The Motorcycle Inn (Part 3)


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)

16b. Either half of a double entry in betting (as the daily double).

Needles was busy on Sunday mornings with kids running across to the beach while parents drank bottomless-cups of coffee and procrastinated their chores for the weekend. Legge wasn’t out of place with his weeklong beard and mop of hair under his baseball cap. He ate the unfinished toast on Harry’s plate and the bit of egg missed by his fork. Mare picked up her pot of tea and topped up her cup. There in the corner they sat watching the children through the cedar bushes along the sidewalk.

Tuttle arrived with the pot of coffee likely having drank an entire pot already himself.

“I forgot to tell you but Melvin McKeen was by the other day.” Tuttle filled his cup. “He said something about going by his place. Said he had something for you.”

“Something for me?” Probably a missed piece of his motorcycle.

“That’s all he said. You know where he lives?” He nodded. Legge had seen the pick-up truck parked beside the wooden house in from the trees down the road from his deer episode. “Knowing those boys it’s something to do with motorcycles. Guess you haven’t been riding since your spill.” Spill. Sounded like coffee on the counter waiting for a jay cloth.

“Still need to keep the shoulder immobilized.”

“Don’t want your muscle to rot off.”

“It does feel better. Might see how it feels without the sling.” Tuttle nodded.

“That way it puts more stress on the stretch ligaments. Just keep off it at night.”

“Body’s sore so it’s painful no matter how I sleep.” Mare looked at him.

“Just don’t let that spill ruin your love for the road young man. I‘d be a shame, that would. Get back on the horse is my philosophy.”

“That sounds about right,” said Mare, smothering her smile by pinching the edge of her mug with her finger. “Sounds like a man’s way of looking at life.” She winked at Tuttle.

“Last time I checked darling, I’m man through and through.” Tuttle took this to be his departure point, leaving the smell of fresh coffee in the air.

“He is right though,” she said. “You should ride before your fear develops into something unmovable.”

“What do you mean unmovable? Nothing I can’t handle.” Legge rubbed his healed hand confirming all the points of numbness where nerve damage was permanent. The hidden tendons of the shoulder were still raw with stress, bruised and stretched. Such a core pain bespoke of a lingering injury. It had been fate that had dealt the card; he had had no recourse other than to slam into 500 pounds of flesh, bone and sinew. It hadn’t been his choice. It had been His.

“I owe those brothers a thank you anyway. Least I could do was drop by. Without them it could been a lot worse.” Sirens and flashing red and blue lights.

“Just pass a law and never break it again.” Legge liked her hair when it was uncombed and disheveled.

“And what law is that?” Playful and jittery.

“You don’t ever ride at dusk.” She smiled. “Haven’t you noticed that traffic falls off sharply at during the sunset? Locals know it but I guess no one ever told you. Save your life. Don’t ride at dusk. Simple.” It was simple. The notion of putting his safety into a vulnerable situation was the antithesis of what he felt in his heart since the spill, but he thirsted for the thrill of the ride, that thing that acted as a drug for his spirit. That urge had been in an unstirred state of dormancy but he felt his sails unraveling. Momentum growing.

He stood up.

“No, you’re right. Need to put this thing behind me. I’ll check it out.” Backbone. “I should see what the brothers want and thank them for their help. Will you be at the house later?” She smiled and waved in a way that said she would take care of everything with the kids and the inn. Legge left Kagawong ruminating about how to rehabilitate his motorcycle habit.


Legge heard the unmistakable sound of two-stroke engines hammering in bursts behind the barn when he arrived at the McKeen’s. Rain hovered in pressing overhead clouds unwilling to give over its booty to the hands of gravity as he walked toward the sound. Chickens and pigs scurrying in a pit of mud, something unfurled. Cow dung soft in the still air. Scrap metal from dissected vehicles littered the field behind the barn unseen from the main road.

“Legge!” Melvin waved him up to where he stood at the opening to a large shed.

“Tuttle mentioned you-“

“Yes! Good for nothing playboy did some work, well that’s something new isn’t it? The guy’s brains are still scrambled from a ski-doing accident a few years back.” Melvin was about to slap his shoulder but stopped.

“How’s the shoulder?”

“Coming along.” Legge raised his hand to his nose as if deflecting the odor.

“See that? What do you think?” Melvin pointed at the gray gas tank of an old Kawasaki KLR650 leaning against the kickstand looking bruised and dented. The tear in the seat and mud-caked shock-absorbers made it look better than a store model, proof it had fought and survived in the trenches.

“That’s a serious piece.” Unused to the language, Melvin’s howl brought over Nelson from his riding.

“Mister Guillotine lives!” he said, standing just behind Melvin.

“You’ve never ridden off-road before so we thought you might like to try.” Legge surveyed the few dismantled motocross bikes scatted in the corners of the shed thinking there was no way he was speaking about the KLR.

“On what?”

“On the KLR man! She handles good. Big but go slow on her. She’s great for this Island if you like to explore.” The words of Mac came back to him: the spirit of exploration here where no man has seen before.

“No, it’s a great bike,” Legge said, awkward as hell. “It’s perfect.” The brothers looked at each other.

“It’s for sale.”

“Take her for a spin.”

“If you like her then we’ll talk.” The brothers went about their business leaving Legge alone in front of the bike letting him work it out himself.

The key was in the ignition so he removed his splint easing himself onto the seat. Without thinking he pressed the start button and the engine roared to life, the smell of the exhaust like the smell of napalm to a soldier or gunpowder to a cowboy. He revved it slightly still wary of the taut strings in his hand. It was big enough, which had always been the problem with off-road bikes before. They had always seemed so small for Legge but this one was big enough to be called a vehicle, not a toy to jump in the air.

He manhandled it backwards tweaking his shoulder with a barb of pain. “No. Not yet,” he said. But it was a beautiful iron horse to be sure.

The yammering of the chickens was announcement someone was afoot from the house.

“So this is the man I hear who likes to hit our poor deer.” Melvin’s wife, a large women with legs the size of trunks and a face with a muscular chin, was all business. “We’ve been eating that thing you hit for weeks now. Good deer burgers. Secret is the onions and the breadcrumbs. Gets rid of the gamy taste. Mother’s recipe. A wonder it is.”

Legge turned off the KLR, slowly inserting his arm back into the sling.

“Hurts still I reckon. Rest is needed. That’s all you can do. Heard about your helmet caught on the culvert. Pays to have a good helmet. That’s what the boys were saying.”

“It was good luck I guess.”

“Good luck!” She checked to see if he was joking. “Maybe, but I woulda said bad luck all in all. All a matter of how you look at it.” Legge nodded. “Wanna try some of the deer burgers? Have some thawed and ready to cook.” Legge’s stomach rumbled for something of substance.

“Sure, I’d like that. I’m still trying to figure out how to cook mine.” A wave of the hand.

“I’ll write down the recipe for you. How’s that. Real easy.” She returned to the house and Legge followed the sounds, finding them both riding. Only then did he see why Nelson had asked about his land. The trails were muddy with deep ruts, too chewed up and tight to allow a rider to reach top gear. Cramped and smelly.

“Too sore?” Melvin wasn’t wearing a helmet.

“Yep. I’m going to leave it for now, but I like the bike. Why are you selling it?” Melvin pointed at the new blue Yamaha RZ250 still glittering from underneath the mud.

“That one is roadworthy so I don’t need the Kawasaki. Can’t afford the extra insurance. Besides, I need the space in the shed.”

“You really want to depart with it?”

“Why not? You need a bike and there are extras here. But don’t buy it if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it.”

“Well that’s the thing. It’s big enough for me. Those other bikes are too small.” Melvin nodded with a grimace.

“Some 250s are bigger than others.”

“But this one is good. Handles well on the road?”

“Designed for touring like the old BMW touring bikes. Even looks like it. Rally bikes. Good for long distances over uneven terrain. And truth be told this is a much safer bike than that two-stroke monster you were on. Better designed, better handling, better everything. Wait and see the difference. Pays to be safe on the road – and off.” Studying the design of the bike, he could see that the engineers had Manitoulin Island in mind.

“What kind of price would that go for?” Shrugged shoulders, a wayward hand.

“What’d I buy it for? A thousand.” Surely it was worth more than that, but he was beginning to see how the McKeens worked. Never gouge and always keep the favor tab in the black.

“Might have enough from the insurance claim to cover that.”

“You should. Get top dollar from those bastards if you can.”

“I should,” he said, smelling the deer burgers from the house. “After all the deer hit me.”


The kitchen smelled of garlic and onions we they walked in.

“Want a beer Legge?” Melvin handed him a cold one just as Nelson stood at the doorway covered in mud with the big grin.

“You gonna let us ride that field of your one of these days or what?” He wiped the sweat off his forehead, his hands white and puckered from his mud-covered gloves.

“I don’t see why not.”

“It’s a bit cramped behind the barn. My mom says the land is for our cows and that we shouldn’t carve it up and scare the cows. All the more reason why your fields would be better.”

“Sure, anytime Nelson. Just come by and we’ll see about it.”

“Appreciate that,” he said and left.

“He’s not staying?”

“Has dinner waiting for him across the street at his mother’s.” Melvin rolled his eyes.

“Still hasn’t left the nest that boy,” said Melvin’s wife.

“Hard to find cheap land to start on your own.” He had drank half his beer.

“How many rooms you got in that house of yours?” she asked, placing the burger in front of him and having the right to ask.

“Five bedrooms-“

“Sweet Jesus Murphy! Five. And there’s just you?” Red came to his face as guilt hit to him in the windpipe, his inheritance obviously beyond all measure of fairness to the perspective of the McKeens.

“But he’s renting it out as a B&B hun. I told you that.”

“That’s a good idea. Use the space. Make some money in the summer to keep you warm in the winter. That’s how it works here.” 

With her blessing he bit into his deer burger and was appalled at the chewy texture of the meat. Chunks too big to be ground had to be chewed down in a labor-intensive operation that reminded him of liver.

“Wow. That’s quite a taste.”

“Isn’t it!” Melvin watched for the signs he knew well when non-Islanders eat deer.

“Like it?”

“First time eating deer isn’t it? I can tell every time.”

“This is not bad but yes, it is gamy. Is that what you call that? Gamy.” Used the word as an excuse to leave the burger and wash out his mouth with beer.

“A bit gamy. That’s why Sherry puts in the onions and bits of bread. Tries to ungame it, don’t you honey?” He pinched her leg under the table. Legge forced himself to take another bite but he couldn’t fake it.

“An acquired taste. If you like liver you’ll like deer.” The gleam in their eyes told him he had been had.

“You don’t like liver?” Melvin deadpanned.

“Not really.”

“Wanted to see another face showing the horror of gamy deer. You don’t mind do you?” Of course he minded being used as a guinea pig for someone else’s pleasure.

“Well now I know what deer tastes like.” He took another swig of beer to get rid of the taste.

“Nelson is keen about them fields of yours. Maybe we can head over sometime soon to ride.”

“Yes, anytime. Seriously.”

“Okay then I can bring the small 125 if you want to start slow.” He trusted Melvin. There was something trustworthy in a fire captain. “We’ll see if those lands of yours can be transformed into something of value.”

“Can’t be that hard can it?”

“Should be the easy part, turning paradise into serviceable chunks, clearing space for those who only want to play on their toys without any police watching. Bet there’s a lot of guys who would wanna just ride on open fields, no strings attached for the day. Get a day-business going. Flat payment for the day’s riding.”

“Use what you got to make money,” said Sherry.

“Finish her off with some of that special cider your serve over there.” He winked at Legge and pulled at his moustache, with Sherry giving him a look like she caught the reference. Who didn’t know about the whiskey and Sammy Legge?


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)

17. One of the two projecting parts of a structural-metal angle.

The first thing he heard when he pulled into his aunt’s driveway was the laughter of the Hutchinson girls playing with Manitou and Penny. A wondrous thing kids and puppies, made from the same cloth, no guile, curiosity paramount. The yard trimmed and manicured. Hummingbirds fed from the feeders along the deck sounding like small airplanes, wings flapping a hundred times a second. Flowerpots overflowing with thin bending branches of every color, some droopy and heavy and holding a cupped blossom.

Gail didn’t get up from her deck chair.

“You’re looking well nephew.” Clinical. “I see you like my Calypso orchids, a fine variety conducive to these parts.” When he had seen the plants before they were in-descript green plants with no redeeming features but now with sunlight and regular watering each had brought forth a moist honeysuckle for bees that went about their business silently thanking the orchid keeper for her troubles.

“That’s an orchid?” Had a yellow fluffy thing sprouting from the throat of a yawning, two mauve petals with white striping.

 “It’s the Calypso bulbosa.” He had suspected his aunt of having a green thumb but knowing the Latin names?

“A Manitoulin orchid?”

“The Calypso is seen growing wild in these parts and along the Bruce Peninsula. After all the Bruce and the chain of Manitoulin islands are one and the same.”

“Looks heavy, like it’s going to break the stem.”

“These aren’t so much,” she said, moving across the deck to some buds that looked like green pistachios. “My Long-Bracted Orchid, or Coeloglossum viride. Very unique.” Each pistachio was half open as if smiling with a purple treasure in its jaws.

“I wouldn’t think these were of the orchid variety.”

“But these are only my new recruits. Most of my flowers are over there.” Previously the bland foliage in the far corner of her yard was now a mosaic of patterns and colors. Gail voice was calm voice as if a guide giving a walking tour to the horticulturally illiterate.

“Love the contrast between the cedar hedge and my Rose Blanda and my Cirsium vulgare. In English the Bull Thistle. See how it’s taking over?” Smooth-stemmed roses were being overtaken by the jagged leaves of the Bull Thistle. Like a cactus growing out of sand, its spidery-round bulb sprouted thin pink antennae, the huge bulb collared with spiky leaves.

“Yes, there’s something vulgar about it,” he said, prompting her to laugh and continue her lecture. Claire and Harry were now within hearing range, Penny by their side staying away from the flowerbed.

“It’s tough to find this one’s brother, the endangered White Thistle, still growing wild on the beach in Providence Bay. That’s why they haven’t been allowed to cut down the grass. The old timers hate how it looks but the White Thistle is so rare that the few I know to be there could be the only known specimens left in the world.”

“Indigenous thistle?”

“Most of them were destroyed when the tannery and lumber mill was operational along the Mindemoya River there. Same as the purple thistle of Scotland. But it’s ours. I’d like to find one and breed them if I could. No way around explaining to the MNR how I got my hands on one though! I’d put it right beside the blue-eyed grass there, my Sisyrinchium bermudiana. ” Harry and Claire laughed.

“I see you know your plants.”

“Interest seems to have grown over the years. One can only do so much sewing. Need to do something different with my hands.” She grasped her fingers. “Something different from the same rote movements. Git a pain in my fingers.”

“I like those ones,” said Claire. A cluster of little hooded gremlins with yellow eyes perched on a white stem branching downward into three legs, like the ends of three brooms.

“I love these ones too darling. That’s the Green-fringed orchid, or the Platanthera lacera. Must be one of the most unusual of them all.”

“Looks like three hovering ghosts on fire,” he said, sounding distant.

“Can I touch it?”

“Sure honey, just be careful with it.” Shawna ran from the dog and hugged Gail’s leg for protection, screaming in hysterics, knowing she was now safe. Manitou’s tongue floppy, baby teeth bleeding. Mud covered her hand and elbow, the puppy on her back wanting a tummy rub. Shawna bent down and rubbed it timidly, giggling.

“I want a puppy. I love her.” Shawna had connected. Comrades-in-arms.

They returned to the deck where they had some tea, the pot having been enhanced by a smidgen of kick.

“I’m going to Massey for a few days next week,” she said. “I was wondering if you could take care of Penny for me. You’d be doing me a favor.”

“Of course.”

“Sorry to bother you with it but I’m going to the Massey fair with Agnes to sell some quilts. It’s the biggest fair of the original six, and one of the last. They have an excellent horse show and there is always some people you know that show up.” The aunt topping up her tea. Sensed a change.

“You usually don’t go to the Massey Fair?”

“Not usually. Missed it for a while now. You see business is lagging a bit and there’s a type of wool blanket favored by some of the farmers that they can’t find in stores. Lots of the old makers of quilts have passed on now so there is more market to be had. Need to think about the future. Things I want. Still a little gas left in the tank.” She topped up his cup and he broke off a little more smoked salmon dipped in maple syrup.

Shawna ran through the sprinkler topless but Harry and Claire were too shy to get wet. Instead they stood far back from one another throwing Penny’s ball to each other, the dog getting tired from the running between throws.

“Want to get more business from the fair and enjoy myself. Good to put some things to rest and move on. Easy to stay in the same routine. Trying to meet some new people. We’ll be staying at Betty Hopkins’ place. I’ll leave you the number if you like. See, I thought it might be good for the kids to come along. The fair is really a fun thing. Horses and food and cars, even some bike racing I think.”

Growing aware of his sudden exclusion, he became paranoid. “It sounds like it would be fun for all of us.” Gail suddenly uneasy.

“I was only thinking that you had the Inn to run, that’s all.” When Legge had started the Inn he promised himself it wouldn’t cut him off from doing the things he liked. He never wanted to feel tied down on the Island because it defeated the purpose of getting out of the city. That’s why he carried a mobile phone for walk-ins. He would fight tooth and nail to never be tied down; he had paid his dues and had almost nothing to show for it. He would give the Island a full year of living to make a final judgment but the notion of returning to the honking horns and crowds of Detroit made him experience mild claustrophobia.

“Dad, can we go down to the beach? It’s not that far.”

“You mean the boardwalk and over?”

“The one where we can see Clapperton Island at the edge of the marina.”

“What about Shawna?” She was now trying to keep her eyes open sitting on the steps.

“She can stay here.” Claire moved closer to Harry.

“Have fun,” he found himself saying. “Be home before dark. And bring the leash.” They walked off not looking back.

“Like an old married couple those two. Have you noticed?” The aunt’s voice conspiratorial.

Legge was ashamed he hadn’t but why would he be looking for things like that? He was still trying to figure out how he was going to explain to Harry that it was too dangerous to cross the North Channel in a canoe.


Legge walked along the boardwalk on the bay past tennis courts and skateboard ramp watching deer eat grass on the lawn beside the senior’s apartments. Three deer of different sizes casually glanced at him passing by. Like fellow citizens of the town they went back to eating the lawn. Behind them the limestone courthouse like a castle on the hillside sticking up through the trees. And behind that the old jail – still had bars on the windows. Some say it doubled as a fort during the early times.

Sailboats and powerboats bobbed side by side in the matrix of wood pathways at the marina, power cords the connecting tissue between boat and land. The sounds of bags of ice breaking on the warm dock, then a Scottish brogue.

“Fancy seeing you here Legge Man?” Mac had just arrived. “Must’ve been the fish and chips? Or was it the beer?” Mac squeezed into a small chair. “Damn right idea Legge. Damn fine idea. Maybe I’m getting through to ye?”

“Maybe you are.”

“Be good if I done some good seeing as I’m shipping out next week. Taking my canoe east to Montreal like the old fur trappers. Thought it a fitting way to go.” Legge didn’t have time to respond because Morrell showed up on his motorcycle and parked his motorcycle in front of the deck.

“Must’ve followed me here,” said Mac looking at Legge across the table on the patio. “The little bugger is spying on me I bet. Patterson thinks I’m over here having me a dram or two so he sent over his lackey.”

“Seeing youse guys are having coffee and all, sure I’ll join you.” The hacking sound from the dark halls of his chest through thin pink gums separated by the tissue halfway along the upper lip.

“Morrell! You come for the fish and chips? Have yourself a few extra quid for some chowder? Good on ya mate. There’s a seat here for you. Will Paddy be joining us now? Are you a couple? Maybe wanting to get out for a drink?”

Barney, the owner of Buoys, appeared with a menu.

“So I’ze guess er buyin’.” Morrell happy on the patio beside the water.

“I guess that’s the way the world works. Lager?”

“Sure thing Mac. And the usual two-piecer?” Barney knew his regular customers.

“With no salt on the-“

“Just how you like them.” He looked at Morrell and the spaghetti stains on his shirt, the dirt around his collar and the built-up gunk on his denims with a sheen in the light.

“I can smoke out here can’t I?”

“No sir. Against the law now. It’s my license.”

“Oh fuck,” he said, loud enough for others to hear. “Youse got laws fer everything in this country now. I remember when I was truckin’ and we could drink a mickey and cross the border with a bag of weed in the door. The seventies was like that. None of this computer detection crap. Just yer wits and the right timing for madness. It was in the air, like thousands of separate groups of people all breaking rules but not fer the crime of it but because it was free to do. There was no Red Guard Commies ready to call the cops on ya. Some of us in the rigs really had it good, keeping both logs and skimming between the two. Everyone did it. Made runs to Ohio and Wisconsin, Michigan through the Sault and up north in Manitoba way. Put a lot of miles on the road.”

