had. If it could be done on the road, he could do it. He knows how to treat a truck to maximize what she has in her. He’s always had a special ability with four-wheeled vehicles, whereas my special ability is with two-wheeled vehicles. Four wheels is his North Pole, two wheels is my South Pole – two separate areas of expertise yet linked.

We pull into the parking lot of the mechanic’s garage where the black truck is for sale. We walk around the Ford while Remy points to the chassis and looks at wires underneath that I don’t know anything about. When he walks I notice his loping gait is more pronounced than it has ever been before. He sort of skids his ass along the pavement, moving his eyes along a level horizontal plane as if pulled by an invisible wire. To me his loping gait is always the first thing I notice about my brother, but now, after so long apart, it’s so distinguishing that I have to laugh. I’m sure I walk the same way because people have told me but of course can never see it myself. A new addition to his look is his jeans. Hanging so low around his boots they look as if they are about to fall off. When I ask him about his droopy denims, he tells me his belt buckle is done up on the loosest of all the knots because modern trousers are poorly designed. They constrict digestion by cutting off of the natural flow of the intestines. His solution is to keep his belt as loose as he can “to ensure regular digestion and thus movement and absorption of nutrients.”

Always a method to his madness, and an underpinning of logic.

“If you get this buggy we can really cruise, man. With a map and go-juice we can go anywhere in these rigs. Seriously. Think about it: anywhere.” I feel the bug immediately and itch to buy the damn truck now so we can hit the road. He’s right. This vehicle is ideal for looking for property. Then it strikes me how strange it will be for identical twins to be cruising in the exact same equipment except one rig is brown and the other is black. One is a Dodge and the other is a Ford. Both with campers on the back.

Mirror twins.

The mechanic walks up to us. A massive man.

“She’s a good truck this one,” he says with some bluster.

“I hope so for that price,” I reply, well-practiced in the art of bargaining from my time in China.

“The camper is strong too.”

“A bit of rust,” I say, pointing at the door of the Ford. The mechanic looks a bit offended, and then with the demeanour of a parent speaking to a child proceeds to explain.

“This is a Ford half-ton pick-up. It’s the biggest selling pick-up truck in history. All old Ford’s rust, you know that. But the body is as strong as a bitch for a twenty-year-old truck.” He points to the suspension. “Tight suspension, I did that myself. Sturdy Goodrich tires. Put them on six months ago.” He speaks like a mechanic, with the same pride and awe of seeing not a hunk of metal but a miracle of interchanging parts.

“You’re a mechanic here?” Remy asks.

“I work on my cars, yeah. I run a fleet of taxis.” He gestures towards a half-dozen yellow cars. “I own the place. Where are you two from? Brothers’ aren’t you?”

“Yeah, we’re brothers” I say.

“We’re twins who haven’t seen each other for a long time.”

“Seven years.”

“Until last night.” The mechanic looks at us both, back and forth and nods.

“Where are youse twins go’in’ then?”

“Smithers and maybe out to Prince Rupert or maybe up to Atlin in the north.” The way Remy says it shows he doesn’t think the mechanic will know where Atlin is.

“Atlin! Jeez. That’s a fair ways from here. But no problem. This truck will get you there. She’s designed for these roads. She’ll take youse up to the Yukon no problem at all. And here, look at the camper. I made it bigger last summer, because…” He puts his hand around his bulging gut, which hangs over his waistline. “Because I like my space.” He opens the back door. “I cut down the size of the table to give me more room in the kitchen. It’s handy-”

“To reach for beers,” says Remy. We all have a laugh because that’s what we’re all thinking. The mechanic steps inside the camper and I follow. It’s high enough by an inch or two to stand. Roughly the same design as Remy’s camper but newer by a few years.

“So how much are you asking? It says $3000 but seems a bit much.”

“It’s worth every dollar of that three thousand. I love this rig, and I’m sorry to part with it but I bought a larger trailer.” The mechanic looks down for a moment and then points through one of the small side windows to a large Winnebago parked beside the garage.

“I see. Lots of space in that. More than this one.” I ask him if I can take a test spin.

“Sure. You have a valid license? Sorry I have to ask.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Could you show it to me? Once this guy drove one of my cars and-“

“Yeah, no problem.” I take out my temporary license and unfold it for the mechanic. “It’s valid for three months beginning a few days ago.” The mechanic’s eyes narrow and after some cursory reading nods and hands the document back to me as well as the ignition key. The engine starts on the first turn. I steer the Ford to a side street and then take a turn, accelerating enough to feel its power, surprising for a truck with a camper on the back weighing over a ton. The Ford handles beautifully and for a moment I have difficulty keeping a straight face. The rig is ideal. The mechanic is firmly placed in his seat with his seatbelt strapped so I purposely hit some potholes head-on, the truck absorbing them as if they are small cracks in the pavement. I drive back to the mechanic’s lot and am ready to make an offer. When I step down from the high-up seat and look at Remy, I’m sure he can see the impatient glimmer in my eye.

