The Motorcycle Inn (Part 2)


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

8.  The case containing the vertical part of the belt that carries the buckets in a grain elevator.

The following weekend he and Harry went over to his aunt’s house where Kyle’s kids were spending the day. A sign read ‘QUILTS’ beside her mailbox at the road. With Manitou and Penny let loose, the Campbell girls and Harry explored the four-acre niche on the road into Gore Bay. Legge sat in a big chair with a cup of coffee in one hand and a saucer in the other, muffin crumbs on his shirt. The quilting room, a separate structure joined by knocking out a wall from the kitchen, like a turret with walls of windows, huge amount of space full of wool and quilts.

“It looks like you’ve been busy,” he said, his aunt sitting quietly knitting,

“The location is good. Quiet.” Rhythmic clatter of the croquet needles. Could knit in her sleep.

The kids came inside, Manitou running around chased by the girls.

“See if she can get by us.” The Campbell girls stood at Harry’s side determined to keep the puppy in the room.

“Here she comes!” said Claire, the older one.

“Let me get her!” The younger sister Shawna jumped forward and landed on a neat pile of quilts, Manitou wiggling out of her arms, a basket upturned.

“Watch yourself there!” said Gail.

“Harry you might want to take it outside, what do you think?”

“Come on Manitou! Outside!” Claire and Manitou ran after him, white chest and white paws floppy. Shawna stared coldly at Legge for wrecking her moment with Manitou. Legge straightened the pile and missed the glare.

“No need to worry about that pile. The shop is going through an inventory cleaning. Want to use up the excess material I can’t seem to sell. Just make my own and see how they sell. Plain designs mainly. Simple and thick material for a good blanket. I’ve got a few helpers but they have other things too, like kids. Our little knitting society is doing less as the years go by. As long as I’m knitting I’ll be fine. One of my girls thinks I should put them in bigger stores. But no, I like selling everything from here.” Preferred working from home herself.

“First time in here. It’s so big. I knew you were a quilter but nothing like this.”

“I’ve been doing this for thirty-five years. Had this section built ten years ago, and has made all the difference. More space to work and store material has made it easier. People can sit down and see for themselves the type of cloth they want. I have some native designs that work well with the traditional quilting methods. A little variation is what makes you different. Quilting is a solitary thing but it’s also social. Odd combination really.”

“Well when you said you were a quilter I thought you made wool socks.” Guilty for asking so few questions about her past. Hadn’t even occurred to him.

“During the winters I get plenty of knitting done. Learned it from my mother. There was always wool lying around and a sweater being knitted. Had to in them days. I fell into it because of a change of circumstances I suppose. I knitted for therapy, especially that first winter when your grandfather started his own business. My hands needed something to do so I let them knit.

“I really got involved when I started going to the socials at the community center, which led to mixed socials. And you know what that meant. That’s how I met Rex. Then I kept with the knitting in order to see him at the socials. Made a mess of it at first but then things got going, I learned the weaves and patterns, and Rex was soon enjoying more than just my quilts. It was fun. We didn’t care. He wasn’t happy in his marriage and he was going to leave her. He wanted to move in here with me but she wouldn’t let him pull it off. ‘Bout seven years ago now.

“After Rex, I began to sell on my own. First the sweaters and wool socks and then the big quilts, never small, only the big ones. Experimented with different fabrics, some thready some shindy, sticking to burgundy and earth tones in basic one-two patterns. Just knew that with each thread the thing was being made, one stone at a time. As long as each thread was done well the end product was something of value. So it’s given me a way to earn some extra with my own hands. Long tradition of that in the Legge clan. Keeps yer hands strong. We were built to use our hands. Look at this one. That will last a hundred years using it every day. I have to finish the corner, put on my label: ‘Quilts by Legge,’ then it’s done. That final corner on that one is tricky. But I can get her done. I just think of the early days with Rex, who told me it was a woman’s art to create things of value out of the earth. He was such a romantic.

“The thing was that Rex thought the more you quilted the better you became. So he got his hands on all the latest design magazines and made sure he dropped them by with a bottle of red wine. He danced his way into my heart that man and convinced me I could do any design I wanted to with my knitting skills. So I did. Knitted the entire thing.”

Harry and the Campbell girls in the kitchen after playing with the dogs, elbows scraped and dirt on the knees. Claire now reserved, letting Shawna laugh with Manitou, handing over the reins, a quiet pout, hand on Penny. Harry was giving commands to the poor dog that only wagged its tail at all the attention.

“You and this Rex were serious?”

“Of course I thought Rex and I would marry after he got a divorce. I was so naïve, just expected it to happen. Made a lot of people angry. Just channeled it all into my quilting. Through one of Rex’s magazines I found someone who was willing to pay me for ten pieces according to a design so I sat in here and worked. Easy to do it here. Just sent them out through the post office and got a check in the mail, company called Lester Trading. Said something about a trade fair in Toronto. The next year he asked for a hundred pieces of various designs so I took that one too.”

When she put the needles down her knuckles were glaring red, as if bruised, almost disfigured. Laid the quilt hanging off the arm of her chair, dignified, done with pride and finesse. He looked at the quilts thinking of how good they would look at his B&B.

“Just when Rex was gonna leave her she threw the book at him, said she would take everything if he left, the kids, the house, the furniture, everything. Destroyed the romance. Wrecked it for them and us.” Her eyes distant, hands relaxed on her lap, rouge knuckles glaring. Legge lifted Manitou onto his lap, small in his big hands. Shawna at his knee.

“Let me have him,” said the girl, adamant with Manitou now in her arms, her smile careening off the walls, the tail squirming from under her arm.

“I just didn’t have fortune with love.” Her face hard, cheekbones defined. “I always hoped Rex and I had a chance, that he would come into my life fully and leave that witch. Broke my heart. But Penny relit that flame for love. She’s a handful but she’s there for me. I’m the most important person in her life. Makes me feel needed.”

Legge slouched in the chair, amazed to see Harry and Claire sitting together, Shawna suffocating the dog with love.

“So I’ve stuck with it even though my dreams of love have fallen onto this old Lab. I’ll always be warm as long as I have quilts, firewood and Penny. And your place should have a quilt for each bedroom, a different design. You see anything you need here?” Her hand waved at the inventory of blankets and hanging quilts from the wall, each having a unique pattern.

“That’s kind of you aunty,” he said, flustered, now red in the face. Kept his hand away from his nose.

“Don’t be shy. If you’re going to have motor-bikers in your house then you might wanna think about some country designs instead of old lady designs, if you know what I mean. Like that one.” Gail pointed at a cream colored quilt with brown squares and thick lines of thread.

“Yeah, I like that one.”

“Okay, what else do you like? You’ll need four I reckon. Take one for Harry and yourself. So maybe five. I have lots so don’t worry about it. It’s something I can do for you and Harry getting started here on the rock. Harry, which one do you like?” Harry’s eyes scanned the wall and the piles of quilts now jumbled from the dogs. Claire pointed to a dark one in the corner.

“That one,” he said, “please. Can I have that one?”

“Sure dear. That’s yours.” There was an awkward glance between Claire and Harry when he picked it up in his hands. “Make sure you bring it with you. Give me a kiss dear.” Harry kissed her on the cheek, embarrassed.

The afternoon air fresh coming through the open windows surrounding her chair, the smell of wool fresh and earthy with the flowers outside. Birds surrounding the house on every branch, a well-fed corner of the bay.

“I was thinking. Why don’t you get yourself a mobile phone so you can go anywhere you want and have people call first, to meet them. Seems like it’s the best thing to do instead of sitting there all day waiting for people.”

“Something like that crossed my mind,” he said. “Cell phone could do it. Write the phone number on the signs.”

“Acts like a pager I reckon. You might wanna give one to Harry too, to keep him within your sights.”

“A cell phone? I can use one Dad.” Harry liked the idea of having first communication device. He knew it meant more freedom.

“Could you?” asked Legge. Something about the idea bothered him. Manitou lying on her back on the cut pieces of wool scattered around the aunt’s chair.


Legge sat back and enjoyed the transformation of the upstairs vibe with five new comforters for each bedroom. The similar patterns like a uniform for the B&B, acknowledgement of a business. Each bed had fresh towels laid on them, drawers empty with a polished mirror. A new pride came over him. Finally ready to open his doors to all. All he needed was to write down his new cell phone number on the Motorcycle Inn signs.

Outside Needles, he crossed the road and thoughts of Mare returned to him. Slow waves in a swish, little white church perched between the beach and the dock. That was when he saw Mare near the mill walking from the river’s mouth to the beach.

Finished writing his number on the sign in black marker, went to the beach and sat on the swings. He looked to the water and his mind wandering. She appeared on the shoreline of the sandy beach, and climbed on the swing beside him. Nose straight, skin like a highlander, patchy roses with pink earlobes. She swung her legs out and tried to get in tune with him. Both worked too hard to synchronize their swinging to speak, Legge focusing on her hand gripping the chain, knuckles white. A little girl grin, mischievous, the tomboy. Kicked her heels out to out-swing him. When he tried to catch her his knees buckled-in along the sand. She started to laugh. Relaxed, leaving her legs to dangle under her, lifting them only when skimming the ground.

“Can you flick your shoe?” Mare loosened her shoe with her other foot. “See who can kick it the farthest.” A challenge that must be met.

“I can kick.” Defensive.

“Not farther than me, that’s for sure.” A burst of laughter like a gust of wind pent up.

She kicked her shoe twenty feet in the air, followed quickly by her other shoe, exceeding the first by ten feet. Not to be outdone, he kicked his first only for it to fling behind him, landing ten feet behind the swings.

“You’re rusty,” she said, letting the momentum of the swing to carry her. Legge kicked his shoe as hard as he could, slamming against the ground under him. Premature delivery, the shoe bouncing up into him off his knee and hitting Mare in the leg.

“Ouch!” Momentarily confused, refused to believe it had struck her. Rubbed her shin urgently, lips thin, sweat drying on her forehead.

“I’m in better practice than you,” brave from behind the watering eyes. “Dana and I swing here a lot.” He slowed to a slow rocking. “How old is your son?”


“Dana is ten. Good age.” They rocked in tune with the small waves reaching the shore, her hair was a mix of silver and blonde pulled back in a ponytail. Just being beside her stirred something. Swinging silently until they heard the school bus coming down the hill.

She met Dana at the river so he nipped behind the bus on his motorcycle down the waterfront road. After the school bus dropped off Harry and some other students, he let Harry climb on the back. Down the long driveway he curled his toes in the sand in the bottom of his shoe.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

9. A branch or lateral circuit connecting a communications instrument with the main line.

Front porch from the Wild West, roofed with thick cedar poles, old part of town, Legge stared at the architecture and was drawn inside. Door was a mess, battered and warped, varnish worn against the winds. The store doubled for a knitter’s corner, wood shelves with blankets, counter long like it had been a hundred years before, the cross beams still straight. Gail, standing with a quilt in her hand, startled to see him walk in. She hung the blanket over her shoulder.

“Well look whose come by,” she said, the proud aunt. The woman behind the counter long hair braided like the cloth around her. Forehead high, strong hairline and lines that defined her life. Watched him study her face, patiently and then smiled.

“This is my nephew Kurt. Remember Harold’s brother Randy? That’s his father.”

“I remember Harold for certain. Can’t say I remember the other one.” Sized him up, Legge shyly turning away, his hand scratching his nose. “His nephew eh? Call me Milly,” she said, gesturing for him to come closer. Timid, he looked at the blankets hanging high on the walls, moccasins hanging in pairs in the far corner, leather handmade belts with native motifs, worn rug over the hardwood floor.

“This is where I get a lot of my materials,” said Gail. “Milly keeps me on track. If I’m low on something she picks up the phone and it comes on Tuesday. Always Tuesday, the big delivery day for us here. All comes from Sudbury. Has to. So it’s good Milly has a supply. And she knows people who can fine stitch. I don’t have the patience for that. Good to trade with someone who likes to do it. Sort of a trade store for knitters.” Milly nodded, pride of a proprietor.

“Yep, always here holding down the fort, manning the phone. Never take it for granted love.” Gail in her element, surprised at her nephew’s awkwardness.


Outside the store on benches by the boardwalk near the tennis courts, steam rose off the water in the bay. Wind still, sun beaming, dead fish picked clean by the birds and coyotes. Gail sipped her coffee and stretched her legs.

“I wanted to ask you something about the new dog we have,” he said, stiff as a starched collar.


“Yes. And Harry.” He cleared his throat. “I don’t know that much about dog training so I wanted to ask you if it was proper for a twelve-year old boy to be sleeping with a puppy. Is that all right?” She laughed at the worry in his face.

“You’re a strange one. Going to give yerself a coronary.” Gail waved her crooked finger. “It’s a puppy. It’ll sleep anywhere, anytime with anyone.”

“I mean they’re pretty attached. Harry can hardly wait for school to end. It’s ridiculous.” Put her hand on his shoulder.

“My dear, let the boy have his new friend. You’re still the father, but now he’s a father too. Give him his space to develop those skills of caring for someone other than himself. Don’t forget he has recently lost his mother.” Images of Athena slashed through him like lightning. Thunder rumbled in his guts.

“That’s what I mean. He hasn’t expressed any grief at all.” Drank his lukewarm coffee, feeling it stir in his stomach like a charging bull. “I’m consternated.” Her eyes widened, repeating the word in her ear.

“Well you wanna watch yerself then. Don’t wanna get too consternated and pull a muscle now do you young man?” She hid the smile at the edges of her mouth.

“He should express something.”

“Maybe he hasn’t because you haven’t. Ever think of that?” The truth was no one had given him permission to grieve.

“He sure is doing a lot of walking though,” he said. “He’s so quiet.

“All Legges run during their youth. You tell me you weren’t running everywhere you went?”

“I did.” Confidence swept through him like a surfer on a good wave, gone as soon as it splashes lifeless on the shore.

“See I told you. Legges can sure walk. That’s what we always said.” Seagulls drowned out her last words, fighting in the air for food that lay all over the Gore Bay shoreline. They walked to the lighthouse at the end of the boardwalk at the mouth of the bay. Carpenters repaired a shed beside the intricate maze of docks. A few boats still not in the water for the season, empty spaces waiting to be filled.

“You’re worried Harry is shy like you, isn’t that right?” Shook his head weakly. “Sure it is. And the answer is maybe. Maybe he can use Manitou to overcome it before it becomes a problem. It’s good he has a playmate because I don’t see him playing a lot with you.” He always wanted to play with him but never found the time.

“I should start to do more things with him, it’s true.”

“The summer is coming up, more time to do things. More time here for that sorta thing than the city. Take the boy hiking on the trails. Lots of them around and give you a good sense of the place.”

They walked slowly back to the store in town, her with an insouciant gait, composed, but he felt like Harry was about to be shipped out to sea and get caught in the riptide.

“Harry will be all right. Talk to me again if it concerns you. You might be warned about Claire, who is a girl who takes what she wants. Little Harry could fall into her hands and be scarred for life.”

“I wondered about that.” More deer eating casually on the front lawns of the homes downtown Gore Bay. They just ignored the humans, who ignored them. Like domesticated African gazelles.

“Don’t worry. Could be a good development. So don’t get – what was your word? Consternated. Hah! That’s a good one!” She coughed out some laughter. “Or constipated!” She had to slap her thigh. Crushed, crippled by her own laughter.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

10. A road radiating from an intersection of which it forms a part.

Had a call from a guy named Eichmeyer, said he was stopping by for the night. Saw the sign near Gore Bay. Dropped by on his Harley, helmet below regulation, a leather flap that held his long hair in place.

“This place here is for motorcyclists is it? Well then I’m in the right place aren’t I? This your spread? Big. That your canoe? You have paddles for it? Oh hell, first things first. Wanna share a beer?” Took out a can of foreign beer. Mustache drooping like wings down the line of his cheeks, nose crooked from a fight long forgotten. “I’ve been here before, the Island. Good place to ride because there’s no traffic. Great. Don’t have’ta spend ninety percent of your time worrying about someone on the road up yer ass! Feels different here. Like it’s off the grid.”

“Like an island,” he said, trying not to sound smart.

“Exactly. I’ve been all over the west and south of here. But there’s one thing you’re really missing here, and that is a good pub. Nothing I’ve seen here qualifies for a good pub. That’s why I was hoping there’d be others here with their bikes pulled up. Guess not. But maybe later. Never know right?” Black jeans around the cuff of his boots, worn and scarred.

“Where’d you come from?” he asked, playing host.

“Sturgeon Falls. It’s where I work right now. Electrician. Building a clinic there that needs wiring. Got myself a couple days off and wanted to come here for the night. Hell of a ride, but once you’re past Sudbury it’s gravy.” Half-inch of skin burnt red at the side of his eyes, a motorcyclist’s trademark flowing like tears beaten back by the wind.

“Took that road that leaves Highway 17 to 69, links it below Algonquin Park. Amazing ride. Takes about two hours on the bike. ‘Bout an hour in with nothing but small hamlets, was an old turn-of-the-century inn with custom-made railings along the long balcony waiting for an afternoon gin fizz for the pioneer making his way west. Out of nowhere a gem of architecture. That’s what I love about the bike. It takes you somewhere new every time.” Took out coconut rum after the beer ran out, swigging straight from the bottle.

“Good riding today. Solid hit of mileage. Didn’t make it to Gore Bay yet. Don’t like riding when the bugs come out. No point. Once got a bumblebee bounce off my Adam’s apple down my shirt. Stung me twice. Nearly bit it. I was going a hundred. Don’t like swallowing bugs either. Tomorrow I want to see the new development I heard about in Meldrum Bay. Bikers. Have a little corner piece where the police can’t touch them. From what I heard they have water access. Makes it easy for boating to the States, doesn’t it? Those bikers are smart. Organized smart. I met a few of them in my day. Can’t say I’m a biker. Not tough enough I suppose. Doesn’t matter. Those boys are tough. I have a brother so I guess I never needed a brotherhood. Too many responsibilities to get caught up in. Rather spend that time riding. I mean even here,” he threw his hand out. “How few riders come here, this absolute riders’ paradise. It’s a crime.”