Mac impressed at the unspoken history.

“Why’d you give it up then? If it was so good?” Morrell only taking the unlit cigarette out of his mouth when he drank from his cup.

“Got burned for drunk driving first. Took my license away, paid a fine and then when I went back the insurance was more. Then I went and got caught again. After that they were watching me. Trucking company couldn’t afford my insurance. Had to cut me loose. Could hire younger guys with clean records. Coulda gone in it jus’ myself but you’d need to own your own rig. Didn’t have the bread. When I finally got the money from my granddaddy’s farm I built my house. With two strikes on my record I couldn’t make a go.” The fingernails bitten back to a raw line bordered with ravaged cuticles. “Now I only pay for the summer riding. Car’s too much. Motorcycle insurance is more like: ‘if you want to die then that’s okay. You have less of a chance doing injury to others.’” He sighed, out of breath. “I need my riding man.”

“Like you need your canoeing,” said Legge between bites, pondering more fish.

“Probbly some laws yer gonna have to break if you paddle to Montreal. Maybe a whole bunch of laws.”

“I’ll be on the water. Should be all right.”

“Hell you will. What about down the Ottawa River rapids and then the heavy traffic narrows to the St. Lawrence. Dude, seriously, yer gonna need a miracle to stay out of jail. Betcha there are scouts looking for people trespassing.”

“It’s public property, that’s why.”

“Sleeping in the woods will be trespassing on someone’s land.” Dirt shone off his skin under the sun, ponytail like white hay with the odor of rot.

“Well that’s where I’m going to take special care by choosing a good camping spot every night. That’s part of the challenge. But there should be campsites all within a day’s canoeing of one another. I have a book.”

“All the way to Montreal? I don’t know about that. That’s a lot of tax dollars if you ask me. Canoeing jus’ ain’t that big.” Mac suddenly perked, an awakened lion disturbed from an afternoon nap.

“Canoeing is one of the biggest things there is in your country. Canada is renowned for its interconnected waterways. I mean it led to the settlement of the west because the prairies were accessible by water. Canoes were the trucks of the past: motorcycles and cars and trucks wrapped into one, your home and tent, your livelihood and your means of escape. The canoe was everything. And still today the waterways remain open and navigable if you have the will to do it.”

“Look at our explorer here, Mister voyageur. Or should I say Monsieur Voyageur. Whaddya taking? Hunting knife, compass and map? That’s it?”

“Waterproof bags for my things. Keeping it simple. Pack food for a month. No rush to get through. The journey is the destination, each phase to be enjoyed and savored like the Group of Seven painters who sketched the rocky shores of Killarney, which is where I want to spend a week or so. I think my fellow Scots at the pub would appreciate a story from the Island, so remote and wild. Wild animals like Morrell who is drinking on my tab today because he’s not going to tell Patterson that he wasn’t at his doctor’s appointment. Isn’t that right mate?”

“Hey, I’m not the one about to get beaver fever from drinking the water where beavers do their business, not to mention the other things you can git jus’ from drinking the water. I wouldn’t drink that water in the St. Lawrence.” The slurring more pronounced without teeth, and from a liver as battered as kneaded dough. The rattle from a cavernous dungeon from the recesses of his gullet, dry with flecks of phlegm.

“I’ll only take it where it’s flowing but I’ll have bottled stuff from the marinas along the St. Lawrence. There are some old forts along there I want to see, right around the current border of Quebec, what your history books call Upper and Lower Canada.”

“That would put us on the outer limit of Upper Canada.”

“At the very end.”

“The last tip,” said Legge.

“The last pocket before the States.”

“That’s why Gore Bay still has a sheriff.” One of Morrell’s favorite subjects: the wild west of Gore Bay, the last enclave of the brave. True, Legge thought it similar to peninsula design of Cornwall with its surrounding bays and eddies. “And why the Hell’s Angels are building a retreat here.”

“That’s right. I’ll paddle from Upper Canada across the border into Lower Canada to where the furs will be sold and where I can sell my canoe and buy my ticket to London. Go native. Have my moccasins and sleeping kit all prepped and ready to go. Can’t be starting any new cars either. Need to rest my hands before the trip. By the way, Legge you want that canoe? There’s no way I can bring that one with me.”

“I could use it. Sure. My son likes it.” Awkward at kind gestures.

“All right then it’s yours. Still has some good miles left in her. Lots of time left in the season before the great frost arrives.” Tables of trade skewered, reflex etiquette.

“Is there anything I can do for you before you leave Mac?” A powerboat cruised past the skinny lighthouse and cluster of manicured cedars trees on the lip of land protecting the marina, voices hoarse with life in the crosswinds.

“Yes Legge, there is as a matter of fact. A going-away party. Maybe on the weekend.”

“Friggin’ right! Whaddya say Leggey?” Cigarette bent out of shape, stained with saliva beyond the filter.

“Of course. Party Saturday. Bring beer.” The eruption of joy fitting among the children eating ice cream and sailors looking poised in their designer sunglasses, bicycles leaning against the marina walls and the lap of water breathing against the wood. He had no idea how to host a party.


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)

18a. A branch electrical circuit.

Thick mist still after rainfall kept still by the lush August foliage, dangerous riding for anyone on the roads. Business had picked up with more riders finding the signs off the ferry to pick up their free maps. Some had already seen the map from a past guest giving the Inn the feel of a club. Legge pondered the question of membership with repeat guests paying discount prices. Could be one annual meeting.

“Why can’t I stay at the house tonight especially if it’s a party? I want to go.” Harry’s freckles had merged with his summer tan.

“I understand but it’s a grown-up party and you said you liked staying at your auntie’s. At least you know you’ll get some good food to eat.” Legge had not planned on having resistance from him.

Harry strayed towards the flower patch. “I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you take Manitou for a walk and bring your auntie along. She’s not that old you know. In fact she’s as healthy as she could be. Let her show you around Gore Bay a bit. You know, make the most of it.”

“But I like Mac. He’s cool. And he’s from Scotland. And because he’s leaving I won’t get a chance to say good-bye to him.” The fear of abandonment unclothed in his expression.

“I promise to make sure you say your good-byes but not tonight. That’s just the way it is. Don’t forget the tennis racquet and ask aunty Gail for tennis balls.”

“She won’t have them. We checked before.” Legge saw the solution to his son’s doldrums. He handed him a crisp twenty-dollar bill.

“You buy some new ones then, and you can keep the change. Get some ice cream at Buoys at the point. They have a swing on the grassy part.” The chin was up again now proud to have a task to perform.

On the front porch Gail’s frown betrayed her disapproval. Giving the boy up to throw a party? Where were his priorities?

“Party?” Hands on her hips. Underpinning of Puritan morality exposed. Echoes of Sammy Legge resurfacing through the cracks in time whispering of a curse in the form of alcohol.

“For a friend who is returning to Scotland after many years of living here. He’s canoeing to Montreal first. Loves his paddling trips.”

“Oh, one a’those types eh? Can’t keep ‘em down. My Benny was like that.” She brought her hand to her mouth as if she had uttered the unutterable combination of words.


“Make sure all your beds are made ‘cause there’ll be a lot of you who will be staying over,” she said ignoring his question. “Me and Harry ‘be fine. Won’t we honey?” Harry’s blush activating corpuscles just under the surface of the skin, instantly burning small hairs and sweat. “And we can get back to some of that knitting we were doing before.”

“We need to get some tennis balls first though,” said Harry, even and accommodating. “And I want to see if Claire wants to play.”

“That’s a good idea. Why don’t we go over there right now to see if she has a racquet?”

“She has a racquet. She said she does last time we were here. Brags she so good but wait until I show her. I can hit a ball.”

“I know you can, and throw a ball. I’ve seen it.” She grabbed his hand and winked at Legge waving waved good-bye.


Getting the chores done with Mac during the afternoon was harder than he expected because Mac took every opportunity to say good-bye to everyone he saw. He knew all the locals, each one in turn knew his name and showed genuine sadness that he was leaving. After a few hours of this it started to slow him down.

“Didn’t think leaving would be so tough. Everyone is nice here. Everyone. It’s like there’s a gene that dominates here called ‘the kindness gene’ defined as: exhibiting extreme kindness in speech and gesture, happy to serve and help.” He was sad for a moment. “I’ll tell you mate, it’s not like that back home. Some guys are really just cracked. Hardheads and close-minded bastards. Don’t find any like that here. I mean even the deer wander through town as if they’re your neighbor and have rights! That’s one thing I’ll miss: the deer walking down the streets here. The lads won’t be able to believe that one.” Legge smelled the whiskey on his breath.

Their shopping cart was full of sliced meats and crackers and soft drinks and smoked oysters; Mac’s hand sparing no item from Pop Tarts to baked beans.

“Whatever we don’t have you keep for you and the wee one.” The brogue full of rolling Rs accompanied with jutting chin, thrust to hammer home his words.

“Then let’s not forget the smoked salmon.” Legge scooped the last two packages.

From the liquor store they drove down the back roads to the escarpment and then down the hill to Dragon Head Lighthouse.

“That’s some view. Never knew this existed.”

“You’ve never been here?”

“So many corners never explored. Need a lifetime to explore this island. Nothing like this back home. Lochs are small, nothing like this.”

Legge heard loud puttering of dirt bikes sounding like hyper chainsaws being pushed to the limit through the trunk of the tree.

“You hear that?”

“Oh, the McKeens said they’d be at the party. Bringing their motorbikes I think.”

Leaving everything in the car, they took some beers to three squares of land long cleared of tree and stump, now being transformed into a living thing with winding trails highlighting her natural humps. Lines of boulders separated each plot and poplars grew in some corners where Nelson had set up a rest point. A small tarpaulin protected a cooler beside a folding chair where Melvin sat with his dirt bike cooling.

“Fine of you boys to make it for your own damn party! We had to start without ya.” They all turned to watch Nelson speed around the field etching in new paths that formed an emerging design.

“Say how long has Nelson been out there?” The mud freshly cut in pieces on the grass drying in the sun.

“Twenty minutes maybe. But he knows how to cut a field with his bike. Done it before. Has a good sense when he does it.” His finger ungloved and bent, crippled in some past injury. “See how the turn follows the lay of the land, and how there’s a natural lean into the lazy south corner and then down through the dip and into that giant slalom thing down the hill to the corner there.”

“I can see it,” said Mac. Legge with a glazed eye away from the now. “Could put a jump over those stones there if there’s any wood around. See how the land lifts to it making it easy.”

“Say, you ride dirt bikes Mac?”

“Never did. Why?”

“’Cause we got some extra bikes we brought with us. Strapped in four. Thought we’d bring the back-ups. Brought the 125 for Legge ‘cause of his shoulder. But it sure do mean a lot for Nelson to git out there and carve up some tracks. The guy is a fanatic about riding that Honda – like a religion or something. Watches those shows where them young guys are doing summersaults and jumping forty feet through the air. I reckon he’s about as happy as a kid could be right now.” He flipped the edge of his cowboy hat into the sun, a proud brother watching his kin show his gift from God.

“I’ll give it a try then if the bikes are working all right.”

“Should be. They’ve all been overhauled. Let’s check’em out”

Mac fit onto the 250 and didn’t wait for Legge, riding slowly at first along the rolling paths being written into the earth. The bike jumped ahead when he let go of the clutch holding on until he hit the back brake and skidded, then having control he opened the throttle, the back tire spinning out from under him and gouging into the earth with big clumps jackknifed into the air.

“Your arm good enough for a light spin today? Have it in you?” There was no way he was going to let a week of further immobility stand in his way.

“I have it in me.” With the sling off he moved slowly around the old yellow YAMAHA YZ125 with old decals half chipped off the tank. The wheel looked thin and spindly stabbing out of the engine, the back axle like a sledgehammer.

“She’s got pep so take it easy.” He didn’t bother with a helmet because it wasn’t a road and he didn’t plan to go fast. The engine loud and grinding in his ears exposed to every sound, every stone and stick bent and broken under the wheels of his bike. Bits of dirt rising up to his face and cheeks, dropping down the front of his shirt, his hands turning brown with mud. Instantly the thrill in the solar plexus and dopamine intermingling to produce an intoxicating mixture of euphoria from control and fear of immediate danger.

Legge followed the path to a wide turn at the crest of the land where he fell into a fast and bumpy straight-away taking him to a 90-degree corner still chewed and uneven. The banging of the front tire jammed pain into his shoulder socket causing him to slow down. When he was almost at a standstill he started this time more in tune with the tenor of the terrain using momentum and gravity equally for an effortless ride. Gunning it up over the rise towards the end of the driveway brought his stomach into his throat. A swallowed cry of joy drowned out in the fervor of employed interconnections of muscles and mind at work to create the whole.

“A fish to water from the looks of it.” The boys sitting on the bikes beside the back deck, Mac flushed and mud covered.

“Like the trails eh?” Nelson eager to hear a report.

“Carved nicely. Easy to follow. You do have a knack for it.” Mac motioned to a fence in the middle of the plots of rideable land. “Could put a jump there over the stone fence.”

“And maybe another loop up the middle once we can see how it all fits together. Sure beats what I’m used to that’s for sure.”

More trucks pulled up to the end of the driveway as Legge came in from the trails.

“Go show us that loop,” Mac said to Nelson. “Us men are going to have a pint.”

Morrell was the first one to the deck, a bottle of Forty Creek in his hand half empty and spilled down the front of his shirt. Patterson behind him putting the case of beer in a corner on the deck followed by guys in lumberjack shirts who picked beers from the case. They slowly surrounded Mac, his face matching the hue of his hair.

“You finally got some bikes going here! ‘Bout time someone did somethin’.” Morrell’s gums were loose and unresponsive.

“You have any music here Legge? Be good to throw on the radio or something.” Mac knew he needed some guidance to make the party a success.

“I can find something.”

“Bring it out here if you can. Hear some good country.”

Legge turned on the radio and music hummed across the open space. The clinking of bottles and the sounds of boots on the wood deck were soon lost to the sound of dirt bikes riding at different intervals along the circuit being born before them.

Faces Legge had seen working in town and driving trucks were there relaxing in the sun and watching riders buzzing across the open plain with lethal irresponsibility. Tendrils of youth within grasp momentarily ringing like bells at a cathedral, the pendulum of fortune zigzagging, the will of man unearthing treasures long hidden from the landscape. A group of Canadian geese and Sandhill cranes took issue with the disturbance of their summer home squawking and croaking until they took flight south toward Lake Huron and shores of Michigan. A rock shelf revealed itself along the giant slalom turn down to where riders were drinking beers under the cluster of mature poplars in the distant corner.

Morrell appeared with the jug of whiskey and passed it around with snippets of the Sammy Legge legend coming out in bursts, now taking on significance in their own right, stories within the story of a walk turned crusade from a contributor of local lore and custodian of local history. Nods of acceptance to Legge for bringing together a club of outlaws long past any notion of conformity, rebellion based deep within the structure of their lives. This act of riding on private property gave them expression for that exact thing they craved: being apart from the system. Here they could party without being ticketed, play without the strong arm of authority infringing on their freedom, separated from the tourists where they could ride their bikes and quads. It was a luxury surely they deserved living on an island apart from the mainland called ‘God’s Island.’

Legge walked onto the field with Morrell following him with the jug hanging loose from his skinny arm letting the riders avoid them, trusting their agility and reflexes at their own peril.

“Everybody can see it but you!”


“You can’t even see it!” said with the harsh emission of rusted air from charcoal lungs. “You gotta a goldmine here man! Let these guys pay ya ten or twenty bucks a day to drink and ride here man. There’s nowheres else fer these guys to go! They don’t have a hundred acres like this. You think them guys have land to their name? Where can they ride? The track in Providence Bay sure, but that’s a racecourse. Can’t dolly ‘round there. Wreck the track. ‘Sides it’s only open three days a week. But here they got good level trails with no stones or fallen stuff. His hands enveloped the entire scene, stumbling forward off balance from the weight of the jug. “You can sell this!”

 When they made it to the cluster of poplars, Morrell had had enough with the jug and took the available dirt bike off its kickstand. He gunned it, a line of fine mud now partially covering the cooler.

“He’s all right?” Nelson watched Morrell wobble loosely on the seat, his bum too small for the ripping backend of the CR250.

“Should be.”

“That’s a lot of bike for him, and I hope he doesn’t screw up my gears.” Then the screech of a chain grinding and the odd silence before the sound of the muffled scream, the quick end to Morrell’s ride. The black leather merged into the mud on the trail, body limp except for a hand waving in the air, the arm defiant saying the wipe out was anything other than his fault.

 “That didn’t sound good.” When he and Nelson reached Morrell he was missing a chunk out of his upper lip, it separating when he smiled at them.

“Damn thing just gave out on me. Heard it go screeeech! Sounded like the chain to me.”

“Couldn’t be the chain man. I tightened it yesterday.”

“Then something’s wrong with yer transmission McKeen. Damn gear went only halfway down between third and fourth. Thought I mighta been light on the change so I hit her again without the clutch. Then she screeched like a son of a bitch! Damn, gotta a bleeding nose.” Legge and Nelson looked at each other.

“You’re bleeding all right,” he said. The gouge couldn’t be stitched because there was so much missing tissue. He put his head back to stop the bleeding from his imaginary injured nose.

Back at the deck where the boys were relaxing Morrell took in the applause with tremendous aplomb, a raggedy skin-and-bones sodden with filthy denims that emitted fresh smells of an uncertain origin.


“Take one for the team.”

Crazy man!”

“Let me see that.” Melvin steadied the drunken chin in his hand. “Keep still. That’s a nasty gash you have.”

“You mean my nose. Silly bastard.” Melvin turned his head to avoid the halitosis.

“Something like a stick must have poked you here and took a good size piece of flesh. Hard to tell with so much damn hair.

“Can’t see it?”

“Nah, I can see it.”

“There’s no hair where there’s no skin.”

“You might want to trim that moustache to minimize the aggravation of the follicles here.” Melvin kept pointing to the same place on the tip of his upper lip.

“Do I need stitches?”

“It needs at least four stitches if you had that piece of skin lying out there on the field where you went down. You madman.”

Morrell took the whiskey jug from Nelson putting the rim to his bloody lips. Only then did he scream out in pain. Swear words in an array of combinations only prolonged his excruciation.


Sometime after the sunset when the campfire was in full swing, Legge let himself go with beer. The luxuriance of grown men playing was a free pass to cross over into the reaches of child-free bachelor abandon. Some tinkered with an engine or a brake cable, engines still warm to the touch from the day’s riding. The sound of Old Doug’s voice booming across from the driveway ushered in the final wave of partiers all here to send off their adopted son from Scotland. Morrell seated with his white beard stained blood red, lips crooked, drooling out of his gums.

“Yer a bunch a bums, that’s all yer good fer.” Old Doug knew each guy there, shook hands like a hunched over Tasmanian devil with a jaw three sizes too big. “Damn leg is fine. Never did like ladders much.” Baseball cap pulled low over the glass eye. “You owe me a beer. No, don’t take any of that high test.” A crowd now surrounding him. “City boy though. Not sure if he has the jack. Mindya I seen worse. If old Sammy was ‘round he’s slap ‘im inta shape with the back of his hand.” Old Doug lifted his hand and demonstrated.

“So yer going back to the Motherland are yer Mac? Well bygone we’ll miss yer. Going back home to what? Live with yer mother? Gotta wife back there? A job? Gotta have a job. Whaddya gonna do? Eh? You got a plan boy?”

“I have a plan Doug. Don’t you worry,” said Mac, his tone flat. Old Doug sensing the flatness seized the moment. “I-“

“You don’t got shit son. You’re leaving the Island ‘cause you’re scared. Arntcha? Can’t take the winters?”

“I can take the winters.”

“Canya canoe over there in yer Scottish highlands then?” Legge witnessed the blush on Mac’s cheeks as he took it from Old Doug. “Take the waterways to never-never land then. You got everything here son and you’re turnin’ yer back on it! Biggest regret yer ever gonna have was the day you left the Island. Hear it all the time but I sees it in you boy. You were born to be here. Seen yer type ‘fore. Spending all your time going places until one day you see there’s no more to explore. That’re never happen here for you on that canoe of yours. You hear me?” He shook his fist in Mac’s face. “World’s best playground fer a guy like you I reckon. Jus’ gonna throw her away.”

Mac overwhelmed into introspective silence, respectful gait melting into a somber slouch. Winded. Truth is hard to take sometimes when you don’t want to hear it.


Half-eaten sandwiches and empty oyster tins beside the crumbs left by broken crackers. Morrell on the couch, his head positioned so the drool fell on his chest. Strange people going up the stairs, the evening air moist with fragrant pine. The full moon pulled Legge out of his house down the lane to the lighthouse and beyond, his feet propelling him to a rhythmic heartbeat. Legge’s legs like pistons greased to go to the end of the Island. Only the dryness at the back of his throat reminded him after a while that he had been at a party, his ankle sore from some part of the night he could not remember.