In front of the Ford the mechanic appears to be a bit ticked off at my reckless driving.

“How ‘bout twenty-five hundred?” I offer.

“Oh no… that’s too low. This camper is worth two thousand on its own. And the rig, well, I don’t want to sell it but my old lady… Let’s just say I need the money.” He looks for a moment like a broken man.

“Twenty-seven, cash.”

“I can’t part with it for less than twenty-eight. Sorry about that.” The mechanic walks away and doesn’t look back. I know I don’t have that much money on me so I reluctantly walk back to Remy’s pick-up and we leave.

“How’d she handle?”

“Lots of play in the wheel,[3]” I reply, “but it’s too much cake.[4]

“It’s a solid hard-good Trapp. Staying in the tent again tonight could be tough now that you know that camper exists.” He’s right.

“So you think I should buy it?”

“Trapp, it’s a reliable vehicle and the camper is refurbished and he doesn’t want to part with it but he has to because he opted for more room in that crappy Winnebago. Man, I think you should snag it if you can swing the fundage.[5]” The thought of staying in my tent tonight makes me feel shivery under the glaring windshield.

“I need that money for the homestead.”

“You need something between now and then. You know that life is what happens when you’re making plans,” he says, quoting John Lennon. “I respect your thing for your house piece but the road is no place for a wimpy van with small wheels and a stuffy backseat. It’s claustrophobic el grande. You need decent tools and this puppy will get you to where you need to go. Once you get your place then you can ditch the camper and you’ll have a pick-up as your mobile. It’s a win-win Trapp. The roads in Canada are here for us to use my brother. Canada is as big as Africa, and it is our duty to explore her because she is ours and we owe it to her to respect her through knowing her.”

“Fair enough,” I say after a minute. It’s true; the time between now and the purchase of the house will be our moment so I might as well be smart about it. I’d rather be in this rig during a storm than a van. “Okay then. I’ll need a bear protector too so let’s go get one and stop at the bank on the way.”

Prince George is small so just around the corner we find a bank machine. I withdraw from my credit card and then we drive down the street to the SPCA where we park and go inside.

“I’m looking for where I might be able to find a dog to adopt, preferably a two-year old female,” I say to the clerk. “Am I in the right place?” The woman smiles at the two of us.

“You are brothers?” We nod. “Twins?” More nodding.

“Yes, just go through those doors and down the hall to the last door on your right. In there you can look at the dogs we have.” She points to where the kennels are so Remy and I walk down the pristine-white hallway that’s so bright and disinfected it’s suffocating. We reach the last door on the right that Remy has to yank open. We enter, dogs begin to bark, one in particular at which Remy points.

That’s the dog you should get. The one that barks at you first.” It is a medium-sized brown-haired cross between a Shepherd and a Labrador with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen.

“It’s a male,” I say. I walk past each dog looking carefully for a sign of it reaching out to me. Passing some young puppies and some old timers, I come to two pure white dogs at the end of the kennel. One of them has a fresh eye wound. I check the chart hanging on the cage. “Malamute/Shepherd cross” it says. The bigger one, the male, is nine years old and the one with the scratched eye is two years old and female. Remy looks at them curiously.

“They both look exactly like Teetchema.” I haven’t heard Remy say her name in years, but he’s right. Both dogs are identical to the dog Remy had seven years ago. Remy had her for years until he was forced to shoot her after it bit a child on an Indian reserve in Bactchewana Bay on Lake Superior. Remy was asked to kill his own dog, something I don’t think he has ever overcome. He told me it was the Indian way to kill any canine if they ever drew human blood. It’s strange but here in front of us is the identical twin of that dog. I blink and try to ignore the coincidence but I can’t.

“They look part wolf just like Teetchema,” I say. Remy is lost in thought looking at the two white dogs. The most striking thing about the dog is one of her eyes: it’s pure white. It’s her brown eye that has the abrasion, like my right eye I injured last year in Hong Kong. It’s the dog’s eye injury, as well as our own eye injuries, that we’re both thinking about in front of the cage.

“Vancouver Island White Wolf,” he says. “The wolf is the totem animal for the western gate on the medicine wheel. It means loyalty and perseverance. It’s good medicine Trapp and she’s two years old so she’s the right age.” Loyalty is what I want and there’s something about her wagging tail and the lack of barking that I like. The older white male growls at us.

“She looks just like Teetchema when I had to put her down. But we must not speak of the dead. But let me say this, if it’s one thing I’ve learned about native beliefs and dogs it’s that white dogs keep away the positive, not the negative. That’s why Natives almost always have black dogs, or at least some black in them. Black keeps away the negative.” I shake my head at him as if it’s nonsense.

