The Motorcycle Inn

Manitoulin Island in the Great Lakes, Canada

Published 2001

©Copyright MMXX


Table of Contents

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)

1. A limb or an appendage of an animal, used for locomotion or support.

2. One of the lower or hind limbs in human beings and primates.

3. The part of the limb between the knee and foot in vertebrates.

4. The back part of the hindquarter of a meat animal.

5. A supporting part resembling a leg in shape or function.

6. One of the branches of a forked or jointed object.

7. The part of a garment, esp. of a pair of trousers, that covers the leg.

8. Math. Either side of a right triangle that is not the hypotenuse.

9. A stage of a journey or course.

10. The part of an air route or a flight pattern between two consecutive stops, positions, or changes in direction.

11. One of several contests that must be successfully completed in order to determine the winner of a competition.

12. Sports. One stretch of a relay race.

13. The streams of swirled wine that run down along the inside of a glass. -ntr.v.

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. The guard covering the leg stump in cricket.

21. Naut. The distance traveled by a sailing vessel or single tack.

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

23. A portion of an entire trip or distance: STAGE.

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

25. Something used to harness power or uplift.

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

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

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

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

30. A branch electrical circuit.

31. A phase of a polyphase system.

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

33. A cut of meat. a. the back half of the hindquarters of a lamb, mutton or veal.

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

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

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


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)

1a. A limb or an appendage of an animal, used for locomotion or support.

THE FOLLOWING is a brief history of a few years in the life of Kurt Legge, born in Dearborn Michigan and raised in a blur of downtown Detroit apartments.

Spindly-kneed runner with a runny nose, he only survived childhood because his father died; high school, his hand wiping his nose, he kept to himself to get away from the de-habilitating timidity that twisted his tongue into a sloppy mass of pink tissue void of sinew that carried any semblance of coordinated muscle. When his father died only then could he see a better future, rosy and perfect, But his life did not change so he endured the imperfect present, ducking with his fleet foot, avoiding the emotions of life whenever it surfaced. So he ran like a gazelle, best footwear, the act of running was his own private Idaho.

He always worked but at jobs that would allow him his privacy with minimal interaction, a computer hack, video game developer, lone wolf. When he hit forty, weak-kneed with brittle sausage toes, green with life and love, Legge found his way to Manitoulin Island in Canada, the rock of his ancestors in the middle of the Great Lakes, a place he had never been but which had always stirred in the wind of his imagination.

A snowy isle. The cold indifference of snow and numbing cold of its touch, it shared a cruel history with Legge, one tainted with the shouts of his father telling him how to roll a snowball three-feet high into a snowman, too cheap to buy a proper snowsuit. To Legge snow was like a white fire that burned, a thing that disturbed him from his insulated world of monitors and mice.

He knew ever since the snowman debacle that his father only saw the flaws in what he did, in his Windex-wiped-clean eyes revealed critical doubt plain as rain. A wink could never hide the shame. Hockey and tennis and swimming were a prolonged exercise in futility. He could never do enough but his older brother Bron could. Table talk at dinner as if he didn’t exist. All he wanted was to escape. Dreamed of running into the safe haze on the horizon.

Tall and thin-boned but with strong sinew of ankle and elbow, Legge felt safe when he was running. No one ever talks to you when you’re moving at a speed too fast to talk. He would downshift for long walks and pick it up when there was risk of encountering others. Bron didn’t shy away from calling him a coward or ‘pussy’ for always taking off. He covered his chipped front tooth with his hand when he was confronted, and rubbed his nose when someone really got close, a shield of armor reflecting intruding energies, looking at his feet and thinking of his shoes. Hollow-cheeked with hair like fresh cedar cracked open at the trunk, chary like a bird to man, he slipped his way through life unwilling and uninterested in engaging the human element, that slippery thing shrouded in mists – a thing he could not understand.

He took some computer courses but they were at night when most were dozing after their workday, some zonked on weed. If the professor was one of those who asked students direct questions he would not return, dropped like a two-faced friend. He paid rent and walked to work and grew his moustache long enough to hide his upper lip and a bit of the tooth.

Shivering in undigested memories infringed by over-pressing images, he could not love and had not found love. Tethered dreams were still his when he typed at his computer, sending in his work and paid in the bank without ever leaving the security of his apartment. Interaction had become extinct, set apart out there, a fiction only for those who chose it, a great stage of ludicrous reaches of absurdity. But he watched and ran his way past it all, away from the icebergs and frozen tundra nibbling at his toes, fighting him, laughing at him in cadence with his father, voice critical and full of peril.


Working from home came about from a meeting with a fellow student who wanted to write programs at home so he could play videogames. Nathan Schiff was an addict of the same sort: a gambler will stop at nothing to make his money back. Any kind of computer game that required hand-eye coordination attracted his attention. Legge helped write code for new games that came from Nathan’s ideas, which they sent to the big names behind mainstream videogames. He let Schiff handle the selling. Legge only needed to be paid.

And like all late-night computer gamers Schiff had the diet of a hacker. Tortillas, pizza pockets, high-energy sodas, sugared buns iced with pure bliss. When they first met he had bragged about how he had ridden a horse and seen Niagara Falls with his girlfriend Rita on their first date and how he had once took a pitch in the face without charging the mound. Pure American underachiever. Told him he had the best game that no one had ever seen because it was still an idea. He didn’t have the language to make it but Legge did. Reluctantly, pulled by the soft suction of possibility and a chance to recoil behind his farouche shell to remain untainted by the barbs that scratched all who engaged life, he agreed to help.

“Yes, I see,” he said when he saw how the bad guys would ultimately lose in the battle for high ground. Nathan Schiff chewed potato chips thirsty for salt that added spice to his cyber existence.

“The good guys must win, led by this chap I’m going to name ‘Hardcastle.’ It just won’t sell if they don’t and I need this apartment.”

“You think we can sell it?” Schiff was beyond any doubt it would become a cornerstone in the evolution of the computer gaming industry – the Model T Ford of cyber entertainment.

“Come by tomorrow with your gear and we’ll see what we can do.” Legge ran home and gathered all his USB bits and pieces. He showed up the next day ready to devour the idea and set himself up so he could earn a living from home. He rubbed his nose and mumbled his way through transcribing the game into programming language as it started taking shape in his mind’s eye. He ate tortillas that Schiff left and felt the uplifting air of hope.


In his world of one, his friendship with Schiff and Rita was a change. They mostly talked shop so none of it was the gooey jelly of life’s emotions still indecipherable to him like Greek. From New York, Schiff was darkish, smart and nerdy. Thrived in isolation like him, seldom traversing bridges only taken by those able to partake in the un-binary world of human interaction. His wife Rita, domineering and malcontent, yet accepting of what she had – an ideal partner for this lucky friend of his.

Schiff knew who he was and that was the secret source of his strength – a nerd but knowing. He dreamed of great minds, Einstein’s mustache as it twitched along with words so few understood. He was a man who had studied while others went to football games and parties. Like a turtle, he inched ahead and slowly amassed an encyclopedic base of facts that remained hidden, except when Legge threw him a bone. He was a man who was sure to succeed, and because of this Rita stuck to him like a fly to light.


Now, on the front porch with the man from New York, Legge hunched over in his oversized jacket like a lizard in cotton, Schiff with some news.

“I was talking to a buddy of mine Tibor and he needs a guy to fill in for a guy who just got busted and thrown in the joint. A few months. He’s a good guy, always lendya money if you need it. Just fill in. You might like the motorcycle shop. Busy place called The Bike Haus. He needs a guy to handle stuff in the warehouse. Parts and stuff. Thought you might like the change. It’s in Hamtramk so it’s not too far. You’re looking a little pecid, gotta get out more. You like to go fast. You’re always running. A motorbike would getcha off that dodgy knee of yours.”

Legge rubbed the top of his nose that didn’t itch, and bowed his head to indicate thought. He knew Tibor was an old friend of Schiff’s from New York and he wanted more work so he could buy his apartment.

“Rita! The burgers are almost done. Bring the goodies.”

A dash of blond hair sprinted into the kitchen and appeared with a neat array of buns and condiments, her hands large and firm, more than big enough to hold the full tray. Proud and hearty.


Tibor Trosok was a big man of few words, a tattoo of some indecipherable bird on full display on the forearm, waving it proudly when he spoke. But he recognized the shyness in Legge, because of this seldom spoke in the rattle between the warehouse walls, heating up and cooling down all day all summer, a racket full of motorcycles and parts.

“We get a lot of repeat customers coming in for an oil change or to take a hitch outta the chain. You know, normal maintenance. We have ‘ta do it good every time. Gotta take care of our customers. Anyway, you just do what I ask and we can get through the next few months.”

Legge lifted his eyeglasses to ease the pressure on his nose, smelling the rubber tires waiting to be sold like cattle to the slaughter. Tibor pointed to the Kawasaki poster on the wall.

“That model is our core product, a rally bike, on/off road for both streets and dirt roads, have some good models, like the KLR 650, good bike. Sells well because it’s a good bike. Just work with me or the mechanic Rainer. He knows what needs to be done with those parts there for example. Needs to be sorted.”

Legge was still processing the smell of oil and rubber with an underpinning of gasoline, stirring something strong in his gut.


Al Rainer’s beard fell to the nape of his neck, like a long arrowhead of white hair, neat and angular but dark on the tip from the gunk on his hands – residual grease that formed the tip to the arrowhead.

“How much do you know about motorcycles? ‘Cause I don’t wanna be teaching you about this part or that bike. You gotta use yer head here. This is high season, guys hitting the road and tuning-up their bikes. Wish Ray was here. Damn drinking laws.”

Legge moving boxes into corners and bringing old equipment forward and restocking. The store doubled as a clearinghouse for excess parts from scattered manufacturing plants around Detroit, second-hand parts making up most of the warehouse. That night he reorganized brakes according to brand name – the Hondas with the Hondas and the Kawasakis with the Kawasakis – in his sleep, feverish to begin the day. Rainer always busy with a transmission job delicately handling gaskets and levers, Legge was free to let his hands become the instruments of his vision, parts lined straight beside each other, according the date and type, his binary mind finding a tactile outlet.

Moving slowly was Tibor, the overseer who missed nothing, a B-52 spy plane watching customers and deliveries and mechanics and bargain hunters. But the man knew where it all was and had heard it all before, a connoisseur who grew up with it, handed down from his father, the founder of The Bike Haus in the seventies.