Like the mist on the water his mind started to clear. The moon lit up the North Channel holding court for its day during the moon cycle, loons cooing in the darkness, lunar cankers witness to the shimmering light. Warm and humid for a moment he didn’t know where he was. A strange setting for someone who lives in the city. Then Needles, the deck with the booths and cedar shrubs. He found Upper Street where he stumbled in a trance to the house with flickers of a television against drawn curtains, sensing popcorn and movie, a warm hearth and Birkenstocks.


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)

18b. A phase of a polyphase system.

Legge was slow to rise the next morning. Odd sounds coming from early morning departures. The smell of coffee like jumping into melted chocolate. Movement slow, careful, wobbly. Eyes puffy and head roaring with the sound of wind. Even his hair hurt, each strand like a bruised banana. Brain like a broken yolk leaking into the surrounding albumin.

Mare a blur of warm skin and pheromones. Note written in a neat hand on the table. An empty house with hot coffee in the pot. Thunderstorm raged in his head, winds affecting his balance, rain obscuring his sight. With a deep breath, he left her house after turning off the coffee maker.


“’Bin up fer a few hours. Where you been?” Morrell looked the same as if a night’s hard drinking was a regular thing, except for the bloodied upper lip now missing the middle part, his beard a bit shorter. Legge wanted to answer but couldn’t. “Sleepin all this time?” Caught a whiff of booze from Morrell. The whiskey jug was on the kitchen table, his coffee black in his hand. Arms skinny like toothpicks, white t-shirt permanently off color with a dark ring around the collar. He found the coffee and poured a mug.

“Old Doug was in form last night, wasn’t he?” Legge breathed in the steam from his mug, fusing his shaky limbs with calm sobriety. The air was cool but the coffee warmed him. Only his head felt cold.

Morrell’s voice was like a rusty wheel scraping against a tin wall. “I wonder what Mac is thinking this morning after that whippin’? Damn savage he can be. Damn savage. In his blood. Always ‘bin like that ever since I kin remember.” Some slurring. Wouldn’t take him much after last night’s intake.

Morrell talkative, still drunk. Spiked coffee. Empty stomach. He could hear the rumbling coming from the recesses of his gut. Cornucopia of pungent odors pushed Legge to the threshold of dry heaving.

“Yeah, he was tough.” Voice jittery. Didn’t want to participate.

“’Bet Mac is having second thoughts. The way Doug does that. Appeals to his manhood or something. Jesus he kin haze a man down ta nothin’.” Morrell, with color in his cheeks, had made himself at home. “This coffee is better than the instant crap I always drink. Hope you don’t mind.” Legge waved his hand, voiceless. Fractured. Half a man. Cursed his lack of self-restraint. He pondered his brain, shrunken, loosened, low on oil, synapses backfiring. Dirt in his gas tank and corrosion in the carburetor. The spacious cranial apparatus God had given him crippled.

“Who made the coffee?”

“Not sure. Few guys stayed over and left early. Mac might’ve been the one. Always drinkin’ coffee that Scot as if rebelling against the English for drinking tea. Heard him talkin’ to someone this morning but I got up after I heard him leave in his truck.” A waft of Morrell’s breath caused his hand to shoot up to his face to protect against the invisible intruder. Carrion and hundred-year old tobacco juice, nicotine and bacteria. Gums slimy and loose.

“You still a fan of the old whiskey, eh?” The thought of it made Legge’s nerve endings go into spasm.

“Aged well you could say. Better than Forty Creek.”

Legge was too hacked up to socialize today. Even the task of driving to his aunt’s for Harry seemed insurmountable.

“You heading out to Gore Bay?”

“I’m in no rush,” said Morrell looking at the new trails now carved into the earth by yesterday’s screeching wheels, his lip swollen and blue. “’Reckon I can git home anytime. I won’t be getting’ on any of those bikes though. Lucky I only split my lip. Coulda broken my skull open. You gotta clear them rocks.”

He nodded, doubtful he’d ever get anything done again.


He could see it in his aunt’s face that she knew what he was up to last night. Only sluggishly paranoid that he was emitting alcoholic fumes.

“You sick? Or just stupid from last night’s party?” The aunt was stern, disappointed in her nephew, burdened with his irresponsibility.

“Just had a late night.”

“Can tell.”

“Didn’t plan on it.”

“You shoulda known. Those men do that here. There’s the drinkin’ crowd and then there’s the church crowd. You better know which one you’re a part of young man, else you’re gonna get a reputation.” White streaks in her hair stood out, skin dry and wrinkled. Something struck his heart – a sadness mixed with accusing tones of selfishness. He couldn’t bring himself to thank her.

“Where’s Harry?”

“He’s in town walking the dog. Likes going for long walks on the boardwalk. Still getting to know the town. I think he has some new friends too.” The tennis racquet lay broken on the nearby chair.

“What happened?”

“Met some boys when he was playing. You know what young boys can be like at his age. Reckon they were hitting stones into the water, each one bigger than the last until the wood broke. You need to watch Harry. Don’t want him to fall into the wrong crowd.”

“Father like son,” he said in a feeble effort to joke. The aunt shook her head. There was no humor in her today, and he was too weak to engage anyone. So he left her there and walked at his own tender pace to the boardwalk. It was only when he descended Water Street to the shore that he smelled the fresh water and the surrounding foliage, a tonic that emanated though him like a second chance.

Then a new emotion went through him like an arrow, the feeling of something profound slipping through his fingers. He stopped walking from the loss of the warmth that fueled his will. Disturbed by not knowing what it was, he moved slowly along the boardwalk until he came to the tennis courts, the clay long worn away by the wind and rain. Weeds grew through the cracks on court, the fence overtaken by cedars. Beyond it was the park before the marina, were Legge noticed a tall boy playing with a puppy that looked just like Manitou. That was when he came face to face with what hit him: his son was growing up. He was losing Harry to time, losing him because of his own selfishness, his own weaknesses. Harry was becoming independent, no longer needing him, no longer valuing him like he once did. Like a man. He was scared of being alone, of not being needed, of having nothing.

“Hey Dad,” he said, casually. Legge was no one special anymore, demoted, just another acquaintance, like a stranger walking along the wood path beside the bay.

“Hi son.” Voice emotional, creaky like a bike chain needing oil. Manitou came to him wagging her tail, unabashed at showing the emotions he needed today.

“She’s growing, isn’t she?” Harry nodded, uninterested, preferring to look at the North Channel. Legge realized Harry was thinking of the trip they had planned to visit the uncle he had never met on Clapperton Island. He had put it aside purposely because of the unease he felt about the unpredictability of the North Channel winds, and this worry had resulted in the distancing between he and Harry.

“I haven’t forgotten our trip we planned to Clappterton,” he said, trying to draw him away from his indifference. He wanted to see that glint in his son’s eye again, uplifted by possibilities yet to come with the world still at his feet, optimistic and safe with his father to protect him if things went south.

“I really want to go,” he answered, now patting the dog. “Can we bring Manitou?”

“I don’t see why not? I just hope she doesn’t want to jump out of the canoe.”

“She won’t. Manitou loves me too much.” A stab of misdirected jealousy. Immature. A whiff of shame at his own weakness.

“She does. She always will.” He put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Why don’t we try to find Mac today to see what he’s doing with his boat? We can always take the canoe but maybe we can borrow his boat.” He nodded after Legge had watched his face, scrutinizing his eyes to make sure he wasn’t being snowballed. “It be easier for us. And safer.” Then the look of respect and a gleam in the son looking up to the father who could do anything.


Delirious in his jumbled concoction of emotions, he took Harry to Mac’s place where he saw the boat parked in the driveway. Mac was outside, slumped in a rusted lawn chair.

“Legge. Guess you’re not as bad as me today.” He stood and nodded at Harry. “Quite a party your Dad threw last night.” Harry stepped closer to his Dad, the disheveled red mop of hair making him look like a ragged monster.

 Thought he’d get right to the point. “Your boat,” he started. “Can I use your boat today?” Something in the voice. Constricted. Hiding pain. Legge motioned to his son with his eyes, desperate not to explain.

“Well I won’t be leaving ‘til Tuesday. Got some more things to do before I leave, so sure. Why not. You know how to operate her don’t cha?” Legge uneasy. He only raised his hands in a pleading motion. “Sure. Take her. Bring her back before Tuesday. She’s going to Paddy as a gift, though he doesn’t deserve it.” His attempt at laughter hollow.

Mac helped Legge attach the boat to his hitch, plugging in the wires in a spaghetti junction of red, blue and green.

“Thanks Mac. Will bring her back tomorrow.” His shaking hands clutched his car keys but Harry had the flush of excitement in his cheeks. He had to drive through the lack of inertia – the stasis of the hangover – to prove to Harry he was a man of his word.


Ram shod planning and careless packing didn’t bother Legge in his state. In fact his blinders helped him act by cutting out his pragmatism. A map was all he could think of. And a sweater: just get it done. Let the boy do all the work. He would be a water taxi. Had to be better than paddling in a canoe across a wind tunnel called the North Channel.

“Ready Harry?” Rosy-cheeked youth. Wished he had a camera to save the classic image. Let him become. Stand back and enjoy Harry taking his first steps towards manhood. Trust him take the bull by the horns and help his hindered father follow through on a promise he should never have made.

“Ready Dad.” Harry patted his puppy and watched him turn the key in the ignition. Engine started like a charm.

“Ropes are untied?” He remembered they hadn’t tied any ropes. “Ropes are all in?” He saw one in the water and pointed. Harry pulled it in.

“Lifejacket Harry.” As Harry put on the lifejacket the boat was pulled by the current east. No time for him to put on his lifejacket. Just go! Point and shoot. Go before you call it off and the boy will never forget. He pushed the throttle forward and the boat shot forward, grazing the dock. He knew it had left a mark on the hull. Harry fell back onto the seat. “Hold on son!”

“Dad!” he said, laughing. A good sign.

Legge found his flow by keeping the throttle halfway moving toward the island due north. Finally they were moving. The clear skies and warmth of the sun were usurped by the crosswinds biting through their sweaters. He cursed himself for not bringing a windbreaker.

“Harry, put on my other sweater.” The boy shivered in the wind. But the wool sweater, many sizes too big, soon did its job, the boy regaining color in his cheeks; the warm safe look of a growing boy. Manitou’s ears were back, a smile on her face. A born waterdog.

Soon choppy waves slammed against the hull creating loud banging in the hollow stern. Too loud to talk. Nerves beyond control. Clattering of thoughts jumbled in wires crossed in a brain short-changed with enough electricity, synapses curtailed from dehydration. Incomplete thought patterns. Such recklessness! But this is what the boy wanted. With clenched jaws and shivering arms he kept opening the throttle so they flew over the choppiness and through the power of the wind. Trust the boat he told himself. They are designed to overcome choppiness. Better than a canoe. But damn the cold!

Crossing the channel only one sailboat was within their view, nothing they had to worry about. A straight line to the lighthouse.

“Keep your eye on the lighthouse Harry. That’s our destination.” His words were lost in the wind but hearing them brought him newfound gusto. The excursion was finally getting done. How could he act so dangerously and put Harry at risk? But that smile on his face was everything to him. Reaching some cross current near a smaller island in the channel brought irregular waves, some splashing violently against the hull and spraying them. The laughter coming from Harry was what he needed to gun it faster through the waves, steering way clear of any hidden rocks under the water. The lighthouse was growing in size. Harry a beaming smile.

His eyes hurt. Mere slits in the sun. Tired from lack of sleep and undigested booze, a piercing headache made him rebel against everything: human frailty, danger, limits and boundaries imposed by the shortcomings of man, and precaution that had marred his life beyond repair. Half a man. City man. Modern man. A male bred on the values of his generation: cowardice, safety, lack of harnessing the power of instinct, moderation and softness. Computers substituting for tactility and the threat of peril! In this one act he was overcoming it all: the morass of incomplete fun, of lobby groups wagging their finger at breaking the law, of the temperance union who created Prohibition. Ghosts of the past seeped through the cracks that were widening within him that suffused him with an ancient strength he never knew he had. Color came to his cheeks and his posture straitened, an intoxication making him ruddy, a drug all man should taste.

His hand gripped tight on the throttle, the vibration humming through his network of rattled nerves, he loosened his grip when the lighthouse on Clapperton was close. Old, classic red and white, a relic of last century with history reverberating in the water splashing against weathered rock.


This was where Sammy Legge had been and all the others who defied the law, earning money that fed their families during the Great Depression. Men defying arbitrary laws and the whims of liberal propaganda. Stigmatized men labeled criminals. Damn them! Damn those who sat and mocked those who defined their lives by doing things, by action, by danger. Small men bringing down those with the mettle to do.

“Dad!” He lowered the throttle taking the deafening wind away with it. “Dad, where are you going?”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a dock over that way.” He pointed east of the lighthouse to a tiny cove where there was a decrepit wooden dock.

“Okay. Good eye son.” Voice now strong. Sea legs. Yes, he knew what he was doing. Never had instruction. Didn’t have a boater’s license. Instinct was the best teacher. He steered the vessel into the cove and closed the throttle coasting towards the broken dock.

“Hop on the dock with the rope and tie it down if you can.” Harry and Manitou stood at the edge of the boat, Harry with the rope clutched in his hand. A slight rub against the wood, not hard enough for denting. He shut off the engine and Harry tied up the boat. An immense sense of accomplishment took hold of him. He admitted to himself that it didn’t even matter if they couldn’t find the long lost uncle.


Rounded Precambrian rock and thin layers of soil where spruce trees struggled to grow, gnarled and dry, branches broken and needles rusted, fallen trees covered in arid white moss; this was Clapperton Island. The light in the lighthouse was on but at its base the door was locked, the locked rusted through and the door stripped of its paint.

“No one has lived here for a while,” said Harry.

“Like a ghost town without the town.” But an old path, somehow visible, led away from the lighthouse into sparse woods. No sign of anyone.

“Do you think he’s here?”

“Don’t know son. We can only look. Let’s walk around. That’s all we can do.”

Manitou found a trail, sniffing her way along an ancient path past relics of a different age. Broken sheds. A stone chimney with decaying beams. A small clearing with nothing. A pile of firewood left to rot. Inhospitable for human occupation but something in the air. A vibe. Past events concealed in the gray and broken boughs. Another clearing with a natural harbor, perfect for canoes and a campfire. The shoreline steep with the descent of rock.

“Surprised there isn’t an old teepee here,” he said. Harry ran into the clearing as if looking for fossils or old Indian arrowheads. Deer scat. A swamp with a beaver lodge. The sounds of frogs. The rustle of groundhogs and raccoons. The sounds of birds. The loud squawking of Sandhill cranes.

“There’s no one here,” said Harry. “I thought it would be so much different.” They could see Manitoulin Island to the south, massive like a turtle’s shell made of limestone and covered with trees.

“We might as well check out the whole island while we’re here. Who knows, maybe there is someone on the far side.”

Dry and crackling underbrush was the only thing they could hear when the sweat began to drip salty droplets that disappeared on the bedrock. The path grew wider, then a footprint. And the waft of an outhouse.

“Dad!” A small cabin on the high point of the rock came into view, the roof bent and drooping from the weight of a thousand snowfalls. A chimney in the middle, steadfast with stones of different color and shape. 

“Hello in the house!” he yelled. They walked slowly, Harry grabbing his arm. Chin out. When they stopped Manitou went forward to the door, sniffing and wagging its tail. Firewood piled against the cabin. A clothesline fallen to the ground. A ripped chair sagging and rusted. They both heard something stir inside. A yell.

Harry looked at him. He nodded without saying anything. He knocked. The yell from inside louder. Indistinguishable. Barking.

“Martin?” Noise just behind the door.

“Come in!” Legge pushed open the door.

“Hello,” he said. A man sitting at a table, hunchbacked and face white like his full head of hair. Ashtray and mug at this elbow. Small window covered in nicotine and fly guts. The floor awash with uneaten food and dog hair. The smell of mould and rotten food and body odor wafting outwards. An old dog limping and wagging its tail, white hair around its mouth. Manitou busy sniffing and wagging her tail. A mouse darted across the floor in the corner.

Keeping the door wide open, Legge stepped inside. “This is my son Harry. We’re Legges. Heard you might be here. Are you Martin?”

“Who said?” Anger in his eyes. Swatting away flies. “Who?” Black eyes under a wrinkled brow with no eyebrows. Lines like a shriveled apple. Scar down his forehead. Fingers yellowed from smoking. A bag of Indian cigarettes on the counter. Layers of dust and grime. The cabin littered with unwashed clothes, dishes unwashed, woodstove blackened. 

“I think you are my uncle Martin.” Legge enunciated clearly but Martin’s face did not move. Stern features tainted by suspicion. Skin sagging under his chin.

“I’m no uncle,” he said. “I don’t have none.” He waved his hand. “Who are youse?”

“We’re from Manitoulin. We’ve come to say hello.” The face still unchanging, the hunched man skinny and malnourished, his shirt sullied with spilt food. But an unmistakable resemblance of the nose, the heavy brow, the full head of hair, the big hands and the shape of the mouth.

“Who are you? I don’t want anything!” Harry stepped back, grabbing his hand. “I got it. I got everything I need. I don’t want. I’m fine. Who are you again? I got my stuff. I don’t need anything. I don’t have none. Who are you? God damn!” He slammed down his fist. In his eyes fury, confusion, his mind not recognizing anything. Martin’s equilibrium disturbed, a cardinal offence for any hermit. “No!” His cheeks now flushed and toothless face unfriendly. No point. Mind too far gone. Dog scratching and limping, hanging on to life. The smell reasserting itself in a gust up his nostrils.

“Sorry to disturb you Martin. God bless you.” They backed up and closed the door softly. He and Harry walked back to the boat without a word.


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)

19. A bow made by drawing one leg back and bending the other: OBEISANCE, SCRAPE – used chiefly in the phrase to make a leg.

Mac, despite the haranguing by Old Doug, left on his adventure to Montreal via the Les Voyageurs route of the early fur traders through various freshwater waterways. A void of vacuous space left at Patterson’s garage left Legge feeling as though the Island wouldn’t ever be the same. The Scottish brogue had always been an added spice of clove and cayenne pepper, just the ingredients to make any daily dish at the garage enjoyable and different. He still went to The Wick but it wasn’t the same. He was prodded to acknowledge that the Scot had embarked on an adventure by taking advantage of Canada’s jewel instead of just flying back to his homeland. Something about it bugged him, like a thorn in his paw or a pea under his mattress.

Legge faced the fact that he had no motorcycle and yet he ran a motorcycle B&B, a situation that enabled others to rightfully accuse him of being a hypocrite, but it didn’t bother him. What needled him was what he was missing: the stirring of something within him that spelled control in the face of danger, like a drug that he had grown to like. Mac was engaged with his drug through his vehicle of choice, and Morrell thrived on his two-wheeled balance like he was a stoned hippie. It was fraudulent to ignore his craving for this adventure drug. Then he remembered Melvin McKeen’s offer of the Kawasaki that was sitting idle in his garage. Things had changed since Mac’s going away party. The Motorcycle Inn was now like a bike park of sorts, a club with a track for motorcyclists to relax, drink beer and ride, wipe out and then heal around a campfire. So he was a fraud. It was that word that bothered him. He could stand being a hypocrite but never a fraud. He had to take action.

The McKeen farm was a place where a hundred different projects were in various phases of execution, the result being a very messy yard. An effort had been made to keep the evidence of incompletion out of sight behind the farm, but the general feel of the property was one of neglect. When he walked up the driveway he believed he was doing them a service by clearing out some valuable space in the garage by purchasing the Kawasaki.

“Legge, that you?” Melvin stepped out of his house with a mug in his hand. Coveralls dirty with grime from weeks of work. “Come to chew me out for wrecking your yard?” A gleam in his eye.

“Could never do that Melvin. Would thank you first.”

“A memorable party that was. Something strange about that whiskey of yours, or should I say your grandpappy’s.” His whiskey-running past had now taken hold, however Legge’s reaction wasn’t embarrassment. Just acceptance.

“Something to do with the tobacco juice they put in it.” Melvin drank the dregs of his mug and tossed the rest in the grass.

“What kin I do fer you sir?” Blue skies, the birds singing, the wind God silent and the temperature ideal for getting things done. Only the Sandhill cranes made a fuss from behind the trees.

“That Kawasaki you were talking about. Still want to get rid of it?” Melvin’s hands were dirty so when he lowered his hand from his chin it left a mark.

“Sure. All ready to sell. Now that you got a trail or two to ride.” He sized him up. “You can handle her can’t you?”

“It’s the right size and you said she was good on the roads. Mind if I take her down the road for a spin?”

“God no. Wait a sec.” He went into the house to retrieve the keys and met Legge beside the bike.

“Should start on the first turn. I take pride in my engines.” The engine hummed at the first press of the electric start. Not as loud as he thought.