“White dogs keep away the positive, is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, exactly.” We both walk back down the kennel towards the brown dog with sad eyes. I watch it bark and drool. When I put my hand through the bars to pat it, the dog becomes so excited that he bites my hand a little too hard, which scares me. Pulling my hand away, I move back to the white dogs in the corner. I reach out to her and she licks my hand, gently. Calm temperament. Manageable. Not irrational. Goooooood doggie. Low maintenance.

Bear protector.

“I’m going to get this one. It’s the eye. I can’t help it. She’s my bear protector.” When I walk away I look back for Remy’s approval, but I can only see him shaking his head as if he’s unable to prevent a tragedy about to happen. I go back to the vet in the foyer and tell her I want the female white shepherd. Using my Uncle Peter’s address outside of Prince George, I’m able to get her.

“OK Mr. McFlynn, all your papers are in order. Remember that she was just neutered four days ago so careful not to rip her stitches open. They are designed to dissolve in dog saliva when they begin licking them. She can go with you now if you like, or you can come back tomorrow when she’s a bit better. She may be a little subdued because of the medication we gave her.”

“Might as well pick her up now,” I say. I follow the vet through the doors down the disinfected hallway where she goes through a door behind the kennel. I go to the other side of the cage where I see Remy patting the sad brown dog. When she opens the backdoor the elder male dog is upset at the movement of events. We can hear the male growling when the dogs are separated. The growling stops with a yelp. The male returns to the cage and the backdoor is shut.

We meet the vet in the claustrophobic hallway where she hands the dog over to me. Remy and I begin to laugh. I’m laughing from excitement of having a new dog, but I know Remy is laughing at me for making the same mistake as he had before. He’s thinking that all that befell him will soon happen to me.

“You two have identical laughs,” says the vet. “Did you know that?” We both nod. “You’re brothers?” More nods. “Twins?” We answer ‘yes’ at the same time. “Which one is older?”

“He is by five minutes,” I say jabbing my thumb towards Remy. He looks at the vet uncomfortably.

“I’m the older twin but the more irresponsible one.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, there has to be one in every family.” Her words buoy Remy as we walk outside to the parking lot into the harsh, smelly air of Prince George.

“We should think about fortifying our technology[6] supply if we can,” he says.

Plan W?”

“Yeah, there’s that guy I know down the street in that old saloon we passed. I think he sells all sorts of stuff. We could go see him tonight. His name’s Frank. He’s native and very cool.”

“Yes, we should definitely fortify our plan W supply for the road,” I say nodding in agreement. I need my own supply; I cannot sponge off Remy for the trip.

“Nice one. ‘Tis wise to snagglepussy aujourd’hui.” There’s a word I haven’t heard in a long time.

“OK, but let’s go back to see the mechanic first. I want to make another offer.”

Chapter 7


“Look at the means a man employs, observe the path he takes and examine where

he feels at home. In what way is a man’s true character hidden from view?” – Confucius

Downtown Prince George, British Columbia

An old red brick railway station, desolate, weed-grown and potholed with abandoned rusty cars whispers of a past that has long been forgotten, like the faces of pioneers who once cut down the wall-to-wall forest that covered this land. Now, the pulp-and-paper smell in the air is stagnate and oppressive, like a severe case of municipal halitosis. It feels as if the city has been left to rot in the stink of poor urban planning, but these thoughts are only fleeting. My new dog is what has my attention as we drive back to the mechanic’s garage. Remy has put Blue into his camper so my dog can sit in the front in peace. With her stitches still raw and with her drugged from the surgery, she is placid on my lap, heavy like a bag of soft lead. She weighs at least 80 pounds already at two years old.

“It’s weird, every time I look at her I see Teetchema,” says Remy. “It’s like she has come back to me, which is highly sallassie.”[7] 

“It looks like it’s healing,” I say, referring to her eye. “The vet said her injury is consistent with falling out of a moving vehicle.” This huge white wolf so placid on my lap was a strange feeling. She was all muscle.

“Did the vet say how long she’s been in the pound?”

“She was found as a stray two weeks ago with the fresh eye injury.”

“And she’s just had her reproductive piece tampered with, so just give her lots of TLC and it’ll be groovy.”

“Tampered reproductive piece, yes. Severely tampered with.” We arrive back at the garage.

“Well, what do you think pilgrim? Are you going to snag it so we can drive up to Atlin or what? Uncle Pete’s just doesn’t seem to be up to par.”

“Watch my doggie will ya,” I say, enlivened by the task before me. Entering the garage I see the mechanic standing beside a smashed-up derby car with two other men. One is revving its massive V8 engine. It’s deafening and exhaust spews throughout the garage. When the mechanic sees me his hand goes up in acknowledgement, and comes over to the door where I’m standing.

“Have you thought about it?”

“I have. I want to make another offer.” The mechanic wipes his hands in a rag that he pulls from his pocket. “Is she still for sale?” I ask, toying with time before I play my card.

“She’s still for sale.”