Rainer was still busy with the transmission so Legge asked Tibor: “You like the re-organization of the brake parts?” His enthusiasm breached the walls constructed around him.

The slow movement of the eyes over the new rows of parts put a flush on his cheekbones, as if he had windburn. “You’re lucky Rainer is still busy ‘cause he’d have a bird if he saw what’cha done. Yep, a bloody bird if he sees this. You have it organized by color, that’s clear. All very pretty.” Looked closely at Legge but saw nothing in his eyes but dry scientific curiosity free of emotion, objective as a right angle. “But if I were you I’d get’chur ass in gear and put them back how they laid before. Keep ‘em neat like you made ‘em but put them back how they were.”

“But-“ Legge confused, the new system far superior to the previous layout, but too afraid to offend his new employer while he filled in for Ray.

“Sure it’s all neat and tidy but they should be grouped by design, something you can’t see because you don’t know how engines work. See, Rainer and me know motorcycles, two-stroke, four-stroke, spark plugs, gauged chains, pistons. These brake parts were grouped accordin’ ta brake design. Parts with similar design go with each other or didn’t anyone teacha that?” He tried to feign anger but it wasn’t in his voice. “Just stick with unloading that pile there into their existing category. Got it? You can ride that thing can’t you?” The forklift had been parked in the corner but Legge had ignored it, not out of fear of inability but fear of not having permission to ride it. 

“I think so,” he replied, and that was the beginning of a whole new chapter for Legge. Mastering the forklift took the entire first month, but after that sheer artistry. It wasn’t in his nature to throw caution aside to step over a threshold marked ‘beyond this point lies landmines,’ but Legge’s enjoyment of the forklift spurred him on. Thought he might like riding a motorcycle, one like the HONDA CB-1 400cc street bike that sold well, an honest-looking bike easy to ride and practical, but he kept taking the bus to Hamtramk. Holding on with two hands moving 100km on a two-wheeled vehicle with bumps and debris on the roads was overload for his ultra sensitivity to his invisible boundaries, his realm of comfort from paralyzing fear of the unknown. Safer to play a videogame and ride.

Rainer saw his fear and was harsh with Legge for the first few months, but seeing him on the forklift, fluent and graceful, he grew to like him. Maybe caught a glimpse of his thoughts of riding.

“You gotta love the motorcycle for its simple design man,” he said, standing on one leg like he was a one-legged surfer, other foot on a stool, eyes bloodshot and squinty, grease-ingrained one-piece work suit, The Bike Haus insignia still whitish against dark oil stains. “Chain, crank, bearings and spark plugs. Not like a car that has two thousand parts. Better with the two wheels, that’s what I think. But ya gotta balance her. You can’t repair a busted crankshaft, but you can sure move that forklift!” To Legge the crankshaft was a dark cave in some intricate system of miracles and mini bolts of lightning ignited by inflammable gas creating the spinning of a wheel, a mystery so deep that it could never be revealed. Too shy to ask Rainer “What is a crankshaft? How does it work?” His belief system struggling to stay afloat without the need to engage in the world beyond his safety perimeter. Mocking laughter would kill his fragile sensitivities.


Big Tibor called him into the office to let him know Ray was due back and that it was great to have him but with Ray back there was no room. He knew it was coming but it still stung him to the core.

Legge was back to small computer jobs given to him by Schiff but the work was slow. Lethargic spirit, his heavy cloud-filled view of working from his apartment was suffocating. Missed the smell of rubber tires and gasoline and oil, like a gunner to the lingering scent of cordite.

Kept thinking of the cordite.

In March, Schiff working on a beer and a panzerotti, impatient with the cold of winter, blabbered as an afterthought: “Ray fouled his parole somehow so he’s back in the joint. Tibor needs you again.” Schiff smiled, yellow teeth stained from neglect. Back again. Like a bouncing ball.

Tibor ensured it was still a temporary gig, and that poor bastard Ray had to serve out his drunk driving beef. “So many laws now from when I was a kid. Damn shame that guy. Just a string of bad luck. Nothing anyone can do about that. That’s the thing.”

It was just like it was before in the aquarium of the tactile. Cleaned up Ray’s sloppy work and organized. He spied the HONDA CB-1 as he rolled around the warehouse on the forklift, relaxing his carpal tunnel and listening to Rainer talk about the magic of motorcycling as it were a mystical experience – a middle-aged man married to his motorcycle.

“You tell me one other thing you can do besides riding a motorcycle that gets you going so fast that if you fall you die. You tell me Leggy. Whaddya think?” Legge thought of roller-skating for some reason but only shrugged. “There’s nothing that’s why. Nothing like a motorbike, man. You’re just a child until you can handle a bike.”

Legge taking notes of the endless words coming out of Rainer when the afternoons were slow, alleviating him from long periods of minimal communication. Finding common ground through forklifts and motorcycles, floodgates opened through tired door handles, a boyish thrill at the mechanical toys before them to create something meaningful out of a dreary afternoon. The cookie jar with the lid ajar, too afraid to reach in and make a noise. Father in the next room, the wooden spoon threatening to slam against his flanks at the first sight of failure.


Schiff hunched over studying a printout of a program, eyeglasses thick, pencil active checking numbers and symbols, syntax and spaces. Usually planting new flowers in the front garden, Rita was inside cleaning the guest room.

“Tired of this work these days and through with the damn cold. The ice has got into my bones. I can’t walk in this city and I hate looking at code. Something’s gotta change.”

Legge worried something bad had happened, took a step back, rubbed his nose.

“So we’ve made a decision: we’re moving to Arizona near Rita’s sister.” Stunned.

“When?” Thunderclouds and the breeze before rainfall.

“Pulling a hyperspace on the weekend,” said Schiff, shifting back on the couch. Said he had to live in a warm climate to get the cold out of him. “And Rita got a job offer down there in nursing so she took it. We’re both tired of the winters. Never ends. Miserable and cold. Why not be warm? Maybe the misery will leave too. If not at least there’s no snow and ice.” Weariness showed through the eyeglasses, the ruined eyes and wasted youth stuck reading printouts of code for others. Sacrificed and used-up, grabbing a new start in snow-free streets, far away from the icy streets of Detroit.

“Rita’s all proud ‘cause it’s the first time she’s ever had a job somewhere else and with a free airline ticket. Gotta seize the opportunity ya’know.” Legge nodded and blushed. Hand still rubbing his nose, looking to the ground.

“We’re going to stay with her sister ‘til we find our own place. Should be okay in the transition phase.” He pulled his fleece closer to his neck as if chilled. “It’s good for me to support Rita if she wants this, and God knows it’ll be different down there in the desert. Have some new adventures. I mean why live in the extreme cold when you can live where there is never any snow? That’s where I want to live.”

“Well then that’s good.” Legge put out his hand halfway, unsure.

“You can come visit any time you want. You’re suffering from the same thing I’m suffering from. Good for you to get out too.” He shook Legge’s hand and smiled at each other, both with the thought that it might be their last handshake for a long time.


Numbed to traffic noise and lack of trees and petty conflicts between strangers, public transport and taxicabs and vendors and stoplights, unsafe areas and pollution, Legge asked himself why stay? But he knew what it was. Inertia: the momentum that pushes us along when we want to move over somewhere else. Why not go to New Orleans where there’s historic and geographic beauty?

Or to Hawaii?

Ray finished his time in jail and took back his job at The Bike Haus so he was back to programming at home, but after Schiff’s departure his enthusiasm for his computer work waned. His hands hurt from too much typing and his eyes hurt from too much squinting into his old CRT monitor. He went on long walks despite the chronic left-knee pain that had been getting worse in the last few years. He was suddenly thrown into a world where he had no friends at all, so he withdrew and waited the days out at the shopping mart down the road and the bus stop two blocks away. Wished he had a dog so he could have an excuse to walk in the park, prisoner in his apartment and to his neighbors. He didn’t even live on the earth; he lived in the air as if in a tree like certain tribes along the west coast of the Philippines in sturdy tree forts.

He focused on paying his bills and avoiding interaction with life, waiting for the penny to drop pointing the way. Heads or tails? East or west? It was all binary language to 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)

1 b. One of the lower or hind limbs in human beings and primates.

Then the penny dropped, a dove from the heavens, a chance meeting. Athena from South Dakota, loose, bold as an arrow, took what she wanted with verve. She knew who she was, roaming girl craving bounty from the bars she frequented, taverns in the old part of town, grown tired and seeking a harbor with calm waters. Legge’s nervous energy clung to the positive vibe Athena extended in everything she did. Skin tanned dark like red vermilion, lines around her mouth from living, hair long in a braided ponytail like a mien from the painted horse. A scar on her temple lightly covered by her full eyebrows. A doer’s face. Legge stepped closer to her trying to hide his shaking limbs.

“I know you,” she said. “I’ve seen you before in a dream. We’re meant to be together aren’t we? C’mon, you know it too.” Legge disarmed at such a display of bravado and sureness of step, agape with awe. She flicked her hair back, exposing a cheek wind-burned from an ancient prairie wind.

Legge nodded, choking on words, but she knew what he wanted to say. He was her bee; she was his blooming orchid. Pressed to her breast in her one-armed embrace, Athena grinned at her catch, her senses piqued.

“Let’s getta drink, celebrate, have our own little party.”

The next day spooning under the covers hair all over the place, melted onto Legge like gravy on roast beef. “I know you don’t want me to go,” she said. They stayed entwined as long as they could, every morning for the first month. Then nine years of intermittence and stolen feelings, only bound together by their union that created little Harry.


The woman from South Dakota relished in her conquest of the safe and kind Legge, a malleable ball of putty and stickman for her own needs, soon used and forgotten, ineffective and weak. Demanding and fierce, she trampled over his scrawny legs and soon hungered for exploits further afield, new warriors to slay with her sultry hips and vermilion hue. She wasn’t going to be kept back because of his lack of spark. Forward march. A chin up!

As cashier at the airport lounge, she lingered over pilots and flyers, eager to provide directions or assistance. The uniform was good because she didn’t have any good clothes up to par with airport regulations. After the first year the visits of flyers postponing their departures came and went out her room she had taken as her own, ousting his office to the kitchen table.