“Sounds good.”

“Oh, you’ll have no problems with this thing. It sucks to get rid of her. Really, it tugs me heartstrings ya know. But she’s only gonna sit here and git old so go on, don’t be shy. Get on her and show her who’s boss.”

“Have a helmet I can use?”

“No cops down here. Take her down the dead end and come back. That’s all yer gonna need to see she’s a beaut.”

Melvin was right. Legge threw his leg over the seat, straddled the engine, letting the hum reverberate up to the hair follicles on his head. Legs reached the ground with ease. Arms hung effortlessly from the handlebars. The only thing to do was back it out of the garage and open the throttle.

“See ya,” he said, his face covered with the grin of Loki. Legge eased the clutch out slowly until the end when he released it quickly. The bike shot forward and his head whipped back, pulling his throttle hand back giving the bike more speed. The exhilaration sent an electric shock into the pit of his stomach as he held on. Hair flew back and sweat cooled in the air. At the road he turned in second gear onto the quiet road and let loose, hearing the crisp changing of the gears. An emotion welled up from somewhere, a love of this very thing, the movement, the ease of control, the posture and comfort of his arms, and scents in the air and the way the bike turned. Changing gears at high speeds or turning corners was so much different that his experience on the RD400.

At the end of the road he knew what he wanted to do, what he liked about the bike and what he would be doing in the years ahead. It wasn’t a racing bike with the forward thrust of the torso hunched over as if sitting on a rocket that he wanted; it wasn’t the laidback posture of a chopper he wanted; and it wasn’t the classic antique that was 30 years behind in technology; it was this bike. This baby had been designed for him.

When he turned into Melvin’s place he showed the care of a new bike owner, having made the decision somewhere along the road.

Melvin rode the Kawasaki KLR650 to his house with the ownership papers and key and user manual. They agreed on a price that to Legge was a steal. Melvin was all right with a few monthly payments and an agreement that he and his brother could come over and ride the trails anytime they wanted. His reply was: “The more the better.”


Having his own bike of his own choice had an immediate effect on practically everything Legge did. Secondary chores that had been neglected for months were now being done because he wanted to get the work done while using his motorcycle. Getting things from the hardware store or visiting people at their homes or banking were now a source of joy. Gone was the sluggishness of the heavy and unbalanced RD400. Now he rode one of the world’s best motorcycles for this terrain. He had found his mate that enhanced his life during the months he ran the B&B. Dropping by Mare’s house was a regular thing, constantly imploring her to ride on the back to new destinations for a picnic, like the beaches of Providence Bay and the limestone cliffs of The Cup and Saucer Trail and even out west to Silver Lake and Meldrum Bay.

Sometimes Legge would ride all day leaving Harry with Mare and Dana to relax in Kagawong or with Gail in Gore Bay, him riding every nook and cranny he could find, whether a dirt road or logging road or dirt walking trail. All was fair game on his new bike. This awakening had fortified his heart with lightness that did not dim. Untold stress was straight-armed away from his mind as were concerns and worries. With each added mile and each new turn brought him closer to a permanent state of contentment, a force or power that people saw in his eyes. Harry took to it like a chip off the old block wishing he were bigger so he could ride it but soon after he got his new bike the McKeens kept one of their older 125s at his place for Harry to ride. Father and son became riding pals on the trails behind the house. Legge could hear him laughing sometimes when he passed him on a trail.

Such sincere expressions of joy could not be bought.

One day in September, with Harry and Dana being cared for by Gail, he snuck off with Mare for a picnic to his favorite spot in Providence Bay. On the eastern lip of the bay was a lighthouse where a spit of land jutted out into the water defining the endpoint of two currents. With a natural arrangement of stones that were comfortable to sit and offered some protection from the wind, Lake Huron spread out before them to a thin blue line. Beyond the thin blue line was Detroit.

“I’ve been here so many years and I’ve never been to this spot before you showed me,” she said. Her silky hair flying into her face no matter what she did. “I love it how the currents clash.” She lifted a plastic cup to her mouth that left her lips red.

“This island is full of little spots like this,” he said thinking of Mac. “It would take us all summer and all next summer and maybe the summer after that to see them all.” The wine and the newfound riding urged him further along a path he had, since Athena’s departure, resisted. But all the signs were there.

“Will we have the time to do it all?” The question made her flush.

Legge smiled. “The business is doing well and the rental money is coming in from there.” He pointed to Detroit invisible on the south horizon. “So perhaps we do.” Her lips were cold but soon warmed up. Her tongue tasted of the garlic crackers and Brie they had been eating.


A few days later, while Harry was at school, Legge made a point of having a visit with his aunt on her front porch surrounded by orchids and flowers of every color conceivable to man.

“I saw Uncle Martin, did Harry tell you?” She put her cup of tea down and looked at him. No humor in those eyes.

“You saw him or you talked to him?” Voice rising with alarm.

“Both. Harry and I went over in Mac’s boat and found his cabin there on the far shore.” Her eyes waited for more information. “He’s a pretty old guy; didn’t know who I was. Seemed a bit senile. Lives like a hermit.”

“Well of course he does. Nothing to do there but live and die.”

“I just wonder how he gets by. No stores there and nothing to do.” She poured more tea into her cup and ignored his inquiry.

“His choice to live there. Doesn’t have to. Told me once he hated people and wanted to be left alone. This was years ago. Strange man. Always been strange. Black sheep he is. Surprised he’s still living.” Legge kept catching perfumes from blooming flowers as if born from Mother Nature’s breast.

“But how does he get his food? He’s a smoker so how does he get those bags of Indian smokes? I just can’t figure it out.” She regarded him for a moment.

“Good to see you care some ‘cause I sure don’t. Better for everyone if he dies.”

“You don’t believe that auntie.”

“Don’t you tell me what I believe and don’t believe young man! There are things you have no idea about. I’ll just leave it at that.”

“Okay, all that aside. My point is: should we, as his family, take some action to ensure he is looked after? I mean what if he dies? What if he starves to death? He’s totally alone there.”

By choice.”

“Fine, by choice.” Legge stood up and walked towards his Kawasaki for no reason other than it made him feel better.

“Listen, you don’t need to know about the past other than he was involved with the rum-runners back in the thirties. He chose to remain there for his own reasons. There’s nothing we can do to bring him back here.”

“How does his get his food?”

“The Birch Island Reservation is close by. He gets there on his boat once a month to do his banking and food shopping. I reckon he’s pretty damn good at it by now. And now that he’s a lot older now and not as strong, I’m sure he has some Indian friends who bring him what he wants every month by boat.”

“And in the winter?”

“By snow machine.”

“So there’s nothing we can do?”

“What is it exactly you want to do? He has everything he wants. He’ll never go to an old age home if that’s what you’re thinking. The man is probably in his nineties. So he’s had a good, long life. He’s happy there with his dog. So don’t go stirring up things just because you’re feeling righteous all of a sudden.” Legge wasn’t sure if the last remark was a nudge at him. Didn’t matter. Righteous or not, he needed to bring it up.


“No. Listen. Some people just don’t want help. Some people despise pity. And your uncle Martin is one of these types. Best to leave it at that.” He let it go. All families had shadows in their past. It was inevitable that as he learned what his family really was he would find shadows and dark corners. Martin was eccentric but Sammy Legge took the cake.

“Okay then, I hear what you’re saying, but one more thing. Tell me about this new man in your life.” She looked at him waiting for some snide remark but none came.

“How did you know?”

“It’s a small community here isn’t it? I think I heard something from someone downtown.” It was his best effort to be vague.

“Well, that’s none of your business Mr. Legge.” She swallowed the tea in one gulp. “But one thing I can tell you, he’s no slouch.” A smile spread across her face like a little girl avoiding direct questions from the principal at school. That was when he noticed her white hair had morphed into a smooth brown that was now much longer. The vertical line in the skin between her eyes was now a soft furlough barely visible, as if the muscles taut so long had finally been given permission to relax.


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)

20. A cut of meat. a. the back half of the hindquarters of a lamb,

mutton or veal.

“Legge, you’re still not getting what you should from that property of yours,” said Patterson, now taking a keener interest in his business affairs after seeing it firsthand at Mac’s going away party. “Someone gotta talk some sense inta that noggin of yours.” He revved the motorcycle to clean out the carburetor and to work the new oil into her innards. Patterson was a bit jumpier than usual, a result of more work due to Mac’s departure. More impatient, less tolerant of stupidity and Morrell’s constant mooching.

Legge bent down and pulled the chain down from the sprocket seeing the chain didn’t require tightening. It was one of the few things he knew how to do for his motorcycle maintenance.

“Now that you have those trails you should be charging people to ride them. Know what I mean?” he wiped his hands with a dirty rag, leaving his hands just as greasy.

“No, I don’t.” The wind had picked up and rain was coming down diagonally. Everything green and wet. Wires moving in the wind, the hiss a whistle from God. Patter of thick drops onto an empty metal object in front of the door.

“Charge a daily rate. Get riders to pay you something like $20 a day to ride your trails. They can ride their own bikes on your trails, drink if they want or relax between rides on your deck. Money to be made doing that. Maybe more than your B&B. Trust me. I hear guys bitching about not having a place to ride off road all the time.”

“There must be places here on the Island to ride off road though.”

“Nah. You need to own the land before you can make trails and ride. The only places to ride a dirt bike or four-wheeler is on the snowmobile trails but you need permission from the land owner, and many of them say no to bikers because of the noise. Besides, property owners don’t want trespassers during the summer.”

“But they let snowmobiles use them?”

“Yep. Most people want peace and quiet during the summer, and in the winter most of them aren’t even here. Big difference. And because the whole Island is owned by individual landowners rather than having crown land, those guys who want to ride off-road can really only ride on the side of the road, which is kinda illegal. Trust me. There’s a market for having land to ride off road.”

The idea had crossed his mind but he didn’t think there were many out there who would pay money to ride on an open field. He thought the McKeen’s were just motocross nuts. The hand went to his nose and itched.

“You mean like a park? Riders pay a daily fee?”

“Call it whatever you want. Alls I know if that there are guys out there who have no place to ride.”

“What about the track in Providence Bay?”

“Have you seen the track?” He nodded. Legge had seen a hell of a lot since the KLR came into his life. “Well then you know its regulations and the authorities don’t want it all carved up by irresponsible kids who wreck the jumps and chew up the course.” Patterson lit a smoke and blew it out into the rain, the smell making Legge hungry.

“Sounds all a bit much.”

“A bit much? Do you know how difficult it is to earn a living here on the Island? People starve here if they don’t work. Welfare doesn’t give you enough to eat and pay your bills. You gotta git everything you can. You inherited a big place so you gotta a leg up. But that doesn’t mean you can pay yer bills. What it means is that you gotta use it to yer advantage. See what I mean? Sell riders the right to ride on your trails. Truss’ me. There are lotsa young guys out there with no place to ride. You already gotta a place. Let people ride. Fits in with yer B&B and all that. Even your guests can ride the trails if they want.”

Legge was finding it tough to save anything on the Island. His rental income from his apartment in Detroit would be taxed and there were property taxes to pay and hidden costs he knew were coming down the pipeline.

“So I should put up signs saying what exactly?” Patterson rubbed his forehead, leaving a streak of grease between his eyes.

“You add to your signs something like: “Off-road trails open to the public” or somethin’ like that. Riders will know what it means. The rest won’t but who cares about them.”

Legge strongly doubted that there was a market for it but he was willing to explore the idea. Any added income was welcome.


A few days after he had added the bit about off-road trails to ride to each sign around the Island, he had a truck pull into his driveway. The trailer had three off-road bikes, two 125s and a 250cc. From the truck out came two boys and a man and woman.

“Saw yer sign yesterday near Little Current and thought we’d check out yer trails. Yer open are yas?” The man, huge and overweight, had a friendly face, his wife just as large with her hair up in a disheveled hive.

“Open yes. The trails are behind the house.”

“Much space?”

“Might want to have a look yourself.” He took the four of them to the back deck where they could see the 100 acres of trails that weaved through the poplars and across the flat land. Nelson McKeen had made a jump over a stone fence at the crest of the hill close to the house.

“Hot damn! It’s right out of a dream.” He slapped Legge on the shoulder. “What do ya think boys?” Fresh faces with great grins, the boys looked as though they had seen a pot of gold. They didn’t have to say anything because they were jumping around impatiently.

“How much?”

“I charge 20 bucks a bike,” he said without thinking. He felt guilty to think they’d have to pay him 60 dollars.

“Damn fine I say. Boys, git yer bikes going! I’ll have a watch from here.” His wife helped the boys unload the bikes. “I brought my bike but I think I’ll watch ‘em ride first. Love watching my boys ride. They love it. ‘Kin see it on their faces.”

“Hope that’s not too much.”

“Hell no. I might git my own bike out there too.” He paid Legge cash. He couldn’t stop himself with the money in his hand.

“Well you go right ahead and ride with you boys. Free of charge.”

“Hot damn boy. You mean it?”

“Hell yeah!” He shook Legge’s hand with a firm grip. He knew he had said the right thing.

“That’s the kinda thing that’ll have us comin’ back.”

“Make yourself at home here on the deck. I’ll be inside. I need to put on some food and tea. Care for some?” The man became conspiratorial in demeanor.

“Okay if I suck down a few brown pops? It’s Sunday and all. Don’t have much of a chance to cool my throat during the week. Got the missus to drive back if need be.”

“Damn right you can!” He was damn happy he had listened to Paddy in the first place. “Just don’t sue me if you break a leg.”

“No, no lad. Haven’t spilled in years. Riding gets better after a few. Don’t you know that? Say, how long you been running this operation?”

“Just this summer. The trails were laid down just recently.”

“Well it’s just what Manitoulin needs. We got horseback riding, sailing, hiking, fishing, hunting, damn near everything here but no place to ride dirt bikes. ‘Bout damn time.” He slapped Legge on the back and left for his truck. The boys kick-started their bikes and were off. The whine of the two-stroke engines easing through each loop on the course at first and then picking up the pace. The older boy found his flow taking the inner trails and flying over the stone fence on the jump created by Nelson.

The wife came into the kitchen to help with tea and some food. She knew what she was doing so he went outside and drank beer with the father who beamed with pride at his boys.

“Stuart is a great rider but I swear it’s little Luke who has the talent. See how he takes those turns, downshifting and braking at the same time. I want to give him the chance to develop that. Off-road racers make big bucks these days, unlike the days when I was his age.” The man shook his head. His 250cc bike leaned patiently on its kickstand, ignored for the action on Legge’s backyard, as the man, more flush after every beer, was the picture of the proud father. Legge, drinking beer and infected by the glow of pride, was thinking this was the easiest money he had ever made.


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)

20. A cut of meat. b. the drumstick of a fowl.

The fall had come early to the north, maple leaves turning first into various shades of yellow and red until the bright orange filled the woods with a palette of Parisian hues. The sun was captured in the maple leaves in shades of orange and yellow and red, thick forests line the road the color of cotton candy, like a wall with a yellow sheen. Fall, the song to the phoenix, a fiery shedding of the season in an act of honor to the never-ending cycle of death. Dying for a winter in a sun-drenched dive into the flames.

The second Friday of October. Legge at home throwing on a second flannel shirt and switching to his warmer gloves. At the window with his jacket on, he calculated the ride to The Wick before Paddy closed. He had tightened his chain to the maximum but it was dangling dangerously low so he had to have a link removed. Legge had fifteen minutes until Paddy closed for the weekend. With the leaves changing and days becoming fewer for motorcyclists he had to have his KLR operational. Paddy had the tools to hammer the pins out cleanly so Morrell didn’t do it for him. Legge had taken the long way home from Little Current, choosing to take the Bidwell Road. Rain slowed his corners and loosened his chain. It clanged loudly around the sharp Bidwell Road corners – that was when he knew it could buckle and bust the metal casing off the inner sprocket. And he thought the hinge fixed on maximum stretch on the very end of the back axle might slip off the end and the whole lot would explode jarring the back wheel.

Fretting about making it to The Wick in time and staring at the rain wasn’t going to fix the problem. He picked up the phone and called. No answer. Must have left early. Rummaging through the phonebook he found Morrell’s number.

“Morrell, good you’re there. The Wick is closed ‘til Monday but I need work done on my bike and thought you might be able to help. My chain is hanging by a thread and I need a chink taken out because the back axle screw is maxed-out so I was hoping you had the tools to shorten my chain.”

“Sure Legge, no problemo. Rainin’ outside anyway so what else am I gonna do? That’s a serious problem if it’s maxed-out and below the line there on yer chain guard. If she comes off be prepared to go into a back-wheeled skid. You here me? So don’t hit the brakes.”

“I’ll take the Tenth Side Road to town and down Poplar to your house so I should be all right if I go slowly. It was hairy on Bidwell Road though. The soaking hyper-stretched the thing. But I should check the chain-tightening screw to make sure it hasn’t loosened.”

“En maybe the reason for the excess stretch. If you’ve been off-roading a lot there’s a lotta dust in those joints in yer chain. When the rainwater flushes through the dust and dirt is washed out that loosen the links. Stretches yer chain. Happens to yer kinda bikes. That’s probably what happened.”

“Well I’ll ride gingerly over to your place.” Legge thought it might be a thirty-minute ride.

Legge had his helmet in his hand and the other opening his front door when the phone rang. Thought it might be Morrell but it was Nathan’s voice streaming in from the hotplate of the Mojave Desert.

“Legge? Is that you? I can hardly hear you. Listen, you know I’m an avid videogame player right?” Legge thought it was a gross understatement using the word ‘avid,’ more like ‘fanatic.’

“Nathan, you’re the master. You write games for a living. Why? What happened?”

“So I have this thing that I go out in the desert hiking and exploring like a videogame would you know. So I’m kind of on the far side of that rock climbing wall near Lake Mead you know, trying to get away from the climbers and that whole vibe and I find this old Navajo trail that goes more or less along the ridgeline. Do you remember that game we did called Hardcastle? The one based on Flashman’s exploits.”

“The one where Hardcastle goes up the Nile to find that old monastery?”

“Exactly, so I’m in this mode and I’m grooving on some pot I smoked and I go so far totally convinced that what I’m meant to find is just around the next corner. “I was thinking something like a rock painting or a sacred site with prayer ribbons or something.”

“Oh no, so what happened?”

“Well I didn’t realize that I had gone so far away from the climbers near Mead, my water wasn’t sufficient and I had the pasties from the joint I smoked. So I went deeper into this new world of rock and sand and cacti I found this clearing that had a rock shelf where I take five. I should return before the sun sets but I’m convinced there’s something magical over the next incline so as I’m debating a snake comes out of nowhere directly towards me. Purposely. At first I thought it was just a configuration camouflaged in the sand and pebbles. I stare at it maybe thinking it’s not real like all the dangers we put in videogames, right? So instead of doing anything I actually look away and take drink, calm and convinced it was just a fictitious boogeyman. Then when it rattled its tail the vibrations went through my leg hair. That’s when I knew it was real, like a real threat. I didn’t know what to do. In a game I’d pick up the rock that just so happens to be there and the right size, and kill it. Simple, then move to the next threat. So when I stood to move back it bit me on the leg! Right through my jeans and socks. It was the biggest jolt of my life.”

“Oh shit!”

“The thing slinked away after it did its thing and I’m having a major shock. The pain was searing man! My whole leg went numb so I’m sitting there thinking where the right exit to the scene in the game was?”

“Which was?”

“I picked up cell phone and called Rita. I took the escape hatch open that doesn’t lose me any points.” Nathan Schiff’s laughter intermingled with a tenor of triumph and profound stupidity and was relishing the bridging of the gap between make believe and real.


Raindrops like water-hammers hammering and exploding off his arms and down his neck cold as ice water. Branches droopy with sodden leaves now polished clean in a last baptism before the phoenix is reborn. An aquarium of soggy foliage filled with thick soupy ethers. Jagged jolts of lightning the only light in the post-apocalyptic sky.

Legge remained stiff in the seat of his KLR trying not to create any cracks in his armor that let water seep in. Mud flew up against the front fender like a machine gun with clay bullets, Visibility slim and speed steady in third gear. Fragile state of grace. Chain clanging like a hungry child when he descended the final hill gently coasting to the turn-off for Poplar, a beautiful stretch of rolling road going due south to Morrell’s.

Hammer and wrench ready for the operation laid on the top of the picnic table in front of him.

“Got the tools right here so we might as well fix her before she gets too dark. Besta get it done now. Shouldn’ be a problem.” Legge didn’t see a garage when he pulled in, but was more worried about Morrell half-drunk playing mechanic. “Still rainin’ is it? Why don’tcha park it under the front porch. I’ll make room.”

Relieved to leave the oppressive air inside, Legge rode his KLR to where Morrell stood beside the five-foot high row of firewood with the bottle perched on top. Floor creaking as he stopped. Legge insisted only the chain needed fixing. Wanted to minimize the damage Morrell could do.