“I’m willing to offer twenty-seven hundred cash right now. A quick, clean transaction.” The mechanic looks back at his friends laughing beside the crashed-up car.

“Sorry dude, two-thousand eight-hundred. I told you before.” I take out my wallet and pull out five 100-dollar bills.

“I don’t know if I can afford that extra hundred. I’m really strapped.” I count out the five hundred in my hand and then stop. The mechanic looks at the two guys talking beside the derby car revving the engine. I shrug my shoulders and begin putting the bills back into my wallet. “Hockey game on tonight?” I ask. He looks at me with his eyes a bit wider and nods.

“It’s only pre-season but…” He glances at his friends again. “It’s only the second Canucks game in over a year, you know, with last year’s strike.”

“The hockey strike last season, yes. A disgrace. Watching the game tonight with your friends?” There’s a twinkle in his eye when our eyes meet, and then a grin crosses his face. The thought of swigging beers with buddies seems to tip the scales in my favour.

“Oh all right. Two thousand, seven hundred cash. It’s a deal. The rig is yours.” He puts out his hand and we shake. Taking out the papers from a drawer behind his desk, we both sign a contract and then I count out the money on the counter. When he signs over the ownership to me, I ask him where I can get insurance.

“Follow me in the truck and I’ll show you,” he says. So with the papers signed, I walk out to Remy’s Dodge with the keys in my hand.

“I bought the rig.” There is an expression on his face that registers with me, one that I have known since the earliest days of my childhood: the unmasked mien of mischief. It’s an old truth: we are slaves to the thrill of adventure, junkies that love nothing more than the flutter and tingle of reckless undertakings.

“I need insurance and the mechanic needs to bring the plates to an insurance company a few blocks away to transfer ownership, so I said I would follow him. Is that cool? We might as well get it all done right now before the weekend.” We both look at our watch. It’s 4:30pm Friday.

“OK man, I‘ll follow you guys.” I transfer the dog into my Ford and follow the mechanic to a local insurance broker. When we get there I give them my uncle’s address as my home address so I can get insurance for three months. Outside the insurance broker’s I thank the mechanic once again, climb into the driver’s seat of my new truck and slip it into gear. I drive slowly over to Remy and stop beside him. He undoes his window.

“OK, all set,” I say. “Plan W?” Let’s get everything done while we have the chance.

“Yeah, let’s go to the saloon we passed. It’s a bit early but it’s Friday and people will be getting there after work. Why don’t we check it out? Maybe he’s there already.”

“I’ll follow you.” On the way there, Remy parks in front of a second-hand store. I quickly see the wisdom and logic of it. Inside there’s everything one could think of for sale: clothing, old camping equipment, pieces of furniture and all sorts of odds and ends. Remy strolls down the racks of clothes and looks for that item he doesn’t yet have. For me I see the things I know I already need. When I see a pair of wool-lined suede gloves I snatch them, and then a Shetland wool vest perfect to keep my torso warm during the oncoming cold. I pick up a Goretex jacket and a hat and wool socks, and Remy finds two fold-up metal chairs for two bucks apiece, perfect for lounging behind the campers. I find some of the camping gear I need: a knife, compass and some cutlery. We walk out of the store with bags of loot, dump it off in our campers and then drive to the saloon that is only two blocks away.

“Why don’t we have a brew in my camper first?” he suggests when we’re in the pub parking lot. “Cheaper and I’m low on my coin.” In the parking lot we notice a video camera hanging on the back wall of the saloon, so I quickly step into his camper out of range from the electronic eye.

“Wherever I go in a city, there’s always someone looking at me,” he says. “I hate it. That’s what I want to get away from.”

“I hear you, man. Hong Kong was deadly in that respect. I’m sick and tired of prying eyes. I don’t think I can live in a city anymore either. It’s time to-“

Sport a rural hit,” he says, completing my sentence.

“Nice one.” Remy first lights a candle and then passes me a beer and then takes one for himself.

“I can’t believe that rig is now yours. Seriously man, we’re completely mobile. Now we can go up to Atlin to find a place and get off the grid.” Remy begins rolling up the last of his weed.

“So how much should we snag tonight – if we can find it?” I ask. “Always good policy to stock up when one can for an impending roadtrip.”

“Should be a good supply, but again I don’t have much money.”

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll treat tonight. It’s a sort of commission for finding me the rig.”

“Celebrate your new road buggy.”

“Yeah, something like that.” I give Remy some money for the transaction since it’s his friend, not mine. Remy takes out his map and spreads it out on his bearskin.

 “Now that you’re mobile, we should think about heading west along Highway 16 towards Prince Rupert. That way we can take the Cassiar Mountain Highway north through the mountains all the way to the Yukon.” He finishes rolling the joint and places it on the counter. It’s amazing he can find any space among the clutter. Tins of tuna, pasta, honey, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, cans of soup, sage, a leather pouch for a pipe, eagle feathers, beer bottles, all sorts of books, MAG flashlight, his coffee mug and a full ashtray; it’s a bachelor’s countertop.