“Why don’t you stay here tonight,” he said during a full moon, pointing to his bedroom with a timid finger, the first time in years. She wiggled herself away from his feeble clutch.

She thought Legge would loosen up once he had soaked up her positive, can-do energy but like a tongue hitting dry ice, he did not melt. Invisible boundaries held him hostage while the woman he loved slipped out of his grasp. Apprehensive even in bed, she insisted on sleeping alone with occasional visits after an unfulfilling day at work. But she couldn’t bring herself to ever love Legge because there wasn’t enough beef, only candy floss that when pulled comes apart. Right color but not the right taste.

He thought he heard her say “spider legs” but he couldn’t be sure as the door closed after her, a whirl of dust spooling in the corner. He could not love nor could he talk. Fracture lines entangled his life in every direction. Disloyalty stung his morale. The tragedy of unreached potential lay broken in the rain-soaked lawn. He wanted a house and more children and Christmases with train sets, and electronic games he designed for his son to admire him. But he was dangling from a ripped eaves swaying in high winds ready to drop and shatter on the rocks below him.

The hope of gluing together what he had with Athena was a lifeline he refused to let go. It was the waking dream of hope that enabled him to look the other way at her transgressions. A misplaced hope doomed from the outset.


In was the year after Harry arrived in the world that she clawed back from intimacy. Excess weight and stretch marks never left her hips and Legge was given the blame, a just charge in a mind fed up with dullness and benign initiative.

Harry, sprightly and ironic, seeing his father as the only safe haven in a world of dangerous currents and steep cliffs, became his focus in the hope she would be drawn back to him. Inherited some shyness from his father, sucking his thumb every moment he could muster. Big calluses on his right thumb, cleaner than any other part of his body. Buckteeth getting worse from the work he did on his thumb.

There were soccer games but they soon ended because Harry could see the terror in his father’s eyes driving him to a game. Soccer replaced with video games, Harry taking advantage of the huge library of old games on bookshelves. Father like son, he soon adopted the bent-at-the-neck gait of a computer geek never bold enough to ask his father to play, the defective gene handed down and manifest.

Athena soon lost interest as if the boy was wayward off the street staying for a fortnight. Legge did as much as he could but it was always insufficient. The apartment lacked the touch of a woman, the organizing principle of any dwelling. A gaping crevice widening, the absentee mother, losing conviction for the struggle, a stirring pessimism into his daily life, he longed for her thick ponytail, the warmth of her legs and her firm touch.

When little Harry was six she called him from the drunk tank.

“Gemme outta here Legge. That’s one good reason to still be living with you. Had a mix up last night. Cops thought I was someone else. Drunk tank my ass!” Slurring her words. She should never drink the hard stuff.

“I’ll be there. Do you need some money?”

“Bring some anyway. And hurry. This place smells awful.” She hung up. There was no sitter so little Harry came with him to the police station. Harry should see life as it is; need to fight against the gene he has within him.

Harry pointed at the man in the hat and uniform and said “policeman.”

“Why did you bring the boy?” Harry moved closer to his father. “Don’t you have any sense?” Threw up her hands and sighed, reached for a cigarette, resigned and pouting. The embodiment of indifference.

“Did it start at the lounge?” he asked, trying to diffuse the tension in the minivan.

“Doesn’t matter. What matters is my own kid doesn’t like me and you go and bring him here to see his mother walking outta a police station. What impression you think that’s gonna make? Makes me think what’s the use? Too late. The boy’s mind’s made up. Why should I hang around? You tell me!” Creases in her brow evoking empathy, pleading her plight to the man who wanted her to stay. Don’t throw it away. A few days later she snagged a flyer from the lounge and brought him back without any pretense of covering her tracks from either Legge or Harry. An icy detachment to their presence, openly using the apartment as a place of courting gentlemen with the means to support her. He reached for the light on the bedside table and tried not to hear them.

Even in the morning, after the grunts of lovemaking, Athena would feed her man beside Legge, who could not find the voice to object. Instead of waiting a few minutes after Harry had gone to school she would bring her boyfriends to the breakfast table while her son was eating and Legge drinking his coffee.

When she said: “Why isn’t the boy at school?” like pressing a button, he ushered Harry on his way to class. Legge fearful of having a large blind spot that others could see, wanted to understand what was happening. He wanted to get her meaning, but he retired to his room and left the couple to the breakfast he had made. He didn’t know about philosophers but he knew the stoics because he got what they did. Legge’s endurance of suffering was world-class.

His stamina was relentless but he was not immune to the curveballs that sometimes roll into a man’s 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)

1c. The part of the limb between the knee and foot in vertebrates.

It was in April just before Harry’s twelfth birthday that the inertia cracked and shifted, an iceberg harder than rock shattering the cracked mantle of worn riverbanks.

Harold Legge had always been his favorite uncle but he had lost touch with him after meeting Athena. Legge took the call from his aunt Gail when his uncle Harold was pronounced dead. Old age, a machine with spent parts, grinded joints down to bone, creaking and sheering from overuse.

The old bean had been out on his snow machine only week’s earlier, right up to the April thaw she said. Just dropped dead. No long song and dance, crisp like he lived his life. No kids, no wife, free as a bird. Was just putting his snow machine in for the season, hobbling more from his bad back, long a master of the art of ignoring pain.

The spring melt had just come and old uncle Harold had been filling up his birdfeeder when he fell, landing on the burgeoning cedar bushes he had planted with his own hand. Sprawled and caught, motionless until a friend found him, birds eating above him perched on the same cedar boughs holding uncle Harold.

A man in his eighties, aware his time was near, left a will in his top drawer, beside a few photos from the war. Harold’s sister Gail named as executor, read his will: “I, Harold Rafter Legge, bestow the property and chattel to my nephew Kurt Liddel Legge, son of my deceased brother Randy.” Gail was tasked with closing all his financial affairs and keeping whatever money was leftover.

Legge hadn’t seen him in ten years.

The funeral went by without Legge a few days later in Gore Bay, his ashes scattered in the North Channel in front of his house past Dragon Head Lighthouse. His old friend Doug Campbell, fellow snowmobiler and hunter, emptied the urn where they went fishing. A solemn ceremony, the water still with patches of ice.

“Did he leave anything to us?” Athena asked.

Legge didn’t know how to put it into words succinctly. “Yes, his house and stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Not sure. House goods and stuff I guess. There was no mortgage and he lived off what he made, no debts. It’s just there.”


“Gore Bay?”

“Where’s that?”

“Manitoulin Island in Canada.”

“Sounds cold to me.” Athena retired to her room.

Legge remained, locked in thought.

Gail sent confirmation the will had been completed and had the official deed for the property, and that she wanted to hand it over in person. She was on her way to Detroit next week so the business could be done when she was in town.

Just when Legge was at a snapping point, rope taut and shaky, he sustained a blow blindsided leaving him adrift and wavering.


“Athena stop this,” he’d said unable to hide the desperation in his voice. A new man from the lounge had swept her off her feet, changed the severity of her frown, a man wanted to travel with a “wingman.” Two joined by the Achilles tendon, both wanderers of bars in every port. Pillagers of free time.

“I can do what I wanna do. Besides, this one’s different. He’s my lion, ‘lot more than you ever were, that’s for damned sure.” No love in her voice, divorced at heart. “You keep thinking it’s good Legge but it isn’t. It’s no good and it needs to be axed, like a log starting to rot. Expose the good wood still worth a damn, still able to burn.”

On a Tuesday the airport called and said she was absent from work. Bags and kit gone, Athena had taken off with a rolling stone from Reno. He knew she would never say goodbye, just as he knew she had gone for good. Legge had seen the joy in her eyes after the few evenings she had spent with him. She had found love.

On the same day he had a call from Schiff. “We have no more new contracts buddy. Besides I’m tired of programming, can’t keep up and don’t give a shit. All new programming work will have to be from your end. I’m out.”

Legge had a vision of his old business partner in shorts and a t-shirt outside on the back porch, cacti and tumbleweeds. They had been partners for fifteen years and this was the first time they didn’t have a client.

“Used up Leggy, done and dried to the bone, hands shot to hell, fingers crippled and wrists don’t work right anymore. I want to work outside doing things in real life. I gotta breathe when I work, not sit. I’ve had a taste of that desert air and I can’t go back. That’s just how it is. That’s the truth of it.”


At the airport lounge her fellow waitress Julie Anne told him she had been talking about it for a while, that Athena would move in with the guy from Nevada so she could start over.

“She wanted the best for her kid too but she had the good sense to see little Harry was better off with you,” she said. Made up and pert, Julie Anne was a fetching number. “She was restless you know? Seriously restless. Gotta be for the best.”

“Do you know how to reach this guy in Reno? I mean there must be some way to find her. I need to know she’s all right and not out on the street. What if this guy’s a fraud?” Travelers eating quickly before their flight, itchy hesitancy of impending travel jittered the air.

“You know Athena. She never had a cell phone. Just didn’t work that way. This guy she left with, Richard, he seems all right to me. I mean he had integrity and was honest. Good tipper. Don’t worry yourself too much. She chose well. They had known each other for years.”

Hand dodging to the nose then feigned adjusting the eyeglasses, felt exasperated. Speechless. Patches of perspiration in odd places.

“Thought about taking the boy but decided it wasn’t worth you jumpin’ up and down and making a racket like you’re good at doing in your own way. You know she liked you a little bit but you are too much like a boy, quiet and shy. You’re not sure of the ground you walk on. That’s a shame.”

Legge shrugged and stood still, Julie Anne leaving to her tables.

Back in the safety of his apartment, resisted the challenge of telling Harry. 

“Your mother has moved out for a while so it’s just you and me,” he said, fluttering epiglottis. “We’ll be all right son.” Blue eyes, thick lids, straight dark hair, so much the South Dakota presence in the Harry mix. Father’s small ears but the mother’s coloring. Sturdy. Cut on his chin still visible from falling off a stone fence.

Harry didn’t take long to get in trouble for excessive wandering. Like his father he was always moving. Passive but knowing, Harry bordered on autistic how he could absorb everything but remain impassive, as if watching clouds move. The face of a wonderer, a face he knew well.