“Well ther’s plenty I could do but we’ll stick ta da chain fer now.” Bending down his dirty fingers lifted the limp chain up and down emphasizing its looseness, then smothered the chain-tightening screw with grimy fingertips and shook his head. “Yer lucky this one didn’ slip off. Yer gotta hav’er pretty tight I reckon. One of the most important points of maintaining yer bike is the chain. Coulda done some serious damage this.”

Morrell busied himself with the bike, jacking it up on a motorcycle hoist by pumping a lever, telling Legge about the time he was riding in Manitoba somewhere and his chain buckled. Sent him flying off the bike and snapped off his back sprocket. Could have died on that one if it wasn’t for the fact that it happened taking a corner so he tumbled into a ditch after grazing the guardrail. Always been dangerous and always will be, he went on, wrench busy on the back axle nuts. No sense in thinking about it though, just have to be aware and accept it.

“Why wouldn’t I quit biking if it’s so dangerous?” he said, squinting through the rising smoke from his cigarette dangling from his lips, wiping the grease on his jeans instead of using the rag beside him. “Well because they took my license away from them drunk-driving convictions and I ain’t never gettin’ affordable insurance for a car agin. Just the way it iz.”

“I heard from a guest the insurance rates are doubling next year because of the big increase of motorcyclists over the last few years. Said riders with past DUI charges will be affected the most.”

“Damnation! Is there no place where the government can’t put their meddlin’ hands? I’m hanging by a thread as it is with my mandatory insurance fer my bike. Only solution is to ride without insurance! But that’d put me in jail fer Christ sakes. No way I’m spending another day in the joint. I already spent my time. Three years I was in there fer somethin’ I never even done. Manslaughter they said but I told ‘em I ran over the damn body but it was just lying there dead already.” Rubbed his face and took a long swallow straight from the bottle, disinfecting himself from the memory. “Guy who done it confesses in his will after he dies that he was the one who killed the guy! So whaddya think them did? They let me out. Damn fools. I told’em I never done it. But the drunk-driving beef still stuck.

“Point is that the cops are moving into the biker’s world, setting up roadblocks when there’s a rally whether you’re an Angel or not. They don’t wantcha to ride, adding rules and laws when there’s no God Damn need for it. Compared to the rest of the world Canada has the harshest motorcycling and driving laws of anywheres, especially the States. Gotta be a reason. Jus’ don’t like bikers.” Turning his head he spat out his cigarette onto the lawn in a spray of ashes, some flecks sticking to his wet beard. Looking at Legge he could see he was preoccupied with his jail time than with how he was removing his chain. “Forget the manslaughter beef Legge and focus on what I’m doin’ ‘cause yer gonna haveta know how to do this one day. I ain’t always gonna be around fer ya y’know.”

“Yeah, I’ll concentrate. I mean I’m a little freaked out about you spending time in prison when you were innocent. Didn’t know about that though why should I? But you’re right. I need to get the basic tools for my bike and for my guests. It’s something I wanted to talk to you about. Maybe next year I could make The Motorcycle Inn into a motorcycle club, with membership and a place for riders to go ride off-road, fix their bikes, have a beer and sleep over if they want. But from what you’re saying the cops wouldn’t be too happy about that. I might end up on their radar.”

“I’m sure yer already is Leggey. None them cops ‘il ever take a likin’ to a biker. An’ with yer place a haven fer all of’em outlaws they sure be watchin’ for illegal activity. If yer gonna do somethin’ like that then yer gotta get insurance to cover any accidents that are gonna happen, like if a rider breaks his neck ridin’ yer trails. Agin bloody insurance. But maybe yer getta discount if yer get all yer bike, home and business insurance from one place. I know a guy who can getcha a good deal.”

Morrell banged at the pin in the joint, the chain like a dead snake metallic and dirty and greasy. The high-pitched sound of the small hammer and pin against the chain pin was distinct. He stuck his head close to the chain to see how far it needed to go.

“But yer idea is good. Be fun to hava spot to hang and drink and smoke and ride. Might even bring some business to the Island and yer could get some funding. I knowse they do that fer some businesses. But mind those cops. They’ll be settin’ up drunk-driving stops right around the corner from yers jus’ as them guys are leaving all full of drink. Them cops er like badgers. No idea of a biker’s life. Ignorant buggers en’ happy ta enforce the most restrictive laws too. See we live in an age of a dictatorship by law, too many laws for normal livin’ if yer ask me. And them makin’ the laws don’t know a motorcycle from their elbow. The age we live in. Jus’ be aware of this Leggey. Yer got the biking gene so yer need to learn howda fight these bastards.” He shook his head and lit another Indian cigarette, then held up the link. “Now yer be okay.”

But Legge thought laws were there for protection not oppression, but he wasn’t going to get into that with Morrell. Instead he was amazed at how graceful his work was putting back together the chain and telling him about so many brushes with the law that he wondered how he had made it this far, especially on the Island where the cops had a take on everyone.


Near the end of the month when the leaves had fallen and the chill in the air was ominous with winter, his aunt visited him with papers in her hand saying she had been asked to deal with Martin. Alzheimer’s had taken root and took him down, requiring him to have assistance to live. She told him he wanted to die on his own in his own house but there was no way in hell she was going to help him, handing the papers over to him. No reason. Shadows of history resurfacing. But Legge didn’t mind because he was family and part of a past he had grown to like – a history that had already given him some notoriety. The McKeens and Morrell still came by for a hit from the jug. Martin had no one and he wasn’t going to let some government workers take him away. No, he could deal with it even if his uncle was raving mad. As long as he didn’t bring Harry he could handle him physically if it had to come to that. He should expect resistance but be prepared for it.

The more he thought about the boat ride across the channel the more he thought about Mare, who had shown interest in going to Clapperton and sympathy for his uncle all alone and isolated. It could be a chance to travel a bit together and maybe the presence of a woman would lessen Martin’s objections to leaving.

“You never know, it might turn out to be an adventure.” It was the wrong word but it didn’t matter. Mare knew he needed her to be with him but he hadn’t given her the sign that he did. Autopilot can go on a long time after damage has been done by a wife so obsessed with finding greener grass though he did see why she found his own grass dry and burnt, soil as hard as cement. But Legge did like having adventures – motorcycling was one big adventure for him. Videogames were an extension of an imagination suffocated by a concrete jungle and homogeneity, gray and in descript, regular and clockwork. He did enjoy the boat ride to Clapperton even though he was hurting. Achievements like that meant something to a man who had had so few in his life – a trip that had enhanced his relationship with his son. He hoped it would show a side of him that he hadn’t known until he moved out of Detroit.

And she said yes. Mare would come with him the next day she had off. Pummeled over, Legge frantic preparing for the trip.


Mists of spray tossed up from the prow like salted ice splashing against skin surrounded by liquid cold emitting its hypothermic threat. Stretched fabric of thinned-out clouds layered like furnace filters congregating and conspiring to stop heat from passing through. The sky low and intrusive limiting the horizon to mountains of rock gray and trees bare with matted bark. Wind stinging and penetrating fibers of all makes so no heat could be had, the sun kidnapped and the task ahead bleak.

Legge weighed down by the thought that Mare wasn’t enjoying the ride and was regretting the trip. Couldn’t think of what to do to make it better for her, the wind and engine drowning out speech. He leaned over trying to keep his frozen fingers steady on the wheel.

“It was a lot sunnier when Harry and took this ride. And warmer. Didn’t think the water would be so cold. But I know Harry enjoyed himself. Good to take the trip. A promise is a promise and it was important to follow through. Better this boat than the canoe, that’s for sure.” She had only caught a few words but nodded to him for the effort. The smile was for him but came from a memory she had of a red-faced boy she knew who had done everything in his power to make her fall in love with him, saying anything that came into his mind to avoid the silence that would always be there between them. Only when she held his hand did he stop chattering. She knew it had given him the moment he wanted, the possibility of love coming true, the glimmer of hope that was needed in all men’s hearts.

“It was good to follow through though. Kids always remember a broken promise.” Legge reluctant to lean back in the driver’s seat, enjoying the slight pheromone intake, wanting to put his arm around her and hold her hand.

Minutes later Clapperton Island rose up from the water as if crouched and ready to pounce, waves making the docking a challenge. Land of rock a relief from the tentacles of the North Shore.


Mare walking around the lighthouse long seen but never touched, the history a vibe contained in the rusted metal and still alive in the light that shone. Her hair tangled from the wind, windbreaker shed for the turtleneck wool sweater he loved on her the most. Standing with hands on the hips she took in the massive image of the Island, a great treed rock, stable and secure, unwavering and never fickle.

She recalled the bits of history Legge had shared with her about rum-running during Prohibition and the Bakers who lived here for decades, building a nest on the rugged and exposed rock for the safety of guiding ships and helping boats skirt from the law. Without brave hearts like that there would never have been a modern Manitoulin Island, testing the patience of settlers and measuring their mettle. She felt kinship with that brand of person, pioneers who faced the harsh bite of creating from nothing but nature’s raw and unhewn resources. Who knew such an appreciation could come just from visiting a nearby island, or the power of perspective of where you lived? That across the channel is my home, she thought, apart and safe from the weed of criminality that had made cities dangerous for her child. She would come here again with Dana, another day and maybe even with Legge. Possibilities scared her with promise and threatened her with warmth; the paradox spiced with an urge to possess what was desired in her heart. All was possible from this little island facing the giant to the south.


The boat tied to the broken-down dock and the boat ready for transporting Martin back to the Island, Legge made sure he had the papers from the health ministry in his pocket and wondered if there was anything else he should have brought. He had no idea about the life Martin had lived. Did he love to fish or snowmobile? Or was he a drunk cynic who viewed living as a chore?

He was going in blind but at least he was going in.

With an aura that created a halo with a magenta hue, Mare was as stunning as he had ever seen her beside the weathered lighthouse and its rusted door. She grabbed his hand as they walked in silence along the path leading to the uncle’s cabin.

Martin was sitting in the same place in the kitchen as he had been in last time. The shirt was the same, stained and filthy, hanging off his bony shoulders. Eyes wide open in fear but calmed by the presence of feminine beauty. Feet shuffled under the table in shoes without shoelaces. Looked out the window wondering how they had come. Mouth half-open as if trying to say something.

Legge pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and sat down, thinking it would be less threatening speaking to the man from a perched height. Mare put her hand on his shoulder and Martin looked him in the eye. The ratty dog, old and dirty like its master, limped to him wagging her tail. He reached to pat her but stopped. The fur filthy and potent to his nose.

“Why you come here? What’s happened?”

“I came here to see you Martin.”

“In a boat did yer? Cold this time of the season, no?”

“Yes, we came in a boat. It was cold but we made it okay.” He glanced quickly at Mare. She was looking at the state of the cabin, nothing changed except the large pile of garbage in the corner, the smell worse. “I brought my friend Mare with me. She’s from Kagawong. Mare Flanagan.” Was it that important to give the full name?

“Flanagan eh? You from the Flanagans in Gore Bay? Sammy Flanagan?” Eyes hopeful, yellowed fingers fidgeting.

Mare spoke with a loud voice: “Yes. Sammy Flanagan was my grandfather.” Martin slammed on the table and smiled.

“Knew it. You look like a Flanagan. Sammy was a great Mountie. Only one on the whole Island for years.” Eagerly he lit up a cigarette, pleased with a connection to his past. Thoughts slammed through Martin’s mind like a train wreck, eyes inward as if watching a reel. “Them Sammys! Cat and mouse those two. Close calls. Drowning sailors caught in the fight. Poor Tommy boy, no one knew what really happened to ‘im. Lotsa deaths in them days. Differen’ now. Easy peasy I say. Now they got pellets to burn instead of wood! Holy highway!” Shook his head and sucked hard on his smoke.

“Sammy Legge was my grandfather,” he said, trying to establish who he was.”

“Grandfather? You a Legge then? You got the nose boy. You gotta be a Legge!” He slammed down his hand but this time on his knee. “Old Sammy gave ‘em a run fer their money I’ll tell ya. Nothin’ he wouldn’ do fer a kick. Fearless. Ken still see the blood on his hands. Tough ‘un he was. Took on Capone’s men so they say. Game got pretty hot after that. Needed muscle and with pistols men started dyin’. Cockburn muss still be full of bodies. Wonder too if there’s still booze out there never found. Usta cache crates all along the south waters, sometimes after samplin’ the stuff they makin’ in the stills. When they got Baker everyone thought it was some Injun but I knew who. I know. But never said nothin’.” Eyes narrowed on Legge. “You Randy’s kid then?”

“I’m the son of Bryan. He moved to Detroit when he was still young.” Eyes losing focus, he stared at the wall letting the cigarette burn to his fingers. “Gail is his sister and my aunt.” Martin straightened when he registered Gail’s name. Turned behind him and picked up a bottle of ’87 whiskey, pouring a few ounces into his coffee cup.

“She still living is she?” He looked out the window as if he could see her house.

“Yes, she is living in Gore Bay.”

“Never sees me but I know. I know why she done that to me. Poor girl. She never had a chance did she now? Lots of magic on the Island y’know and not all good. Strange things ken happen if you ain’t expectin’ it.” Another cigarette and a long sip from his cup. Shadows creeping in from the corners.

“The government sent Gail a letter last week, asking her to find you a new home.”

“New home? Why?”

“Government thinks it’s better you live on the Island in a seniors’ home where they have meals prepared and nurses to take care of you.” He took out the letter from his pocket and held it for him.

“Hmm.” Looked at his dog. “It allows pets?” Legge didn’t know but he wasn’t going to let that be the reason he refuses.

“Yes, pets are allowed.”

“Knew it would come someday.” Resignation. Glanced down at the table and noticed the letter addressed to Gail Legge. “‘Bin a bit lonely. Might be good fer me.” Put his hand to his chin and sighed. Mind on other things, remembering the past staring out the nicotine-stained window, brown drops half dripped in the panes.

“I’m 86 years old I am. Guess its bin 65 years or more since Gail and me seen each other. I know though. I know why she ain’t come here. Poor soul. Never. Why some do things to others, to innocents y’know? Lotta bad sorts back then. Sammy runnin’ that operation from his still. Always smokin’. Hotter than a witche’s that was. But the smell! Singe the hairs right out of yer nose. No place fer a girl like her to be growin’ up. Justa a chance of time I reckon. Wasn’t my fault I seen her that mornin’. I think though. Tough. Drinkin’ those jugs’ll make ya crazy. Do stuff you don’t believe. Musta bin 14 seems to be. I didn’t knock but shoulda. Found her pinned. Sammy’s boys were a cruel lot. Had ta be. Devil took hold that one. Ferget his name. Jus another runner running from the law. But he did her good. Blood on the bed I seen when she was cryin’ upstairs. So small under him. Smotherin’ her with firewater breath and the stink of sweat. His hand over her mouth. Nothin’ but fear in ‘em young eyes a hers. Never tolda a soul I reckon. Afraid a me for sayin’ somethin’. Never did. Could be the only time I put the whole mess inta words.

“Meybe I shoulda before. But I didn’. Mighta helped her but didn’ think it was my business. But I saw her hurt. Changed after that, from fall to the first snowfall. Mouth changed too. Kept her mouth pinched up with a clothespin. Whenever she seen me after she had fear. I scared her for what I saw. Our secret until today. Poor girl. I kept an eye on that sailor but he left soon after.

“She’s good in her heart. When Ben died that day the light went outa her ‘cause he was the only one to bring out what light was left. Shame about Ben. Never forgived her brother. Hardly spoke to Harold over the years. Blamed him for Ben’s death. I moved to Clapperton after that. Couldn’ say no to being a lighthouse keeper. Loved it ‘til they shut her down.” Eyes watered, lids heavy. Cigarette smoke grazing his lined face.

Legge looked down at the floor. So she had been damaged too? Explained so much. Disposition and bitterness, her silence; we all have a back-story. Black box. So much locked up and unsaid. Cause and effect. Cast shadows forever shading. Darkness lonely biting and bitter.

“I can come by tomorrow or the other day to pick you up.”

“I don’t have much. Tomorrow’s good.” A terrible sadness overtook his face as if the end had finally come and he knew for certain of immanent death. Shook his head and drank his whiskey, hands fidgeting less now.


Sitting at their favorite table in the corner, Legge ordered for them. Mare suggested wine and Tuttle recommended a bottle from the region. Both famished from the day, chatting about the future and ignoring Martin’s confession. Needles was warm and cozy and Legge knew he didn’t want to be anywhere else. Mare giggling after the first glass, eyes with makeup and the blouse something new. The perfume scented at him with gentle force welcoming an intimacy that hadn’t been there before. Tuttle at the table often inserting his wit that would reverberate in their conversation, the owner likely having some of the local wine too. The chicken spiced just right. Wolfing it all down without a care. Wineglasses kissing over a toast to something, their eyes locking on to each other’s with something more – an unspoken admission of permission granted to take it to the next level. More wine the spark of more laughter, carefree gestures like kids the night before a long-sought event, lingering with desert until the restaurant was almost empty.

Her arm linked through his, she steered him to her house without a word exchanged. Dana asleep but the television still on. Called his aunt asking her to baby-sit for the night at such short notice, relieved when she agreed without rancor, and then called Harry saying he was staying at Mare’s because of too much wine and to expect Gail.

And finally to bed.

“Oh,” she said, lying against Legge’s chest, “my husband has recently been reported dead. Accident on the oil fields. So now I’m a widow.”


The following morning Legge, wearing a thick sweater and his winter coat nurturing a smile that wouldn’t stop, picked up his uncle and his dog, with just a suitcase. All was left in the cabin to rot. Martin clung to his bottle as the last citizen of Clapperton Island slipped slowly away from the rusted lighthouse to a new 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)

21. A stretch of road in a race. a. the final distance of a motorcycle race or rally that goes to the finish line.

Near the end of November Legge was still taking in guests despite the chill in the air. The passionate among the motorcyclists refused to let the riding season go, wearing multiple pairs of pants and jackets and thick gloves to ride out the days left. These ones tended to be enthusiastic about not just their riding but about life in general so the Inn was lively and warm. Shoulder healed and firewood half-chopped, and with more than enough money put away for the winter, he looked forward to a warm house and time to relax without running the Inn. He did find it tough however, to give up his penchant to explore on his KLR, the air becoming too cold for his hands. Driving his van simply had no verve for him, so the chores he had been doing with zeal became once again chores. The only respite with the van was listening to music on the local Island station.

When he arrived at home with food and some supplies for the big room upstairs with the bunk beds, he brewed some tea and checked to see if there were any new bookings for the weekend. There were two messages from Harry’s new school. Sensing trouble, he called right away.

“Mr. Legge I’m principal McDermid. We had a problem with Harry. He’s here now in my office but is keeping his mouth shut about the fight he had on the school ground. Left Terry Clayton with a bloodied nose. From what I hear, the fight was quick but worries me is Harry’s unwillingness to discuss the event. Granted Terry Clayton has been in scuffles before, why would your son be involved so early in the year? I don’t want to delve too deeply here but you’re needed to come here to talk to your son. He isn’t cooperating with me.”

Back in his van, Legge left the radio off.


Sitting on the bench in the anteroom outside the principal’s office, Harry stared straight ahead with a frown. Wouldn’t look at his father. Stifling hot and eyes piercing with judgment from the secretary, he glanced at the principal’s office and saw the door open. Taking his hand, they walked in.

Office neat and tidy, desk polished with an inbox and outbox, the thin face and baldhead of Principal McDermid was as neat and tidy as an office could be. Eyeglasses hiding eyes of a hawk, nails manicured on his lineless hands, Principal McDermid stood up from his chair but came to Legge’s Adam’s apple. His precision in the enunciation of his words.

“Mr. Legge, I’m sorry we had to meet like this. My concern is not so much with the fight in question but rather why your son Harry has chosen not to cooperate with me. His attitude is troublesome by his lack of speech. Harry? Can you tell us why you fought with Terry?”

Harry looked at the waxed floor with his mouth an upside down half-moon. Fists clenched. Face red with anger.

“Now he can pout all he wants, which is what he’s doing right now, but not in my school. I don’t want to see him for the rest of the week. Is that clear?”

Legge gently put his hand on his shoulder.

“Come on son, let’s take a ride in the van.” Legge nodded at Principal McDermid and left the stuffy office.

“All right son, let’s hear it. What happened?” He kept his head down and pinched his face but he couldn’t keep it in. Crying released whatever it was that was bottling him up. Legge let it flow out and decided to take the long way home. He put on the music and kept quiet as Harry got it out of his system.

“That guy was an idiot! He was picking on me, saying stuff about you and the family. He was bugging me for days. He wouldn’t shut up,” he said to himself, gently.

“What was Terry saying?” Another burst of emotion but it wasn’t as robust as the first. Then a sigh. Acceptance.