A nomad’s countertop.

“Why don’t we take Highway 97 to Dawson Creek, and from there we can go west across northern BC to the Yukon and then Atlin?” The Cassiar Mountain Highway looks much more remote and meanders through the heart of the mountain range.

“Not cool with the boys,” he replies. “Highway 97 is an easy road; point and shoot type of thing. But the Cassiar Mountain Highway is supposed to be pretty hardcore. It goes right through the epicentre of the mountains. There’s nothing but wilderness and wildlife, waterfalls and deep bush – and of course black bears. It would be much more hairy-crack.[8] Besides, I’ve never taken it before.”

“Ahhh, there it is,” I say. “New frontier pour vous, n’est-ce pas?”

“We want to get away from the big highways, right?”


“So the Cassiar is the best route.” The highway runs parallel with the Alaskan border beginning at the Misty Fiords National Park and stretching over 700km north past Skagway to the Yukon. It’s the only road that goes up central British Columbia – a province the size of two United Kingdoms. Given a choice, always select the more challenging course.

We smoke the joint and leave the camper for the old Prince George Hotel. Inside, Remy goes to the bar and buys the happy hour special – a bucket of six Budweisers on ice – while I take a seat at a table in the corner. Dented wooden tables and posters on the walls stained with nicotine and cracks in the mirrors hanging on the walls. Men sitting at the bar look like they have been here every afternoon every day for the last decade, smoking unfiltered Export ‘A’ cigarettes and drinking Molson Canadian beer. Here to drink and cuss, none of them take much interest in the Vancouver Canucks hockey game on the television above the bar.

“My Indian friend Frank is here,” says Remy when he places the bucket of beer on the table. Remy takes a couple of bottles from the bucket while still standing up, unscrews them and hands a cold Budweiser to me. (Twin etiquette: always serve the other twin first).

“To your new doggie and your new rig. The continent of Canada is ours to explore!” We clink bottles and drink.

More communist propaganda swills through my head:


Remy goes to the bar where he talks with Frank. He’s huge – maybe six-foot four in height, thick-boned with a long ponytail and blousy face. Dressed all in black, he wears the same harvest moon jacket as Remy except his is black. Remy gives him some money and Frank puts a bag into his hand, all done facing the wall where there is only a small group of women in the corner. An illegal drug deal done as if exchanging phone numbers. Remy shares a laugh with him and puts his hand on his shoulder. He’s been here three days and he already has friends.

“Frank pulled through. Full snagglepussy[9] action pass,” says Remy coming back to the table.

Full snagglepussy. Very Claudia.”[10] When excited, twins prefer their own language.

“Decent piece.”

“Not too concerned about security matters here are they?”

“No, I think it’s groovy. Everyone knows each other here. And he’s jiggy with us. He’s knows we’re Métis.” He waves his hand towards Frank and the women in a wide sweeping gesture.

“Well you look more Métis than I do with your neckwear ensemble and medicine bundle and whatnot.” Remy looks proud of his Indian regalia, not at all self-conscious of the number of different coloured crystals and stones that hang around his neck and all the leather frillies dangling from his arms. Remy slides the baggy to me under the table. I look at it on my lap hidden from view by the table. I take out a large bud and give it to him.

“Here, this is for you.” 

“Maestro! Green medicine!”

“Medicine, exactly.”

“You know I have dreamt of weed, which means it’s one of my medicines.” This is new to me, so I ask him if you only have to dream of something for it to become a medicine.

“I’ve been taught that if a food, drug or animal appears in your dreams, then they are part of the medicines here on earth to protect you from negative energies.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve dreamt of smoking weed,” I say, not sure if the statement is entirely accurate.

“Then it’s a medicine of yours. I have dreamt of weed lots of times.” I ask him what his other medicines are.

“Ginger root is one of my medicines. Ginger root is for any sore throat I get. It works – it’s really amazing. And Aspirin is also one of my medicines, which makes sense because the Red Man has been using it for centuries as a medicine. Gave the recipe to the white man who took it and ran.”

“Ground willow bark.”

“Exactly.” Remy adjusts the red bandana that holds his hair out of his eyes and then looks serious for a moment.

 “Listen Trapp,” he says in a lower voice. “How’s your eye?” For some reason I’m not self-conscious about it because of Remy’s own bad eye. An eerie symmetry about it all. Entangled twin stuff.

“No double vision as the doctors had told me. But it’s OK I think.” The look of compassion on his face is enough to make my eyes water. It’s something we now share – both of us with a bad eye. It’s a sympathy I should’ve had 20 years ago. I reach for another beer from the Budweiser bucket. Remy reaches for another beer too. I note that he is at the same robust drinking speed as me.

Once a twin, always a twin.