Athena had wanted to have the child but she resisted giving up freedom of her other life that stirred deep in her spirit. So Harry had always been his son; he always made sure he had what he needed to get through. Legge had sensed this moment would come, when the wayward mother flippantly leaves the nest. But he had seen it happening when they were old and gray. She had inflicted plenty but this was the ultimate knock. A fissure in his foundation cracked irreparably. But he waited in Detroit in case she wanted to come home again.


Gail Legge, jacket with paint on it and boot with broken zipper, sat comfortably on the couch watching Legge stammer. A mess. Crippled. Shyness gene rumored to be part of the Liddel side of the family, what her cousin Martin suffered from. She smoked a cigarette and drank coffee she had made. Hair short but not one gray hair, neat, no earrings, boots still on. Lines deeper between her dark eyes and high arching eyebrows.

“Drink the coffee, it well help. And right now you need help. Trust the power of coffee to overcome the big ones.” Her throat like gravel and rock on a dusty day.

“I saw it coming but didn’t believe it would happen so soon,” he said. “She was always a bit of a free spirit, it’s how we met. She needed to love. For her that was what life was all about. Couldn’t give her what she wanted. Wasn’t enough.”

“The coffee’s getting cold. Don’t be shy. Warm your belly.”

“And she knew this guy for years. So it’s been growing.” Rubbed his nose. “She could never settle down.”

Don’t knock yourself out, she said to herself. Had a good look at Athena on the mantelpiece, the hair brushed back and the eyes that whispered from ancient forests. A swirl of sin; that woman needs a man.


He placed the telephone back gently, distracted by the distant wind in his ears. The police said they had found her poisoned on a beach south of San Francisco, discovered days after her death. Say she was bruised too. Took a room there in one of the hotels. She was afraid of the water. If wasn’t like her to be on the beach.

Strangers surrounding her defenseless body covered in sand sent a chill through his center, people prodding her until wrapped in a blanket by a caring hand.

The police had found her things and Legge’s telephone number in her room, and a bus ticket from Reno. It had been her first night there.

Legge, crumpled pants and stained shirt, stood stooped crooked fingers at his side. Checkmate. She was gone. He could forgive her for leaving but couldn’t forgive her for dying so soon.

Gail wondered why men struggle to accept things they have no control over. Death clutches leaving heartache. Probably why religion does such good business, she grumbled.

“You’ll get through this all right. You’re a Legge and we have legs, that’s for damn sure.” Cigarette lit, a nicotine frenzy only inches away.

“This wasn’t her fault. That guy was wrong for her. I was her husband.” Bringing his hand up to his nose he crashed a bottle of grape juice to the floor.

“Yes you were, right up to the end. You were married weren’t you? Had Harry? No one’s perfect but you’ll get on.” It calmed Legge to hear firm words from an aunt he hardly knew. “You got the look of your great uncle Sandy, able man but didn’t hardly speak at all. Went about his business and spoke through his actions. That’s how he was remembered. Sandy Legge, long white mustache. Know him only from a photo I have. Never met him. Didn’t like his brother Sammy, your grandfather.”

“I didn’t know I had a great uncle. So he was weak then?”

“Not weak just quiet. Gotta be strong to live on the Island. What he did spoke louder than any words could. Died on the ice crossing the channel going to the mainland with some of Sammy’s friends during the thirties. They say he kept knocking under the ice for minutes before he froze.”

“I never heard that story. My father and I never talked much.”

“Had been crossing there for 30 years. Just a fluke though some… It happened in 1933 during Prohibition.”

“I only heard my grandfather was an outdoorsmen.” Gail looked to see if it was irony. She hated being at the receiving end of a joke.

“Hunters and farmers. The Legges settled on the Island way back 1885 when it was full-time work just to survive. Islanders are like that. Pioneers. Once you get there you’re bound to stay ‘cause yer too busy trying to stay alive. Some have left, like your father and Harald, but they end up coming back like your uncle Harald.”

Dawned on him his aunt Gail was the only family he knew. Athena poisoned on a beach, his uncle Harald sprawled on a cedar bush, he was encircled by death, of family, of civilization, a stench wafting the stagnant air.

“The house you now own is right in the heart of where the Legge clan came from. Kind of the Legge family home.” Gail frowned, some history left unsaid. “Was good Harold bought it back from Old Doug Campbell. You always gotta watch a Campbell they say. Keep an eye on them. But Old Doug sold it to him at a fair price.”

Petty disputes of isolated country life left him dry, but it was the only connection to any family he now had.


When Harry was caught, the security guards found him wandering through the municipal government buildings without any clearance. He was found walking the halls with his knapsack with a look of unassuming curiosity on his face.

“We are wondering how he was able to escape from school and then get into the hallways of the government building without being seen,” the school principal firm. “Probably came in behind some folks and presumed to be their son. Never know, but there is something more disturbing about this incident. It is one of a string of wanderings that has put this child in danger. There are thugs out there, wolves ready to pounce. This kind of wandering is all right in safe neighborhoods but not in downtown Detroit. The thing is Mr. Legge, we need to know he’s not going to do this again. You need tell him it’s not okay to leave like that.” Hair in a bun, voice tinged with maternal fingers.

Gail in the doorway, he gets it from his mother, she thought, smirking at the similarity of the two generations of Legges, almost semi-autistic.

“Harry is here at the school?” Legge swallowed a stammer.

“In the guidance counseling office. Can you find it?”

Harry was unfazed by the events, happy to be out of school and to have explored inner workings of the government. They were both boring, shiny floors and endless talking about things that were so unimportant.


“Now that we’re home, you come here you rascal,” she said when Harry walked in with his father. “You and me are going to have a chat.” Harry enjoyed the attention from his aunt. In Harry she saw nothing of the boys she knew, an experience she enjoyed. She spoke to him in a direct manner that Harry responded to. 

In the short time Gail had been in Detroit, they both saw that she provided a strong maternal force in his life. She hugged him like Athena never did.

“Why don’t you stay a little longer here in Detroit,” he suggested, shoulders slouched. “I could use your help if you had a few extra days.” She started to shake her head but stopped.

“Maybe for a few more days, but I have things pressing on the Island. You’ll be right in a day or two. You’ll know what to do.” She patted Harry on the shoulder. “The thing is that all this has given you an opportunity to change your scenery. You’ve never seen your uncle Harald’s house so you should. Take some time off from here, too many reminders and such. It’s spring and the best time to come to the Island.”

She removed a photo from her purse and grabbed Harry’s hand. “This is Penny. She’s my Labrador I need to take care of.” Eyes studied the photograph not showing any emotion, analyzing the slight smile of the dog and the massive trees around the water.

Legge looked at the photo and saw the great expanse of water behind the dog and cliffs of rock.

“I have to get back to Penny,” she said. “Poor Agnes hates taking her for a walk.”


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)

1d. The back part of the hindquarter of a meat animal.

Gail spoke sense to him. Gruff and clear. Burnt-out computer life, incipient financial floundering, apartment stale without Athena’s presence, that perpetual counter force he needed to stay functioning. With Harry tucked into bed, he and Gail drank coffee with a drop of cherry brandy, one of her old recipes, an old habit. His apartment devoid of South Dakota life.

“Go see the house and let the boy wander,” she said, “see where you come from and show the boy his inheritance. Get out of the city before it kills you. Millions killed already. Big cities can break a man’s spirit.” She leaned back and heard the noises of urban Detroit, a cluttering of competing sounds. Legs straightened out with feet crossed. “I’ll tell ya, that’s a mad world out there. People getting shot and mugged all the time. I’m happy there’s a piece of the world that’s safe and good, where your family is. Every man oughta see where they come from, it’s in his blood.

“See your new house. Think of Harry. The Legges have a good name there. Be good to have another Legge up there. Some nice women there too.” She patted his arm, her hand lined and strong. “Lots to do if you’re willing.”

Desperate all night head split open with a hammer, fractured. Crumbling inward, crumpled and withering. Then a calling and a ray of light through the clouds, a far off island of rock and trees surrounded by white-tipped waters on a sea of deep blue.


It took a few tries to track down Schiff.

“I was out on the golf course. Love the game. Better than playing it on the computer. Trust me. Don’t miss Detroit Leggey. Warm down here. I’m warm again. Rita loves her new job but the pace of life is slower down here so it’s a bit different. There’s been some adjustment but it’s way better than how it used to be in the cold.

“The best thing is I don’t do anymore programming. My eyes are hanging by a thread so I wanna keep doing stuff outside. Love working with my hands so I found a job working with a landscaper. Good honest work. I like to see the finished product. Makes me feel proud because they’re real things I can touch, not written codes floating in cyberspace! So what about you buddy? Getting much work?”

It felt good to spill everything to Schiff, unleashing his gunnysack filled with grief. But the inheritance of the property was reason for great hurrah.

“Check it out my man! Don’t let someone else move in there and snag it from you. If you’re not there old man someone will take control of it. Or if you sell it you’ll be back where you are with a son about to become a teenager in Detroit. Think of how it could play out. So go to the house and let me come up and visit you. Where is it again?”

“It’s on Lake Huron across from Michigan,” he said. “All I know about the island is that it’s windy.”


A week later Schiff telephoned to make sure Legge was still intent on going north. He had had direct experience with Legge’s inclination for not following through on projects. Schiff wanted to see him succeed because he knew it was the right thing for him. All men have a right to get the rust out of their legs.

“Tibor said you are a lucky guy,” said Schiff. “Where you’re going is one of the best places to ride a motorcycle in North America. He was sure of it. Must be good if it’s one of the best. I knew it man, it’s a good omen this whole thing. Take it forward. Do something involving motorcycles. He said the best riders go there for weekends. Something about there being no traffic lights on the island?”

“That can’t be right.”

“Well think about it. Maybe you could work at a shop there or run something out a’ that house of yours. Anyway there’s a guy Tibor knows who has a garage on the island I think. Take his number. You’re gonna need work right? Never say no to a job lead.”

Legge scratched it down on a pad and left it there, afraid of the ramifications a single piece of information could yield, a connection to his past.

It took the rest of the month to find a suitable tenant and rent his apartment. Emptied the joint of every valuable and slipped out mid-afternoon during the quiet hours when most were napping.


So Legge and Harry drove out of the city in the van, backseat packed, Harry navigating with the map interrupted by gazing out the window. Rural vistas like a hungry man lured by cooking beef.