“What bugged me so much Dad was that Dana was with me. We hang out, you know, and Terry was getting in my face. When he told me you were a whiskey runner on a motorcycle like your grandfather it didn’t bother me because you’re not. I didn’t think much of it but when he said stuff about Auntie Gail I punched him in the face. He deserved it. Totally.”

“What did he say about Auntie Gail?” The music was soft, filling the air in the silence. Give him time.

“Something about being an old maid and being cursed. He said she was a witch who was evil like the devil and that she was a home wrecker, going around a breaking up families. Said I was cursed too and that my rum-running family was not allowed on the Island. Called me a murderer and a rapist and offspring of the devil – of Lucifer.”

“Sounds like a friendly chap.” The unexpected humor instead of the empathy and understanding he expected caused a chuckle. Legge laughed because of Harry’s reaction, which caused Harry to laugh more. Looking at each other and laughing was a moment he would long cherish since the laughter said a thousand words. He hit the steering wheel with his palm and laughed at how profound it was, proud beyond words of his son who understood.

After the laughter, he turned up the radio and put his hand around his narrow shoulders. Harry moved closer and put his head on his shoulder, the bond stronger. A man-to-man friendship commenced with precognitive agreement. He was not going to sully it with a lecture and words that were never exact enough to express the point. But he knew Harry had learned his lesson. They could say all they wanted now and never would he react like that again. Lucifer. Yes Harry, it was comic. Totally.


The rest of the week was spent with Harry helping him clean out the garage to store the boat for the winter. He needed the extra pair of hands and Harry met his expectations. Finding a bow hanging from the wall behind an old barbeque peaked his interest and brought on a rash of queries about bows and arrows. Legge answered the best he could but finally bowed to the demands and took him to Williamson’s where, beside their array of rifles, they sold arrows. The symbolism was not lost to him. The boy-turning-man required a means of defense, whether a slingshot or pellet gun or bow and arrows. Legge set up a target against the garage so there would be less lost arrows. Behind the targets he nailed a large piece of plywood.

As part of his more frequent visits to his aunt’s on the weekends, Mare and Dana had been invited to her house for dinner. The change in Gail was clear and her loneliness and his ignorance blended together to open his eyes that she was his and Harry’s only family and that to ignore that was an act of shame. In the van Mare turned to Harry in the backseat and instead of fussing about his boots or his jacket being open, spoke in a different tone about his bow and arrows and how he had pulled through helping his “old man” with the boat. Her voice was lower and she reached out and patted his shoulder. In the rear-view mirror Legge saw his expression then caught his eye and nodded. No words.

His aunt and Agnes were prepared for the children. Roast beef taking over the aroma of the house, mashed potatoes and red wine. Harry and Dana ran around with Penny and Manitou outside until the darkness brought them in. Mare was ushered to the couch where she and his aunt huddled together as if in conference. Agnes, who had had been dipping into the Scotch bottle, managed the last bits of preparation for the meal. They both knew what was happening. He felt embraced and valued for the first time in years. He related to Agnes the incident at school, not for any other reason than to bridge his family history to the present.

“Good for him,” said Agnes. “Bullying is bullying. Of course the kids are going to talk about your name. Sammy is famous here. Liked by some, disliked by some, hated by the ignorant.” She thought she had cracked a classic line and let it be known by her laughter.

During dinner there was a harmony he had never felt before. Mare and his aunt were still sharing intimacies, now that Mare had informed her of her husband’s death in Alberta months ago and how she had grieved for him. Agnes took the reins and kept serving Harry more roast beef saying how he was a man now and needed to become as big and tall as he could. She even poured him some wine.

“Can I Dad?” Legge couldn’t say no though he was about to when asked, but this too was symbolic that was somehow appropriate to end the week.

“I propose a toast,” said Agnes, insisting to have the floor.

“No! It’s my toast Agnes. My house my rules.” Agnes muttered something under her breath and blinked at Harry. “I would like to raise a glass to my family and friends, thank you for being here and may we have many more. I love you all. Cheers.” The clinking of the glasses was the sound of acceptance. Mare gave him one of her meaningful smiles that told him she would rather be here than anywhere else. It sent something sharp to his throat, or was it his heart; an arrow that pained him for fear of all that he could now lose. It was this he wanted. Her. Unconditional love. Only a few more years with Harry until he’s a grown up and leaves the house. Then what? This family here was what mattered. Mare was right. There was no other place than right here, right now.

Agnes, still sipping her Scotch and serving Harry roast beef, finally had a chance to take the floor. “I would like to propose a toast,” she said, pulling a dour face at Gail, “to the men here. May we women always love and cherish the men we love. To Harry and Kurt.” The order of names wasn’t lost on Legge, Harry the center of attention and Mare happy with her new friend Gail and her man across from her looking dashing. He felt like it was a Christmas dinner he had never had, promising to himself he would make this a regular event for all the holidays. When he looked at his aunt there was great happiness in her eyes, a gushing of newfound joy that had eluded her for so long. She motioned with her eyes to Mare and then gave him a nod, subtle but packed with importance. She put her hand on Mare’s arm and shared more of her heart. He found himself pouring his son another glass of wine, though only half full. When Harry looked at him he winked. For the first time Legge had a wink back. No words.


When the snow came everything turned white. The lush green had gone to orange and yellow and then to a cold gray of bare branches finally changing to fluffy pure white. Like a layer of lathered soap, it stayed on the fields and thick spruce branches for days and weeks – a winter wonderland even during the coldest days. The bay was iced solid now, fishermen out there in ice-fishing huts scattered like colonies, snowmobile tracks leading out from the dock. Old Doug out there every day hauling his catch back knowing where all the best spots were from years of practice. Legge had done much to enhance his house into a proper Inn with paint and some better furniture. Didn’t cost nearly as much as he thought, prices low on the Island where furniture never dies. Christmas spent at his aunt’s and in every way as good as their first dinner there, that love spread thick and each feeding off of it like a bee to a blooming flower. People nodding at him at Foodland, talking like old friends. Embraced as an entrepreneur and motorcyclist who brought people to the Island, respect was given to him, more so since Mare had broadcasted to those who cared that her husband had passed away out west. The culmination of events had produced a new existence for Legge, an existence so different on so many different levels from his time with Athena in Detroit.

With more free time on his hands and with Harry at school during the week, he found himself spending more time with Old Doug’s son Kyle who, like his father, loved to fish. He hadn’t seen him much since he fixed the garage but now they bumped into each other often when Legge walked by the dock where Kyle lived. Each day there was something different going on, a fishing derby or snowmobile trip, ice-fishing or playing hockey on the small rink Kyle had made for his girls. The impression he had about the winter being tough was a myth handed down through the generations. With a snow-blower purchased from the hardware store, there was very little heartache.

Sometimes the wind would pick up coming from the lake leaving a layer of ice on his house in the morning, or a blizzard would rage for days, but the snowplows were efficient and didn’t affect him much being at home without the need to get to an office. The school bus that picked up Harry and Dana was never late though there was one day that school had been called off from the severe weather. But it had happened only once. A rarity.

Since Kyle was out on the ice so often, he had the added task of avoiding his father. Old Doug for his part pitched his ice-fishing hut as far away as possible from the huts Kyle had in a cluster, renting out two to those without. His snowmobile was massive, powerful enough to haul huts even on wet snow. The intense sun had brought the temperature above zero for almost a week, melting the top layer of snow on the ice. Standing in front of it he was loading firewood into a homemade sled towed at the back.

“Got a rental this aft. Coming at noon,” said Kyle, taking a breather from carrying wood from a shed beside his house. “You’re down here a lot. Fillin’ in time?”

“Something like that. No I like walking out on the ice. Something very free about it.”

Nodding. “Better than computer programming you mean?” Guttural laughter.

“Strange to think of so many people working in offices in cities right now while people like us have this to have fun on.” He motioned to the white space all around them, crows and ravens still flying overhead from their turf in nearby woods.

“I hear ya on that one Legge. I hear ya.” One-piece winter coat and pants combo, gloves, hat, massive hands used to hitting the punching bag that hung from the ceiling of his shed-turned-workout room. “So you’ve seen the open holes some guys use without a hut?” He nodded. “Watch for those then. They’re usually marked with a cedar branch sticking up but it always falls down.”

“So who’s renting this aft? From Sudbury?”

“No actually, it’s Brenda and her two brothers. They rented from me last year. You know Brenda?” He knew where she lived. He saw her on her cross-country skis on the lake. “They’re friendly.”

“I’ve spoken to her, yeah.”

“So her and her brothers. Crazy those two. Live in Toronto but love it up here. Family’s from here.”

“What’s the last name?”

“McDermid. Used to own the hardware store in Providence Bay. Big name here.”

“McDermid? As in the principal of the high school?” Kyle nodded, giving him a look like he knew how uptight he was.

“Cousin I think. Anal that guy.” Kyle’s wife was a teacher at the school and seemed to have the scoop on everyone. “Anyway, they’re comin’ in an hour so I gotta load some wood for them.”

“Want a hand?”

“Sure. You could use a workout. Still have that programmer build.” The laughter from somewhere deep. “Eh?”

Inside the shed Legge hit the punching bag and then promptly grabbed his hand. Thought the skin had broken. Scar still raw. Skin pink. Let Kyle carry the wood. Counter covered with tools. Old radio and dartboard near the woodstove. Barbells lying in the corner. Empty beer bottles on the shelf.    

“Had some guys rent out a hut the other day, from down Toronto way,” he said, picking up kindling. “City boys you know? Brought their own bait and had their beer. Didn’t think I was serious about the MNR.” Shook his head like Old Doug would. “Well, you would not believe what they did.” Kyle had chosen to forget that he was a city boy. Had passed the test.

“What? Drove their pick-up out to the hut and fell in?” Legge was amazed to see men driving their pick-up trucks on the ice to transport their huts.

“No but that coulda happened to those bozos, especially now with the warm front. There are some tricky soft patches out there. Anyway, so these guys didn’t believe me about Rheinhardt being such a stickler for law enforcement. Personally I think the bastard knew they were from outa town and wanted them to learn the ways of the north, y’know? So there’s Rheinhardt on his quad riding out on the ice and could probably hear these guys from the hut. They brought a 24 with them. Who knows, maybe Rheinhardt saved them from the station. Anyway, sure enough he stops in and sees ‘em drinking. ‘Oh,’ he say, ‘did you know there’s no alcohol allowed when ice-fishing?’ Well, y’know, these guys are drunk and start to give ‘em lip, telling him to relax and that they’re on vacation and that everyone drinks beer when they ice-fish.”

“Were you there?”

“Al was there in the next hut. Told me later about it.” Al, the same guy who used to fish with Tuttle until he stopped. Born and bred on the Island. Total character. “Anyway so these guys give old Rheinhardt some stick so of course the guy flips. Orders them out of the hut shoves them on the ice, arms spread out. Pours all the open beers beside them. Asks for their fishing licenses, which of course they don’t have. Fines them for drinking. Orders them to get off the ice but doesn’t tell them not to drive.” Rheinhardt: should have been in the army. Pistol strapped, boots polished and pants ironed. Tall, eyes that see everything. Friendly with the locals who respect him and thus the law, a terror to those who don’t see the world through his eyes.

“Don’t tell me.”

“Yep. These guys already pissed off and pissed drunk think he’s gone and they’re safe to drive to where they’re staying somewhere in Mindemoya. Sure enough they’re pulled over by Jimmy who had just been notified to look for a white Ford F150 half-ton. Yep, breathalyzer, license taken away, truck impounded, court date. The whole bit. I mean what were they thinking? Coming in from the big city and giving lip to one of the most powerful guys on the Island.” Hands up in the air. Kindling thrown down at the foot of his Viking snowmobile. “Never mess with the MNR guys I say.”

“You reckon he’s that powerful?” Legge taking note of the use of a verb he had never said before.

“Sure. I mean who else can enter your house without a search warrant? Packs a piece, has authority over anyone who partakes in nature, which is everyone here. Oh yeah, he can walk into your house if he has a suspicion you over-fished for example. Cops can’t do that. Don’t mess with him boy, he’ll kick yer ass! Doug did once. Hates his guts. They never talk. Stay away from each other. Thinks my old man is a rabid badger he told me. Huh!”


“Well I can see where he’s coming from.” The amount of air coming out of his lungs when he laughed brought out a haze of steam from his mouth.

“Is he out there?”

“Rheinhardt? No. Doug. Yes. Out there,” he pointed to the far edge of the bay near the western lip, “all alone as if he’s saying it out loud, y’know? This is my spot. Stay the hell away. The lone fish, y’know? Nooo other huts even close to his. Y’know he’s out there every day, always makes a point of letting people know he caught the limit, y’know. Has to have his say. That’s Doug, y’know. As far away as he can get from me. Also part of the point. His statement is pretty clear.” Hands on hips, head tilted to one side, sunglasses reflecting the sun and snow. Wool sweater too small for his six-foot-five, 250 pounds, chin handed down from Old Doug as a reminder of his brother’s death, the lingering question mark that’s never been closed off.

Locked the shed and started his machine. Picked up his helmet. “Listen, you wanna go fishing later? The fish are biten’. Lost count how many I caught yesterday. We can smoke what we catch.” He had been out on his snowmobile before and had almost froze off his ears.

“Sure man. Let me get my helmet first.”

“About one?” He sat on the Viking and revved.

“I’ll be here.” Kyle waved as he pulled out onto the side of the road to the boat ramp where he slid onto the ice and took the eastern path that led far away from Doug’s hut to the west.


Old Doug sat hunched over with his arms folded over his thighs, ball cap pulled down, mouth nibbling at a loose tooth, leg bent to ease the pain he chose not to admit, at the edge of the hole holding the string with a flat piece of wood about a hand in length. The line taught and baited with his minnows caught on a small lake down the road. Been doing that since he was 12. Easy money. Beer money. Cedar in the air mixed with the fresh bite of ice air. Burning cedar and peppermint without the peppermint flavor. Breathed hard through the nostrils to feel the freeze. Last throngs before death rise from the bucket beside his right foot. Sounds of treasure below his feet waiting to be plucked. Jerked the line. Draw them in. No other way to do it.

Heard the sound of the overpriced snow machine his son bought, stood up holding the line and opened the door a bit watching the ten-thousand-dollar Viking haul a bit of wood. No concept of the value of money. Got that from his mother. Damn shame. And the truck? Not a thing wrong with his old one. Gotta scratch on it and chucked it. Another ten grand wasted. Coulda picked up some of Adam Scot’s parcels over near six. Grown in value. Good hunting in there. Closed the door, sat down and pulled out one of the beers in his jacket.

“Damn shame that.” What a missed opportunity. Wonder if there’s still a chance.


Walking into the house he sees fresh footprints. Small boots. At the couch in the living room Manitou tried to pull a sock from Harry’s grip. Another fight?

“Hey Dad. We should get cable.”

“Why are you home from school?”

He shrugged. “We had a thing and it was optional. No biggie.” Calm and sure. Truant not.

“You opted not to do the thing?” A nod. “I trust you used good judgment?”

“It was a musical. Um, as I was saying I think we should get cable. It would be good for me to expand my horizons.” 

“Expand your horizons eh?” Whose idea was that? “How so?”

“Just because you decided to not watch TV doesn’t mean I should. You’re older than me. You knew the TV before you chose not to watch it. I, on the other hand thank you very much, have never watched anything on cable. I mean we have three channels! I should be given the choice.” The challenge irked but the logic valid. Good point.

“It will distract you from your homework.” Feeble. Harry put his hands on his hips and sighed. “The noise.” Legge not finding any room to poke a hole, sat down. Silence.

“If I promise to get my homework done and keep the volume low in my room, can I get my own TV?”

“Promise? You’re sure you want to make this deal?” Smiles grew. “You know what you’re getting yourself into mister?” Smiles wider. “You know how much one of things cost?” Smile evaporated.

“Sort of. A hundred?” Harry’s bluff revealed. No prior research.

“Maybe half that for a small one, which all you’d need if it’s in your room. But the cable is about fifty a month. Can you handle that?” No excuses. Have the data.

“Fifty? I thought I could get a simple cable. Doesn’t it run thirty-four dollars a month?” Prior research done. No bluff. Rationalized strong enough to bring it up.

“All right my son, you cover the thirty-four a month and half the cost of the TV and you have yourself a deal. Fair point. You ought to have the choice. Your call. But be warned, there are some nasty programs that come out of that entertainment box. Make sure you get Discovery Channel.” He let go of the sock, the dog victorious. Tail like a saw back and forth thwacking the coffee table. “Deal?” Just hope you choose the stuff that will expand your data of the world.

“Okay, deal. We can go tomorrow into town to get one but today why don’t you join me and Kyle Campbell ice-fishing?”

“You mean out on the ice in one of those huts?” Rather play with Manitou.

“Snowmobile out there, yep.” Expression changed. “Grab your old hockey helmet from downstairs, dress warmly – wool socks – and be ready at one-thirty.” The dog chased Harry up the stairs. Drawers opened and shut.


Manitou running ahead and then back, black and white sheen to her coat, tongue floppy as if it were the first time. Never in his childhood had a snowmobiling opportunity let alone on a frozen bay, Harry squished wet snow underfoot taller in his new boots. Thirty years younger to ride a motorcycle of the snow. Never know how lucky his is. And on the Viking. Like riding a BMW touring bike for the first ride on the slippery white stuff.

The machine slick parked beside the dock, poised, engine creaking from use, sled removed and stored. Tight ship. Ship of the frozen seas. Front skis the length of his arm. Width twice the size of Morrell’s arms. Mammoth of power. Mastodon of safety. 

“Is that it?” Eyes in awe. Not a crappy seventies number. As big a horse as they come.

“Yep, that’s Kyle’s. It’s fast so hold on.” Blue-helmet-triggered mind flooded with memories of Detroit and Athena. Failed dreams. An old ache.

“Yeah, I can hack that.” New dreams. A new elation.

Kyle came down the driveway from his side door holding a small tackle box of bait.

“Good call on your helmets guys. MNR is out. Get Old Doug’s thither in a knot. Rheinhardt if he’s smart will stay way far away from Doug’s hut I tell ya.” A snorting laugh, chest heaving. Gust of wind from the depths of his pink lungs.

“Harry you ever been on a snow machine before? Eh?” Harry shook his head. “Well just remember to hold onto your Dad the whole time okay? Especially when we start. Wrap your arms his torso. Got it?” A nod. Tongue tied. A Legge trait. Surely a new leg on the journey. Knee crack. Calf spasm. Toe cramp.

“He will. And it’s going to be cold on your face; just so you know.” The engine sparked into a deep hum, higher-rev than a motorcycle. Quieter. Kyle climbed on the beast, then Legge and Harry. Once secure the Viking eased with authority down the boat ramp onto the ice trail. Snow sloshed-out from the skis and churned in broken cubes behind the back treads, shock absorbers taking on bumps and frozen tracks. Harry tightened his grip, his head watching, soaking-in the mis-en-scene, cedars lining the shoreline and cottages full-faced and exposed. The rock-faced cliff growing larger the farther they went.

Looked at Old Doug’s hut alone on the white ground of the water, green, steadfast. The door creaked open, a baseball cap shadow against the outside wall. Legge pointed so Harry looked. Two Legge faces staring to the west. The baseball cap moved back, then out again, skin visible, all chin.

Cluster of three red huts, one apart from the others. Kyle’s repose. Just a number on the front wall under a slanted roof. Skis of wood on the outside packed down with snow. Viking stopped right in front.

“Amazing!” Youthful enthusiasm make all men yearn. A language never forgotten.

“Solid ride eh? She’s a beauty. Hasn’t lemme down yet.”

Very solid.” All teeth. Nose red, loitering squint, breath rapid. Eyes admiring form, mind understanding function.

“Doug hates the thing, couldn’t believe I bought it. I think he’s just jealous. Looka his? Little thing that looks like a hornet.” Kyle faced the distant green hut surrounded by ice.

“Doesn’t really suit him that machine of his. Too many bright colors. Looks like a Japanese jobbie.” Thunderous guffaw, Harry laughing at the emission.

“Exactly. I hear ya on that. Bright stripes with a loud sorta look – like a sports machine for sprinting or something. Yeah, definitely not Doug. Hah! Too much of a toy.” The Campbell chin raised slightly, eyes narrowed. Legge found Old Doug walking out of his hut, Hunched and limping. “Nah. He never comes over here.” Kyle opened the door and started the woodstove. Harry followed him in.

“You know how to build a fire? You should y’know. Great skill to have.”

“Yeah I know how.” Watched, keen eyes. Split cedar pieces forming a pyramid over balls of scrunched-up newspaper. Took a box of Eddylite matches from the small shelf above the piled wood, struck and lit. “Try to hit the four corners when applying the flame.” Within seconds the snapping and crackling of cedar, suffusing the air with cedar perfume. “If you were in the woods you’d use birch bark instead of paper. That’s why it’s always good to pick up any strips of birch bark you find in the woods. Seriously. Very handy to have in your pocket. That and matches.” He placed the Eddilites back on the shelf.