“Dart?” I ask.

Merci.” I give him a cigarette.[11]

“The tobacco offering.”

“Of course. So let me get this straight: after a day you now have your own fully-insured road buggy, your own fully-neutered doggie and a robust plan W supply.”

“Yes. All that’s correct, My Son.”

“And Uncle Pete’s cabin?” I shake my head.

“Naw, the cabin’s been overtaken by mould – it’s unsalvageable. Couldn’t operate a computer in there, even after trying to fix it up. Besides, there’s the air issue.”



“Well why don’t we gazelle west, to Smithers and then to Atlin?”

“That’s a lot of driving but no biggie. I’m hoping maybe we can find a place in Smithers or Burn’s Lake. Heard it’s fairly crisp along there. Have you been?”

“One of the few places I haven’t been – from here all the way down to the ocean along 16 is new turf pour moi.”


“So if it’s no dice on Uncle Pete’s piece, then why don’t we merge west tomorrow?”

“No reason we shouldn’t.”

“OK, so let’s do it. Too many nipples and crusties[13] here in Prince George anyway.” I’ve never heard of that one before.

“Right,” I say. “Tomorrow we hit the road.”

Chapter 8


“To be fond of something is better than merely to know it,

and to find joy in it is better than merely to be fond of it.” – Confucius

10km outside Prince George, British Columbia

Sunlight shines through a small window above my head between a gap in the curtains like a solar flare during an eclipse. Blinded, I squat trying to recognize where I am. A hostel in Cambodia? My apartment in Taipei? I hear a soft knocking sound so I look down to the floor where I see a large white wolf with one white eye looking up at me wagging its tail.

Gooooood doggie,” I say absently, immediately going to work on getting saliva to my tongue.

I rub my temples, half cursing myself for spending money I had earmarked for fuel. This morning’s dry tongue is a combination between the pulp and paper pollution in the air and Budweiser. I unzip my sleeping bag and shimmy over the futon to the edge of the loft where I ease myself to the floor and instantly feel the chill of the mountain air. Putting her ears back, the dog smells me and wags her tail harder. She’s happy to see me, which makes me feel good. I put on my gloves and exit my camper to the dew-covered field.

Remy is still asleep.

Walking out to the field, the dog runs ahead forging a path through knee-high grass to where she reaches the edge of the dark forest. Instead of feeling fear, I follow the path of my dog under the canopy of trees that tower above me and feel protected beneath the branches that stretch out to each other in a thousand different handshakes. Bolder with my bear protector, I find my way along a dried-up creek and reach the far boundary of the property at the foot of the mountain where the grass turns to moss that covers the ground like a carpet. Soft and spongy underfoot. Surrounded by the moist vegetation of the Rockies amid echoes of wildlife, I am now immune from the debilitating effects of fear in this bear country.

Hiking back to camp through the wet grass that grows fifteen feet high in some places, only the dog makes it possible for me to find a path through it.

Back at my camper I get my coffee mug and go over to Remy’s open door where he is reading maps and drinking his morning coffee. Blue appears from under his truck and begins playing with my white shepherd/wolf.


“’Morning big guy,” he replies. There are two walkie-talkies in his hand. He gives me one. “Here, this one is for you.”

“Can we talk with these from our rigs?” I burst out laughing because they’re so silly. They’re toys.

But they’re perfect.

“They’re walkie-talkies and have a range of about 40 kilometres.” He turns on his unit and we can both hear the crackling of the line. “Always keep it on channel one. To ring me, hit this button.” Remy demonstrates on his unit by pressing the CALL button. My walkie-talkie rings once and then is quiet. It’s pretty clear from his demeanour that he’s in his element.

“And how do I answer? Like this?” I press the rubber button on the side and raise the unit to my mouth. “Remy?”

My voice comes out loud and clear on his walkie-talkie.

“Roger that,” he replies into his unit. “They work mon frere,” he says, promptly turning it off and putting it away in his breast pocket. He tells me he bought them for five bucks at a yard sale somewhere in Manitoba. Only a guy who had learned everything there is to learn about road tripping would possess devices like these. He even has the re-charger.

With his maps and books and bearskin and everything he owned in the world all in one vehicle, he is fully cocked to go wherever he wants in the western hemisphere. He had engineered his life to suit his character. Unburdened by convention, far away from deadlines and immersed in nature, Remy had all the right ingredients to make him a roving gypsy. And there was no one to judge him, his four-inch scar and his sensitive artistic nature.

He had chosen not to participate in the society that had hurt him 20 years ago.

“How’s your pulp fiction dry tongue this morning? Mine was bad.” Remy shakes his head.

“Have you noticed that we’re directly downwind from the three pulp mills? The spew literally falls right down here. Look!” He kneels down to his bumper and wipes off a thin film of whitish powder. “See this? That’s from the pulp fiction.” I wipe the powder from the bumper and rub it between my fingers. It’s gritty.