“More and more are coming they say.”

“And it’s true. But it’s a big island. Lots of room for bikers. Maybe the Hell’s Angels have a stronghold here. Have any of those boys dropped by?” Eichmeyer drained the coconut rum, the bottle rolling down the porch. Rolled a cigarette. Blue smoke.

“You gotta have a bar permanently stocked here at all times in case any rider needs to refuel or take a smoke break. Jerry cans of gas and rooms for those too tired to balance. As long as you always have those three things, rooms, booze and fuel, then people will start to trust this place. Keep smokes here too. Can’t hurt. An inn for riders on the road. Thank God for like-minded people. Without them we’d all be alone.” He looked out at the horizon and twisted the ring on his finger.


In the morning woken by the sound of coffee cups. Downstairs coffee brewing, Eichmeyer studying a map. Muskoka chairs warmed by the sun.

“This new map sure beats the old Turner’s Map. Shows way more roads, and even the snowmobile trails. Hiking trails. Intermittent dirt roads. Just what motorcyclists need. Good map. Know exactly where I want to go.” Heavy dew on the fields evaporating.

“I was thinking about maps,” he said, standing beside him looking at it.

Eichmeyer pointed to Ice Lake. “I’ll take the main road to Meldrum but on the way back turn here at Evansville and I’ll stay south all the way to the ferry. Good cruising. That coffee ready yet?” Legge served coffee and muffins, salted cashews, bananas.

“Is that mechanic still operational in town, that one they call The Wick?” Eichmeyer said it as if he had some unfinished business with Patterson.

“Yes, it’s still going.”

“Good, I need to fill up my tires and tighten the back brake a bit. Take it in before I get going. Hope to see some of those deer that are always walking through town as if they’re townsfolk. Ever seen them?”

“The deer? Yep. See them a lot.” Deer disinterested by staring humans.

“Yeah, how they just walk through town like they live there. Like they were people I mean to say! The people don’t chase them away so why should they run? African lion safari with big deer, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild bloody Kingdom if you ask me. If I don’t see the deer today I’ll be very disappointed. Send out positive vibes.”

They sipped their coffee.

“Do you have weather reports?” Legge clicked on the local radio.

“Weather reports every 15 minutes. I’m realizing you need them up here.”

“You’re not from here?”

“Detroit.” Eichmeyer studied him, a foreigner from the south.

“Well, you’re fortunate to arrive here. At least it’s safer.” The weather forecast said clear skies for the day with rain expected at the end of the day. “Gotta get going. Want to beat that rain.”

Outside he put on his jacket.

“Good to have me over Legge. Promise me you’ll get those three things for the inn, so that guests can sign for them.” he nodded, coffee in hand. Eichmeyer stuffed the map into his breast pocket, put on his hat, sunglasses and gloves and then started the engine. The engine roared. Nothing subtle about it. Raw power. A wave of the hand and the bike gunned down the driveway for Rome.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

11. One link of several stations in a communications network.

Legge didn’t feel like cleaning up the house so he left on his motorcycle for Morrell’s house. He was told it was in Providence Bay where the long beach connects a community of homes. He thought about what Eichmeyer had said about maps and Morrell would know where the best roads were. Had an extra copy of the new map Eichmeyer had, ready to mark it up with Morrell’s input.

Immediately he recognized the house, strewn with old lawnmowers and signs saying “WORK WANTED.” Passed it a hundred times wondering who would live in such a mess. Parked in the driveway behind his bike, Morrell sitting under solar panels that hung over his front deck like a roof. Sat in one of the bucket seats removed from an old pick-up truck, Harley Davidson shirts pulled over each back cushion. Tools all over the picnic table. Piles of dog shit in the corner. 

“You on the road today?” His lips loose, hat hiding the golf ball on his forehead. His dog barked, strangling itself on the chain.

“A bit. Is your dog okay?”

“Come ‘round here. She’ll be quiet.” Voice moist like fresh rust. “Coffee?” Went inside to put on some more hot water, his woodstove on, beside his bed in the main room. “I should have a cup here somewhere.” He picked up a mug that had dark matter in the bottom. “I can wash this out.”

All in one room: bed, desk, couch and woodstove, a delicate balance of mayhem organized knowing where each piece can be found. Desk layered with papers, tools, bags of cigarettes, ashtrays, half-fixed motorcycle parts, rags and big bottle of Forty Creek whiskey – all a mirror of the man. Ash surrounding the stove, pipe hanging low beside the bed, soot painted on the walls.

“It’s no matter. I wanted to ask you about good roads to ride on the Island, you know, off the main roads. The best ride for your money if you had one day to ride here.” Motorcycle magazines stacked in the corner half-covered by dirty laundry. Calendar playmate, 1978 on the wall. Trophies from past bowling tournaments and photos of him and his truck. His life story was hanging on the walls surrounding his desk and the couch, too strewn with debris to sit on.

“I can suggest a few right off,” he said, pouring the coffee. “Union Road south to Evansville is a must. And then after that, just stay south. Follow Lake Huron as long as you can. Try to get in to Carter Bay and see the sand dunes. I’ve seen them. They’re 300 feet high. Amazing. All sand.” Legge spread out the map, Morrell’s finger finding Carter Bay. “And follow it through Tehkummah to the turn off at Highway 6 but don’t go on six. Go north on 542 to Big Lake and turn right on Gibraltar Road to Rockville, where you ride that road until you hit the Bidwell, one of our best touring roads on the Island. You can take that to Sheguindah and then north to the bridge in Little Current, or veer west and come out in M’Chigeeng, where you can go to Mindemoya or west to Kagawong and Gore Bay. That would be the first route I’d suggest. And there are also some good roads west of Lake Mindemoya that should be seen.”

Legge marked the map, following Bidwell in both directions. Morrell ran his finger down the lakeside of Mindemoya near Idyll Glen.

“This is a good one if you want to bypass the town. Go by Pirate’s Cove and the golf course. It’s a good ride ‘til you hit the road to Spring Bay. And here.” He grabbed the pen out of Legge’s hand and marked a road called Britainville, hidden along the outer rim of the main road to the north.

“Take this road as far west as you can. You should write that down on the map when this road is marked. Just keep going straight – due west. You’ll gradually be forced north up to the highway going to Meldrum Bay but you can go far without seeing a car for hours there. That’s what they want. The hidden corners, scenic, safe and full of wildlife.”

“I should mark that on the map too. Beware of deer.”

“Damn right you should. Always a danger. Sneak up on ya jus’ like that!” Snapped his fingers and sucked through his wobbly lips.

“I will then. I’ll mark it boldly.”

“It is the biggest danger on the roads, no question. The roads are safe, no potholes here. The culverts work. It’s pretty good compared to other parts of North America that I seen from my trucking days.” The coffee thick with a faint taste of gasoline.

“And what about places to stay or good places to stop for a smoke break? Here is good, and a few other places.” He circled the Providence Bay boardwalk and the Inn in Meldrum Bay. Pointed to Dragon Head Lighthouse. “This lighthouse is a good spot to relax. Wonder if you could put an old picnic table there. Who would mind? People would use it.”

Morrell couldn’t get his eyes off the map. “Here too, this road is good.” He tracked the road along Lake Kagawong, Perivale Road where it met the road to Gore Bay. “And Barrie Island. Can’t forget Barrie Island. It’s the perfect little matrix of roads on the flattest roads you’ve ever seen. Nothing but wildflowers for miles. Very memorable riding. Then there’s a road – Goose Gap I think it’s called – at the far end of the Island. Good spot to ride. I’ll mark that too.”

The pen had marked most of the island after more discussion, when a man showed up on a bicycle.

“Look who’s here!” said the man on the bicycle, his speech slurred.

“That’s pretty much the main ones I’d select. Pretty thorough this. Those are the roads I would recommend to a visitor. Good selection.” He patted Morrell on the back.

“Working hard I see like usual.” He eyed Legge. Red pupils, lazy eyelids. “Who’s this?” Didn’t like the look of the cyclist riding up the driveway, making the dog bark fiercely.

“Quiet Misha!” The dog stopped barking. “Legge,” said Morrell, saying the double ‘g’ with some emphasis.

“From here?”

“Near Kagawong.”

“That your bike? Early two-stroke street-legal bike discontinued after that model. What’s it called? An RZ or an RD?”


“Damn right it was! My dad always talked about those bikes. All the punks had to have them and so many were killed. There was a reason they stopped making those engines street legal. You haven’t killed yourself yet.” He put out his hand, wet and limp.

“Igor. Been here 30 years now. From down south. I know the Legge family. You were all into the rum-running during Prohibition, killing your competition to keep your margins high. Oh yeah. I had to read to learn about the stories about your family. It’s all there in the books, down at the newspaper.”

“You’re mad Igor.” Morrell ignored him and kept his eyes on the map.

“You ask anyone of the old folks, they’ll tell you. You see, it’s what they’re thinking of when they see a Legge. ‘They’re them rum-runners that’re gonna shoot you dead for trespassing on their territory.’ I kid you not. That’s what they talk about. Folks here have a long memory. People don’t forget what happens.” Legge folded the map and slipped it into his pocket.

“I need to go. The school bus is coming back soon.” He glanced at his watch but didn’t register the time.

“That map is good as done.” Morrell proud. Felt Igor’s eyes on him.

“You don’t believe me?” Legge felt safer straddling his Yamaha.

“I’ve never heard of it before,” he said. Kick-started his bike, the past now part of the exhaust coming out the tailpipe.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

12a. The portion of the on side of a cricket field that lies behind the batsman and between the boundary and the extended line of the popping crease.

On the weekend Harry wanted to go canoeing, insistent on Manitou accompanying them.

“She can learn how to canoe with me,” he said.

“Just make sure she doesn’t jump out of the canoe. Deal?” He nodded, patting Manitou around the neck.

Spent the morning going over all the possible things that could go wrong on the craft. Checked the winds, ready to call it off. Arranged the paddles and found the lifejacket, an old blanket for the dog. When they were at the water a deer appeared forty feet away. It looked at them for a minute and jumped back into the forest, its chest twice that of a man’s.

“More deer than people here on the Island the teacher was saying in class,” said Harry. “Outnumbers humans three-to-one. That was a big one.”

Manitou had started to recognize its name so with ease she came to Harry at the canoe to lift her in. On the blanket, Harry stepped in after her, gunnels high enough she couldn’t get out. Legge pushed them onto the water, soaking his feet before getting in. Harry held the puppy, his paddle across his lap.

“Take your paddle and help,” he said to the boy. “You need to put the dog down.” Put her at his feet and took the paddle. Nearly tipped when he leaned over to paddle.

“Keep your bum in the middle of the boat. And paddle,” he said, steadying the vessel. “Yes, like that.” They moved swiftly along the shoreline going east. Rocks broken in clumps, smashed to pieces and hammered smooth by winds and water. The wood paddle grinded against the wood gunnels, pinching Harry’s fingers every so often until he learned the stroke. When too close to shore Harry switched sides and paddled away from the shore on his port side. A natural.

Legge steered them straight out to the channel, hitting waves dead on. Manitou began to cry, Harry taking her into his arms. The stern caught a wave and was pushed back, Harry clasping the canoe as if it were to tip. Paddled in a panic, steering the canoe to shore.

 “Okay up there?” Harry put the puppy in his jacket and resumed paddling.

“Where are we going?”

“Let the wind push us with the waves,” the canoe square on the rolling waves passing them.

“Like surfing,” said Harry. Face of Legge’s paddle in the water as rudder he eased east trying not to miss the point.

“Pick it up,” pointing them into the cove. For a few strokes they stood still, caught in the current, then let loose, ungripped, and scurried past the rocks piled at the tip, the crosswind constant. The boat found calm water, smooth paddling hugging the shore back to the dock, Manitou quiet in Harry’s jacket.


Kyle was almost done shingling the roof, the weak corner re-done with two-by-fours and nails rammed in with a power tool; he had saved the workshop for visiting motorcyclists. Legge inherited his Uncle Harold’s tools, many of them necessary for the property. Found a pump that filled the tires in the old bike half-bent in the corner, and oiled the chain.

Harry came back into the front yard, puppy panting, saliva everywhere, from the path that led to the beaver dam.

“Does it work?”

“I think the back tire needed some air. Could be a slow leak,” said Legge, now determined to make a go of it. The slow leak had to be tested


In town the back tire low, but he had brought the small pump. Cedars heavy after the morning rains, drank coffee Tuttle had served him, and looked at the beach for angels.

He thought about the need of a second bike, something else he could do with Harry. True he had prevented his dog from going over the side and controlled the stern well enough.

“There’s that one you’ve been looking at,” said Tuttle, coffee pot in hand, apron sullied. Legge spotted his angel, hair overpowered by the wind, walking toward the swings.

“Good eye,” Legge throwing money down. “I was hoping to see her.” He left Tuttle on the front porch and walked across the street to the swings.

“I thought I might see you,” she said, coy lines around her mouth. Pea coat collar replaced by wool high-neck sweater.

“I’m starting to like the swings.” Smile, lip-gloss shining off the water.

Sat on the swings looking at the water saying nothing. Seagulls scuffled for food.

“I know you’re new but do you like to fish? My mother always said it was the measure of a man. Just saying. My mother is full of sayings. You can get some good fish from Purvis in Gore Bay on the weekends if you don’t have your own boat. Fresh whitefish, trout. You can buy it smoked. That’s what I like. Smoke salmon the best. Have you seen the size of the salmon that swim up that river?” Pointed at the Kagawong River.

“No. Not yet.”

“Two feet, some two and a half feet. Spawn at the top of the falls and then die, eaten by the coyotes. That’s just how it goes.”

“I love smoked salmon too. Hard to beat. I bought some in Gore Bay the other day that was peppered and covered in Maple syrup.” Started to salivate.

“There’s a salmon chowder that my mother taught me to make. You should come over some time to try it. I’ll make it for you.”

“Is your place far?” She motioned above Needles.

“On Upper Street overlooking the bay,” she said. “The white one beside the library.” She flung her hair back. 

He looked back, Tuttle standing on the front deck of the restaurant, his mustache clearly defined in the distance. The sun moved west but would not set. Hot on the skin but cool around the ankles.

Tuttle waved and went inside.

A family walked across the beach, nodding at them. The child ran to the water and touched it with his hand. Freshwater.

“How about tomorrow night? Six? Bring your boy. Give Dana someone to play with.” Legge seized with terror.

“Okay, sounds good.” The sun fell and the chill sent a shiver down his back. Just for fish soup, nothing more.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

12b. A fielding position on this side in cricket; also: a player fielding in this position; long leg and short leg position, square leg.

Armed with the marked-up map by Morrell, Legge immediately saw why these roads had been selected. Tranquil, cattle somnolent in the fields, thick pine forests, wind-swept along the edges connecting to Meldrum Bay. Across the causeway to Barrie Island was a throwback to a farming utopia, fields manicured with rows of crops, linear, functional, productive. Turn-of-the-century farmhouses of various colors against the yellow grass. Small farming communities marked by an eccentric hand, like the old civil war cannons perched at the corner of Union and Poplar Roads. The turn east to Providence Bay wound through forests and past forgotten schoolhouses, cemeteries long closed and new roads leading to Lake Huron waterfront properties on the US border. But it wasn’t until he rode the entire Bidwell Road that he knew he had found the central cord, the connecting thread from Little Current and the traffic coming from the swing bridge to the heart of the island. The perfect first impression for a motorcyclist.

Legge had heard some rattling some time near the end of his tour through Bidwell but managed to sweep through M’Chigeeng Indian Reservation to Gore Bay where he stopped into The Wick. Patterson working on a motorcycle with a man and a woman standing in front of the gates eating trail mix out of a big bag and studying their map.

He took off his sunglasses and spread it out beside them when he saw they had the old Turner’s map.

“This one is newer,” he said.

“What are these roads marked with pen?” asked the woman. Firm jaw, lips wrinkled from the wind. She has put on the miles, he thought. A doer.

“These are the recommended roads for motorcyclists. They yield the highest value for your dollar. A great yield.” Legge’s face still dusty, the rim marks from his sunglasses now dried sweat, hair sticking out moving stiffly in the wind. He smiled.

“Do you have another map like this? See Gretchen? This is what we need. I’ve never ridden these roads. Only the main highways.”

“Try the Bidwell Road. It’s a good ride. I did it today.” New respect on the woman’s face. Stepped closer.

“Where can we get one of these?”

“At the Shell station down the street. It’s right there on the corner actually. Then you can mark it up like mine.” They left with their helmets in hand for the Shell station, leaving their bike in Patterson’s care.

“What’s the problem?” Legge uncharacteristically bold, miles of riding still fresh in his shaky legs.

“Loose chain, jus’ about to buckle. Good they brought it in. Almost dragging on the road!” Patterson happy to oblige removing a chink in the chain. Rear wheel lying flat on the cement floor, hammer knocking out the linchpin. “Think he’s a little embarrassed in front of her if you ask me. Rookie mistake.”

“Where are they from?”

“Said they came from Kenora, a place called Fort Frances. I think it’s on the border with Minnesota. This is their third day on the road. Going to Toronto they said.” Patterson’s hat was pulled way down over his eyes, guarding them from intruders.

“Done yet?”


“Because I’ve got some rattling around the crank area and I don’t know what it could be.”

“So you thought you’d bring it to ‘ole Paddy to fix it up for ya eh? Well, I can do that for ya.” He placed the chain back on, secured the wheel and micro-tightened, measuring the distance of the chain to the floor.

“Pays to be accurate,” he said, watching Legge follow his every move. He pushed the bike through the doors.

Legge’s motorcycle parked outside, Patterson kick-started it, the rattling down at his left ankle.

“It’s the chain guard. These old ones are heavier and loosen easy,” he said. “I’ve seen this before. In fact, I tightened this one once already, years ago. Think Harold was doing it himself the last couple of times.” He found the right tool and tightened the guard and then shook his head.