Into Canada along east Lake Huron through Goderich and Owen Sound north to the Bruce Peninsula and its limestone cliffs to Tobermory. Birch and cedar filled the air after the fresh melt, soil warming in the hot sun parked in line for the ferry to South Baymouth, the final step to a new life.


Hair flattened against his forehead with seagulls hovering over his shoulders, surfed the air current pushed up from the ferry, his cotton pants pinned to his legs, creased from years of sitting. Aromas thick of aquatic life in the bloom of spring filled his nostrils on the deck, scattered islands not big enough for a map still in the waters just off Tobermory. Cool wind made his cheeks burn, his child motionless beside him watching the waters and wondering. The lure of the open space pulled them both forward. A swish of wings overhead.

Giving passengers wide berth, Harry explored the deck like he would explore a videogame. Lifeboats, anchor hoist, ropes, bird shit, exhaust pipe. Harry had seen ships a thousand times but had never smelled the freshwater and the life that went with it. He smiled into the wind.

Gail sat on the bench that lined the deck under the cafeteria, a toque to maintain the dignity of her hair. Witness to a young spirit finding a home. Like a seagull migrating north, a chance for Kurt to start fresh and for Harry a new beginning. Just like planting a tree.

She had met them at the ferry terminal in Tobermory to hold his hand. Someone had to make sure he didn’t turn back at the last minute.

When she spotted land she felt a familiar reverence for its majestic beauty. A mound of worn rock pounded by waves on the peninsula where the lighthouse stood, stripes of white and red gloss.

“How few people have ever been on this fair isle,” she said, Legge keeping his eyes on the land. “Do you know much about Manitoulin Island?” Legge shook his head. “Who had come here? Early explorers like Radisson and Grosseilliers, and the Jesuits. Early days of the New World. Far inland. Beaver trade.” But the Island is personal for everyone, she thought, a castle of rock hidden in a great bunch of water that no one knows about. The Island to her was what it has always been to her since her childhood: Hawberry bushes and spring-fed lakes, brooks for fishermen and waterfalls for salmon, meadows of wildflowers and a playground of forests, sawdust and alfalfa and soil and lilac, and waves hitting the dock in long-blown winds. But there was an edge to the life here, she knew, cruelty for those who missed the harmonies of nature. Watch and respect the currents or they’ll take you out and you won’t come back, she remembered, the words of her father after a young man had been swept out to the big waters from the mouth of the river. It’ll take you all right.

“You gotta respect her to survive here; no one can see a deer in fog,” she said, Legge still looking at the approaching island. “The Indians burnt almost half of the island after the Hudson Bay fort closed. Thought it was infected by the white man’s disease and evil spirits. The men at the fort were stealing firewood so the Indians kicked them out and burnt everything. If there were any bad spirits here they were burnt all right. Indians still live there so it must be good land. They still have their piece never ceded to the Europeans.” She pointed to the tip of a long sliver of rock. “Never got that piece of land from them. Good enough to keep.” Fossils still there untouched, etched in the limestone.

“I missed the sound of the birds most of all when I moved to Toronto. I saw homelessness and suffering like I had never seen before. Vagrants and drunks. Could never understand why there were homeless people when there were so many empty rooms. Never saw someone homeless on the Island though. People are too friendly to allow it.” She became aware that it was Harold’s will that enabled this to happen, but he had some penitence to do. Maybe it will be different now that Harold was gone and little Harry was close by to watch grow.

Standing beside Legge, she felt the cool wind blowing, seagulls drowned out everything else in her mind, nature’s arrival bells watching from above the rock of the cove and the dock.


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)

2. A supporting part resembling a leg in shape or function.

Legge followed his aunt along the main road north from the ferry terminal up the highway towards Lake Manitou, Harry rolled down his window and put his face a few inches out. The road crossed Blue Jay Creek and over Manitou River curving around lakes only inches from the pavement. They moved west past the sandy beaches of Mindemoya and entered the M’Chigeeng Reserve on north of the Island. The escarpment cut across lush forests covering the bay on the North Channel.

“I feel I have been here before,” said Harry.

“Feels ancient doesn’t it?”

He followed his aunt in her Cavalier over Jerusalem Hill to plains wide open and windswept. Old Victorian homesteads every hundred acres until Bridal Veil Falls, where the river feeds the bay from a waterfall. Down a hill a turn-of-the-century saloon stood on the lip of the shore near a small white church, a lighthouse and dock with fishing vessels.


She pulled into the Kagawong General Store. Smells of freshly made muffins rumbled his empty stomach. In the far corner he found hunting equipment and country gear. Bought a thick flannel shirt because he knew it would be cold and awkward in his city clothes. Let Harry buy a small knife. Necessary equipment for a twelve-year-old boy he told himself.

Gail talked to the man behind the counter with bags of food in front of her. Butcher and deliverer of leftovers.

“We’re off to Harold’s old place. You know if anyone been up that way yet this year?” Eyes narrowed on Legge behind her.

“Not that I seen but I ain’t lookin’,” he said and turned to Legge. “You watch them deer through there on your way, y’hear?” Eyebrows white and furious, eyeglasses low on the nose. “Don’t forget now.”

Outside, Legge wearing his flannel shirt, the small knife glinting in Harry’s hand catching the falling light from the sky, Gail insisted on coming in the van.

 “The road will be too soft for my wee car. Just give me a lift back later.” She shared the front seat with Harry. Told him to put on the all-wheel drive.

Passing a long stretch above the water where waves smashed against a long shore of worn limestone, she pointed. “There was a guy I knew who lost his life down there fishing one night. Pulled him up way off shore after a storm. Used to fish in a canoe, always crazy, part Indian I think. Lived for water but the water got him in the end.” She waved her finger at Harry. “Always does.”


Descending down and away from shore he watched the forest suddenly enfold them.

 “In the old days this house was only gotten to by boat. These roads are new.” The dirt road still soft from the spring thaw. Hands clenching the wheel, carpal tunnel flaring, suspension weighed down by the load started to wear.

“This van better not bottom out. It’s pretty weighed down.”

“Go slow then and watch for deer. They’re thick around here.” The trees along the driveway like distant friends from morning walks.

“The road branches off down here. There’s Dragon Head Lighthouse close to it.”

From the shade of the woods out of nowhere water appeared, a lighthouse on a high point of rock at a narrowing along the strait, water clear to the bottom. Legge felt the thrill of connecting geography with the map in his head, novice cartographer finding his footing north of the border.

 Just after the lighthouse was a dead-end with a driveway.

“This is the beginning of Legge’s Cove in here. About a quarter-mile in I’d say.” The gravel road stretched along a ridge to a flat opening protected by steep rock. “It’s a good size cove. There’s a trail inland for hunting somewhere here. Me and my horse knew this path well as a girl.” Dormant memories carved into limestone.

The forest canopy opened to a clearing where a tall white house stood defiant overseeing open water, protected by a row of cedars against the winds from the east. Two large gables above a bay window and veranda, perched like a Norman castle. Air chilled and moist like a slap in the face

“Made of ground limestone this is, crushed and burnt in a kiln right here on the Island. They say these ones will withstand a thousand winters and still stand straight,” she said. Opened the door and gave him the key. Papers on the table and dishes stacked beside the sink, plants just starting to dehydrate. 

“The ceilings are so high,” he said. Compared with that small nest of yours, she thought.

“Happy to see the old man has taken care of the place. Cold in here. Let me light a fire and put on some food. It all should be here.” She found the kindling in the wood room and lit the stove, made some cowboy coffee and some soup with her purchase at the general store.

Harry fell asleep on the couch. Legge covered him with his sleeping bag and the heavy blanket from the couch, the house warm from the crackling woodstove. Legge took the main bed after Gail had changed the sheets and cleaned the room. The guest room where Gail slept was already clean. Darkness falling in a soft fog


In the morning birds sang outside the windows with vigor he had never before heard. Bird sanctuary. Scent of pine and cedar. Profound silence in the background.

“The child hasn’t moved all night,” said his aunt, poking the coals and watching the fire come to life. “Must be the fresh air.”

Out on the deck the water opened up to rounded mountains of rock.

“Those rocks across the channel are the hardest on earth they say,” she said, sipping her coffee. “My dog Penny loves it here.”

Stepping outside on the deck with the sleeping bag sill around him, Harry said: “Is this it? There’s nothing around.” His voice startling something in the woods.

“Deer most likely. They’re hungry after the winter. Eatin’ mostly low-hanging cedar branches around here. Lots of food.” The flat land to the west was cleared of timber and windswept with grass, but it was the water that stirred his imagination.

“Could paddle miles with a canoe,” he said. The fog lazy above the water, disappearing in the morning air.

“Yeah, Harold had lots of toys, like that quad over there.” She pointed to the red four-wheeler parked beside the garage. Harry went to it thinking of the possibilities that lay in those wheels.

It had been years since she had been here, letting Harold run it as he wanted, without any tending to the garden. It angered her how mother had spent so much time on the garden and now there was nothing but a few scattered lilac bushes. Only hawberry grew along the stone fence by the sycamore and oak.

The house white and clean against the grayish air. Above the front door was a stained-glass window showing the Legge coat-of-arms. He had seen it before and instantly recognized the triple rook upper line.

“I can ask someone to come by to give you a hand putting in the dock if you need it,” she said. “Some things need an extra pair of hands so never be shy to ask when you need one.” The year 1909 was chiseled into the cornerstone, worn by time. “That was when it was built. Good house this. Will still be here in 500 years as long as the roof is good. Take a lot to bring down this house.”

“Anyone in the family born here?” Gail squinted at him.

“Yes. Your father and me. And your uncle Harold. We were all born in the summer. Your grandparents were active during the harvest.”

A sailboat came into view moving eastwards towards Killarney on the mainland.

“A lot of boatin’ along here. Wish Harold had kept the boat working. I reckon it’s around here somewhere.”

“A boat? Where?” Harry asked. The aunt pointed to the open water where there was a speck with a sail in the freshwater sea, evidence of life on the vastness before him.


Later, Gail in the garden. Birds at the bird feeder where gobs of bird shit stained the deck. Legge found the cedar bush that had held Harold in his final moments, some the branches still bent to the ground. Nothing that sun and rain wouldn’t fix. Breathing deeply he felt the rich air expel city toxins from his lungs, the fog thinner, moisture clinging to everything green.