“We had lots of campfires this summer, didn’t we Dad?” A Rolodex of images shuffled across the screen within his mind, sticking with the fire the night of Mac’s going-away party when Morrell was poking it, stumbled on the stones and by the grace of God would have face-planted in the flames if he didn’t expertly hold his fall using the poker. It stopped him from going in but his beard singed on one side. Deep bellows of laughter, Morrell’ beard smoking and the gash in his lip.

“Many,’ he replied.

“So you know what I’m talking about then. Here, let me show you…” Kyle baited the lure with a minnow, hiding it within the horse-haired tail, and how to lower his hook down the ice hole. Ice thick, a world frozen in layers, light caught through endless ricochets.

“Wait, can I bait Dad’s?” Kyle looked over to a shrug.

“You think you can do it, sure.” Snowmobile coming closer, Kyle pokes at the fire, baits the last lure and lowers it in. Door opened, chin briefly hidden by the shadow cast by the sun. Doug stomping his boots on the wood base.

“Some soft spots out there from the high temperatures,” he mumbled, pointing with his hidden thumb over his shoulder at the lake. “So what’s going on in here? Up to no good as usual?”

Harry, still waiting to bait the hook, says: “I’m just about to bait my Dad’s lure, wanna see?” No fear. Right at you. Pushed back by bluster, a language he speaks.

“You done it before? Don’t lie to me now boy.” Old Doug raised his fist.

“Nope. Just learned though. Here, let me show you.” Old Doug’s fist lowered slowly, taking a step inside, hat pushed back by the worn leather mittens. Exposed ears red with cold.

“Just a young punk from the city, aren’tcha?” The push fell flat. Watched the boy. Cold clamminess of dead minnows on fingertips, squeezing jagged metal through its throat out the mouth and pulling the horsehair over the bait. Not a city boy. A fish to water, a real Legge. Sammy’s apple. Islander in the blood.

“Lemme see that.” Ripped off his mitten and grabbed the red and white lure, lifted the horsehair and turned it lifting his glasses off his eyes. Glass eye catching the gleam from the ice hole. “Looky here son. C’omear.” Harry stepped to him keeping his eye on his masterwork.

“What?” A crooked finger and squint, shifted weight from the bad leg, white-stubbled layer covered the chin chiseled from granite.

“See, here. That entry point should be more here.” Fingers too big, pointed at his own throat. “Here. Lower.” Nape. Harry nodding. “Don’t wanna lose yer winnow, eh? You remember that eh-“ Leaned back and beheld. “What is your name again? Sammy? Sammy Junior?”

“Nice try. I haven’t even tasted whiskey. Or for that matter rum. I’m Harry.” The force of the eruption was deafening. Beer breath bathed them in a raucous of mirth, wit-impelled burst of the unguarded, kindred soul through arid irony only a few could see.

“Harry!” Looked at Legge not asking why. “Harry Legge! Damn glad to meetcha. I’m Doug Campbell. Lads yer age call me Mr. Campbell but you can call me Doug. You can call me that. Anyone who can bait like that on their first try deserves it. Now, can you fish?” Sweat ran down his forehead. Eyes void of accusation and derision.

“Not really.”

“Well then lemme show you.” Stepped over Legge ignoring Kyle, he sat beside Harry and showed him how to fish. Voices muffled away from the others. Handing down tradition from the horse’s mouth. Spirit twins transcending generations grandfather-to-grandfather, everyone else in the middle mere filling, fluff. Harry had his chin jutted out cliff-like, majestic, proud, able, imitating his teacher. Kyle tight-lipped and slouched, winded. Legge proud, wondrous, contemplating the Sammy connection.

Old Doug turned to him and said: “A father who never tookya fishin’ well, I guess it can happen this day and age.” Legge deflected the arrow, captivated of what was unfolding. Thought of his father. Cityfile. Cement freak. Subway rider and mall shopper. Obsessed by his rebellion. Tampered with by one of Sammy’s sailors?

“Say, you wanna know about your Grand Dad? I knew him y’know. Great man. Hogwash the things they say about him sometimes. Remember some of these towns were settled by Orangemen. Damn intolerant. Never wanna be like that. Look at me. I’m 87. So that would make what? Let’s just say a teenager. If I’m a dollar, you’re about fifteen cents. Get me?” Devil-may-care laughter at the same instant. Seeds from the same pinecone. Separated now found, two lonely spirits convinced no one sees what they see. Wolves of the same clan reunited, born under different moons and raised in different worlds. 


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)

22. A period or stage of development in one’s life. a. a phase of growth from one distinct point to another.

Trucks with sandbags and cement blocks parked in a diagonal line in front of Needles, music played with a country twang, a warm corner on a blustery night. Below thirty was as cold as he had ever felt.

“Feels like a storm’s coming.” Harry looking at the dark horizon across the bay, charcoal black with circular strokes of the pencil, winds swept off the ice in anger. “Might be no school tomorrow.”

Inside moist with heat from heated bodies, the band rolling country tunes out, local favorite. Airplay on Island Radio. Al, Tuttle’s old fishing mate, played the acoustic guitar beside the base player who was three hundred pounds of fish and steak. Beer mugs half full and feet banging against the wood floor, dancers swayed, shouts were made. Packed full, not a table free. Agnes bounced upward from her seat and set a flailing hand in the air. Legge took hold of Mare’s hand walking to the table, Harry and Dana went to Tuttle holding court at the bar drinking soft drinks.

“What is this? Someone’s birthday?” Agnes kissed his cheek and hugged Mare.

“Not quite. Have a seat.” Waved at the bar catching Tuttle’s eye. A nod.

“Oh is it the anniversary of the founding of Gore Bay?” Mare tilted her head, embarrassed for not knowing.

“You could say that.” Agnes drained her drink, Scotch fumes blowing in like a snowfall.

“Where’s Gail? She’s not here?” Legge de-robing, gloves and hat and scarf in a bundle awkwardly until Mare put them under her chair with hers.

“Not here. She didn’t want to come. Doesn’t really like this party.” The ‘why’ on Legge’s face was written in his lines. “It’s what they call it now. It was originally when they voted out the Temperance Union bill in Parliament.” Temperance? “What was it? 1936? I keep forgetting, but it was when the war between the still owners and the law stopped. The sheriff was relieved ‘cause he was a regular poker player and drinker at the speakeasy on Water Street. Did you know about that? Being Sammy’s cousin and all.”

“My father told me about that place. What was it called? Murphy’s or something?”

“Oh hun I don’t know that. But I’ll take your word for it.” Drinks arrived served by Tuttle, wet and heaving.

“Good to see you two out. The kids at the bar were a dead giveaway.” Harry and Dana held cokes in their hand. Tuttle at the height of his evening. “Though you should be here for family reasons,” he said to Legge. A wave of the hand like a composer conducting. “Good old Sammy the pirate was the instigator of this party. Did you know that? Celebrated by giving away his stash for nothing to the townsfolk who slandered him during Prohibition. Let it be said that your grandfather wasn’t all bad you know.”

“Here here.” Agnes flirting with Tuttle.

 “Don’t let these ladies make you sin, you ‘ear?” As firm as soggy toast, left with a wink, walking directly into Old Doug’s path sauntered on a bum leg, pain numbed by the lager.

“I propose a toast,” said Legge standing. “To new adventures and new beginnings.” Her blue eyes said everything without words, lips busy quenching her thirst, leaving a beer moustache. Mare reached across and wiped his moustache off his upper lip.

“You two,” said Old Doug. “When are you going to-.” Spotted Harry drinking his coke and nodded, man-to-man. “There’s some bad weather comin’ in. Might be a bad one.” Rubbed his knee, kneading the knee muscle.

“What a surprise Doug!” Agnes perked, a bubble enlarged. “Who would have thought you’d be here?”

“Whaddya tellin’ me girl? You wanna dance some? You know I’m good on my feet. Bandy leg an all.”

“I don’t know Doug. I might be too thirsty.”

“Too good fer you on the dance floor. I know, I’ve seen it before.” Quick wink to Harry. “Happens all the time but you can’t chop a guy up for tryin’.” His creaky frame bent and sat.

“What I would give to be thirty years younger,” she said, overwhelmed. Sarcasm gone.

“Thirty! You mean forty don’tcha?” Blew a cloud of beer noiseless in a silent laugh, chin jutting and turning. Legge in the crosshairs, without wit.

“Good evening Mr. Campbell. I hear you’ve been giving Harry rides on your snow machine.” Mare, leaning forward, challenging the man who challenged, crooked grin fronting terror.

“Well his old man doesn’t teach him to ride. Isn’t that right Legge?” Used his chin to great effect, like a ten-meter diving platform.

“I don’t see you riding a motorbike?” It was Agnes’s turn to discharge a mighty chuckle accompanied with Scotch wind. More than a few drops spilt, hand expertly holding the glass while her diaphragm convulsed. A laugh she had wanted to laugh since first witnessing Doug Campbell’s hazing technique. She slapped Doug on the back and offered another report raining with tiny Scotch bullets, a shotgun blast from a Scotch shell casing. Smoking on the table. The chin dips, a three-meter board dimmed at dusk.

“He rides well. I’ll giv’em that. Eh Legge?” Old Doug raised his pint to Legge, acknowledging in acquiescence. Chin held in full view, angle maximizing the sheer vastness of the jut, a chiseled gorge of a cheek, wind-beaten and sun-scorched. “They’re not my thing but you gotta have a pair to take these roads at a hundred.” They drank together. A rare coming together. Savoured. And for Legge forever remembered.


High pressures in the ethers above the head of man, magnetic poles violent in repelling its opposite, the breath of God unpleased, the equatorial currents confused from the change of motion, all changes in the flow of earth manifest in the north bringing raging turbulence wreaking havoc on creation and the tidbits of man’s folly. Blinding rage preventing motion except at the risk of losing the wrong challenge made, the wise tap into their ancient soul for other examples of folly buried beneath consciousness yet communicated through instinct. The north the cruel playground for the battle between the God of cold and the God of heat.

“She’s really comin’ off the water, ain’t she?” Morrell snug in the passenger seat watching the anger of the storm, the blizzard defying laws and the car like a tin can exposed on a prairie, Tibor white-knuckled at the wheel, smelling the Forty-Creek wafting from the odorous man beside him. Hoping the man was graceful for the lift into town. Welfare and the socialist state breeding alcoholics who culminate at the first of every month with raging thirst. A modern invention? A routine never-ending handed down from father to son.

Morrell had seen his share of storms having grown up in the middle of the Great Lakes and from trucking through the prairies for years, witnessing hail like diamonds falling at the speed of sound denting metal, snow flying sideways sticking like glue and winds strong enough to take down barns and trees. Mild winters of late had softened the dwellers of the north into laziness, only the old ones remembering the power unleashed by injustice among the Gods.

By nightfall, stove blaring heat in his cluttered one room, three feet of wind-swept snow obliterating dips in the land and boundaries of roads and soft spots on the lakes. Warmed ice from above-zero temperatures camouflaged above restless currents below like quicksand covered by a sandstorm. Polar explorers and sailors looking for the Northwest Passage and intrepid Vikings who had no fear had all tasted the cold pill of arctic blasts, soon learning respect was the best defense. From Greenland and Alaska and over the landless pole came the lashing whips of fire’s opposite, a stoning and sobering. A reckoning. Exposed rock cliffs given a haircut as if by a blade of steel. The secret of Canada’s bedrock, the end product of the kiln.

Morrell pitied any caught out on the road or ice, the relentlessness not obliged to stop, not stopping until its harvest of the foolish has been had.

When the power went out he could see it from the dead street light up the road, its reflection of the white sand in the air now swallowed by darkness, a triumphant cough emerged. Turned up his radio powered by the batteries in his basement, charged by the solar panels over his porch, his fight against the grid.

“The big one will be coming soon,” he said to nobody, confident he was one of the few prepared.

Ripping sounds from the gusting wind charged his imagination of what was being ripped: old branches from tired trees, his loose eaves trough, loose boxes from his spot among the cedars, or shingles from his baked roof. Even the cockiest had to bow the Mother Nature’s raw power.

As unbeatable as alcohol.

Morrell took a swig of his cheap whiskey and lit a cigarette, pulled on one of his coats from the couch and threw on another big log in the stove before sitting comfortably in his chair picking his acoustic guitar to the song playing from the radio wondering who would be claimed victim this time around. A weeding out of the unwise and the testing of those fit enough to be Islanders.


In The Motorcycle Inn logs burned in the woodstove fortifying warmth against the cold winds blowing from the iced lake, windbreaks doing their utmost at a losing battle. Legge feeling small in the house that had given him a new life, humbled by witnessing the fury of the north, happy to be reading about the history of whiskey running on the North Shore. Mare wrapped in a blanket on the chair relieved to squelch pangs of worry that Dana was carried away in the storm. Comforted by the murmur of the TV coming from upstairs where Dana lay warm in the chair beside Harry.

“Harry was right about the storm,” she said into the comfortable silence, Legge roused from his book.

“True. Was wondering too if he had some sort of special gift for that sort of thing.” Thought of Old Doug and his grandfather,

“Some people do have an intuition for those things.”

Mare was knitting a sweater, her first try. Gail had given her some instruction on how to knit and provided a copy of the basic design and wool for the job. Slowly and doubting her ability, the sweater was taking form, the measurements looking within reason.

“Dad?” Harry on the stairs looking into the living room.

“Yes son.”

“Is everything tied down outside?” The hairs at the back of Legge’s neck rose, an inkling of disaster.

“I think so son. Why? What is it?” He looked at Mare.

“I don’t know. I just had a thought that the wind was going to blow over a tree or something at the dock. It’s pretty deadly out there.” He descended to the landing and put on his boots and jacket. “Just going to have a look.”

“Careful out there. Don’t stay out too long. And put on your hat please.” Mare watched him through the front door.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea. He could catch a cold.” Legge grinned.

“Well if he does then he will have learned something.” Mare back to her knitting. Legge glancing at his watch to mark the time.

For Harry it was a new high, a boundary he had not known to exist, forces of Nature hitherto hidden from him from his cemented life in Detroit. When a gust blew he couldn’t breathe. Throat clamped. Face stinging. Eyes shut and head turning away. Cold nipping through his pants like rice paper. He shouldered toward the lake, pulling up his collar and adjusting his scarf, hand momentarily exposed, now chilled to the bone. Frostbite. Fingers and ears and nose frontline casualties waiting for the golden bullet, but feet warm in his boots.

Sheltered behind the big cedar beside the dock, he squinted into the eye of the storm, seeing the punishment of sin of mankind’s vices, the wrath of the end of time. Shivered and bunched up his shoulders, trembling up his spine. But the awesome beauty of it! Tingling down his spine, a humbling of boyhood arrogance. Tremors gave way to a glow ignited from somewhere inside him, the honor of being given the chance to see life as it is and has been in the raw, uncensored and unedited, known through the senses, alive and memorable in contrast to the images on TV.

He nodded into the wind and snow.

“Now I know,” he said into the wind. “Dad was right. TV can’t give someone the full picture, nor a videogame. Or even a book. One needs to cringe in the act of tasting to know the qualia of what it is.”

As he turned a gust of snow swept upwards from the lake, a crack muffled by another gust. He turned and saw a cedar branch break, still clinging to the trunk in a last effort for life. Harry watched, fascinated, as the bough swung wildly with each gust, ‘til the final yield, the doomed limb falling on the shore among other debris, bigger than the rest.   

“I knew it,” he said to himself. A calmness ushered forth to quell the disturbances in his soul, knowing he had something others didn’t. Except for maybe Old Doug. Then an uneasiness came at knowing this.


The next evening in Gail Legge’s house the lights were on that splashed against the purity of snow covering everything, candles burning and the fireplace alight helping the furnace burn up her limited funds. Gazed at the ancient flame convinced there was a wisdom hidden for those with the tools to reveal. Penny snug on the couch, her head on her lap, sleeping in REM bursts wakening from her own demons bouncing around like a pinball in endless rumination, sighing with relief when regaining consciousness knowing she was safe beside her devoted master.

Lights aimed from the top of her driveway. Company. Roads still cursed with black ice and snow banks taller than a man. Who could it be? Trouble she reckoned. Nobody cares that much to risk driving here. Through the window she recognized her nephew and his odd walk, but was relieved instead of disturbed.

“Yer crazy to be driving out there,” she said. Legge brushing off the snow from his jacket and stamping his boots free of snow.

“Maybe. Just wanted to know you’re all right.”

“Coulda called.”

“Ah you know it’s not the same.” Genuine.

Settling in with hot tea in front of the fire with Penny again snug beside her, they stared into the fire. He mentioned Harry’s intuitive ability to forecast.

“Yes, some people have it. Your grandfather had it. Say he saved many a man from storms during the summers on the water during those years. Like a premonition or something. He learned to trust it.” Certain thoughts and emotions became magnified in Legge’s mind.

“You never asked me about Uncle Martin.” She didn’t react. “He’s settled in Little Current at the home there. Was pretty easy about the whole thing. Place was a mess.”

“No surprise there. He was always leaving a mess.” He let the steam warm his nostrils and up to the apparatuses in his head.

“Didn’t see you over at Needles the other night. It was fun.” She shrugged, keeping her eyes on the fire, her hand patting Penny as if guided by a ghost.

“Don’t care for that party. Someone’s likely to get hurt at that one.”

 “I think I might know what you mean.” His aunt stopped blowing on her hot tea. “Uncle Martin told me about what one of Sammy’s guys did to you.” Her hand stopped and turned her head. Saw the sad expression in his eyes and knew. Looked away in shame but still knew.

“Damn him!” Lips quivered. Then the crying started. Gushing like a flooded ditch. Legge’s hand on her shoulder pushed away as she stood. A long exhale at the fire. Nowhere to go. Near the fire she breathed slowly, calming like an icicle melting in the spring thaw. Streaks of saltwater reflecting below her eyes. A deep sigh.

“Well then,” she said, posture erect and back to the couch. Legge kept silent, afraid of what he had done. “You know it all now.” She hesitated. “Do you know about Ben and me?” He nodded.

“Some.” She told him the events that transpired and how she fell apart after his death.

“My heart wasn’t broken sweetheart. It turned to wood. No feeling at all.” He wanted to say he understood but didn’t. But he could empathize. “Now you know it all.”

“Are you okay with me bringing it up?”

“Yes dear.” Eyes suddenly dry and youthful. “Never wanted anyone to know but it feels good to have it off my chest.” Like a tonic just ingested, a new lightness entered her spirit. “Now, what are we going to do about you and that lovely girl of yours Mare?” And she shared her ideas with Legge, well into the night.


The next day he and Harry were up early. The snow and wind had ceased leaving wreckage intermixed with snowdrifts sculpted like the sand in a desert. The surface crunch with each step, a crust covered by fluffy power like ground feathers. Broken bark and branches strewn on top and half-buried by the blizzard, an aftermath of a hurricane at the mouth of the Mississippi.

“Look at this one Dad.” Harry showed him the massive branch that had snapped during the height of the storm. “I watched it break. It was cool.” A new authority in his voice, confidence in self-discovered gifts. Way ahead of Legge at his age. But he knew it was due to his favorite uncle Harold that all this had been possible. Had it been written?

They naturally made their way to the boat ramp near Kyle’s to walk on the ice. Huts were lying fallen like Napoleonic soldiers after the passion of the first assault. He looked for Old Doug’s hut on the western lip but couldn’t find it. Too far for the naked eye. Squinted more. Still nothing. Thought of snow-blindness.

“Here,” he said, wear these.” Harry put on the sunglasses, instantly turning the boy into a man with a small body.

“Do I look cool?” A pose similar to that of Old Doug modeling his chin.

“Yes, and grown up,” he replied. He squinted even more but had to stop, inclining his head to his feet and closing his eyes.

“Want these back Dad?”

“No, better if you wear them. But let’s get you a pair. Snow-blindness is dangerous.” When he asked what that was, Legge tried to explain. “Something to do with the snow reflecting the sun and burning or damaging your retina. You can actually lose your sight I think. Temporarily.”

“So Dad, what are you doing?”

“No, I’ll be fine. Doesn’t happen in one go. Takes years I reckon.” Again the new verb verbalized, Harry taking no notice as if the old German verb was normal.

They walked atop the ice towards Kyle’s cluster of huts, seeing smoke coming from the small pipe peeking through the roof. Fresh marks of several snowmobile tracks split into many after passing the outer edge of the dock. Graded drifts hid ice ridges causing them to stumble. Knees raised to cope. Branches littered the shoreline in front of battered cottages that had lost their polish. Sun relentless, pierced his eyes overpowering his strength to keep them open.