“That screw is stripped. Can’t tighten it any more. I’m gonna change it for ya. Wait here.” Patterson sauntered back into the shop and was heard rustling through the big toolbox in the corner. The sun piercing his cheeks rubbed raw by the air. His hand finding little remnants of his double chin when he felt the stubble around his jaw. Smoothed the loose skin with his hand, his scarf new, hanging open on this chest.

Patterson confident in gait proudly removed the chain guard and replaced the rusted screw, putting in a shiny metal piece with a washer. Firm. All back together the screw hidden in the shadows.

“Hit a mud puddle and that screw won’t bother you none.” Patterson enjoyed seeing the pride in Legge’s face when they both admired the motorcycle fixed and repaired, ready to go.

“How much do I owe you Paddy?” He lifted his hand.

“No, a cup of coffee once in a while.”

“Sure. I can do that.” Legge left his helmet at his bike and crossed the street to the café. The man and the Gretchen were sitting outside at the table, their heads scouring the map. They didn’t see him approach. The woman, legs stretched out in a wide stance.

With two coffees in his hand he found them in the contemplation stage after their map study.

“Yes, you’re right. It is a far superior map,” she said, hand finishing the coffee.

“Is the bike done?” the man asked, impatient.

“It’s all done and ready to ride.” The man stood up and folded up the map.

“Are you going back?” Walked back to The Wick with the couple, the man relaxed when he saw his motorcycle was wiped clean and given a free chain lube. His motorcycle looked cared for and that made all the difference.

The woman had a pen in her hand with the map open on Legge’s RD400. “Let me see your map again. I’d like to mark it if I can?” She had already marked Union Road and the road leading out of Evansville area. She found Bidwell and followed it with her pen to the three spokes that emanated from the triangular fork in the road at the turn off to Sheguindah Reservation or M’Chigeeng Reservation.

“The mechanic was saying you run a motorcycle B&B near here?” said the man, happy to be in command of his vehicle again.

“Just down the road on the water.”

“Vacancy?” Legge nodded, caught off guard. “We need a place tonight. We were going to stay at the bed & breakfast at the end of Meredith Road but we stayed there before and we found it to be a bit too…” He looked at his wife.

“Too much of a doily factor as I like to call it. Too many doilies, not enough…sports equipment.”

“Not rustic enough is what she’s trying to say,” said the husband.

“What’s your place called?”

“The Motorcycle Inn.”

The Motorcycle Inn!” Her foot shot out in a kick. “That’s where we oughta stay Hank. That’s where we oughta stay. What do you have there? Sauna? Campfire?” Her spirits clearly perked – an inn specifically those who like to ride in a place void of bigotry against bikers.

“Campfire, yes. And a canoe. No sauna. Not yet anyway.”

“Damnation! Hank, why don’t we get some riding in, pick us up some juice for the campfire tonight. Whaddya say to that?” Hank, eager to keep his woman happy and impatient to put his oversight of the chain behind them, put on his helmet and sunglasses.

“We follow you first so we know where it is. You say it’s close?”

“Five minutes.”

They kept well back from him on the road, needing time to react for the unknown turns required from the highway. The left the bay and rode to Kagawong, past Needles to the lighthouse and stopped at the sign at the end of his driveway.

“See you tonight. We’ll bring some food.” She waved her hand as he whipped the bike around, spinning her around as fast as he could.


Legge looked at his watch, shaking his head at the irony. His date with Mare would have to be postponed. Damned fate.

Promptly called Mare to straighten out the night. She insisted on another night, and that business took priority.

“Why don’t you come over?” he said. “I’m going to throw on a campfire. Bring Dana.” He was a bit relieved he couldn’t go for Salmon chowder. Too much pressure. His shyness demanded deflections from a constant one-on-one. Campfire with another couple would be easier.

“Another time,” she said. “Rain check.”

By the time the couple returned a campfire was burning, Harry and Manitou playing near the flame. Legge was cleaning the last of the old shingles from around the garage.

“Damn fine Island this is,” said Hank, kicking out the kickstand on the slab of flat wood.

“Map matches right too,” said Gretchen, smile imprinted on her face. Followed that road to Spring Bay and then to Providence Bay. Never heard of it but tell me that isn’t one of the country’s best beaches.” She smiled at her man. “I seen them all honey but that one takes the great poohbah.” A swirl of radiance on her cheeks, eyes wide open, windburn still visible in the darkening sky.

“Lots of weeds on the beach though,” said Hank.

“But for a reason honey. To keep the sand from blowing back inland. I’ve seen it happen before. Pull out the sand grass and the sand will blow away. Like dust. No, it’s good how they have it, like Cape Cod. What’s different is this is water you can drink. That Lake Huron looks like an ocean. Couldn’t see the other side and you can feel the force of the crashing waves in your legs.” The line beside her mouth taut and creased as if sculpted with a scalpel by an artist.

“Yes, you could feel its immensity.” Hank knelt down and studied the level chain. “A majestic body she is.” His hand followed the chain ‘til he found the new linchpin.

“Even the broken dock of the marina makes it romantic, like a shipwreck.” They both put their bags at the campfire, went down to the dock, splashed water on her face.

The wind picked up and the flame grew, crackling against the darkening sky with poplars rustling softly against the rising wind. Clouds were low but it didn’t smell like rain.

“Fine house you have here,” said Hank, sipping wine. “How long have you been in business?”

“Not long. Just this year in fact.”

“Thought so. Just as a suggestion, you might want to put locks on the doors for guests. We’ve had things lifted at other B&Bs in the past and it’s terrible. Having a locked room is comforting. Leave the key on the towels. And then remind the guests to leave the key when they leave. Just make lots of copies because guests will forget. They have so many things on their mind that a key is the least of it.”

The woman, dressed in her long fleece pullover ironically served smoked salmon before the pasta dish.

“Still no bugs. That’s surprising. It’s the beginning of June.” Legge now awkward at his responsibilities as host.

“Must be the wind that keeps them away.” They both laughed but Legge hadn’t meant it to be funny. A hive of bees stirred in his gut.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

12c. The guard covering the leg stump in cricket. 

Morrell was ahead, convinced the camp was near. The skinny man with no teeth walked lightly on his feet, wiry and flexible despite his years, bending underneath fallen branches and expertly balanced through mud. His chest heaved in bursts, sucking the rich oxygen around him into his charred lungs. Holding up his hand he bent over gasping. He had led them through a soft marsh instead of the high shore, but Legge hadn’t said anything, not wanting to offend him.

“Huh. Wait. Huh. This-” Threw his hand at the wet ground in front of them. “This is why they went on the water.”

Legge looked around him and breathed in the thick moisture of the earth, the squawks from the forest around them. Woodpeckers knocked hard at a broken tree pecked with holes. Fresh deer tracks and raccoon droppings had Legge’s attention. He replaced his sunglasses with his eyeglasses.

“You can see the escarpment over there,” said Morrell, now standing upright, his ponytail now half undone. “I heard there’s rock carvings somewheres long there.”

“It’s far.”

“There must be some way of gettin’ there. Those Indians had trails going everywhere on this island – a network.” There by the cedar trees Morrell lit a smoke. “I reckon there’s trails going along the highest points of the island, from here to M’Chigeeng to about Rockville. Some of them are marked but if you put your mind to it you could find a way all along the lip to see both Lake Huron and the North Channel. But this here is the westernmost tip so it’s from here we can see the sun set over Lake Superior and the prairies. The Indians would go to the highest point to see their enemies coming. To have a better shot at them coming up the hill. Right up there is the escarpment of Ice Lake, the highest peak on the island. Bet we could find some old campgrounds up there somewheres.”

Legge opened his mind to all the hidden native history here on the Island still waiting to be discovered – a forgotten history and undiscovered treasure.

“I wonder if there’s a map with these old trails?”

“If there was it would be at the Ojibwa Cultural Center. There’s a word for it, those old networks of transportation routes, like long portages and stuff. I could look it up in my Ojibwa dictionary at home.”

“So then there should be an old trail along the shore?” Morrell looked at the end of his cigarette.

“Yep. There should be.” Flicked the butt into the ground. He started walking towards the sound of the water, through a labyrinth of hanging branches and half-fallen trees uprooted by the winds. “That way. That’s right. That’s wheres we shoulda started. Look, you can see Clapperton Island. That’s where one of yours still lives as the lighthouse keeper.”

“One of mine?”

“One of your clan. A Legge. Old now I reckon. Been keeping that lighthouse for almost three decades now. Lives there alone. They say he still brews his own whiskey like it was done during Prohibition. Nothing happening there since that murder back during the thirties. Baker was his name. Big mystery that. From the long line of Bakers who took care of that place up ‘til Martin took it over.”

“I have a relation named Martin who is a lighthouse keeper on that island there?” He stopped and pointed through the break in the poplars.

“That’s right. Don’t you know nothing about yer family?” Legge shook his head and fell in behind Morrell. He could smell the booze emitting from Morrell’s body mingled with sweat so he cut his own path to the rocky shore.

“Yer aunt knows about him. They say he killed a man to settle an old debt. He was a gambling man with a long history of playing cards at night with the local Ottawa injuns from the La Cloche Mountains. Some say that’s how old Baker was killed – only found his boat with ‘n empty discarded wallet and a half bottle of whiskey. The body was never found.”

“That’s strange. Why would there be an empty wallet?”

“That’s the point. He was on his way across the channel to one of his regular poker nights in Gore Bay with a bottle of booze and a full wallet. Jus’ never showed up for the cards. Some say some local Indians robbed and killed him on the water. Never solved.” 

“What has that have to do with Martin?”

“There was a curse put on all the lighthouse keepers after that. Indians were blamed but never convicted, and they took issue against the accusation. Said it was disrespectful. Caused problems ever since. Indians don’t forget that sorta thing. A hell of a lot of liquor was coming through that area in the La Cloche Mountains from the east so the lighthouse keeper tried his best to catch the rumrunners. Suspicion brewed for years even after Prohibition. The bad luck from the curse persisted. Baker’s son was killed under mysterious circumstances and so was his grandson. Everyone’s waiting for Martin Legge to fall the same way if the curse is still in effect. But see, your great uncle Martin is the brother of the famous rumrunner Sammy Legge, a legend when he was running at his peak. So it’s funny that it’s Martin who is running the lighthouse now.”

Legge pondered implications of the revelation, a family of whiskey runners.

They reached the shore and spoke above the sound of splashing water.

“Who exactly is this Sammy Legge?”

“My God Legge, you really have no idea do you?” The flush of acrid embarrassment could not be hidden from his features. “Sammy Legge is the one who operated this place we’re going to.” Morrell showed his perfectly smooth gums when he smiled. A deep hack came through the gum gateway followed by the sounds of loose flapping skin and phlegm.

“You think my aunt should have told me about this?”

“Yep, or your father fer Christ’s sake. He’s your grandfather. What are family’s for?” Again the hacking of a lung when he laughed. Slapped his hand on his knee. The words hung there in the air, long-awaited. Sharp, cutting like a rusty razor blade. His silent burden of not knowing about his past surfaced here in the trees confronted by this toothless biker.

“The Legge’s have a long reputation for rebelling against the law in these parts. Not God-fearing folk you could say. Ruthless some say. But you could say they were successful at what they did.”

“Running illegal booze across the border?”

“Pretty much, but they didn’t take it over the border. They would stash it on islands around the shore near Cockburn Island where boats would cross from the Michigan side to pick up the cache. Worked well until the US coastguard beefed up its fleet, like they done on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. But in the twenties and the early thirties Manitoulin Island was a haven for whiskey runners. No one ‘round here ‘cept the odd hostile Injun!” Again the slap of the knee.

“But the Legge’s were a bad lot. Did their share of murder during them days. One of the reasons your uncle lives on Clapperton Island all alone. Ashamed of his brother and what he did. That’s the only reason I reckon. Trying to make up for his family’s sins.”

“What kind of sins are we talking about Morrell?”

“We were all wondering if you had that gene in you – that bad gene that pushes you to extremes. That criminal gene. Hell I don’t care as long as you don’t murder me!” Morrell having a grand old time.

“Naw, jus’ joking. Sure, there are rumors about murders but who’s to say? We could see that the seed fell far away from the tree, or whatever that expression is. You about as un-aggressive as I ever seen. You’re basically shy aren’t ya?” His eyes opened for a moment, caught crossing the line. He kept talking and ignored the color on Legge’s cheeks. “So you got some serious ancestors. You gonna run into someone talking about Sammy if you live here. Gotta get used to it. But he’s not a bad guy to everybody. See he’s a bit like that guy from Australia, Ned Kelly, an outlaw who took on the law. Hell he ran a business during a time when the temperance unions were yielding a lot of power in federal politics on both sides of the border. Sure it was dangerous but it was also big business. Your granddad did business with Al Capone, met him when he came to the North Channel. From what I know, they arranged for his men to pick the booze from Green Island. Said it was easier ‘cause they were American citizens, which made things easier if they bumped into the coast guard.” The wind had picked up taking his hair all the way off his forehead, golf ball glistening in the sun. “I thought you woulda known about your granddad and Capone. That’s the kind of thing that should be handed down in a family.”

“We didn’t have much of a family.”

“Oh nuts. All families are dysfunctional but at least they should hand down family history like that. Yep, that’s your family business here Mr. Legge. Booze and burlap bags. You never did much business with them Sand-trampers.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sand-trampers are what the locals call the people who live on Cockburn Island. They were only good for nickin’ your stash. There were a lot of boats wrecked in the strait. There’s the Magnetic Reef on Cockburn. Deadly, before it could be marked. The lighthouse was like a beacon in the fog – still is. The center point in the whiskey-running trade that started nearly a hundred years ago.”

On the flatland just above the rocky lip of the shore they walked east to the broken-down cabin. Whitecaps stirred in the sharp edge of the horizon, Clapperton Island like a defiant rock against relentless currents.

“How come you know so much about all this?” Morrell had slowed his pace.

“My father was a fisherman with the Purvis Brothers on Burnt Island so he was acquainted with lots of the things that happened on the water. I have some uncles resting underwater around these shores. I tried as a kid for a while but somethin’ about the water scares me. Just suck you down just like that. For no reason. I like the land better. No quick sand around neither. Nawsir, I reckon I’m happier ridin’ my motorbike than anything else.” He looked at the open water.

“I know that’s Clapperton Island like I know you Legges were out on that island for years. Don’t know how early but youse and the Bakers were the first. Probably find some grave markers there.”

They reached a thick cedar patch in the forest that jutted out to the shoreline. Around low branches and over fallen poplars they could see a house with a caved-in roof and a broken-down porch in the clearing. It was a different structure than the small cabin he had seen weeks before.

They found the trail leading to the cabin from a natural cove where boats had protected peace from the open waters. Legge’s legs ached from the miles they had walked, now relieved by the site of the cabin. Huge boulders had been lined along the natural jetty. Flat rocks lay hidden in steps upwards to the flat rock at the foot of the escarpment. The sound of the wind carried off the exposed cliffs behind them.

“This is Sammy’s lair all right. I know. Been here before with my brother, God rest his soul. He used to love coming ‘ere. Loved how Sammy rebelled like he did. Pushed the law aside and went about his business giving stock to the gin joints in Chicago. But I guess that’s easy to like when you’re a young kid.” Morrell stood in front of the porch looking out at the sea of fresh water.

They had found the main location of Sammy Legge’s whiskey-running business.

“You can see far from here. Good spot to hide.”

“There are hiding places back in the bush. That might have been the cabin you saw.”

“Or where they made the whiskey?”

Morrell lit a cigarette and pointed into the mash of fallen wood beams. “’Ken ye see the metal thing all bent outa shape in there? Well, that’s the still. One of them anyway. Who knows how many they had going at one time. Injuns used to paddle in like it was take-out food. No one told the law and only a trusted few knew the exact location. That’s why your house is such an important lookout point. It’s the guarding point for this place.” Legge looked up at the sheer vertical bite of the exposed limestone cliff, the odd determined cedar growing out of a crack in the rock.

“Yes, I suppose it is.” Inheritance hitherto unknown, not of wealth but of notoriety. Only the head of the A-frame remained, propped up on top of the fallen cedar rails of the back of the house, imploded and half bent over as if in perpetual homage. Wrapping porch like a forgotten moat dried up into gnarled knots of warped wood. Soft underfoot, foliage with the upper hand.

Around the back there was a cleared area that was now overgrown. In the silence against the trees and the cliff they could hear the trickle of a waterfall and smell the moisture in the air. Even the trees around the old house had fed on the slight mist over the centuries. Squawks of Sandhill cranes bounced off the overhead walls of limestone like an amphitheater. The waterway beyond led to the old route of Canada’s first fur traders, to Montreal and the world.

“I’ve gotta get a boat.” Something in him stirred, like hearing an old-fashioned song he once knew.

“That’s ‘cause you have it in your blood. Look here.” He walked to a corner of the cleared land closest to the rock face. Legge saw the three separate rocks all the same distance apart.

“Don’t tell me.”

Morrell scraped off one of the gravestones to reveal worn markings long faded to the twin forces of wind and rain.

“No one knows who they are. Some, like my daddy, says they’re fishermen who washed up here. But others say they were shot dead after a deal gone bad. Some say Indians but I doubt it. Sammy was always good with the Indians. Knew how’da treat ‘em. Mighta had some Injun blood himself the way he lived. Lived hard and drank hard I heard. My daddy bought liquor from him. Lots of folks did. But they’d never say now. Now’s almost as bad as Prohibition. Nobody wants to talk about drinkin’.”