Inside, books half opened with bookmarks and magazines piled beside a chair by the fireplace, burgundy crown molding along the faded pine ceiling with faded varnish connecting the room to the past. Space enough to think. Floors made of thick lumber, solid underfoot when Harry felt impelled to jump up and down. “No neighbors to think about,” he said. Upstairs the rooms spread out, master bedroom massive, far away from the guest room. Harry ran from room to room trying to figure out what each one was for.

“This one was his library Dad,” pointing to rows of books and papers accumulated over a lifetime. Wood shelves handmade, bent with age. A desk swamped with notebooks and pencils, an antique globe in the corner. In the room across the hall prints of paintings covering the walls, none framed, all pinned with tacks. Wooden bunk beds against the far corner, a chest of drawers and closet full of clothes. The next room with motorcycle parts laid out on the floor, each with its own newspaper.

The aunt creaked up the stairs. “Yep, still had that thing with motorcycles. Couldn’t ever take it outta him. Surprised it never killed him.” One wall in the room had photos of Harold standing beside his motorcycle in all sorts of different locations.

“He was different from my father, seems like.”

“Your father was a tyrant, if you don’t mind me saying. Your father never had it but Harold sure did. Give him a horse or a motorcycle and you’ll see him two days later covered in mud and a grin. I reckon his motorbike is somewhere in the garage.” She stepped closer to the wall.

“That there is an old friend of mine,” she said, letting the corners of her mouth tense for a moment. Harold beside a man on a farm with a red tractor. “I’ll clean up a bit before you give me a lift to my car. There’s some dust that needs dealing with before the boy starts sneezing. Let me know if you need any help.” In the kitchen she took a bucket and mop and made sure there were no more dust bunnies living in the corners.


Legge followed his aunt past his van to the garage, overgrown weeds along the base, and opened the doors. Inside was an old YAMAMA RD400, ripped seat with well-oiled chain, helmet hanging off the throttle grip.

“This is also yours,” she said. “I think it runs too. Harold was crazy to ride this thing. He reckoned if he survived the war he’d survive motorcycling. No one could really argue with that.” Empty cases of beer in the corner, rags piled on a chair, cardboard on the floor to soak up oil. Tires hung from rafters, fishing rods piled above crates with skates and skis. Crooked map above firewood. An outdoorsman’s repository.

“You could put a canoe up there in the rafters,” he pointed but his aunt ignored him.

“You make sure little Harry doesn’t go wild and take any risks with these here toys. They’re strong enough to kill a man.” She stared hard at him to make sure he understood. His face worried.

“You’ll come to love this place,” she said. “It grows on you.” In the van they drove out the driveway to her car in front of the general store, soon reunited with Penny.


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)

3. One of the branches of a forked or jointed object.

Legge awakened by the sound of clattering feet, like fingernails tapping on wood twice as many as a man’s. He followed the sound from the kitchen to the parlor and up the stairs until he saw a dog push his bedroom door open, huge body black as raven’s hair, penetrating red-brown eyes curious and trusting. The tail like a baseball bat knocking his pants off the arm of the chair.

Harry snug in his sleeping bag in the bottom bunk of the room across the hall, the sun streaking in through the east window. Legge stood at the doorway and smiled. “Your aunt’s here. This must be Penny.” The Lab jumped onto him and licked his face.

Moving in the kitchen with ease, Gail served eggs and toast and sliced potatoes from the frying pan. The ceiling was so high it was like a dining hall with a huge antique table that suited a medieval castle.

“You could run it as a bed and breakfast you know. All this space begs to be used. Besides it’s a good business to get into here on the island because there is basically no public land. Everything here is private property. You could work from home.” Dealing with too many people, he thought, or maybe not.

“There’s a market for that here?”

“No chains here, no McDonalds, no Holiday Inns. All guesthouses are locally run. I’ll tell you, if I were you I’d run a guesthouse. And I’d get that motorcycle up and running. Then you can get to know the Island.” Gail suggesting the thing he most wanted to do so casually as if to pull it out of him.

“They say the motorcycle is the best way to see the island. I wouldn’t know but that’s what they say. Uncle Harold was like that. That motorcycle of yours has seen a lot of miles I bet. Some summers that’s all he did was ride. He’d work a little and then take the long way home. Folks say they used to hear him laughing as he rode by.” Legge laughed. Good, genuine laughter was what he liked best about his uncle.

“So the bike knows the roads well.” Forklift recollections pushed fears of riding the motorcycle away. Less traffic than the city.

“Be easy to run a B&B. Cater to motor-bikers. You got five bedrooms here. All you need are linens and a sign in the front and a positive attitude. Be friendly and it’ll come.” Easier to work from here than to go somewhere else to work for someone else. Ride it and they will come.

The aunt hit her stride with the idea. “Old Doug has some extra beds I’m sure. I’ll talk to him. There’s always stuff to be re-used. If you wanted a second refrigerator, the Anglican Church is a good place. They have a sale this weekend at the rectory.”

“You must be busy with your own life. I mean I don’t want you to do too much.” Had jumped into this with only a vague notion of what to do, hoping for signs along the way. Motorcycle B&B. Better than working at the hardware store.

“Sure I have things to do but they can wait,” she replied. “Knitting.” She held up her hands crooked from knitting, indented marks in the fingertips. “I know a man who make signs. Need one in town I reckon. Always saw this place as a bed and breakfast. Has the space certainly in the kitchen.

“What do you think Harry? Mind living here and renting out those bedrooms to travelers passing through?” Pressed his lips together and frowned. Momentarily pensive. Then shrugged his shoulders, non-confrontational like his father.

Outside the breeze from the lake picked up. She tightened her scarf in the chill and saw her breath when she exhaled. “It’s gonna rain. I can smell it.”

“Naw, I don’t think so.” Small droplets of rain hit his face.

“Rains at the drop of a hat here on this point. Just the way the clouds are forced up the cliffs to the west. Wind comes from the prairies for the most part.”

Legge looked at this strange new setting just out of sight from the lighthouse and protected by the cove. The rocks on the horizon skewed gray in the light rain, his skin moist and clean.

“If you’re going to have up to six people a night staying here in the high season, you’ll need to widen that driveway at the end. Needs more parking space. Say three or four cars. I think I saw some excess gravel in the back of the lot. Could use that maybe. And I should get Old Doug’s son Kyle to fix up garage before it falls down.” Clouds moved south from the North Channel bringing thunder.

“What about that road?”

“They will resurface it in a few weeks. This year they might even pave it. Have been talking about it for years.”

“It’s happening so fast, as if I don’t have a choice.” Shrugged his shoulders and couldn’t let go of the knot in his stomach. Clenched like a fist for years.


In the car through Gore Bay, waves with whitecaps breaking on the sticks of the dock, pavement was smooth and slick. Legge and his aunt pulled in at the hardware store.

“Best thing about this store is that you can pour yourself a cup of coffee and browse. Donations for the coffee welcome. Honor system. Been working for years.” She poured two cups as he watched cars stopping at the post office across the street, rain cascading down the window.

“Says it’s gonna pick up a bit,” said the man behind the counter with white sideburns, looking at their donation for the coffee. A gust hissed against the glass plane.

“Never can trust the weather ‘round here,” said the man. “North Channel’s famous for that.” He knew a new face when he saw one.

Lightning struck down over the water, flickering light, mumbling thunder. Papers stapled to a telephone pole wavering in front of the post office, a man dipping his head into the wind on his way to his truck. Sheets of rain trampled the road with lightning, Gail’s face serene in the flashing light like a theatrical effect.

“Is it usually like this?” Legge wondered what he was getting into.

“In the spring. It settles down.”

Legge found some gloves and blankets and cutlery and pots, ordered more gravel for the driveway. The man impassive as he took the order. He knew where it was, just down the road from the lighthouse. Going upstairs he found a sign that said ‘The Motorcycle Inn’ with a picture of an old Norton. Red with a black bike, the thick lettering in old west style. The silent man with the sideburns nodded at his choice. Legge bought three.

On the ride home the wind gusts shoved the car to the side like a toy, rain obscuring the view of the road. Gail fastened her seat belt, upper lip stiff, fingers clutching the door. The wind pushed them into the oncoming lane for a moment before the gust stopped. Aunt Gail cleared her throat and looked at him but did not speak. He drove slowly up the escarpment and then found solace in the thick forest before the lighthouse. It was beautiful in the rain.


The Motorcycle Inn sign moved little in the stirring winds, firm against the cedar post at the driveway entrance. Below it was a second sign that said: “Motorcycles, snowmobiles, quads and boats all welcome.” White background, black lettering. Made it more inviting.

“Love that sign. As if it was all planned.”

Gail was making a large supper, staying the night for fear of the storm. Mud in the boot room outside the kitchen, the smell of burning maple in the stove, house now cleaned and mopped. Legge took a shower, taking note of the solid water pressure. Tub needed re-caulking, old medications chucked out and new paint job. The new shower curtain was transparent and clean. He groaned and let the water warm his eyes. Adequate for usage.

“Keeps the heat inside doesn’t it?” he said, relaxing on the couch.

“Siding that went on ten years back cost an arm and a leg he always said but worth it. Good insulation over the limestone. Best there was.”

The old Clinton piano could be seen from anywhere on the first floor, right in the middle, the heart, looked small under the high ceilings. The living room full of sounds of Penny and Harry playing, the corner chair slobbered with some wear and tear. Noticed no curtains on the front window but there was no one outside to see in. He began to feel safe in his new house.

A tennis ball bounced into the kitchen with Penny chasing, mid bounce by the stove. Penny stood firm as Harry tried to tackle her, gave up and hugged her. Harry now looking adventurous about his new surroundings. New framed pictures up on the wall that gave the kitchen new life. Roast beef and gravy and potatoes and peas like little rubber balls, big and green, steamed on the table.

“Good to see Penny likes you,” said Gail, proud of her canine. Penny pushed her wet nose against her hand demanding attention upon hearing her name.

“Dad can we get a dog?” Harry asked, breathless, the tennis ball in his hand. “We always talked about getting one but we never did.” Legge brought his hand to his nose and pondered the idea. Good security for the house. Playmate for Harry.

“Know of a place with dogs for sale?” Harry threw himself at his father, arms outstretched, determined to show how grateful he was. Legge could feel his beating heart. The wood crackled in the woodstove

“There is a kennel that boards bogs. I think they have notices there for people who want to buy.” She patted the rock-hard head and the floppy ears of her Black Lab.