“How can you be sure it’s from the mills? It could be dust from the driving yesterday.” Again I doubt him like the disciple Thomas.

“Ah! I’ll show you.” With his coffee in one hand, he leads me to a fence behind his camper where there is a beer bottle. “I would have normally picked up the bottle, right? But I left it there to test this very theory.” I pick it up and examine it. The bottle isn’t as bad as his bumper but there is undoubtedly a film of white powdery debris on it.

I concede.

“The air quality here is worse than Hong Kong,” I say, which I find quite ironic. That seems to satisfy Remy so we go back to his camper for more coffee.

“It’s already kind of late but we could probably hit Vanderhoof by tonight,” he says, studying the map on his knees.

“OK man, then let’s gazelle. I’ll follow you.” With these words, we pack up and leave our uncle’s property for Highway 16, going due west towards the Pacific Ocean. I follow him in my black Ford F-150 and gleaming white camper. Remy goes slowly past the pulp-and-paper mills for the last time, then we climb out of the plateau and move down the valley past Reid Lake and the Kalum Forest District towards Vanderhoof. The thrill of knowing a new adventure is in the act of unfolding makes me dizzy for a moment. The air rich with the scent of cedar and pine.

Somewhere in my mind I know this is my indoctrination into the life Remy has been living since I left seven years ago.

It feels weird taking the wheel after so many years riding motorcycles in the Far East. The heedless steering gives the rig plenty of play in the wheel. Much smoother than a motorcycle, it’s rugged suspension makes driving like sitting on a couch moving at 100 kilometres per hour. With the camper on the back, it feels like a sailboat with a loose rudder on wheels. The road is open and the cars are few in comparison to Asia, but still some trucks fly past Remy and me because he insists on going just below the speed limit. But it doesn’t matter. To me speeding is like quaffing coffee, a belief we both share.

Driving on four wheels and riding on two wheels are both arts that should be first mastered and then savoured.

Along both sides of the road the ancient grey rock, rugged and craggy, contrasts against the oranges and the reds of the trees, especially against the patches of white snow. Safe and secure with my transportation and accommodation, I relish the surrounding beauty. Unexplored and untouched vastness abound. Man has yet to leave his mark in these parts between the towns along this corridor to the Pacific – the land so old and the settlements so new.

In front of me Remy pulls over for gas at a Husky station where we both fill up and buy a Coke. We’ve already been on the road for four hours. With the late start and being girdled by mountains, the sun is already beginning to set ahead of us.

“All right chieftain, start to look for a nook or cranny somewhere so we can sleep for the night. If we can’t find one then we can sleep at the Husky station in Vanderhoof. By the way, Husky gas stations are the only spots on the road that let truckers stay for free. It’s like a safe zone for us while we’re on the road – a highway campground for mobile campers.”

Back on the road we drive towards the sun somewhere just beyond, out of reach, illusive yet powerful and alluring. Remy’s camper looks small against the massive exposed rock engulfing us as we follow the valley road. Like a long snake shimmying along the deep gulch. But just as the sun begins to fall into the Pacific waters, Remy turns off the highway onto a side road where he drives down to a dead-end and parks. There is no one around so I park 30 feet behind him and get out.

Always give a bear spirit his space.

“We can stay here for the night,” he says. “We’re far away enough from the main highway not to hear the truckers going by and spy satellites can’t find us here. It doesn’t look like there’s anyone around.” A secure enough place for a parked camper, I rustle out some cheese and crackers and dill pickles and go over to Remy’s where he is heating some soup on a mobile propane stove. The aroma of hot soup fills the air. I didn’t realize I was so hungry. He looks at me standing beside him.

I’m about to ask about his satellite comment.

“Here, I have something for you.” He returns from inside his camper with one of the small metal chairs he purchased in Prince George. “This is for you.” He hands me the chair and then takes out his pack of cigarettes and hands me one.

Another gift with the requisite tobacco offering.

“Thanks Remy.” I sit in my new chair beside the propane stove and eat my food.

“Pretty handy piece this mobile propane jobby,” he says. I nod casually. “Essential equipment. Hardware store, forty bucks. Propane tanks are six bucks apiece. Can buy ‘em anywhere. You’re only as good as your tools, remember that. You have a decent flashlight?”

“No.” He hands me a small MAG flashlight, small but heavy. I try it and the light comes on. It’s one piece of equipment I need.

“Thanks. I’ll give it back when I can find a decent one.”

“I have a bigger MAG flashlight – the same as the cops use. So use it as long as you like.”

I take a bite from the brick of cheese and then follow it with a dill pickle-and-cracker chaser. Remy takes the soup off the flame and pours about half into a bowl and hands it to me.

“Some soup?” I usually would have declined but coming from my brother I know the offer’s sincere. Remy hands me a spoon and I salivate.

“Thanks bro.” We eat in silence with the map barely visible in front of us. 