Morrell turned to the fresh water sea again and squinted. Legge wondered who these men were whose bones still lay quiet under the thin layer of soil. He leaned over and rubbed each tombstone but couldn’t read a single marking. Only his imagination could fill these gaps in his direct link to the past. He thought of his uncle and aunt and father growing up in the forests of the island and on the lakes and shores, knowing all their neighbors knew about Sammy Legge, notorious rumrunner and murderer. It was the hardness from those early years that his father had brought with him to Michigan when he left Manitoulin for the big city. Growing up, instead of going to a cottage or camping his father would take him and his brother to museums and theater productions and tours of old forts hidden along the shores of the lake. He wanted to immerse himself and his family into anything that was out of nature, far away from the beaver dams and deer trails of his youth. His rebellion against nature and the extreme demands of Island life caused his father to promise himself he would live like a civilized man among the shopping malls and theaters and skyscrapers that to him were the frontrunners of human evolution. Even riding on the subway had a thrill for him and held the same wonders as the forests would one day have for his son.

But now armed with the knowledge his grandfather was a famous whiskey runner of the North Shore, the puzzle was complete. Never was whiskey or Al Capone spoken of in his family. So extreme was his father’s embrace of all things manmade that the natural flow of rural life was something Legge had never experienced even in the slightest degree. Clearly he could now see this prohibition of nature was a huge source of anxiety for him, and maybe a major factor for his inherent timidity. Concrete and exhaust fumes had been his mainstay, not the perfume-scented spruce and cedar that could change the way you feel.

“Everyone here on the Island has a history you know. Yours is interesting. All depends on how you want to look at it. My brother for example thought Sammy Legge was a hero. My father always said your granddaddy really stuck it to The Man and supplied our thirsty cousins south of the border with beverage.” Morrell found a lull in the wind to light another cigarette.

“So what ever happened to him? You haven’t said.”

“You haven’t asked.” He winked at him, making Legge look away in embarrassment. “He died years after Prohibition ended, that’s for sure. And he put a lot of the money he had into that big house you’re living in. Who knows, maybe he hid his whiskey-running loot behind some wall in the house. Must’ve made a lot if he was supplying Al Capone with product.”

Legge could feel the sweat on his forehead in the breeze.

“Why would he put so much money into the house?”

“Can’t you see? It’s the house at the front gate guarding his stills. And the thing looks like a castle, don’t it? Or fort? He did have some style your granddaddy.” Morrell turned serious. “Died of a gunshot wound to the chest when he was on Clappteron Island. Died in a card game they say. That’s why I said there’s a tradition of gambling at the lighthouse. But-” He shook his head. “From what I heard through the years, and there’s many different stories around about Sammy Legge’s end, but what I heard was that it was Sammy who told people about the large stash on Green Island. See it was a deal gone bad and the coast guard knew it was close by so what Sammy did was tell some of the locals where it was so they took it apart case by case until the evidence disappeared. Saved the guy’s ass on the American side and it kept Sammy from profiting from the American’s loss. Said the folks in Tehkummah were drunk for two years!”

“But how did that connect to the final shooting?”

“The temperance movement was still strong and they ushered a group together to force Sammy Legge outa town. He was found a year later dead on Clapperton. Had something to do with it. Some people were angry for what he done. Giving Gore Bay a bad name. I guess no one knows the truth except Sammy, God and the guy who did the shootin’.”

“They drove him out of town. Why hasn’t anyone said anything to me yet?”

“People mind their business here for the most part. I reckon they think you already know. ‘He’s Sammy’s grandson from the whiskey-running side of the family.’ The other Legges live in town but I think they leave your aunt alone during Christmastime. I find it funny though when most of Gore Bay was dependent on his whiskey made right here. Now he’s a bad guy but during Prohibition he wasn’t. Easy for people to forget. Too damn easy I say.”

Back to the water’s edge dark clouds moved in from the west, hanging low.

“The wind is bringing that thing here pretty fast Legge. We need to move on.” Morrell took a long drag from his cigarette and then started walking back along the trail.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

13a. The course and distance sailed by a boat on a single tack. 

It wasn’t until they had passed halfway home when the rain fell in sheets, slapping against their right cheeks from the fierce north winds. Legge put his chin deep into the collar of his jacket, keeping his neck out of wind’s way. Morrell swore when he stopped, eyeing an opening into the woods within the protection of the trees.

“Best to stay inland a bit outa this gale. We’re in no rush, are we?” The lines on his face like canyons down his cheeks, now dripping. “Maybe through there.” He stepped into the muck and marshes towards a rocky ledge where he climbed the natural steps to a landing. Standing there out of the wind he stared at two wooden crates side by side. A cut stump was beside them as if a place to sit.

“I’ll be damned,” said Morrell, now ignoring the rain as if it were a warm breeze. “That’s what I think it is!” He kicked one of the crates and heard the clanging of bottles. “Sammy’s stash!”

Legge stared at the link between the present and his past.

“Whiskey?” he asked, his voice high. He felt ashamed by his enthusiasm.

“I reckon it is! I bet this is where your granddaddy kept his overflow so as not to get stolen. Kind of like a cache of arms. Could be some ammo around here too.” Morrell, with his baseball cap dripping with rainwater off the visor, walked around the crates, breaking off a dead branch for a stick to shove the foliage out of the way. The crates had been placed neatly on flat rock so there was very little weathering along the base. Only moss threatened the corners.

“How are we going to open it?”

“I have my knife,” said Morrell, now kneeling. “They’ve been nailed shut. Keep the boys from pilferin’.” Howled at the thought, and shook rain off his shoulders. Wet down to the skin.

“I wonder if a rock can break it open, here at the corner?” Legge reached for a rock and threw it at the crate, the rock stopping dead and falling beside them.

“The wood is still strong,” Morrell said under his breath. Took his big hunting knife and fit it between the cracks along the lid where some rusted nails were loose. Anything smaller would bend. “Can you lift it?”

Legge bent over, took a firm hold of the lid and lifted as Morrell shimmied the knife. When he saw it move Legge gripped at the corner and yanked, breaking one nail away from the wood. They could see the brown bottles and the corks covered in red wax, still bright red after eighty years of lying dormant. But it wasn’t glass; it was a clay jug.

Sammy’s goods still on family property.

“Okay, one more time,” said Morrell. His knife had loosened the next nail so when he pulled the whole corner bent back, the crack exposing fresh cedar.

Morrell took out a jug and held it in the rain. Drops cleaned the debris off the brown top. The jug was a foot high, glazed a light brown. A two-finger handle attached the mouth to halfway down the oval top of the jug, with a flourish by the potter’s hand. Morrell could hardly hold it up it was so heavy.

“Might be a gallon jug,” said Morrell, proud of the prize. “My daddy always said there were still stashes of liquor along these shores and looka this! He was right wasn’t he?”

Morrell took his knife and cut through the red wax around the cork and yanked it out. “Still a suction.” He smelled it. “It’s whiskey all right. Smells strong. Might wanna let it breathe.” They looked at it, raindrops landing in the unstirred potion of alcohol in his hands.

“Might have gone bad.”

“Whiskey don’t go bad dimwit. Beer can go bad fast because of the yeast. Wine can get like vinegar and sour, but good whiskey keeps and the sediments fall so it becomes purer over time. So this should be real good stuff.” Brought the jug to his mouth, cradling it on the forearm of his right arm. Morrell closed his eyes to protect them from the falling rain.

“Whoa! Gusto baby!” He put the jug on the ground and breathed deeply. “Gotta kick. Something grainy about it. Thin.” Walked to the edge of the landing, looked in the woods.

“Tracks here and they’re not deer. And that smell. Can you smell that?”

Legge shook his head.

“Come over here and you can. I know what that is. That strong smell is unmistakable.” Legge could smell the sharp, astringent smell that stung his nostrils. “That’s bear shit. That means this is bear territory. That means we should leave.”

“Are you sure?” Legge thought it too unbelievable and the product of Morrell’s lively imagination.

“I’m sure. We do have black bears on the Island you know. Not many but certainly some. The MNR bring bears here caught in the Sudbury area and dump them off here to cut down on the deer population. More bears here than people think. Damn MNR bastards.”

Morrell grabbed the jug and led the way to the shoreline trail.

“Shoulda brought that dog of yours,” said Morrell, finishing another swig from the whiskey jug. “She could smell the bear and give us warning. Look sharp. It could be right around that tree.”

Legge was unconvinced about the bear and still thinking of the jugs of whiskey hidden on his own land. How was he going to explain the jug when he returned to the house? He was aware there was a larger issue at stake, his own family history and the rum-running of the Legge clan.


He and Mare stood side by side in the kitchen watching Morrell try to explain their discovery to his aunt. Mare and Dana were caught in the rain when they reached the lighthouse on one of their long walks along the shore so they took refuge at the Inn where Gail was taking care of Harry. Harry and Dana played with Manitou in the living room.

The jug was in front of Morrell, who couldn’t keep from swigging from it as if it were some magical potion, an elixir of life never-ending. The aunt irritable watching Morrell’s toothless mouth attempt clear enunciation after too much Prohibition whiskey. The transformation was incredible though Legge knew it had something to do with being dehydrated from their long excursion.

“Found Sammy’s headquarters and then found his hidden cache on the rocks there, eh Leggey?” Hand waved in a sweeping gesture, loosened like tired rubber without an elbow.

“Those things they say about my father are a myth. You know that, right?” Gail’s matter-of-fact tone was like a schoolteacher who was disciplining a student. The high ceiling made the room like a school.

“My daddy was a fisherman and he knew good ol’ Sammy so don’t you try to tell me somethin’ diffen’. I know yer tricks. You Legge’s don’t talk about yer whiskey past. Well I’ll tell ya, this is damn fine stuff!” His head jerked back and the jug leapt up onto the crux of his forearm, cradled safely and guided carefully to his lips. Puddles of rainwater on the floor around Morrell. Ceiling fan twirling slowly.

“You fishermen are all the same, exchanging yarns as if they’re gospel,” she said, cross at Morrell’s bluster. “Changes with every telling. Some men with great names can be ordinary men who shine brightly when history is looking.” Gail’s eyes studied the jug more and more when it became obvious that Morrell wasn’t making a lot of sense.

“Why don’t we try some?” said Mare, the only one who was able to verbalize what both Legge’s were thinking, the aunt too stubborn and the nephew too shy.

Legge retrieved glasses and poured. When they raised glasses, Morrell took up the jug and said: “To our Sammy Legge, his life and his product.”

The whiskey like grain alcohol, thin like gasoline how it evaporated into your gums, leaving your mouth on fire and epiglottis in spasm.

“Oh my,” said Mare, putting her hand against her chest, frowned, letting the liquid swirl around her mouth as if an ancient technique she was trying out for the first time.

“Different,” she said, still looking at her glass, trying to find loose particles or floating imperfections.

“Yer daddy sure knew how to brew it eh?” Morrell had left all sense of social etiquette at the door.

“You mean distill. Beer is brewed and whiskey is distilled. Would have thought you were familiar with that Mr. Morrell.”

Legge broke out in a sweat but found himself taking another nip to get the bad taste out of his mouth. Tasted like tobacco.

“Why don’t we go out to the porch? Sounds like the rain has let up.” Mare again thirsting for the outdoors. On the front porch the sun could be made out in the thinning clouds on the horizon. The air still thick with moisture and a slight fog in the now windless air. She breathed deeply.

“You didn’t know about your grandfather before today?” asked Mare, soft and slow. Legge told her about how his father had dedicated his life after Manitoulin to everything manmade and that he never talked about his family. In fact he hardly talked at all.

“My daddy is in Gore Bay so I see him often enough. You need your family you know, whether you know it or not. Harry needs you right now and so does Manitou.” Made him feel calm. 

“But I can see now why he never talked about his father, who was buddies with Al Capone.” She laughed. “Nothing to be ashamed about.” Reached for his hand. A jolt, began to shake. Through the hand he wanted to tell her everything, confess his anxieties to hear those words again.

“Are you cold?” she asked. Could feel him shaking.

“Yes, wet from the walk.” Only half a lie.

Just then two motorcycles pulled into the driveway, went into the house.

“This stuff is awful. I can’t drink it.” She placed it on the railing where raindrops still fell from the roof, let go of his hand.

“Morrell was saying it’s hypercritical to judge a rumrunner when most of them bought from stills around and in Gore Bay.”

“They could probably spot the wood burning in town.” Then the sound of boots through the living room to the front porch. Two motorcyclists in leathers walked towards them with glasses of whiskey in their hands.

“Howdy.” They stood tall in their boots, wet from head to toe. The one behind with the bandana slowly removed his gloves, one finger at a time.

“Good moonshine. Your friend in there was giving us a lowdown.” A twinkle in the eye.

“Got caught in the rains. Stayed for a few at the restaurant down the street. Damn funny guy who was there having a few pints. What’s his name?”

Legge nodded and drank.

“Doug was his name. Crusty old guy. What a mouth on him! Watch out. He’s a hazer. He’ll attack you until you dig in your heels. Seen it before but he was one of the best. He took on my buddy here. Isn’t that right Sanchez?”

“That’s my riding name. His is Rusty. Good to see somewhere for a biker ain’t it? Been coming here from Sudbury every chance I get. Best riding in the world right here on Manitoulin. Hardly any stop signs. No through traffic but long enough to get lost. Damn windy though.”

“That’s what separates the mice from the men,” said Rusty. In the background there were shouts coming from the kitchen.

“I should go act as a buffer between those two,” said Mare, leaving her unfinished glass for Legge.

“You come from Sudbury today?”

“About four hours ago. Spent two in that restaurant listening to Doug tell me it was a damn shame I was a miner.”

“’Working for a foreign-owned mine in Canada’ was his words I think,” said Rusty.

It wasn’t until after Mare left that he saw the patches with the eagle through the unzipped jacket. A wave of panic blew through Legge like a gust of rusty air, saturated his limbs.

“You guys are miners?”

“’Been doing it for near 17 years,” said Sanchez. “Few more years and the pension starts.” Hell Angels with a pension. Huge leather-clad giants on the Island to cruise. Legge brought out the jug from the kitchen and refilled their drinks. Morrell followed him out.

“You guys have a decent map?” Legge’s tongue was numb from the tobacco-tasting whiskey.

“Don’t need no map. We know this rock like it was our own backyard.” Legge took out his marked-up map and spread it on the ledge. Placed a finger on it. “That’s where we are right now right beside the escarpment.” Both the Hells Angels took hold of the map in their hands and held it close to their eyes.

“These marked roads are for what?” A smile crept across Sanchez’s face.

“Good roads for motorcycles,” said Morrell, simply and proud. Their eyes narrowed, Rusty followed Bidwell Road from Sheguindah.

“I know that turn off but I always thought it was a dead end. Look, it goes right through the heart of the Island. Never taken that one.”

“I know the one. Never taken it neither.” Sanchez pointed at the southwest corner of Meldrum Bay. “This is where it is. Hundred acres.”

“Hundred acres of what?” said Morrell, belligerently. Rusty ignored him, raised his glass and played with his tongue.

“This hooch has gotta go down in history as the oldest whiskey I ever drunk.” Sanchez punched him in the stomach as he drank the last of his glass, barely keeling over from the impact. His arm came around and smacked Sanchez in the mouth, instantly making it swell. With his handy work visible, Rusty lit a cigarette. Morrell shrank into his wet clothes, gums rubbing together like an old man, small and cowered.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

13b. A straight-line portion of a flight pattern or air route.

Legge labored under the sun cleaning up scrub brush around the property, clearing paths for guests. Cut thin pieces of wood to make long narrow shutters but was getting only so far before another urgent task took him away. Somehow, without making a conscious decision, he had become obsessed with fixing up the gateway to his stilling past. And knowing Morrell and his big mouth, anyone could be coming down the driveway looking for a taste from the whiskey jug.

Since the discovery of the cache his aunt had become scarce, still coming to terms with the recent exposure of a dormant secret she preferred not to discuss. Harry was now out of school for the summer and helped around the house doing the things Legge didn’t have time for. He purposely kept Harry close by because he liked to watch him play with Manitou, who was growing into a pretty border collie. Even the white tip of her tail bright, fluffy white. The scene totally different from the countless concrete days in Detroit. Some days he felt outright robbed by his father.

Harry raked and piled the cedar rails back into straight lines so the chronic messiness of the yard morphed into something crisp and neat. He took great pride in watching his boy take special care in something that he knew was important to him.

“What do you think about planting a garden?”

“Isn’t it a little late for that?”

“It’s still early,” he said to the boy. “I was thinking of corn and tomatoes. And maybe some of those big sunflowers.” Face brightened.

“Lots of big yellow sunflowers.” They looked at the patch waiting to be unearthed in the corner of the yard.

“First we need to big a fence. Not too big but enough to keep the deer away.” A surge of newfound competence made him flush, the change manifest in his voice. Harry followed him to the shed where he carried the old fencing still wrapped in a bundle. Harry retrieved fence posts and ax. In no time they had the posts hammered in all four corners, strong enough to support the wire fence leaning against each post. They left one side open.

“Now we need to turn the soil.” Harry took the smaller shovel and turned the ground over to expose and chop up the deep soil but less enthusiastic with the weeds he had to pull out. He stared at his soft hands turning red. “A little more son. Then we can run into town and get the seeds.”

The garden was eight feet by ten feet, size enough for the two of them. They both looked at how the yard now appeared complete, a piece had finally been made right.

With a broken blister Harry chose seeds for everything: tomatoes, potatoes, corn, green onions, cauliflower, tulips and every single type of sunflower. Harry got his own pair of gloves for his efforts.

When they were half done planting Harry started to tire.

“Dad, what is Clapperton Island?” He knew something had been said by Morrell.

“It’s that island across from here we can see in the North Channel.”

“The one we can see with the lighthouse?” He nodded. “Do bad things happen there?” Damn that Morrell!

“No son. Can you see the lighthouse from here?” Had he overlooked something so obvious?

“Sometimes I can see the light flashing at night. My bedroom window faces it. Some nights I can see it real clear and some nights I can’t.”

“That’s because it’s cloudy.”

“No, that’s the thing. Even on the really clear nights I’ve looked but can’t see any light on.”

He stretched out his aching back, dirt on his upper lip from wiping the sweat off. Looked like a moustache.