“Maybe we can get a sheep dog,” Harry said.

“And what would its name be?”

“Not Penny” he answered. The aunt laughed.

“He’s a quick kid, that one,” she said.

“Floppy ‘cause it would be floppy at the beginning.” She laughed again.


During the night Harry had a dream, ran into Legge’s room and pulled his arm to wake him. “Someone’s in the house. I saw him with a beard.”


“I think he’s in the other room.” Legge stood up and took his hand, rubbing his eyes. The hall was quiet, the hardwood floor creaking undertow. Flicked on the light to see a computer still unpacked.

“No one here sport. Are you sure you saw someone or was it a dream maybe?” Harry drew his chin in and put on his thinker’s frown, considering it.

“Maybe,” his voice grave. “He looked like a sailor and stank of alcohol. He walked into the room and stood over me.” Hands on the hips. “I should have closed the door.”

Tucked in and with an added wool blanket, Legge closed the door and wondered about the dog.


The morning moist and warm, dried twigs littered after the winds. On the back patio he went to the garage and took out the YAMAHA. Tires full of air. Harry approached slowly, watching how to handle 700 pounds of speed. Half a brake lever missing, the headlight bent. He retrieved the helmet, bright orange, completing the seventies motif. He found Uncle Harold’s riding gloves on the counter.

“Does it go?” Harry licked his lips at the wonder of machinery.

For the entire morning Harry looked at it. Legge wasn’t bothered yet with finding the key so he drank coffee with Gail not discussing the conflict he was working through. Gail brought out sandwiches and placed the motorcycle key beside the plate and a scarf on the chair.

“Just turn the key, switch on the engine and kick start it. Remember to give her some gas.” She pointed at the motorcycle. “Just go slow.”

“The roads will still be wet.” Hand to nose, lifting his eyeglasses.

“No they’re fine. That’s a dry sun today. Be dry in twenty minutes.”

Legge took the key, inserted it, turned the engine switch to ‘on’ and mounted. Kicked down the starter and caught the first try. Vibration sizzled up his spine to his head. Eased the throttle and shot forward on one of the most dangerous motorcycles ever built. Crows flew out of oak tree across at the water’s edge.


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)

4. The part of a garment, esp. of a pair of trousers, that covers the leg.

The motorcycle fit like an old pair of leather boots. The bike heavy and tough to balance, the turns slow and throttle quick. Pickled by an overwhelming accomplishment, heart pumping like a piston, emboldened like a child, dizzy with expectation whizzing down the vacant road.

Through Kagawong he cruised across open plains and escarpment between Ice Lake to Gore Bay. Boardwalk and tennis courts, sailboats and seagulls. He rode through town, houses with third-floor balconies, gardens and cedar hedges. A courthouse built when Jesse James still lived, stone churches with bell towers. Just off the main road behind a realtor office a weathered sign read: SMALL ENGINES AND SERVICE. Some pick-up trucks in various stages of repair, two motorcycles parked beside the entrance. A Quaker State sticker in the window of the open wooden doors.

Legge hung his helmet on the handlebars. A plaque hung crooked, ‘THE WICK’ written in black paint, an image of a burning candle. Faded by the hand of time. Rock music played somewhere inside, two motorcycles side-by-side, one with the seat off and the other a Harley Davidson. The clanging of tools offset with laughter around a corner he could not see. Stepping out of the sun he saw the mechanic. Red toque, white stubble, deep scars along a cheek slightly redder than the other.

“You come in on that RD?” he asked, good cheek showing. “That’s a good bike. Collector’s item. I seen it before. I’m Chuck Patterson, chief mechanic and full-time babysitter for bikers who want to talk shop. Come here to get parts so they can go back home and screw it up. Know what I mean? I tell’em it’s best to stay right here and git it done. Never listen. You a friend of Legge over near Kagawong way?” Rumors and neighbor’s business, loved it like a salmon loves an open stream to spawn. His bread and butter trade.

“I’m his nephew.”

“Yeah. Thought I knew that RD. Rare them bikes.” Fingers too grimy to shake hands. His piece said he bent down to his work.

A skinny man with a white ponytail and beard sauntered around the motorcycle holding a mug of coffee. Sunglasses with bug debris couldn’t hide the heavy lids of his eyes. His jacket Harley Davidson, worn on the sleeves, creased to perfection around the elbows. Face lined from miles of riding, white beard protecting from further damage, fingers browned from smoking, rings on each finger suffocating circulation, his skin scratchy like sandpaper. He drank from a dirty mug and smoked his cigarette slowly, watching Legge from behind the bug guts.

“Morrell ken fix almost anything. The man who knows everything about every bike in the world but he just don’t wanna share it. Comes here and lectures me, like to feel superior.”

“Yer riding Harold’s bike I see,” he said, nasal voice dry as his hands. “Remember when she was without brakes? That Harold lived on the edge, man. Just geared down like a madman whenever he needed to stop. So he chose the roads where he wouldn’t have ‘ta stop! That was his way all right. He had to ride that thing. Loved that bike. You gonna keep care of it for him?”

“He died about a month ago, so yeah.” Morrel and Patterson looked at each other. “I’ll be taking care of it.”

“Good ‘cause they’ll be lots of maintenance on that bike. Fastest two-stroke street bike ever made. Discontinued makin’ ‘em because the kill ratio was so high. ‘Bout 79 they stopped. Can you handle her?” His crooked grin opened to a gum crevice. Legge nodded and looked away to not stare. Legge had never seen a toothless man smile before.

From around the corner a man with mat of red hair, freckles the color of ginger ale, nose a massive patch of red, remnants of a mustache uneven and forgotten in one-piece overalls stained with transmission fluid, burrowed his hands into a massive toolbox. Friendly blue eyes. The whites of his eyes clear and pure like albumin.

“Love ‘ta see that bike still getting mileage.” Smooth Scottish accent revealed in the rolling Rs. “A classic. Modest she is, but strong. You know she has spunk!” He waved his dirty rag at Legge and kept looking for the right tool.

“Mac works on trucks that come in. Poor bugger came here from Scotland, can you believe it? A romance that never worked out. What? Loves the natives so much he stayed. Goes to all the powwows. His place is full of pipes and drums there’s no place to sit.”

“Which you always seem to wreck every time you come over.”

“Surprised he doesn’t live in a teepee.”

“Bloody rat’s ass you are Morrell.”

He and Morrell followed Mac around the corner and saw a massive truck lifted on the hoist, bright light revealing its underbelly like a moonbeam in the night. Each part lying under each other in an array, a mathematical mind manifest on the oil-stained floor. A new gasket still white and unspoiled. Electric heater kept the air hot and made the smell of fuel and grease more palpable.

“You need to store them Indian beads and dream-catchers or getta bigger place.”

“You still owe me an eagle feather. Still can’t believe you sat on it.” There was a serious look in his eye. “It’s not good medicine to sit on an eagle feather.” Shook his head in pity. “Simply boggles the mind. Boggles to think how little you know about the culture right in your backyard.”

“They get too much money for my taste.”

“I’m talking about the culture and he thinks about monthly cheques. Just can’t bridge that gap. Never even been to a sweat lodge and he’s been here his whole life.” Morrell put his mug down on an old telephone book and picked up his gloves.

“You git any problems on that bike you look me up. I’m just outta town. Don’t trust this man with anything more than a flat tire.” Morrell gestured to the garage with bikes half worked-on at various stages of repair. “Never gits done.” Outdated calendar above the tool bench.

“I don’t know about motorcycles,” said Legge. “It runs well that’s all I know.”

“Harold knew that bike like his own son so you should be all right for a little while. Remember to put the choke back in after it starts. And don’t ride the brakes too much. If I were you I’d learn whatcha need ta ride safe here on the Island. Watch out for deer. Lots of bikes comin’ for the summer. Comin’ soon.” Morrell stepped outside to the Harley.

“Ferry just started up,” said Patterson, “so business should be picking up.”

Morrell’s motorcycle started like a charm. His helmet barely covering his head. A family of deer ate from the front lawns of the homes along the road of The Wick.

“Heading to Meldrum today. I feel like riden’ some.”

Legge listened to the sound of the engine down the main road to the highway, stepped out to his bike and reached for the engine switch.


The rest of his first week was spent riding his motorcycle and fixing up his house. Harry settled into his new school to ride out the tail end of the school year. Legge took Morrell’s advice and bought a good map showing every road and even intermittent paths and snowmobile trails. The limestone island shaped like a big trumpet lying on its side full of holes and cracks filled with water. He wondered if it was legal to have so few stop signs with so many miles of roadway. Only one traffic light at the Swing Bridge to the mainland in Little Current; all else wide-open riding and small bridges over rivers and creeks. Culverts functional in ditches, farmland puckered between forests, old barns hanging on in variable degrees of destruction from the elements. Roads designed as if by a motorcyclist: corners engineered with angled precision, wide shoulders to allow for wildlife infringement with the bush cut thirty-three feet from the road’s center line. Danger from deer and turtles and rabbits necessitated careful manicuring of road peripherals, foliage to be cut to prevent frightened animals from blind-siding vehicles. 

Took a break from his ‘research’ on the shores of Evansville, fortifying coffee, reading through The Manitoulin Expositor, the local paper since 1879. Articles on native funding for healthcare centers, local student achievements at school, community events and services a peek into the past: “Community Circle sewing group meeting at the Little Current United Church, Spring luncheon at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Support Group for Women, Parkinson’s Disease Support Group in Mindemoya, Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings every Wednesday and Saturday at the rec center, Alzheimer Support Group, Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps meeting every Monday, Country Music Show at the Tehkummah Triangle Senior’s Hall Saturday at 7pm, art lessons in Gore Bay at the old schoolhouse.” 

Sound of a motorcycle outside parking. Coming through the door Morrell unzipped his jacket, walked to the table, boots hitting the wood floor with authority.

“How’s she goin’? Saw yer RD thought I’d stop in. You getting’ to know the newspaper too eh? Bloody gossip rag.” Shook his head. “See those sections with the gossip?” Legge flustered. Couldn’t remember seeing them.

“Where are they?” Morrell took the paper and laid it open on the table.