“Wait,” he said. Kept his eyes closed. “Sometimes fishermen use an open hole they’ve just made without a hut but because of the snow coverage we won’t be able to see them. They should be frozen over from the storm but be careful.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, but there’s no rush. I’m going to slow down and walk with my eyes half closed.” Harry looked up to his father in admiration. He also tried it from under the safety of his eyewear. He started to laugh.


“Nothing. I mean, this is fun.”

“Right you are son. Better than computer programming.” More laughter.

“Or videogames.” Legge’s turn to laugh, with thoughts of Nathan.

Nearing the hut they heard voices coming from one of the rentals. Tracks showing activity earlier in the day. Legge squinted to the western lip but could only see a faint shape merged by snow.

“Yo Kyle!” he yelled, loud enough for Kyle to step out of his hut.

“Hey you two. What’s going on?”

“Oh, just exploring,” replied Harry looking relaxed and happy under his shades.

“Quite a storm eh? Anything get damaged at yours.”

“Some fallen branches but nothing really.”

“That’s good. Look at the huts. All fallen down except mine. Good old Doug was in a huff this morning seeing his shack tipped over. Takes a lot of pride in that sorta thing. He was up earlier than me fer Christ’s sake. He’s out there now fixing things up.”

“I was wondering why I couldn’t see his hut.” Squinting hard, forced to bow his head again.

“I have some extra sunglasses in the hut. You want’em?”

Shook his head. “Nah, I’ll be okay.”

“No, no. Snow blindness is real. Can damage the eyes in no time. C’mon, hop aboard.” Started the engine and they climbed aboard.

“Stay here Harry. We’ll be right back.” They sped to shore gliding fast over the hidden edges of ice.

Harry stood alone on the vast plain of ice feeling small but warm and safe under the glaring sun. The voices in the rental hut scared him. He didn’t want a chance encounter with strangers. Looking for Doug on the far shore captured his attention, an impetus coming from the ethers impelling him to walk there. Carefully stepping through the drifts and bare patches he trekked across the wide mouth of the bay soon learning the vast distance that separated Doug’s hut from the rest. Wind blew against his ear lobes and his fingers burned with coldness, so he veered toward the shoreline to the shadows cast by the spruce along the water’s edge picking a cottage to aim for.

Once at the shore the ice was irregular, crumpled pieces heisted up by stubborn level pieces like the formation of mountains. The shadows were colder out of the sun, but the color of the ice and snow was stained yellow from gaps between the ice. He could see Doug working on his hut, snowmobile parked in front. The old man spotted him walking along the shore, raised his hand and stopped his work. Two hands waved caused Harry to wave back with two hands. He moved closer to the green hut now visible. The engine of Old Doug’s snowmobile filled the air.

As Harry reached the point of the western tip of the bay the chunks of ice were heaved higher, making his footing more difficult. Creaks and cracks scared him but he had seen how thick the ice was. Then he saw water exposed by one of the rocks just offshore that sent a bolt through his solar plexus. Hearing the snowmobile approach he changed course over a rift in the ice that sank when he stepped. He saw Doug wave again so he plunged forward hearing the creak of the ice deepen in a profound guttural sound. He stopped but his foot slipped, landing on his ass and banging his elbow and slamming his head against the ice. Flash of white. Tingling vapors evaporating upwards to the overwhelming blue in the sky.


Old Doug saw him fall and not get up. He knew the currents at the lip of the bay never fully froze ever since young Edward Case fell in that day in 1938.

“Harry!” he screamed, knowing it was futile. He didn’t want to bring his machine too close but he had to get there before Harry froze from the ice-cold water on top of the ice. Hypothermia never misses its chance to pounce. Guiding his machine close to the fault-line along the tip of the peninsula he heard the cracks in the ice, not deep enough to put any fear into him. Slowing, he faced the daunting challenge of crossing the ridge of loose ice between him and his new young friend. He slid as close as he dared and then turned off the engine and gingerly moved across the uneven ice like a panther. Aware the new drifts of snow might be hiding open soft spots he tested each step before shifting his weight. Creaking rose to cracking so he stopped, but the cracks didn’t stop. He thrust ahead in a fearless kick of courage, his feet reckless on the slippery ice sliding off the ridge, smashing his knee against the ice, breaking through. The water was like an electric shock, so cold it felt white-hot. Knee first, his body sank up to his waist, his arms holding him up, his bad leg stretched out above the ice. Pushing up he couldn’t maneuver his leg out of the water, his gimpy leg useless. He tried gaining traction with his hands to pull horizontally but ice obstructed the top of his knee. He kicked the ice from the bottom with his knee, attempting to smash the ice edge but failed. He shivered violently.

“No,” he said. The shivering increased until the numbness relaxed his muscles and brought sweat. Resigning, the sweat soaked his shirt soon chilling into a lining of ice. His body small, freezing like a Popsicle. Memories crossed his mind, an emotion of regret swelled in his heart, the image of his boy foremost in his mind’s eye, still there after his senses froze into darkness, Kyle’s voice speaking to him not to leave.


The sunglasses brought immediate relief to his burnt eyes, the sun no longer a foe. Savored the ride on the Viking, optimism burrowed deep in his heart. Quietude and peace on this tranquil Island paradise.

“He must be inside,” he said when Kyle parked beside the hut.

“Nope,” Kyle said, keeping the door open for him to see.

“Maybe he’s in the rental hut?” Kyle walked briskly but found only the renters fishing inside. “Here,” he said when back beside Legge. “Fresh tracks leading west.”

“Doug’s!” Hands in the air.

“Hop on. Let’s go get’em.” On the Viking they slipped over the ice as if a hovercraft, Kyle gunning it fast because he knew of the danger along the shore. Legge needing to grab harder afraid he was going to fall off. They moved fast.


A strange fuzziness, blinking of bright light and then the ache behind the head, Harry came back into consciousness, lying still for a moment to find his bearings. The backs of his legs were numb with cold when he tried to stand up, needing his hands to balance. He saw Doug still in front of him, his face white with a death mask, leg sticking out and torso limp fallen to the side, baseball cap beside him, bald head now burning under the sun with wisps of hair fluttering in the breeze. Shivering uncontrollably, he pieced together what had happened, his heart hurting at the valor.

“Doug!” he yelled. He stepped back from the danger in front of him and onto firm ice hidden by the shadows of the spruce. Legs and body trembling that clattered his teeth, enamel on the verge of cracking.


When they were close, Kyle knew his father wasn’t there because his snow machine was gone. Scanning the shadowed shore he spotted Doug’s machine, turned towards it in a sprint. Legge held on and knew something had happened. Danger near. Craning his neck, he saw the rise of the ice and the machine alongside it.

“What-“ Kyle stood up in a crouch, steering and slowing behind his father’s snowmobile. He jumped off leaving it slide to a stop and the engine running, Legge following on his heels. They saw Doug’s crumpled body half in the water first, then Harry standing by the shore in amazement.

“Careful!” Kyle said. “It’s all soft here.”

“Harry! Are you all right?” he yelled, exasperated by the scene of cold horror.

“I’m okay Dad! I’m okay.” He waved and trembled from the shadows.

“Stay there! Don’t move. I’ll get you.”

“What about Doug? I’m seriously okay Dad. Get Doug first!” Together with Kyle they managed to pull the old man out of the water, body stiff and expression of regret frozen in eerie stillness.


In the calm atmosphere of his house Legge soaked in the tub as Harry had done, letting the hot water permeate through his skin like osmosis, warming the chill out of him. The scare from the ice still hovered refusing to leave. He immersed his whole body under the water holding still for complete heat to melt the frost that had formed in his bones from fright. The image of Doug’s face haunted his thoughts, pulling him down to somewhere trickling with coldness, a cave full of drooping crystals like glistening icicles. The glint of winter had nestled into his bones like a fear that lingers long after the cause.

He was sad about Old Doug but was obsessed by his lack of awareness of the dangers lurking underneath the sugar-coated frosting of the bay. To lose his son was to amputate a leg from his body, to be alone downtrodden with tragedy gnawing away until nothing was left. He had to learn so that he could teach his son, like Old Doug had said in his own way. He was right: it was his duty to explain the dangers that exist. It behooved him to overcome his crippling shyness and step up to the plate and be counted. If he needed a crutch then so be it; seldom has a man ever accomplished the feared without support.

Dressing into his pajamas he saw middle age had found its way as a reminder of the futility of stopping time from passing and the inevitability of man’s mortality. So much more to accomplish before his time, the urge to share resurfacing after the rejection from Athena. Utter failure in that realm had left its deposits of pain that inhibited initiative to betterment. Time to grow up, he thought, no more waiting for someone to show the way.

He went upstairs to Harry’s bedroom, sat in the corner chair and watched TV in silence with his son.


A disheveled Tuttle, who had served time battling the fisherman’s curse, had spent the previous night comforting Kyle and his kids, helping out with the many things they had to do for the funeral. He had taken it upon himself to gather the central facts about Old Doug and some information about his early life so he could pen a decent article for the newspaper that had agreed to insert the piece in the next edition, which was tomorrow. Hunched over Kyle’s computer he typed it all out and sent it all to the editor who had stayed up late to fit it in before sending it off to Sudbury for printing.

The next day Legge went to Kyle’s to see if there was anything he could do to help. Kyle’s reaction had so far been muted, which didn’t sit well with him. Tuttle, who had slept over on the couch, was there with Kyle in the shed drinking beer. Al was throwing darts aimlessly. Sensitive to his reception, Legge sensed it when they saw him.

“Mr. Legge I presume,” said Tuttle, ever cheery of heart. “Good you’re here. Just the boys in the clubhouse.” Standing awkwardly not knowing what to say, Kyle came up to him and looked into his eyes looking for something: emotion, if he had grasped the profundity of the event, it he felt the same loss.

“Legge,” he said, voice heavy. His immense hand to his shoulder. The right words not finding tread on his tongue. Legge saw the pain issuing from his bloodshot eyes for he had lost his father, the man who never knew the truth with his brother. An unfinished timeline that would dangle in eternity throughout life and afterlife with the most important person in his life. Depth of emotion he had never seen in a person before, a secret confessed un-worded by the two who were there. The frozen leg and stiffness of the body, thin under all the layers of flannel and wool. The boot like cement pulling at the body when they loaded him on the sled and attached it to the Viking, the arm dangling over the rim unable to bend.

“Kyle I-“ The other hand to his shoulder harder than the first, the shoulders dropping, the eyelids halfway, the weight already taking hold. He looked at his open hand he held between them as if to say: I had him in my hands. Death has sullied me. It is cold as the frozen ground. An imperishable permafrost. The expression of horror on Doug’s face unchanging. The enduring face of death. Eyeglasses crooked and head bald and frozen white, the pallor of ivory, mouth dragged down by the peninsula of chin resting in peace.

“I’m so sorry for what happened.”

“My brother,” he said, dropping his head. “I never had the chance to tell him the whole story. He never asked me. I tried but he wouldn’t let me speak. I could never win because of Thomas. He was his favorite. I don’t know why he had a gash in his head. I can only guess he lost his balance and fell overboard landing on a rock. I went back many times and have seen the rocks just below the surface. I would never kill my brother. Why would I? I loved my brother. He always had time for me. I looked up to him. But my Dad never knew that. He thought envy was my motive. It wasn’t envy I felt, it was awe. And feeling safe with him around.

“But after that my Dad just pushed me out. I couldn’t do anything to change what he thought about what happened. And you know what? I think he was looking for Thomas in Harry, that kindred spirit that speaks a different language y’know. And he died trying to save a new, young Thomas from freezing to death.” He let his head drop.

Sounds of arrows striking home, crackling of burning maple in the stove, soft pop of a beer cap, purring of a passing snowmobile, he realized the loneliness destined to follow and the limp of having not clarified a defining moment. Suffer in silence, a prison sentence that cannot be escaped.


Next morning Legge was tense. Downed another cup of coffee sitting across from Mare. The wake was at six o’clock. He hated wakes and the etiquette no one had taught him, the rules of engagement and mourning clothes and long faces. A spaghetti of morality requiring the Rosetta Stone to decipher.

The Manitoulin Expositor had Tuttle’s front-page article with the banner:


The newspaper spread open between them with a photo of Old Doug wearing his favourite hat beside Manitou River holding a bucket of minnows, chin catching the sun at an angle, lips firm and unsmiling, waders up to his chest and wool sweater torn. “A real outdoorsman,” it said of him, “a man suited to the Island who spoke to all never afraid to express his thoughts. A leader, a wise man and teacher to many from his wide experience from life spanning numerous generations.” His death was “a loss for the Island for the treasure of history still accessible in his memory.” There would only be one Doug Campbell. Far from anyone Legge had ever known. In a way the only man whose opinion he respected, knowing he would always hear the naked truth.

“It’s okay,” said Mare, holding his hand. “He had a full life. And he died a hero.” Yes, he thought, he had died and become a legend. Saving a son who was not his, because of the ignorance and negligence of the real father. Flowchart of events, logic of them, stinging his hide like a hornet. Rumbling guilt with grinding rocks of ice. Sadness inerasable by his own hand.

“He did,” he said. Voice jittery with caffeine and guilt.

“I wonder if he was lonely,” she asked. “His wife, who he was still married to, left him to live down south after their four kids had grown up. He was estranged from all of them, probably because of his way with people. And that’s why he took a liking to Harry.” Tears were not from sadness but from compassion for Legge.

“Maybe. Whether people liked him is hard to say. Like me for example: I didn’t like him really but I was flattered he spoke to me and was mindful of what he thought of me, as if he was the only one whose opinion mattered. As if I wanted his approval.” Rubbed his nose, Mare grabbing his arm knowing the signs. 

“It’s over now. Let it go and be thankful Harry is safe.” He looked outside at the dock and ice. But it’s not over, he thought; the whispering has only just begun.


Legge was paralyzed by fear when he pulled on his old work trousers, dark jacket that felt out-of-place and foreign, shoes worn from miles of walking to-and-from work during a different era. Dreading seeing Doug’s face again, gray and grim, ignorant of the truth about Thomas. Would his spirit be hovering in his waders pulling his ball-cap lower, pushing you with those eyes and chin? Would he be thawed or still seeping into the linen to drain to the bottom of the coffin?

He drew the line at wearing a tie, leaving the appendage on his bed, something Old Doug would not want. And he shed his shoes for the practicality of boots, but he kept them on until he was at the door to leave. His feet looked like two rats compared to his knee-high Muckrakers. Then Harry entered.

“Dad?” His pants were two sizes too small and his wrists shot out of the sleeves. Manitou sniffed curiously at his ankle. “This is all I have.”

“Well then let’s see what we can do about that. First, wear your wool pants, those ones you don’t like. And forget the jacket. And wear your boots. Should be fine.”

“Dad what is a wake? Is it in honor of the dead before the funeral?” Wanted to say he didn’t know what it was.

“Yeah, an honoring of the dead. Say your last good-byes and talk to his friends about his life.”

“Like what?”

“Like for example, how he taught you how to ice fish and how he said you could call him ‘Doug.’ Stuff like that. Just watch how they do their wake here on the Island and just do that.” Worry painted across his forehead. “Just follow my lead.” The crinkle was gone.

“Will Mare and Dana be there?”

“You bet. Old Doug touched their lives as well. I think he was an influence on lots of people.”

“Like you meeting all those motorbikers from all over that stayed here? But just a longer life?” That was when he saw the mirror image between computer programming and running a motorcycle hostel: one was totally solo and the other solely social.

Legge agreed and patted his head. And informed him they had to pick up Mare and Dana in ten minutes.


Trucks lined the side of the road a half-mile from Old Doug’s gingerbread house of limestone beside the river. Despite the cold, people were smoking outside the boot room at the entrance Old Doug always used. Even in death the front door remained closed. Hatted-and-gloved people lined up in the cold to honor a hero trying to save a boy’s life. Old Doug’s coffin was atop the dining room table like Thanksgiving dinner. Holding Mare’s hand they squeezed through the crowd, Harry taking Dana’s hand as well. A photograph of Doug with a set of antlers wearing his bright orange camouflage resting his rifle over his thigh leaned against the coffin. Eyelids covered with a network of blue veins, chin laid straight, mouth reposed. Harry took extra time honoring his friend.

Food arranged in the kitchen, women busy serving coffee and pasta salad, a cluster of whiskey bottles and boxes of tea. The name ‘Doug’ was heard from all corners, exploits recaptured in the retelling. Tuttle spoke, glass in hand and face red with liquor, heartfelt praise told like an Irish bard. “A pirate of souls this here man was, a pied piper of his own morality, and a jester who called our bluff. A man who saw Nature as man’s playground who found a home in the country hunting and on the bay fishing, he was the doer in the midst of watchers.”

Kyle in black sweater eyes puffy, resigned, his daughter hugging his leg. His wife behind him holding their little girl. Kyle’s mother looking around for the chain he always wore around his neck with a silver St. Christopher on it. Morrell becoming louder after some whiskies in him with recollections.

Harry broke from his father and edged is way back to Old Doug, perhaps trying to erase the image that had buzzed in his mind since it happened. The look of horror gone. When Kyle had found the chain of St. Christopher she made her way to her estranged husband to lay it rightfully where he would want it. Hands shaking and watery eyes she dropped it on his chin, dangling for a moment off the precipice. Murmurs behind her. When she picked up the silver St. Christopher the edge caught his nose that left a whitish wake as evidence. Harry stared at the mark as she placed it on his neck. The wife crossing her chest and bowing in reverence. It was at that moment the granddaughter stepped forward and began singing. At first no one said anything – a piercing silence ensued that seemed to wrap around the child’s voice elevating it. Her voice was pure and in key, which caused Harry to tear up. The girl’s voice transported the moment to something sublime despite the rustic surroundings, a contrast not lost to Harry in Old Doug’s final moments of his earth walk. And this angelic voice seemed to cause Old Doug’s stern face to morph into the purest kind of smile one could imagine. There in front of everyone Old Doug seemed to be smiling.

As the little girl sang others noticed the change in his face too, one being Mrs. Campbell who backed up while Harry narrowed his eyes on the corners of his mouth, which seemed to have risen. No one said anything. Just the purity of the child’s beautiful voice filling the air. And that grin.


Later, after Old Doug had been lowered into the ground, the whiskey and beer was drained with light hands toasting his life, the hero who lost his life saving another. Hearts were full of love after the voice of an angel had appeared.

Morrell and Tuttle now arm in arm, singing old Island songs, Mare holding his hand as quiet as he. Amazement and confusion like a crosswind wrecking the celebration of Lazarus, quick glances to his son who was sitting down in the corner. Mare went to him.

“What is it Harry?” she asked, motherly tone.

“I knew he was going to come back to life just before it happened. I know you don’t believe me but it’s true. I could feel he was about to start smiling.” Mare hugged him, holding him in her arms.

“I do believe you Harry. My father used to tell me that some people can see the future. They have an extra sharp sense they call intuition. Maybe you have a strong intuition.”

“Well isn’t that abnormal?”

“It’s special. It’s a gift from God. Don’t be afraid of it. Learn how to trust it. Lots of people would want to have that gift.”

“Why doesn’t Dad have it then? He’s my father.”

“Not everyone has it. Your father grew up in a big city that stifles that special sense. But I think your grandfather had it.” Harry stood up from the chair.

“Maybe ‘cause he grew up here?” Mare straightened his collar.

“Maybe.” Harry hugged her and left to find Dana.


A few moons after Old Doug Campbell smiled on his deathbed, Harry said he had a dream when Old Doug appeared and spoke to him as if from his coma or just before he graduated to the spirit world. Somehow Harry was able to repeat it almost verbatim:

Thought the leg would come out easy but the gimp leg failed me. It was frozen within a minute I reckon, at least I couldn’t bend it. Dead weight keep me there, my ass stinging somethin’ fierce, clawing my hands into the ice to find a grip. When my teeth started clattering I knew I was in fer. It getsya fast. I remember being swallowed by the hole and looking up from underneath like I could see people living and saw me with all sorts of moments I shared in my life. Faces so familiar so up close, giving me a look that was the sum total of everything we had exchanged. Then I remember trying to dig my way through the ice ‘cause I saw Kyle there lookin’ fer me. Broke my heart that. And then Thomas was there lookin’ too. I saw ‘em two laughing like they had before he drowned and realized they had always been like that. It was the great sorrow of my life. The sorrow grew and suffocated me worse and worse until I had to breathe. I took a breath as deep as I could to be with my sons again. Finding the opening in the ice I grabbed the edge of the hole and they pulled me out like as if I were a cork from a champagne bottle! And that’s when I opened my eyes and my heart was full of love and bagpipes for the first time since my son Thomas died. Only in my death did I find life again.


About the Author

Peter Higgins was born in Vancouver but grew up in Toronto, graduating from Queen’s University in 1990 and then with a master’s degree from the University of Hong Kong in 2004. Mr. Higgins worked as a professional writer in Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong for ten years before he returned to Canada to write. He currently lives with his family on Manitoulin Island, Ontario Canada.