It was easier for Legge to dismiss the light as passing airplanes on their way to Gore Bay, Sault Ste. Marie or Thunder Bay. He’d never seen any lights coming from the Island but he would next clear night. Had an uneasy feeling. Harry’s distant Uncle Martin sending him signals with his flashlight like some lunatic.

“Could be some night fishermen.” He considered it, horizon turning tangerine.

“But it doesn’t explain the steady bursts of light kind of directed at the house. I was thinking it could be that crazy relative who lives there.” Harry’s face nonchalant, something his father did.

“Did you ask your aunt about this?” Shook his head.

“That drunk guy talked about it that night when the bikers came by. He said he lived out there all alone for years.” He saw empathy in his perfectly still eyes. Smell of freshly turned soil drugging them at sunset.

“Morrell told me the same thing but I don’t know what to believe. He said some pretty wild things, being the son of a fisherman. Tall stories, things that get exaggerated in the retelling. But it doesn’t change the fact that you might have an uncle you have never met.”


In the stillness of night a vision of his Uncle Martin came to him, a long necked spindly man no more than bones. Skin pale and anemic, barely visible in the dark and the glare of his flashlight as it lit up the yard and the freshly planted earth as if spirits had been released into the ethers, swirling around with pain, unsettled by the righteousness of justice. Saw contempt in his dark eyes looking at the new scars done by his own hand, called after him but his words were swallowed by the black that surrounded him and disappeared into a forest of rusty spruce. Legge was standing on a long shore of Precambrian rock smoothed by billions of years when he woke up.

Manitou at his bedside wagging her tail as if someone was in the house.

Got up and descended the steep stairwell to the front hallway, peeked through the window to the driveway. Nothing. The dog was just in front of him sniffing at the doorway then he heard the beating base of the hooves rumbling over the open ground to the safety of the trees. Manitou whimpered but he kept the door shut. She was too young to go chasing deer without him.

Even after he returned to bed the presence of Martin Legge still hovered in the high ceiling above him, like a fly caught between a screen and window, the buzzing incessant.


Over cereal in the morning and the dog outside doing her rounds, he couldn’t prevent his dream from defining his day.

“I think we should go visit your great uncle Martin,” he said too his son. “What do you think?” Harry shrugged his shoulders.

“Okay. How?” The only thing he could think of was in the canoe.

“Maybe I can borrow a boat,” he said, not wanting to put his child at risk crossing the North Channel in a canoe.

“From who?” Thought of Kyle.

“Maybe one of the guys in town. We’ll see.”

“We could do it like the Indians and paddle there in the canoe.” Paddling made easy through countless miles of transportation.

“The wind can blow anytime you know.”

“We could wait for clear skies and listen to the weather report to make sure there’s no rain around for days.” He nodded. The kid had a point.

“You think you’re up for it? I mean it’s a long way and your old man is out of practice a bit. So really need to hold your own up there.” Unmoved, flicked his hair off his forehead and nodded.

“Yeah, I can do it.” Awkward.

“Okay then, we’ll get ourselves all outfitted and go on a clear day.”

“I can follow the weather reports. I know where it is on the radio.”

Harry threw himself into the project, each day gathering more equipment together from the shed and the basement. For Legge a tragedy waiting to happen.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

13c. A portion of an entire trip or distance: STAGE.  

The forest dense like great green walls of windbreaks strong-arming the wind – the nemesis of speeding air. Waves slapped against the rock, bees and dragonflies buzzing with persistence. Vibrations of the engine still reverberated through his hands, the bike creaking like a melting Popsicle. Another minute before resuming. Legge knew from this point onward he had to have his story pretty tight.

The road had changed to a bumpy dirt path barely wide enough for a pick-up truck but he saw the single lines of two wheels leaving an indentation along the middle of the road. He knew this was it; the Hell’s Angel’s new hideout.

He let out his throttle and pulled his clutch hand. “No, I can’t ride in here alone,” he said to no one. Sudden thought a security camera hidden somewhere along the driveway. Using the excuse he was looking for real estate just wasn’t going to cut it with these boys. Then he encountered a battered and half-hidden No Trespassing sign. Nope, couldn’t do it. Pulled a U-turn and hit the throttle hard, hitting the road and thinking next time he’s going to ride in all the way. Getting it up to fifth he felt adrenaline suffuse through his veins making him feel reckless.


The aunt spent her days with Harry, the best time to ride his motorcycle. Riding had become like moving in a vapor on the Island that absorbed anxious vibes then dissipated them into the ethers. Rode all the roads on the map until he knew each turn, bump and pasture that gave him a jolt – a reminder of being apart from the mainland. Detroit was now a long way away.

A moist front brought fog to the forests around him, an aura of wildlife living in its bosom. Like Harry, he had been accepted into the community, constant waving at passersby that he didn’t know, and soon they came to know him from walking down the few roads that went to town.

He knew blueberries and hawberries grew wild along the edges of the forests but he changed his walk so he could bump into Mare again, but was afraid of Needles to be confronted by the rumors of finding a cache of whiskey from his grandfather Sammy Legge. Morrel’s loose mouth. Shyness so deep that an offhand comment by someone like Tuttle could cause permanent injury to him. Had to alleviate this Achilles Heel, a chink in his armor. It was easier to remain anonymous in a big city, ducking away from everything that involved soupy, obscure rules of social engagement. Still clung to his avoidance strategy even here on the Island but he knew someday he would need to make himself known.

Nowhere to hide here.

Even more disturbing was his irrational curiosity of the Hell’s Angels on their plot of land in the very corner of Manitoulin. To Morrell the Angels were the newest example of how the Island had always had a home for those who lived just outside the law. They were a “beacon of resistance” and a “perfect fit” for the Angels to hunker down here to make their deals away from the constant surveillance in Sudbury. Morrell was a natural groupie for the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club; a man with a mouth who could swear with the best of them but a man with no fiber of toughness in him. Only his uncompromising dedication to motorcycling gave him any connection to the club.

His face wet from the fog, eyeglasses covered in thick droplets when he removed his helmet, he walked into The Wick. Patterson was drinking coffee with Mac, not doing much of anything.

“If it isn’t the rumrunner Legge coming in for a tune up,” said Patterson, Scottish voice thick and heavy.

“Morrell loves the whiskey you guys found. Can’t stop talking about it.” Mac studied his face.

“Makes me thirsty thinking about it.” Patterson baiting him for a reply, ready to pounce on his weakness. His hand to his nose, itching a non-existent itch.

“History never dies,” he said, evasive, soft.

“Bike running good?”

“Hums. No problems. Brakes are loosening but still have lots of life in them. It’s a good bike.” They both nodded.

“Any left in that jug you guys found?” Shook his head.

“Those Hell’s Angels that were over finished it off. They were up half the night. Loud guests you could say.”

“I would guess!” Patterson chuckling.

“So it’s true about the piece they have near Meldrum? We heard about it a few years back but nothing concrete,” said Mac. “Usually tight-lipped about it.”

“Must’ve been the whiskey that loosened their tongues.”

“Morrell said he knew where it was,” Legge not telling them he had found it.

“Morrell says a lot of things,” said Patterson. “Half of them true, the other half the product of too much time and not enough to do.”

“Said you should have taken the canoe to the cache of whiskey instead of walking. I never seen a bear here on the Island, but some people think they’re here.”

“Oh they’re here all right. Bear warnings every summer in M’Chigeeng around Blair’s. Must live in that long canyon that runs through to the Cup and Saucer.” Mac waved his hand.

“Believe it when I see it. Though I don’t fancy running into a bear. Scares me senseless those beasts. Throw anything at me but a bear is different. Did you smell the bear shit like Morrell said there was?”

He nodded.

“Don’t keep any food around your house.” Legge thought of the garden he had just planted with Harry.

“Gardens don’t count do they?”

“You didn’t?” They laughed; Legge turned red, his hand now jittery at the judgment panel in front of him.

“There’s a fence we have,” he said, but his voice trailed off when Patterson’s head started to shake. His eyes narrowed on him.

“Nah boy. You’re asking for trouble.” Boy. Demoted so quickly from being a fellow motorcyclist. Trouble was exactly what he didn’t want.

“Might want to get yourself a gun.” Now Legge’s turn to laugh but both faces dead serious.


“Don’t walk that forest around there. The bear wants the whiskey for himself!”

“Paddle there next time Legge.”

“That’s why I’m here Mac. I wanted to know if it’s possible to canoe to Clapperton Island?”

“Why?” Legge ignored Patterson, feeling insecure.

“Sure. Indians have been doing it for centuries. It’s warm enough in case you do flip over you won’t die of hypothermia.” Legge wasn’t sure the moisture on his face was from the fog.

“Is it safe?

“Make sure there’s no wind and go man! You gotta aim a little west of the island because of the west-to-east current. If you don’t you’ll wind up over at Dreamer’s Rock.”

“Take a boat like a normal person would.”

“I don’t have a boat.”

“Lots of people have boats around here Legge. We live on an island.” More laughter, derisive now. Patterson unaware that it was a near impossibility for Legge to ask for anything unless he was literally close to death.

The sight of Mare walking down the main street took his mind off the quagmire before him.

“Thanks guys.” He followed her for a moment.

“Yes, I see her chappy! Don’t. I see her…”

“Didn’t take you long boy.” Mac had relegated him to a child again.

“I need to talk to her about Harry,” he said absentmindedly, leaving them murmuring.

Across the street he caught up with her, bags of food in her hands and told her of the new garden but nothing about the planned trip to Clapperton, or the bear. She saw he was lonely for a visit.

“I’d like to see it,” she said, comforting. “Will you be there later?” She agreed to bring Dana so she and Harry could play while they checked out the new garden. A knot formed in his throat quicker that a cramp. Took the long way home hoping the wind would knead it out so he could speak normally again.


The aunt, nose out of joint when she saw the garden, said it was done all wrong. The stern features returned and the determined look of a born gardener came over her. She had purchased a hoe, a proper hand shovel and other extraneous implements that were foreign to him. He shrugged and let her care for the rows of small green leaves now emerging, not after her complaint that most of the seeds had been eaten by seagulls. She employed Harry, giving him a focus between bouts of playing with Manitou, who followed his every command. Like a mouse to an open field, Harry was a born dog owner. Manitou had become his best companion.

Mare faced the offshore breeze off the water, studying the rows in front of her. Her boots covered in mud knee-high.

“Every old house ‘round here used ta have a garden for their staples,” she said mostly to Gail, who was bent over in a huff at the latest catastrophe to befall the garden.

“And they all had the same problems we have today,” she said, impatiently. “Gotta make sure them animals don’t eat everything otherwise it’s a big buffet for ‘em, isn’t it?” They both let her make her point, agreeing in silence.

“So what was the main plant they used to grow?” he asked. Mare wouldn’t let him fall on his face in a storm.

“That’s the city again, isn’t it nephew?” He took comfort in her presence, facing this barrage after trying to learn.

“Potatoes I’d say,” said Mare looking at the aunt. “And corn.”

“Well the obvious one is alpha-alpha for the cows. But that goes without sayin’.” Wind blew her hair when she looked at the children playing by the dock. When she removed her gloves the mud still had seeped through, highlighting the deep lines on her hands. Thick, able fingers unsnarled by keyboards and mice.


“Another main one. They needed that for the bread. And the-“ Smiling, the words stopped in her throat. Legge knew she was thinking what he was thinking; no matter where he went the legend of Sammy Legge would be with him, like a piece of clothing he could never take off.

“Wheat and corn to make bread and for the stills,” he said, void of trauma. A man of knowledge buried within his genetic code only waiting for sunlight and moisture.

“Don’t you go off on that one sir. That’s a slippery hill if I ever saw one.” The aunt resigned, accepting.

“Ah come on Gail, that’s all right. It’s the history of these parts. It’s always been a place of trade.”

“Like beaver pelts,” he said. Both women laughed, sending a shard of horror to his solar plexus, winded by goodwill. Wincing. Didn’t mean it that way.

Gail closed the gate and they moved to the shore where Harry and Manitou had set up a small fort in a dead oak tree. From what Legge could see, Dana was trying to gain passage to the upper floor.

“You let Dana up there, you hear me Harry?” Tone of voice was all Harry needed to know there was no point arguing. Not waiting, Dana climbed up leaving Manitou on the ground lightly whimpering.

The aunt left to make some tea so they sat on the dock watching the children. Tepid waves, mere ripples on the outer edges of the freshwater sea. In the North Channel a sailboat moved east through the rocky passage near Clapperton, sails full on a windless day.

“They must be riding the current,” he said. “There’s no wind.”

“Good day for canoeing.” Why hadn’t he thought to ask her!

“Do you want to-“

“Yes!” The alacrity of youth. 

They readied the vessel between sips of tea, still hot from the kettle. The aunt said she would watch the children but Legge knew she meant it as a double entendre.


Legge’s natural inclination was to paddle east to Dragon Head lighthouse along the shoreline towards the cache of booze. Something mischievous took hold knowing the calm water wasn’t a danger. The air thick with fragrance wafting from the forest attracting sparrows that flew from tree to tree – the water’s edge like a highway for birds. One sparrow led them east every time darting forward and resting on a tree.

“Did you see that bird? It’s playing a game with us.” She breathed deeply through her nose, gray rocks half covered in fossils and moss.

“So many of them.” A group of white tail deer bobbed up and down through the boughs twenty yards ahead in the forest where a stream kissed the shore, the hooves sounding like subwoofers hidden in the trunks of trees. Clear, crisp water reverberated the sound so he could feel it up his arms through the paddle.

“Do you know if there are bears on the Island?” They were close to the cache.

“There are some,” she replied. “I know there’s one near the Providence Bay dump. My father saw it once. Not many though. You’d think they’d have lots of food with all the deer and raccoons.”

“And fish. Yeah, good point.” Her words like a balm calmed an inner fire of nerves besetting him. True, bears would have enough; they would leave his family alone.

He recognized the opening of the trees where a shelf of rock housed the two crates of whiskey. Inadvertently he ruddered the canoe to shore.

“This is where the cache is.” Mare looked around at him from the stern, her hair crossing over her cheek.

“Let’s check it,” she said sounding like a little girl on a fieldtrip, infecting him with the same incitement to adventure, two stray students high-jacking a canoe without the teacher’s permission.

He pulled the canoe half out of the water and climbed the rock steps to the landing. The wood, so freshly ripped apart, bespoke of a crime but instead of guilt he felt the buzz of being bad. No one was there to tell him off because it was his land, his realm. It was his kingdom.

She pulled out one of the jugs and twisted the cork out, crumbling the wax, eyes squinting when she drank.

“Ooh! I shouldn’t‘ve done that! Wow.” Pushed the jug into his hands and then turned to spit. He took a drink.

“Umph!” Wasn’t prepared for the sting.

“We should have brought some water,” he said. Smiling, she gestured to the water.

“What’s that?”

“Safe to drink?”

“Why not?”

“Not polluted?”

“From what?”


“There aren’t any factories around here. That’s the point. We’re untampered with here.” She squinted after taking another swig.

“Can you taste the tobacco?” She held up her hand and rubbed her tongue around in her mouth.

“A little bit. But it’s like an earthy, leafy nicotine taste.”

“Like a tobacco leaf was at the bottom. Morrell was saying they used to throw in tobacco juice for extra kick.” She licked her lips coming to him.

“Let me taste,” she said, slowly. She kissed his mouth softly, playfully, still licking her lips when she was done. “Yep, a little.” Legge’s cheeks flushed, a strand of her brown hair on his chin like a stray whisker waving in the breeze. He hugged her, his arms massive around her thin neck, her torso thin like a rack of bones. It scared him to feel how small she was, and afraid he was holding too tight. Nose buried in her neck, he breathed in a natural perfume like a pheromone, prompting him to reel inside. He broke off the hug without wanting to, to let her breathe. She stood unmoving, her eyes wide, her senses alert.

“I can’t. I still-“ In her eyes tears. “I’m still married. I mean we’re separated but still married. She shook her head, sat down on the rock and sighed. “My husband left the Island to find work out west in Alberta for oil. Said he’d been gone for the winter but he never came back. No one’s business but mine, so I just say he’s sending us money and will be home one day.” Red eyes overwhelmed by little puddles. “I suppose I still have a hope he’ll return loaded with enough for a hundred-acre parcel, y’know? So I can’t. Now right now. I’m sorry.” Her nose running, a tremor in her hands.

He hugged her softly with her head against his chest, her body a fluttering leaf in the wind. A branch against the trunk, a leaf against wood.

“I could see it all coming,” she said, renewing her vigor with a drink. “I knew he wanted to go out west. That was where he was from. Never saw the magic here I don’t think. Some people can’t. I always thought it was a huge loss for him. Frank was like a broken record, always talking about cowboys playing cards in a saloon in some dusty town like Fort MacLeod. Truth is I don’t know where he is. I looked for him one night calling oil companies to see if they had an employee named Frank Hayden in their files. Nothing. So people ‘round here just think he’s working there and providing for his family.

“But Dana knows something’s up because she never gets any mail or anything from him. She’s learned to drop it for now but it’ll come up again.” She put her hand on his arm. “What am I supposed to tell her? How do I explain that to a ten-year old girl that her daddy left her. Both of us. It kills me even to talk about it.”

Legge, hunched over watching her eyes glisten, flattered to hear her confession now bound by a secret that only they shared.

When she was finished she replaced the jug into the crate and bent down to hold one end. Her face colored with mischief.

“Let’s bring one of these back. No need to leave it way out here.” Wanting to say no, the words would not come. Having jugs in his house was asking for trouble. It was obvious that its concoction was a danger especially to those not used to high test.

Sitting in the canoe with the crate in the middle floating in the shallow water, she smiled back at him as warm as any woman had ever smiled at him. His smile awkward, her forehead wrinkling under her silky hair. She moved to him but the canoe started to tip, but they both knew.