“This is a good nook-von-crannie,”[14] he says.

“It is a good nook-von-crannie,” I concur, casually noting a new addition to our language. Having taken our language for granted for so long, the immediate understanding of newly coined words is something I’ve missed – like the comfort of hearing the cadence of his laughter.

“I seem to remember some of my fellow tree-planters telling me how they found magic mushrooms growing wild in central BC,” he says. “And we’re in central BC.”

“Magic mushrooms in these parts?”

“Yes, I believe there are. Could be some in this very crannie.” Remy keeps eating his soup but my interest is suddenly tweaked.

“Well, we should keep our eyes open for them then,” I say, trying to keep the excitement hidden in my voice but I know Remy can hear it.

“There are more poisonous mushrooms out there than you may think.” His voice is serious. “If you pick the wrong mushroom it could kill you. You have to really know what you’re doing – and I certainly don’t.” I take his warning into consideration, but I can’t help being enlivened by the chance of finding magic mushrooms growing wild. I scan the forest on both sides of the road but the night has come.

My eyes notice the bright stars overhead.

“Why are you so concerned about spy satellites? I mean why do you think people are looking for you, or are you just joking around?” I can tell immediately that he is serious by the way he doesn’t answer right away. Instead he pats Blue behind the ears, ponders the question and smokes. In the silence there are a thousand sounds that stir in the woods beside us.

“Remember when I was in Belgium at school?”

“Yeah.” Remy had graduated with an MBA from university in Brussels about ten years ago.

“Remember I told you I fell in love with a German Countess?”

“I seem to recall you telling me that.”

“Well, there’s more to that story that I haven’t told you. There was an American guy there – we’ll call him Stuart – who used to party with me and the goalie from the school hockey team – my old pal Markus vander Meersch. Stuart confided in me that he worked for an American company ‘gathering information.’ He said his status as a student was only a cover. The following year he became a consultant for a company in Brussels where he said he had been assigned. We took a trip together with his fiancé, who happened to be a Spanish princess, to Brazil where we stayed at her parents place beside the ocean.”

“I remember.”

“Anyway it was during that trip that Stuart asked me if I wanted to meet a friend of his who was also involved in gathering information. He said I was a chameleon with people and that I could be a good asset to his company. But man! Thinking about it for a few days down there it occurred to me that I couldn’t give up what I valued most: my freedom. I like having time to myself that is mine. If I signed up with ‘the company,’ I would never have that peace with my own time again. Think about it! I must say that I was tempted, especially sitting there by the beach house sipping cocktails and whatnot. And that was when he brought up the countess. In so many words he made it clear to me that she would be mine if I played ball.”


“You know I can’t lie to you Trapp.” This statement of fact is followed by a brief silence. It is a truism that identical twins are simply incapable of lying to each other. “So there he is, marrying a Spanish princess and here I am faced with the decision whether or not to play ball. And if I did join the company I would end up being with a German countess in – no doubt – decent digs in some EU capital. But hey man, I’m just a prairie chicken at heart. Why would I play Faust and sell my soul to the devil? So I closed the door on the spy piece and I didn’t get the countess, but the irony is that I really did love her. So I returned to Canada and have been grateful every day since then that I didn’t say yes to never having control of my life again. Not for me. Why not skip all that urban turbulence and stress el grande and jump right into the honey? Living the end is the means. Can’t put off time ‘cause it’s all you have. Use it now before you graduate to the spirit world.”

Something – perhaps my ‘twin intuition’ – tells me that there is a part in this story that has been left out; that something in his recollection was edited. It couldn’t be classified as a lie, but rather as selective storytelling.

“So then you basically graduated with your MBA and then promptly retired to live in the woods.”

“Yeah, you could say that. I went straight into retirement. It was time for a new game.”

[1] ‘B.O. plenty’ is Twinspeak for the word ‘plenty;’ by adding B.O. in front of it, it makes it funny to the twins.

[2] Twinspeak for weed (marijuana)

[3] Twinspeak for ‘damn good vehicle!’

[4] Money.

[5] Money.

[6] A word used by the twins to denote plan W.

[7] Twinspeak for ‘highly interesting.’

[8] ‘Hairy crack’ is twinspeak for the word ‘hardcore.’ (Same initials)

[9] ‘Snagglepussy’ is twinspeak for ‘snag’ or ‘obtain.’

[10] ‘Claudia’ is Twinspeak for ‘proud of you’ – it rhymes with ‘Proud-of-ya.’

[11] ‘Dart’ is Twinspeak for ‘cigarette,’ which is now a very common expression.

[12] Coined Twinspeak: ‘Pulp Fiction’ is reference to the pulp-and-paper pollution issue that clouds Prince George.

[13] Newly coined Twinspeak meaning excess people who are in the way and wrecking our buzz.

[14] ‘Nook-von-crannie’ is Twinspeak for ‘secluded spot.’