Stirred emotions manifest by smiles that would not disappear, his imagination took him far beyond his present paddle to distant years still to come, a flood of promises, untapped joy free from a tentative hand, full-bodied and earthy, imbued with all of what nature intended. In the dungeon of his guts a door opened and bees flew out, the constant buzzing now replaced by the balm of milk and honey. He sensed her perfumed wake mixed with the forest and otters and muskrats that shared the shores with deer and wolves, a fragrance above all others. A scent that had been designed just for him.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

13d. The portion of the total distance or course that each member of a relay team must complete.

An incoming motorcyclist had called that morning to book rooms for a few days so Legge went into town for supplies. Having some time, he rode to Needles for a quick coffee and some breakfast, facing Tuttle’s questions like it was the Inquisition.

Sitting in a booth on the front deck, he wondered where he could get some dried firewood for the campfire. His supply was running low.

“Legge you scallywag.” Old Doug shuffled to his booth with rigid posture – a declaration of a victory against gravity and softness of the belly. “How you doin’ up there? Surviving okay?” His voice like a rusted nail just about the break off.

“Gettin’ by,” he said, dropping a consonant just for Doug.

“Gettin’ many visitors?” He chewed on something, his stained ball cap hiding the baldness underneath and the eyeglasses obscuring his glass eye.

“Some. Have a few comin’ in for tonight. Stay for a few days.”

“What are ya chargin’ for a night if you don’t mind me asking? Tell me if you mind.” Looked at Legge right in the eye looking for something.

“About fifty bucks for a night.”

“Cheaper than the fancy ones. Decent price.” Old Doug’s jaw line a 90-degree jutting of the bone at an angle that defied resistance. His son had the same chin in the making. Bred in the bone.

“You know anywhere I could find some firewood?”

“Firewood? Old man Brown stopped a few years back but his son is still in the business. Look for Lester Brown in Tehkummah. Should find him. How much you need?”

Legge realized he had no vocabulary for measuring firewood.

“How much do you need to get through a winter here?” He sipped his coffee and ordered eggs and beans and toast.

“In that housa yours? Maybe twelve cord. You have a furnace? So maybe half that. Depends on how much yer wanna burn? Keep it on all winter, all six months say, that’s runsya aboot a thousand in wood, your twelve cord. Wood’s goin’ up in price though. Was sixty a cord for a long time but now it’s up to eighty. You need it delivered?” Legge hesitated. “You don’t have a hitch on that car of yours? No, didn’t think so. So you need delivered firewood, run yer about a hundred a cord.” Like a hawk over a farm field, Old Doug eyed for weakness.

“You ever run a stove all winter? No, didn’t think so. Make sure you don’t have green wood.” Doug glanced at the whitecaps beyond the old barn beside the beach. “You know what green wood is don’tcha boy? Argh, you city kids are all the same. Know lots about things that don’t matter in the world, like how to run a woodstove. Too much computers and stuff that don’t have anything to do with living. Notta smidge!” His hand raised to emphasize, his arms long, his shoulders square.

“You’re right.”

“Damn right I’m right. Don’t get all soft with me! You gotta get yer shit together and learn! Three years. You make it three winters here and then we’ll see. I don’t thinkya gonna last. Up to you really.” Sipped his coffee, bitter black rolling off his tongue.

“Green wood is stuff that jus’ ‘ben cut. Still green inside. Won’t burn and if it does it’ll clog your stovepipe and you have yerself a nice chimney fire. Burn yer house down it will. I know boy. I sure know. Young Brown should have some dry stuff good size forya stove. Cuts ‘em small for his old lady customers. Hah! He always was a lady’s man.” With the smile his chin grew twice the size, eyes on the distant whitecaps.

Tuttle came with the food and the pot of coffee.

“Don’t let this man harass you now. I think there’s a law now against that. You hear me Doug? Leave the kid alone.” The grin resurfaced despite preventative effort. Damn him for making me smile in front of the boy!

“What are yer serving here in this coffee? Or is that what yer call this stuff? Could plant a tree in this fer Chris’ sake.” The laugh like a ton of metal pulled over concrete. “Watch Tuttle. He’ll pull a fast one on yer berfore you know what hit yer.” Tuttle back-handed Old Doug on the chest as if trying to make him spill his coffee. “Cheap bastard!”

Tuttle laughed his way back inside.

“Good business to get into if you ask me. Git yerself a woodlot and cut it yerself. No taxes, jus cut it and provide fer yer friends and family. My father usedta cut two cords every morning before he started his day’s work. He knew the value of hard work and good wood. Come March when there isn’t any more you wish you had some dry firewood to burn. Mark my words. Never wanna git bit by cold. Stays in yer bones. I know. Trust me, I know. The freeze burrows in the marrow it does.”

“Good to have the furnace as a backup.”

“No point relying on oil unless you set up yer own oil pump like I know some boys done. It’s why they broke the treaty with the Injuns a hundred years ago when my father came here. Oil companies built here, found some but not enough to make a go of it. But that don’ stop some from putting one in and pumping some fer themselves and their friends. I know about these things. I got one merself but you don’ wanna know about that. Yer jus git yer wood and yer be okay.”

Legge ate the eggs on top of the toast, pushing the toast into his mouth so that yolk dripped down his chin. Brushed it off with his napkin too scared to break eye contact with Old Doug. He should have ordered more toast.

“You wanna make some real money you git yerself all that free sawdust they have lying around at Taylor’s Sawmill and then yer git yerself one of them machines that grounds the dust into wood pellets so you can sell ‘em to all those people with wood-pellet stoves. Big money in that. Two main sources fer all wood pellets are both down south. No one based up north. Kin’ yer believe that? It’s true. Damned true that is.” Old Doug put his coffee down to put a wad of chewing tobacco into his cheek. When he spat the brown stayed on his bottom lip.

“Argh, yer better off here on the Island where it’s safe. What’s not to like eh?” Legge could see the glass eye for a moment before he turned his gaze back to the water.

“No prostitutes and whoring around here, no crime or gangs. It’s clean here. But you gotta work. Not jus sit around and wait for people to show up at yer door and give yer money. No sir, you gotta werk harder than that! You understand me?” The visor of his ball cap thrust close to Legge’s forehead. He stopped chewing.

“I understand. I’ve always worked hard.” Old Doug shot up, his shoulders back in fighting stance.

“You don’t know what hard werk is! Oh no, you don’t have any idea of what hard work is son. No, no. I can see it in yer. See it as plain as day. Yer a soft one youse is. Yer’s ‘ben doin’ a differen’ kind of werking. When I was a kid we had to go out to git our water every day, me and my brother down at the crick. Two buckets each. Dammit hell, smarts yer hands when it’s thirty below. No fancy boots back then so yer good and damn sure to get wet feet. Cuttin’ wood, clearin’ the fields, feedin’ the cattle. Never a damn minute to play on no computer, even if we had ‘em. From the cracka dawn to the dark came, we werked to grow the food, get stuff fixed and built, and then prepare fer winter. That was it. No supermarket down the street. So yer hard werk is differen’ from my hard werk. You never got yer hands dirty. What did you do before you came here?”

Legge looked to the beach where the seagulls gathered and was reminded of Mare. The thought of her brought wind into his sails.

“Computer programming,” he said. “So you were right. I don’t know hard work.” The laugh a wheezing of chains and cement.

“I broke this leg years ago but it don’t give me no problems anymore. If I feel it the odd day so I kick it for 20 minutes, kick it raw so it don’ hurt anymore. You gotta be mean with it or it comes up and bites ya. Got it cut up by a tractor years back. Damn thing flipped over. Crawled back to the house, blood all over. Mom almost have a heart attack. Loss a lot of blood but they keep it on me. Don’ trouble me none. How old yer think I am?”

Legge, already pinned down and battered like a piñata, hated open questions that inevitably led to some end point of humiliation.

“Couldn’t say. Hard to tell.” Seemed to deter Old Doug from another assault.

“Eighty-seven years old. Born in 1922. And still ticking. Never slow down. The day I slowdown is the day I die. Mark my words.” He held up his crooked finger in the air. “Now I gotta get going. Have some things to do. Good talkin’ to yer.” And he left. Legge, still with no idea of what supplies he needed for the guests, had another cup of coffee and stared at the whitecaps in the North Channel.


Using the axe he found in the corner of the shed, Legge tested its effectiveness. He gripped hard and struck the fallen tree, splinters whizzing by his eyes. After putting on his sunglasses, he struck again, this time splitting through the dry wood, the crack sound sending a jolt of vitality up his arms. Old Doug’s words floated through his head like notes from bad song you couldn’t stop humming, the chin jutting out defiant, proud of his hard work witnessed by God and Manitou.

The axe smashed again and again gouging chips from the gnarled trunk and breaking off scraggly branches that interfered with his stroke until the axe ricocheted off grazing his foot. Sweat dripped from the end of his nose.

“No,” he said aloud. To limp back with a split foot would be Old Doug’s victory. Hard work was something he could do, would do no matter how long it took, just to prove the old bastard wrong. Drawing in the fresh scent of chopped wood into his lungs invigorated his resolve, causing him to design a plan of attack. These trees that had given themselves to him as firewood and there was enough dry wood hidden in the woods so he would never have to purchase any. Examining his blister, red and ripped open, he focused and struck with more precision, striking cleanly and effectively. Only hard work stood in his way.


His motorcycle guests brought a case of beer, which was beside the campfire where Legge was burning branches too small for the stove. A few minutes later Old Doug parked his pick-up truck behind the motorcycles. Going to the back of his truck, he put two bottles of beer into his pockets, steadied himself and then slowly to the campfire.

“Whose are these then? Friend of yerse er guests?” He had had a few, voice full of bluster.

“Guests,” said the bald man who spoke the most of the four riders.

“Damn right yer guests. Whaddya think of our beautiful island? Eh? Whaddya think? See much of that otherwheres d’yer?” The bald man went along with Old Doug, his eyes tempestuous with booze, his ball cap pulled down low.

When he was finished hazing the bald man he came to Legge and grabbed his hand, looking at the swollen blisters.

“See what a good talkin’ to can do? Damn right boy. Yer werk fer yer day and yer’ll do alright. Jus’ do yer werk. Buck the resta that and git yerself another, pil ‘em up ‘ere and yer set.” In the sunset sky squawking by Sandhill cranes drowned out the rest of Old Doug’s praise, a rare moment that he wished you could hear. The old man slapped his shoulder hard, holding nothing back making Legge feel great. Any encouragement was good but anything coming from Old Doug meant a bit more. Eighty-seven and still adding to life.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

14. The case containing the vertical part of the belt that

carries the buckets in a grain elevator.   

With his morning coffee on the porch listening to the cranes and seagulls battle it out for verbal supremacy, Legge pondered his day. He wanted to work at the house to press his own thoughts into how the Inn looked but it irked him had hadn’t found the key to unlocking its full potential. Chopping wood was out of the question since his hands were too sore.

“Signs,” he said to the birds around him. By getting more signs to put up around the Island he could build awareness. Harry was at his aunt’s for the day for her birthday so he was free to get it all done today. He rode to the sign company and they sprayed five new signs using the template they had. Picked them up in an hour, paid cash.

“Tax free,” he said to the woman at Beacon Images. “Business expense.”

“Save those receipts. No need givin’ them more than ya hav’ta.” She even gave him a handful of good-sized nails for the fence posts. Wouldn’t see that in the big city.

Since he was in Tehkummah, he rode south to South Baymouth where the ferry traffic arrived from the mainland. Past a stretch of Victorian homes south of town the exposed escarpment stood partially hidden behind the pine and cedar, a gray set of teeth in a perpetual grin, a witness to the whiskey-running and sins on the Island. An old log cabin still erect and dry. A hidden woodlot behind the gates.

He figured a well-located sign for motorcyclists riding out of the ferry would be in South Baymouth. They would see a sign that reads: “The Motorcycle Inn, Ice Lake, 705-282-9992.” They might not remember the number but they’d be inclined to look up Ice Lake on their maps at the first stop for fuel, but there was one more thing he thought to add. He felt the large permanent black marker in his coat pocket.

Past the terminal and the fish and chips restaurant, Legge knew the best place to nail the sign was just past the church on the main road leaving town, just when the clutter and cottages are past you and the road opens up. He found an old post where he nailed in a sign and then wrote at the bottom: FREE MAPS.

“That should do it,” he mumbled to himself, taking comfort knowing half the tourists come through here – this very spot. The other half at the bridge in Little Current. His RD400 hummed in its two-stroke cadence, still a danger to an overzealous throttle hand. He eased it north along Highway 6 past the turn off to Wikwemikong Indian Reservation, the only unceded piece of land in North America from imperialist Europe. In Little Current it was tricky to find a place close to the bridge so he went over the channel technically off the Island to find a fence post. About a kilometer up he found a good spot and wrote the FREE MAPS at the bottom of his sign.

Nerve-wracking with cars passing by, any one possibly a police cruiser. He could hear the conversation: “What are you doing there son? Do you have permission from the owner to put that sign there? If not you’re trespassing and in the act of destroying private property. Anything you say will be used against you in court in the name of the law. Come clean son. Let me see your license and registration. Insurance please. What kind of policy is this? Looks out of date to me. You’re stickers up to date on this vehicle sir? Do you have a proper motorcycle license sir? Not an M but an M1 or an M2? Sir? Sir?

As the inner dialogue within the noiseless hum of his motorcycle helmet morphed into more and more offences, his paranoia grew. But despite this Legge found it in himself to put up three more signs: one on Highway 540 going west out of Little Current, another in Mindemoya beside the lake on the main road, and a third in Spring Bay – the only other way to go west from Lake Mindemoya. With all main arteries covered, there was one sign leftover but he knew exactly where it would go. It would fit perfectly in the gable where the second-floor door to the old balcony used to be, just under the sharp triangular tip of the roof. He thought it might look better mounted on wood to give it stature.

With sun already low on the horizon, he calculated his chances of being able to nail the sign to the gable, check for new guests and then get to Gail’s for dinner. What did it matter anyway? Time was treated differently here. He eased his throttle back to within the speed limit, enjoying the forest and fields and wide-open orange-hued sky. Elation like a tonic overcame him in a wave.

Just past Spring Bay after the open farmland changes into the thick cedar groves south of Gore Bay the sun disappeared behind the treetops. The evening chill hit his neck first, the most sensitive exposed part of his body when riding. He needed a decent scarf. Visor pulled down in defense of the bug buffet that splattered against the plastic, dragonflies and bees being the worst offenders, especially one that hit the minute opening at the nape of his neck. He could still feel the heat radiating from the road and limestone from the day’s rays but in the shadows the bite in the air traveled down his chest in a funnel causing him to shiver. 

He rode past new homesteads near the turnoff for Nameless Lake, the one place on the Island with a no-motor policy. Maybe a good place to paddle with Harry. The worry returned when he thought about crossing the North Channel with Harry. Something about it disquieted him but it didn’t mean he couldn’t be spending more time on the water with Harry…

The shadows had reached the other side of the road. As he was about to turn on his headlight a large deer drove into his front wheel like a bull, head crushing against the metal frame, a crisp cracking of bone, the odd tranquil background during the moment of silence when his body kept going in the air now un-harnessed, somehow relaxed to fate. A noise of futile resistance of deer limbs fallen behind inertia, the raw skidding of metal on concrete and the rusted squeaking of old motorcycle joints, the flutter of leaves and cool moisture in the ditch. When he thought ground was immanent he kept flying into a gully beside the road tumbling into a culvert where he smashed his head against the metal edge. Piercing pain shot through his shoulder, panic that something had broken, torn and never able to repair. Now perfectly still, only breathing. Then his fingers moved, feeling for firm ground. He felt the gash on the top of his hand when it itched against the prickly grass now cleaved in two amid the marshes. The wind out of him, couldn’t move his head. The taste of sweat. He flexed his abdominals, his back in agony. Chipped tailbone? Busted hip? Thoughts raced through his mind in the calm aftershock, the moment between the change from before to after, a brief duration and anticipation and dread.

Lifting his shoulder he first experienced the crunch of bone rubbing against the ball joint, his ligaments stretched to new extremes. His first moan. A different type of pain. Something deeper. Panic hit his windpipe. Again he tried to sit up but couldn’t, his body tangled in the culvert. He looked through the broken plastic visor and saw blood and dark bits on his blue jeans. More fear pulsated through him that jacked up his adrenaline. In a reflex convulsion, he flexed all his muscles but his shoulder and found his legs to be free but not without some ankle pain. With his right shoulder now favored, he gently unlatched his helmet but no matter what he did the helmet would not budge. For a moment he thought the metal edge of the culvert was encased in his gray matter. What a waste, he thought, Harry and Manitou alone without him.

Stagnate swamp water seeped down his pants the lower he pushed his bum as he tried to stand. Breathing heavily the longer it took, finally he jerked his head as if from a blazing fire, feeling the dripping blood down his cheek. The warmth turned cold in the damp air and sent a shiver down his back. His helmet broke free of the culvert.

He relished his small victory.

Slowly he eased himself out of the ditch where he found some exposed rock to sit. It had become darker so he could only make out a crumpled mass on the road behind him. But his attention was to the helmet: the right side of the helmet had been knifed open by the edge of the culvert, the hard fiberglass wrapped hard around the sharp metal absorbing the impact.

“My God.” Very carefully he put his hand up to his head but then took it away as he knew there was no sense to stick swamp-water hands into an open wound. The cut had congealed so with a deep breath he walked back to his motorcycle stopping to have a better look at the blood on his pants and scooping dark matter off his thigh. It was a red mound of deer hair like ripped skin, moist and sticky. He shivered.

Found the motorcycle twisted and bent, shock absorbers bent backwards from impact, handlebars ripped clean off. Glass crunched under his feet and he felt the throbbing of his shoulder. The smell of gasoline and burnt rubber.

Touched his shoulder. Something definitely broken in there.

He followed the skid marks back to the dark patch on the road where there were some pieces from the bike and dark matter from the animal. A high-pitched whimpering sound caught his attention in the ditch. The deer lay on its side, breathing fast and twitching useless front legs, one mangled into putty, the other one lying dismembered on the shoulder. Sinew and bone. Deep gouge at the base of the neck, inner tissue white, fresh. Hit like a bulldozer on speed.

Sounds of wildlife like a chorus from the forest, remote and concealed in the dark. Clinical in his analysis he replayed it in his head unable to silence the sound of impact. Then light grew from a car’s oncoming headlights, the soupy red blood interconnected in a spaghetti of brown fur, the white tail still reflecting the light unmoving in the ditch, the moaning more tempered. Blood gleamed off the pavement in the rushing light. A motorcyclist’s life, he thought, you asked for it. This is part of the contract. Don’t pout because a wild animal ran into you; that would be breaking the spirit of the engagement. This was the small print in sub paragraphs footnoted in the appendixes, the minutia of the contract. The wounded on the battlefield. Speed and chance taking a point in its ongoing struggle for victory, gravity-defying horizontal force powered by a twist of the wrist. The evolution of horseback riding, the vehicle of death for Kit Carson and Genghis Khan. An arrow through the muscle of a limb or head armor gored on a culvert lying in a sodden ditch; the scars of war the only thing remembered after years have passed. A medal of valor proof of survival. Carefree and thrilled to toy with life. 

“You okay mister?” A young voice, the engine drowning out the moans of the wounded deer.

“I think so, but he isn’t.” They both looked at the deer.

“How long you been here?” Legge shrugged, shoulder magnifying pain in protest.

“A few minutes.” The young man pointed to an opening in the cedars.

“It happens here on this stretch. I live just down the road. Here, let me git my brother so we can shoot this deer and put her outta her misery? You wanna come with me?”

A rash of things went through his mind. Did he need to call the police? What were they going to do with the deer? How was he going to get home? Was he still bleeding?

“I’ll stay,” he said, his throat dry, shallow.

“Let’s git the bike off the road.” Fresh faced with pimples and short hair, the driver pulled the scrap metal into the ditch and kicked the rest into a pile. He even kicked the front leg of the deer off the shoulder. He left a cloud of dust behind him after he drove off to find his brother. Legge went to the culvert and saw the paint from his helmet encrusted on the lip of the tunnel: the guillotine that was built for this moment – the determiner of whether the rider wore good headgear.

When the headlights reappeared he knew it was the same truck. When he reached the deer, out-stepped a tall man with a moustache carrying a rifle in his hands.

“Heard a deer ran into you?” 

When Legge laughed the gash in his head hurt, but it was his shoulder that still pulsed with pain.

“You could say that. It did hit me.” Toads and crickets were screaming when the engine shut off.

“Deer crossings all along here. Happens a lot,” he said, looking closer at Legge’s head. “Melvin my name is. You don’t mind me looking at your head do ya?” Standing beside him Melvin was massive with sheer muscle, taller than Legge. “Pretty clean cut if you ask me. Not jagged anyway. Seen worse. Way worse. Count yerself lucky and leave it at that. Now let’s to that deer. You eat deer?” Not waiting for an answer he went behind the deer head’s and shot precisely where he wanted, a dull thud muffled the booming pop of the weapon. The throbbing pain and cedar-perfumed air and the whimper of defeat by the deer now gone. Its life and suffering were over from the hand of fate played out at a crossing of paths and convergence at a precise moment in time.

“Nelson, let’s take her to the camp. Help me load her up.”

“It’s a big one.” Watching the brothers gouge hooks into the hide and drag it to the truck, he could feel the impact still vivid and the sound of shattered bone still echoing in his ears. Legge looked with sorrow at the beast, a battering ram that threw him forty feet into a culvert. To alleviate the un-abating pain in the core of his shoulder, he bent over and let it dangle.

“Shoulder?” Melvin grinned at him. Legge nodded. “Here. Give me your hand.” Melvin sat cross-legged at his feet, gripped his hand with both hands and yanked the arm straight out of the socket. Legge screamed but Melvin kept his grip firm and the arm realigned, sinking back into the ball-and-joint socket. Just as he was about to curse at this cheap shot he noticed he felt no more pain. Gone just like that.

“Sorry about that. Only way is by surprise.” Melvin laughed under his breath. “Better?”

“Yeah. The pain is gone. How’d you do that?”

“Dislocated. Just yank her back in.” They walked to the injured motorcycle. “But be careful. Let it heal. Don’t want a shoulder problem. Those tendons need to shrink back if they can. They’ve been stretched something awful. Git one of those braces at the drugstore and keep that thing on fer at least six weeks.”

When Nelson and Melvin were done cleaning up and had lifted the bike into the bed of the truck, Legge showed them his helmet. Under the beam of Nelson’s flashlight, the gash in the helmet carved by the culvert was creepy.

“Will you look at that? Good thing you had on a decent hat, lad. That was money well spent, eh?” Nelson fingered the metal imprint that left fiberglass residue on his skin.

“Look at this.” Nelson pointed at a crack that went all the way around the helmet well beyond the width of the gash.

“That splitting of the helmet saved your life,” said Melvin. “Not only did it stop you from being decapitated, it softened the sudden impact that scrambles your brains.”

Back in the truck on the way to The Motorcycle Inn, the brothers marveled at the design of the cracked helmet, making it clear that Legge could have been a vegetable right now if he had had a crappy ‘hat.’ They thought it was funny how fate could bring you so close to death and then let you walk away with only bruises. There was a profound truth in it all they said.

“Never ride at dusk,” said Melvin. “Someone should have told you that.”

“Here, I’m down past Needles,” he said when they reached. “At The Motorcycle Inn. Follow the signs.”

“Why? Is that where you’re staying?”

“No, it’s where I live.” The brothers looked at each other, perhaps wondering why they thought he was only a rookie rider who was only just beginning to learn how to ride. After all, who would ride during dusk?


Nelson and Melvin dumped the RD400 in front of the shed in a pile. The back tire was bent and the exhaust pipe ripped clean off except for where it joined the engine, the only semblance to a motorcycle.

“We otta ask our councilman to put up a sign there so people know it’s dangerous ‘cause this just keeps happening and ain’t ever going to stop. They just go an jump that fence anyway. The deer are gonna go where the deer wanna go. That’s the way it’s always been so no point thinking it’s gonna change.” Melvin watched Legge sit down gingerly in the kitchen, keeping his hand buried in his half-zipped motorcycle jacket.

“You wanna ice your shoulder tonight as much as you can, if ya got some frozen peas or something.” When Legge looked at Melvin, he thought he seemed guilty about yanking his arm without warning.

“Yep, we help quite a few people now, living there so close,” said Nelson. “I never hit a deer yet.”

“You mean a deer ain’t hit you yet.” Melvin raised his finger at Legge. “Remember to tell the insurance company about that. The deer hit you. If you don’t they won’t cover the costs for repairs.”



“So what d’you run here? An Inn? What’s that mean?” Nelson in awe of the size of the kitchen.

“It said B&B, right? Bed and breakfast.” Melvin playing the older brother.

“I know that but what I mean is what else you got here? I mean it’s for motorbikers okay but what else? You got any trails or jumps or something?”

“It’s like a hostel.” The question was too difficult to answer. “I’m going to check the cut on my head. I’ll be right back.” He needed to look in the mirror.

Legge was alarmed when he saw his hair glued to a smiling cut, the fold of open flesh still white, Peeling back strands of hair tugged at the numb skin around it, he studied the cut but it was covered with dried blood so he ran hot water and sacrificed an old towel. The hot water warmed something in him. With the dried blood washed away, the cut looked manageable. Inside the cabinet he took the iodine and poured it on the cut using the towel to stop the excess from dripping down his face. He knew the sting was good, the first pangs of healing, the body’s armor equal to the task of regenerating. He pinched it shut, moved the loose flap of skin over the cut and it stayed shut. His blood-soaked hair covered it.

But the hand was different. There was no flap of skin to comb over the wound in one swipe to mend back to normal. Fine granules of stone and tar embedded into the second layer of dermas and tattooed discoloration around the pitted under-skin still pink. He slowly removed his jacket to stop the cuff from rubbing the abrasion and looked for tweezers to remove the debris.

“You want some of the deer?” Nelson stood at the bathroom entrance.

“You mean to eat?” The boy unsure if he was making fun of him, answered sincerely.

“Yep, to eat.”

“Umm.” There was something morally repugnant about eating the fallen in battle, a duel played out according to the intricacies of fate and the mechanics of space and time. But then he thought that the deer had given him its life so he might become stronger and wiser. “Okay, I’ll take some.”

“I’ll cut you a piece.” He left and Legge worked on his hand as best he could and then returned to the kitchen.

“Shit ya look better now. Sit down and take a load off. You been through a serious collision. I know ‘cause I seen it before. See I volunteer at the fire station so I go out on a lot of calls. First aid and stuff like that. No wonder insurance is so high.” Melvin was massive in the chair. Legge saw him eying the jug of whiskey above the refrigerator.

“You’re a Legge are ya? This used ta be Harold’s house. I remember him on that bike. Always on it. Crazy old man. Good man though, wouldn’t hurt a flea. Shame about that accident with his sister though.” Melvin looked over his shoulder at the truck where sounds of an ax hitting a carcass could be heard.

Legge got a bottle of water, put on a kettle of tea and brought the whiskey jug to the table wondering how long it would be before he brought up Sammy Legge. He chugged the water until the entire bottle was finished.

“If you don’t mind me asking, is that whiskey in there?”

“It’s from an old cache of whiskey we found hidden along the shore. Feel free.” He swigged from the jug with the correct protocol of cradling it on his forearm like a newborn.

“Ouch! No, no.” A hand thrust into the air. “That’s gotta bite to it eh? You can’t be going around drinking that now can ya? That’s straight moonshine made from wheat and corn I reckon. Bloody disinfectant that is. Would kill any bugs you might have!” Jug still cradled, the baby still nursing from the teat, he took another sampler.

Nelson brought in the rear half of the flank, skinned and bloodless, and placed it in the sink.

“Kin git some good deer burgers outa that one. Save ya money on meat.” The boy stopped and watched his older brother execute a slow swig from the whiskey pot.

“That Sammy! What a guy. I reckon this is the same stuff they used to drink during the stilling thirties ‘round here. Is that tobacco in that?”

“You can taste it?”

“Like a butted out cigarette.” He burped. “Oh. This is going to give me heartburn. Too many potatoes last night. I have a weakness. Love my mashed potatoes.”

“You got that right,” said Nelson, thinking he would have to take the keys from his brother before the night was over.

The tea soothed Legge’s rattled core, the voices of the brothers taking his attention away from replaying the images freshly painted in his mind. 

“Why don’t you spike your tea? Might calm yer nerves old man.” Legge allowed him to pour some into his mug. He added water up to the rim before his lips tasted the concoction, the tobacco juice wrecking the subtle bouquet of the Jasmine leaves.

“You own all that open land out there around the corner?” Nelson had something on his mind. Lips trembled before the words could come out

“I do.”

“I ask because that would be real good riding out there on the motocross. You got flat land big enough for top-gear sprints down the fence line and across to the poplar patch. I had myself a look and there’s plenty of room. Full moon out there.”

“What are you talking about?” asked his brother. “Spit it out!” Lips moist, face red.

“I’m talking about letting people ride on your land. You know, make some trails. It’d take like a day to do that. Easy. At least a basic track. How much land do you own?”

Legge, flushed with the onslaught of the tickling stage of intoxication, was reluctant to speak and threaten his equilibrium.

“You ride off road Legge? You ever do any off-road riding on a dirt bike?”

“I haven’t had the chance.” The emotion in Melvin’s eyes was tangible that bespoke of tragedy; that of a man who had never experienced riding a motorbike over bumps in a field, the pinnacle of fun.

“Well then we can rectify that can’t we Nelson? Can’t we?” Melvin leaned over the table to examine the cut on his head so fast that Legge could not move.

“I can put a butterfly stitch in there. It might pull open when you go to sleep. No problem. The butterfly will keep it firm. Where is your first aid kit?” He pointed Melvin to the bathroom cabinet where he found supplies. After cutting away the hair, white medical tape cut thin at both sides and tucked in, placed so the flaps of skin were pinched against each other.

“Don’t touch it,” he said. “Just leave it ‘til it falls off. Make sure the scab hardens first. If not that sucker’ll stretch into a decent scar.”

“I’m not worried about that. It’s my hand that hurts the most.” Melvin took his hand and placed it directly under the light resting on the table, skin torn and gritty with swamp moss and pebbles, purple and wrinkled with swelling. Fingers puffy.

Melvin found the towel and hot water, soaked the hand for five minutes, blood oozing at odd corners, new pains screaming for attention. Three fingers too painful to even prompt.

When the towel was removed, large pieces of debris came up with it.

“This will hurt a bit. Have some more tea.” He picked away at the easy pieces until there was no avoiding the deep laceration halfway across the back of the hand. “It looks like the brake lever almost took your hand clean off.”

“The tendons feel like they’ve been half cut.” A few pebbles were nestled in deep, the pain now disconnected from the numbing aspect of Sammy’s whiskey. Scar tissue.

“Ouch!” He yelled. “My word, take it easy there.” Pincers deep, white hot stabs at the epicenter of pain.

“Chin up chief, just a bit more. There’s one piece that’s lodged deep. And it needs to come out, but let’s soak it again. We’re in no rush.” Nelson cleaned the towel and ran it through the hot water. Legge horrified at the sight of his hand, searing and throbbing in dispute.

“Gonna have a motorbike tattoo there,” said Nelson, who was sparked up by the chance to help with the operation. “Lotsa bikers get ‘em. Sorta default thing. ‘Ben riding long?” Both brothers looked at Legge sizing him up.

“Not so long. That was my uncle’s bike that got wrecked tonight. I gotta live with that.”

“But don’t you see? That’s not really how you should look at it,” said Melvin, sitting up in his chair. “That bike saved your life. The newer bikes would splinter into shredded fiberglass like your helmet. They’re designed to do that, but the thirty-year old metal of your bike saved you from probably losing a leg.” Legge remembered his foot lifting against the shoulder blade of the deer, his ass skimming over its body as the inertia catapulted him forward. In the back on his mind he knew that was why he was able to walk away without a crumpled femur.

The brothers left Legge after his injuries had been treated and cleaned up as best they could to save Legge the trouble. With music playing he fell asleep on the couch into an anti-inflammatory stupor, the Sammy Legge whiskey like morphine taking him away. In the morning a serious hunger took hours to alleviate because everything took twice as long. It wasn’t until his aunt and Harry arrived when he could put up his legs and rest. Aunt Gail flew into Florence Nightingale using all the tricks in the book to show her expertise in what she called ‘accident medicine.’ She even forgot to mention he missed her birthday.


On the deck with a cup of tea in her hand staring at the setting sun, two shiny paths down both cheeks, her shawl not enough for the wind from the sea. Eyes glistening in the deep waters of remembrance and sorrow, of loss and devastating misfortune. Sounding cruel to her ears, the wind shrieks like claws over a dry rock, a nuisance with the invisible powers, ruffling in the bushes of a lost raccoon or snake, ankles exposed. Never safe from vicissitudes of undeserved injury. Gail blinked away the water as if a moth’s wing had fallen into each eye. No, she would not rub them. A raucous of beast killing beast in the forest, wind weakening a tree, water suffocating earth, an ancient cacophony always ending in death.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

15. Either of the two inclined sides of an anticlinal deposit.

“The McKeen brothers found him in the ditch outa Spring Way near Union Road,” said Patterson, grin on one side of his face. “Deer was killed almost by impact. Musta jus’ hit like a barrel.”

“Lucky son of a bitch.” Mac squinted thoughtfully at the sun overhead. A cat with tiger markings sauntered into the garage with a mouse in its mouth.

“Walked away. Bike toast. Shame ‘bout the bike. She was a beauty.”

“Rookie rider,” Morrell said, shaking his head. “Riding at dusk. You woulda thought he knew.”

“Good he didn’t get the cops involved. At least he had sense enough-“

“Probably those McKeens took care of him. They’s like sweepers along there. Should put better fences up I reckon.” A sucking sound came from the depths of his gob. “He was a lucky son of a bitch. Yer right Mac. Damn lucky!”

“Woulda liked to see the helmet stuck on the culvert like that. Even Melvin thought it was a hoot.”

Each man shared some of their own close calls on motorcycles or cars or canoes during their extensive tenure in the wilds, each knowing how much luck and chance and timing were involved. Just then Legge parked his van in the parking lot and gingerly got out of the driver’s seat. The air rich with the sounds of birds after a rainfall, the aroma of earth intermingling with the pungent smell of freshwater pocketed by the bay’s surrounding cliffs, a stimulant for the senses.

“He lives,” said Patterson, stepping closer to Legge. “That’s some cut. You put that thing on?”

“Melvin McKeen put it on. A butterfly I think it’s called.” Morrell and Mac laughed.

“That’s a nasty bitch on your hand,” Morrell gawked. “Throttle hand. Ain’t that a drag.” Most off the iodine had washed off so only pink skin and torn scar tissue in a mass brawl where it should have been smooth.

Mac stepped close and put his hand on Legge’s shoulder, He drew away.

“Dislocated my shoulder. Sorry.” Mac patted his other shoulder.

“Good to see you again Legge. You all right then? Flying 40 feet through the air and living to tell the tale? Eh lad? What do you say for yourself?” Legge said nothing because he couldn’t. He didn’t have anything to say about it.

“Your helmet was stuck on the culvert?” Patterson disbelieving. Legge nodded.

“Split the helmet in two.”

“Saved your life. You were dead without that thing on. Goes to show you don’t it? And look at your helmet?” Patterson said looking at Morrell’s helmet on the counter. “Shame excuse fer a hat. Impaled is what you’d be if that deer come out and slammed you off yer bike with that hairpiece.” Patterson had always hated Morrell’s helmet.

 “I wouldn’t have been riding at dusk.”

“Can happen anytime and you know that. Fact of life here. Sure they stay under the trees when its high sun but that still don’t change the fact that a deer is the most dangerous threat on the Island for a man’s life. That simple.” The banter between the two of them had heated up lately.

Legge thought it funny how they focused on the external cuts instead of the soft-tissue injuries, his shoulder and back and legs. Everything bruised and bleeding underneath. 

“Did you see it?” Morrell’s voice was reserved, as if he had an ace up his sleeve.

“No. Just the head at the last second. It had made up its mind to cross. Direct hit into my front wheel. No time to react except raising my knee just enough to miss the bulk of the body whipping around.”

“And the handlebars.”

“They were ripped off on impact.”

“Like a linebacker on speed. I seen it before. Dumb animals. Jus’ push through to the other side. And kill people. Like a ram.”

“Who was that guy from Providence Bay who was running for council saying he would use funds to plant trees and build fences along the roads throughout the Island to keep the deer from darting out and to cut down the snow drifts and white outs in the open areas? In light of this not a bad idea.” Mac loved the local newspaper.

“Might jus’ do to have his doubting citizens see what happened to this here Legge man. Poor bugger. Gotta rest his shoulder and sip moonshine until his house is full and the rooms are all paid for. Jus’ sit back and let the business come to you. We seen your signs all over the Island now. Free maps. Those are my maps! I make a mark on yer map and next thing I knowse yer selling them!” Morrel finding something to be bitter about.

“I thought you said ‘Free Maps,’” said Mac.

“Well they’re incentive to bring ‘em in and stay, ain’t they? He’s usin’ my knowledge to build his business.”

“What’s wrong with that? Not hurting anybody is it?”

“It’s hurtin’ me! That’s the point. I should get some percentage of the money, er-“ A twinkle set in his eye from behind the dirty lenses of his eyeglasses. “Er some free moonshine. Somethin’ like that. Jus’ to keep it fair and all.”

“This man is injured and you’re gouging him for free grog? What’s wrong with you lad? Something loose up there?”

Patterson pointed at his ponytail. “That thing is pulling your brains out. Leave him alone. You should be buying him lunch. Look at him. Hanging by a thread he is.”

Legge closed his eyes and felt the relaxing effects of the anti-inflammatories he was taking, throbbing in multiple areas, invisible brushfires all over his body. Physically he had been weakened, which scared him. His shoulder was needed for the firewood and painting and work around the house. He needed physical strength to make it on the Island unlike the city where he could get by. For a moment he thought of Nathan and the days in Detroit when there was still hope for him to create a thriving hive of activity in a puddle of love and support with his baby mama Athena. But Nathan, it was true, was thriving. Bragged about the different frame of mind and the lawlessness of the west, cowboys and Indians and the sacred Hopi who had all the knowledge of the generations. His emails used words like ‘Tequila’ and ‘peyote’ and ‘Charles Manson’ as if he were a native of the area. Kept talking about “the renewal of his soul” from breathing in new light from a place hot like a desert where there was no snow and no horseflies. He said “you have to check it out. Relax beside the pool. Windsurf on Lake Mead. Climb the cliffs north of Vegas. And don’t forget the mountain biking in the Mohave.” Must be hyperbole. Nathan was always good at that.

The sound of seagulls snapped him out of his medicated stupor.

“Lunch sounds good,” said Legge, feeling dizzy and brave.

“Did you say you’re buying Morrell?” Mac put down his cold coffee and picked up his jacket.


“Buoys. On the patio. Best place right about now.”

“I got taxes to pay and increased fuel costs. I can’t be no restaurateur and be spendin’ money I ain’t got.” A flash of gums and hoarse exhalation of the smoker’s lung.

“Let’s go Legge,” said Mac. “Haven’t had lunch yet either. My treat.”

He and Mac left for Buoys and Morrell took off riding. Patterson refilled his cup, turned up the radio and lay flat on his back draining oil out of a pick-up truck. Every minute or so he would roll out, sip his coffee out of the corner of his mouth, and was better for it. His own garage, his own work schedule. His own tuna sandwich in his bag. He reached out to turn the volume up on the radio.


Salt and vinegar and fish and chips, a Scottish gourmet, both hunched over their baskets hoping stray seagull shit wouldn’t land on their tuck before it was consumed. Skinny red and white lighthouse at the mouth of the bay and the soft clanging of boats docked along the shore at the marina, the bay acting as an amphitheater containing the small town sounds. Lakeshore smells rich with fresh cut grass and the crispness of freshwater, without salt water’s smelly seaweed and dead fish. Mac drank his beer like root beer – in big gulps.

“Canadians take for granted a lot of little things like this,” Mac speaking and grabbing French fries in rapid succession. “Patterson and Morrell never come here because they think it’s expensive, but this is the very thing that makes Canada so beautiful: these little coves built like small New England towns. Simple and rustic. And on freshwater. Nothing like Scotland. Everything’s so old there. You never have to worry about your water supply here unlike most of the world. So much of it, just waiting to be used. Look at this deck. Simple, solid and durable, pleasant enough but not fancy. You feel a competent hand built this in that open, communal friendly way that Canadians have. It’s like everyone knows how much they have and wants to give it away – show it off like a proud parent. I come here as much as I can just to enjoy this scenery. It’s like a postcard.”

Legge wanted more fish but didn’t say anything because Mac was paying.

“That’s why I canoe so much. Gotta explore these coastlines here. That right there-“ He pointed across the North Channel to the tops of the La Cloche Mountain Range. “That is the oldest mountain range in the world. Makes for unbelievable shorelines and camping spots. It’s just here waiting to be enjoyed. In Scotland everything has been discovered. People have been there so long there’s no virgin land left. But here, particularly Manitoulin Island, there are so many places where man has never stepped before. Think about that! Never stepped before. That’s where I want to go. That’s what I’d rather be doing than watching television. That’s my goal while I’m here: to visit those spots that are virgin.”

“That’s what I want to do too, but now with this shoulder canoeing and riding will be difficult.”

“It will heal in a month. No big deal.”

“Didn’t Morrell mention that you have a boat? Why don’t you explore on the boat instead of the canoe?” Mac sucked down his beer in big gulps.

“Too noisy with the engine. Hearing the birds and sounds from the woods and the water lapping the rocky shore is another thing that Scotland has very little of. All the fowl has been shot and the deer population is a hundredth of what it is here. The way I see it is that Canada is just like Scotland when it was young.”

“Like what? A couple thousand years ago?”

“Something like that. Still places to cultivate here. Still wild animals like when Adam and Eve were alive, or you know what I mean. The Promised Land. Still pure. No factories and pollution here. No history of Roman domination.”

“Hadrian’s Wall.”

“Fair enough. But just remember: leaving is all downhill from here Legge. All downhill.” When the fish was finished Legge was about to stand up to go but Mac ordered another round of beer.


After her shift Mare came to the house with Dana.

Her visits had become regular since his wipe out, a change he welcomed. Like two planets orbiting the same star, they moved closer through gravitational pull, a mass working against another mass, luring, drawing nearer. Dana spent more time at the house with Harry and Manitou, more sleepovers and more time to mend himself in Mare’s presence. She made dinner and washed the dishes and took out the garbage, chores that were once so simple but now an exercise in pain. Even after weeks with his shoulder pinned in sling, the deep ache was stubborn to subside.

“She wants to take care of him,” said the aunt to her quilting friend Agnes. “That’s her nature. But she’s still married for God’s sake. That’s just not right in my books. Doesn’t look right. And he’s such a simple man.” Talking about Harry and Legge with Agnes while she knitted was common in her house. Agnes knew everything about her nephew.

“He’s hurt Gail. And she’s helping out – being a good neighbor. Don’t you go all long-mouthed like a silly girl. You get yourself over there if you want to make a difference in that boy’s life. And if you get the chance you might want to tell our Mare that her ways don’t fit here in Gore Bay. It should be you who says something to her.”

“I know what she wants. And it don’t feel right. What’s he going to say to little Harry? How is he going to explain where her father is?” Voice grew more feverish.

“You’re talking to the wrong person if you want to know the answer to that question. You know what I’m saying?”

“Men,” she said, exasperated. Her stiff upper lip reached exploding proportions so that it quivered.

“You mean ‘women.’” Agnes not missing a thing while creating a flowered quilt. Hand stitch, hand stitch, hand stitch.


Nestled back on Upper Street overlooking Kagawong, Legge sat on Mare’s deck waiting for lunch. She insisted on pancakes saying he needed the eggs to heal. Apron, hair pinned back and faint flowers on a cotton dress with well-worn Birkenstock sandals. Both children in the driveway, Harry throwing the neighbor’s sponge football at Dana, expecting her to be a big brother. Soon frustrated he threw it for the dog to retrieve, which she did to both their delight.

“These are super-charged pancakes so use lots of Maple syrup.” He didn’t want to ask what “super-charged” meant because there was an implied trust. The pancakes were good. Eaten in record time. Appetite greater than ever.

Clearing the table, Mare hesitated when she saw the scabbed hand up close.

He rubbed the rough abrasion hoping to smooth the skin back to normal, another source of potential uneasiness.

“Time,” she said. His heart beat faster as he followed her through the open sliding-glass doors into the living room, walls burgundy and covered with her own art. Sketches using watercolors of simple design, rock against trees like a clumsy impressionist. But each piece had a balance of parts that created a focal point for the eye where the coloring became more complex and layered.

Wine-colored walls absorbed the sunshine from behind bookshelves stuffed full with hardcover books of all sizes. The chessboard on the top shelf intimidated him. He saw the intelligence of the woman who still clung to a lifeline leading to the oilfields of Alberta. He could only hope. Like the sun coming into her house, Mare was a ray of light that instilled hope in him. Her smile more confident every time he saw her, today there on the corner of her mouth. Legge aware she knew he could see it, but it was their secret for now.


leg: (ME leg, legge, fr. ON leggr leg, bone; akin to OE lira fleshy part of the body, L lacertus muscles, upper arm, lacerta lizard, GR lax with the foot)

16a. One of several (as three) events or games necessary to be won to decide a competition.

Gail tried her best not to say anything when she arrived. Evidence of the married woman’s presence was everywhere. The chronic jam of half-unpacked boxes was gone so that the café-styled table beside the woodstove looked like an indoor French patio complete with framed Campari pictures on the wall. Too modern for her tastes. Prickly sense of injustice and invasion of privacy in the family home. A month of usurpation. The fortifying power within the castle walls, the coup complete. MacBeth whisperings behind closed doors, the sin of ignoble purpose. Hooked like a squid, black ink spilled bile acidic enough to burn skin. When no longer able to suppress her mope, the aunt told Legge she was going for a walk down the road to stretch her legs. She walked to the door and let the thwack of emotion charge her tank.

The Maple trees with full-length leaves dangled and waved in the language of the air, carrying messages by the gods from the west, a non-stop superhighway from the prairie wind tunnel blowing unhindered by mountains. Her boots squeaked but her thoughts were frantic. Dragon Head’s Lighthouse where she had first kiss a boy, the years when the door was left open for anyone to climb up, the incident with Paul the plumber’s son when he broke his leg down the stairs.

Her feet took her up the steep climb to the escarpment’s edge where Inspiration Point was now fenced off by new owners. A flutter in her solar plexus took her to the Pontiac, when her Benny had that twinkle in his eye and only mischief on his mind. That was what she remembered of him the most. That desire in his eye, the sureness that he wanted her. The promise of youth and the profound belief in life. They were the perfect match, both vehemently optimistic even if life weighed down on them. Invincible standing together.

Quickened her pace knowing why she was going down the dirt road. Hadn’t been down here in years, maybe since the time of the ‘incident’ as she called it. She tried to be interested in the large sheets of birch bark that were peeling off mature birch in clusters, but she let herself remember. The floodgates opened.

“Damn him!” she said. Resentment boiled instantly as if always there simmering under her radar. It had been cloudy day when the drizzle was almost snow and the air was thick with moisture, cold penetrating the skin. She had gone through a long phase when she blamed it on the weather, that Harold had not shown up that day because of the damp and drizzle. Part of her knew that life was made up of such simple truths as weather the way that world events are shaped around small incidents of tremendous symbolism. If Harold had been there her Benny would be the father of the family they never had.

The gate was open, only one tire track in the dirt, the driveway encroached on all sides by hanging branches. A cedar rail fence hugged the forest along the property line of the Peltier farm, a clearing of broken logs and rock. Not a bird flew. Not a sound to be heard. Desolate and barren, cold branches half dead in the shallow soil, moss gripping exposed stone at its edges. Drab gray rock splintered in jagged forms, loose to the foot. Dry and cracked. The old stump was still there but now overshadowed by brush, hiding the scars of the tractor that flipped over and pinned her Benny. She trod down the path wondering what it was like to bleed to death alone, here, at this place. She was twenty five last time she was here. Remembered shivering and the dried, caked blood that once held the life of the man she loved. The stain though gone still present there beside the stump where the leg was pinned.

If Harold had been there Benny would have lived. He would have got help or been able to shimmy the tractor off the leg. She knew this to be true.

Benny was pinned for hours. No one would say exactly how long. It was near dark when Harold found him, dead gray, lifeless: the last time she saw Benny Peltier before the tractor could be moved. She stood clinging to hope that he might be alive, that maybe the release of pressure would jumpstart his heart. And so the needling hope lingers.

That needling hope had thwarted noble suitors who had no mark against them except they weren’t Benny.

Swallowed and felt hoarseness of her throat while she endured the stresses of remembrance. Had she not cursed God? Had she not shaken her fist at Him declaring her challenge to Him to show her why? Forty years and still no answer. She could not let go.

A raven crossed overhead flapping its wings slowly rising in the sky, squawking echoed down the trees in the clearing waking up slumbering rodents. At that moment she placed a stone on the moss on top of the stump where the weight would one day nestle into the decaying wood, timbers half-fallen crisscrossing the dense forest behind it. When she caught a whiff of a mushroom patch somewhere near the loss was complete. Emptiness creaked within her like a stovepipe cooling after the burn.

She felt she had closure when she left the Peltier’s, spurning her to walk to the top of the escarpment above Mudge Bay where the weight of the past evaporated into the smooth horizon of worn rock shone white. She had been scathed but could refit. However she could never feel love for Harold again. The finality of death slapped her there on the escarpment abruptly when she thought of him. They were both gone but she was still here.

Gravity pulled her from the cliff down the hill to the lip of the water where she walked back to the lighthouse and down the driveway past the silly sign for The Motorcycle Inn. A cold front from the water encroached the heat from the day. Cooler nights bothered her in some profound way, shortchanged by the same trick again.

Manitou approached her barking, still a rookie but beginning her duties as guard dog. Harry came out and laughed at the high pitched barking. Manitou jumped up to her licking her hands. Funny how a dog can sense elation in a human. They walked to the backyard where new paths were forming in the tall grass from Harry walking Manitou. 

Garden unweeded and unkempt, clearly not a priority for the new dame of the household. She looked at her calloused hands. When she took the shovel and cleared most of the infringing foliage so the fruit took the lion’s share of the water it felt cathartic.

Legge out on the deck, shoulder still immobile in a splint. She leaned on the shovel and smiled.

“Haven’t had the chance,” he started to say.

“No, no. You know what you need to do. Jus’ sit down and rest. These tomatoes are coming up already. Good soil here. Always has been. Feels like I been doing this all my life.” A flap of hair unhinged in the wind tickled her nose.

“There’s some tea here. Pot’s still warm.” She raised her hands letting the shovel fall at her feet.

“God bless you son.”

The tea was a balm. They sipped tea listening to Sandhill Cranes croak their prehistoric cries from fields behind the house, ancient calls of the wild soothing like the Jasmine tealeaf. Before nightfall she made sure all the beds were made with fresh linens and left Legge and Harry to the Inn.


The fireplace emitted the orange hue of fire reflecting of a bottle half-full on the table and Agnes chattering after hearing of Gail Legge’s day, the dog asleep at her feet. Gail felt the glow on her cheeks stirred with the immediate memories of Rex. There was a way to fulfill her vacancies and stir the pot, a way to poke at the coals and open the slew. For a moment she wished someone would serve her tea and warm the cold chill of an empty room that she could not fill. Rex, the forbidden fruit, a married man. But if Mare could sleep over then she could engage in some of this new morality. Who was she to close the door forever? The white spark of fire was only a flicker away to those willing to put themselves in harm’s way.

She shared her inclination with Agnes. 

“So you have it in you again do you?” the light shining brighter in her eyes. “You need to be awful sure Gail. You know what that witch’ll do.” She could see it in Gail’s eyes so Agnes set about plotting her approach, always game for any talk about strategy. She was interested in keeping it decisive and simple.

“How do I make initial contact?” she asked. “I can’t mail him and I can’t knock on his door and I can’t wait for him at Foodland.”

“Go through someone. Someone like…” Agnes didn’t bother saying his name because there was a security risk using that resource.

“No. This needs to be airtight.” Agnes’ hands stayed busy with the two needles in her hands, hair up in a bun, not one hair out of place. Strands dangling purposely over her ears. The tapping of the needles assumed a rhythmic count, the ball of wool shrinking with every yank of the string. Even Agnes, widow of some ten years now had look of the rapscallion in her, her imagination working while still looking at the needles working in tandem.

“His boat maybe. She’s never there.”

“But someone will see.” Introspective as she sipped her Canadian Club whiskey, Gail Legge squinted, knowing there was a solution to this.

“The only way is back through the knitting clique,” she said and slapping her leg with her hand. “When’s the next do?” Agnes’ pace picked up ‘til she had gone past her mark and forced to pull out the knitted wool line by line until the edge was again flush.

“Might be like going back to square one. Maybe there are new options to consider?” There was a gleam under the raised eyebrow. Agnes Baker was no ordinary thinker.


“The fair at Massey is coming up.”

“The Massey Fair! We could stay with Betty for the weekend. I haven’t seen her since her kids left.” The two women knitted quietly, the small sabers rattling in a controlled battle, hand against hand leaving a woven trail empirical to the touch. They had come up with an idea. The only difference now was the curved upward line at the corners of their lips.