“See? ‘Tehkummah Talk and Times’ and “Little Current News, Notes and Nonsense.’ Huh, nonsense is right!” Legge skimmed: weather, music nights, new residents and recent deaths. Very casual writing style.

Morrell snatched it and pointed to a paragraph. Morrell drank hot coffee, sunglasses off. Legge read: ’The light of and in our lives was this Sunday’s sermon. Marilyn Wohlberg was our organist while Elaine was hockey tournamenting in Sudbury this weekend. Next Sunday after church at Fairview our annual lunch at the church before our meeting at 1:30pm. Sandwiches and squares. I’ll make a pot of soup.’ Who writes these?” Showed his gums in all their glory when he smiled.

“One of the many old ladies who live here in the Island,” he said. “They have their little world. Just don’t dip yer toe in that soup! Never git your toe out, I reckon, at least in one piece. Or without being charged with somethin’.” Dry laugh. “Why don’tcha read the euchre reports?”

He found them near the last page. “From Sheguiandah,” he said:

“’Lloyd Taylor won high with 74 points and 6 lone hands. And can you believe this? Terry’s score was even lower than last week (47). Really sad. For the ladies, Maria Willis won high score with 71 and 4 lone hands. Ruth McGregor won low prize with 44. Rick Gjos won the door prize.’

Very local. And how about announcements of new residents?

‘I’m pleased to tell you that our town has three new residents. You may have seen them exercising down at Low Island. The distinctive thing about them is their boots. Aero wears pink and Popeye wears blue. I forgot to tell you these two are canine residents. They come from a warmer place so they need the boots to protect their feet. The sight of dogs wearing boots is so distracting that one driver had to swerve to avoid hitting them. They’re a cute pair and so is their owner, and welcome to Little Current.’

“Hope there isn’t anything about me!”

“Wouldn’t doubt it.” A frank manner to Island life, blunt aspect acknowledging muddy boots, unpolished opinions, rusty snowplows and four-wheel drive ‘duellies.’ Piped to its own rhythm and swam to its own pace. Didn’t even know where Detroit was. No reason. Land of Indian trading posts and Hudson Bay forts, stopover for les voyageurs going west. Never bought into Toronto life. A separate private domain for those who love Nature.


The following week Old Doug dropped by with his truck full. Two beds. Tires crunched over new gravel, packing it down after the morning rain, parked. Limped to the door. Spoke to Legge as if they had been old friends.

“You need some beds?” Voice deep with hardened empiricism. Legge swallowed. Wore sandals and dirty shirt, afternoon nap. “Give me hand, easier with another pair of hands.”

Old Doug, flannel shirt and boots tucked into denims, gloves on. Baseball hat greasy and folded. Wandering eye. Chin carved out of wood, jutting out under his visor. Led with his chin, wisps of hair around the edge of his hat. Loose-legged and gangly, eyes like gray steel, pit bull mean.

“Yer Harry’s son?” Unlatched the back of the pickup.

“Nephew.” Shook hands, his fingers smothered in a vice. Both looked at Legge’s sandals.

“Makes sense. Didn’t think you had the look of him. He was good people, yer uncle. Did what he said he would do, unlike most who talk a good yarn. I hear yer going to run an inn here, well good for you but you gotta git it done. I’ll tell you about me for example. I’m old but still good fer a few years’ more.” Picked up the end of the box spring and waited for Legge to back into the house. Stumbled in his sandals. “Better change your footwear son.” Old Doug balanced the mattress on the new gravel. Legge brought his shoes to the deck.

“Grandfather landed here when theys was opening up land to white folk, bought here 100 acres just across the highway on the south side and farmed it. Early times were tough at first. Relied in the Injuns to give some food late winter. Mainly fish. He was respectful so the Injuns treated him fair. That’s what ya gotta be: respectful. Not like those big cities where everyone’s pissed off all the time. Can’t survive here without yer neighbors. That’s the truth too. Took to cattle and fishin’ mainly. Granddad tried to go out on his own mostly, didn’t like relying on the Injuns or his Christian neighbors. Stubborn like me, but he got it done. Fell through the ice more than one time and lived to tell about it. You don’ wanna go through the ice never. But you keep it simple up here and yer’ do fine.” Shifted his weight from one leg to the other, favoring his right.

Legge felt out of his depth. Soft-kneed, bred on city luxuries, his chin marshmallow compared to Old Doug’s. Shivered at the thought of falling through the ice.

“My folks made it but some don’t. Yer clan is around these parts so you git yerself acquainted with yer history here. I can tell you you got some history here boy. Me and yer uncle used to git in fights at the Saturday night dances. He could throw a punch but so could I. Still can.” He lifted his fist, putting fright in his guts. “But we’z always slap each other on the back and drink a little bit more whiskey and got things right agin. Can’t hold a grudge up here. It’ll kill ya. But things are gettin’ easy now. You gotcher supermarkets now and yer drugstores and clinics. And yer got these reservations that’re spending money everywhere. It was good they closed the train down, left us alone. Ferry’s bringing more people now and there’s more people like you coming up from the cities. More competition for jobs. Government’s tryin’ but not really getting’ it.” Hand cupped his chin, showing a missing forefinger.

“Everyone thought the tourists would bring more money but they’z coming up here and buying properties. Wanna do stuff like fish and ride on their four-wheelers. None of ‘em do any work. Gettin’ more expensive for us all is the only thing they done.

“But it’s them bastards at the MNR that done the most harm.”


“Ministry Natural Resources.” Frowned. “Every chance they got they’re pulling people over an’ countin’ fish, checking fishing licenses, and arrestin’ poor fellas. See, they got quotas themselves and need to fine people, but tourists leave here and they never wanna come back and go through that agin. Bad taste in their mouth you know. You hear what I’m saying? The government wants to do right but their method is for the birds. Ass backwards if you ask me. Huntin’ season is just as bad, pulling people outa their trucks and checking firearms. Random checks Rheinhardt callz it. I call it out of control boy. Too many damn laws if you ask me.” Old Doug waved his finger, a piece of knotted wood.

“My sons got training from the government but they did good by choosing electrician and home building. More houses being built but it’s good ‘cause the Island needs more homes along the shorelines. They done good. One boy is here, lives close to his old man. He’s still lookin’ fer oil. Lots here. That’s why the white man broke the treaty with the Injuns you know. American oil companies were still here when I was a boy. Did find some but not enough. Though I know a few sons-of-bitches that are getting oil without no government knowledge either. Just keep yerself outa their way son and you’ll get on.

“I was in Toronto for a while during the war. Couldn’t fight ‘cause of my damn eye.” Pointed to his glass eye. “Ten years roughly. I got trained in that industrial machinery. Worked construction driving bulldozers. Good pay. We built power plants, overpasses, shopping malls. Too much cement. But sees, that’s the government doin’ trainin’ agin, tryin’ to give the young guy a leg up. Didn’t really work either. Couldn’t git the work here. Went back to what I know. Fishin’. Sellin’ minnows. You can eatcha damn paycheque.”

Lifted the box spring and backed it into the house and up the stairs. Placed it in the small guest room.

“Some people say I only sell minnows but that’s jus’ one aspect. You gotta find sources of money from everywhere, not a single place. A little fishin’ and a little from bait and a little from firewood. Maybe git someone ta work done on yer land. That’s where it all comes from: the land. The fish or the wood or the rent. Real simple. I do most of it myself ‘cause I like workin’ alone. Better that way, unless you get injured and there’s no one aroun’.” Creases appeared on his forehead.

“Right. Real simple.” Took the rest of the beds upstairs and then retired to the driveway again. “Youse wanna beer?” Reached in, removed two bottles of Carling, handing one to Legge.

“Only drink after I done my work. After four.” Raised the bottle and drank. “‘Been thinking that this here old place is good for an inn.”

“For bikers.”

“That’s what Gail said. Lots of ‘em around here in summer. Can’t think of any B&B that serves ‘em. Special breed those ‘uns. They’ll come if youse get yer name out there. Just stay outa trouble with them police and MNR. Jus’ gets worse every time you expose yerself to ‘em. Always git in trouble for nothing. And insurance: you need that. Might need commercial zoning. Who knows? Plenny to do to become li’jit.”

“I don’t mind the police,” his voice suffused with beer.

“Don’t talk to ‘em. Truss me. You don’t wanna know them. If you do they’ll keepa file on ya and know everythin’ you do. Motorcycles can be a dark sort of business and so you keep your nose clean. Keep it clean if you can, son. You got any dark secrets and they’ll come out.”

“Small community here on the Island.”

“Damn right it is.” Drained his beer, looked at Legge’s beer, hardly touched. Cheeks hollowed in the afternoon light. Legge handed him the beer because he thought Old Doug want all the empty bottles.

“You ain’t drank it yet.” Embarrassed, he tried to drink it all down but failed. “Whoa, jus’ keep it and finish it in your own time.” Climbed in his truck. “Living here is all about findin’ yer own time. Don’t let no one push ya ‘round none. They push ya once, they’ll always push ya.” The truck eased down the graveled driveway slowly, stones pinched under wheel.


Harry walked down the driveway after the school bus had dropped him.

“You must be Harry,” said Old Doug, leaning out the window of his truck. “How old are you?”

“Twelve.” Harry’s hands pulled the knapsack tight on his back, studying the unusual face in front of him.

“Good to meetcha Harry. I’m Doug Campbell.” Harry glanced away from the intruding chin. “You liking school?”

“It’s all right. Boring right now though.”

“’Course it’s boring. Better to use the Island as your school. Learn from living in Nature.” He slipped it into drive. “Will sees you.” Light tap of the pedal spun a divot in the gravel, the sound of beer bottles clanging in the back.


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)

5. Math. Either side of a right triangle that is not the hypotenuse.

“There’s a heck of a lot to running a B&B,” said Legge, putting his napkin beside his plate. Stomach protruding, felt the weight of responsibility. Dark horizon appearing on a sunny day, heavy cauliflower clouds whispered uncertainty.

Gail Legge, relaxed in her chair with some cherry brandy in her favorite mug. Penny had run around outside with Harry, now sitting at her feet exhausted. Harry muddied, dirt on his face, full like his father, now entering a food coma.

“When are we getting a dog?” he asked, careful not to sound impatient.

“Where’s that place that has the dog ads?” he asked his aunt.

“Down on Perivale Road. Not far from here. First big farm on your left going towards the lake. Know where that is?” She looked at him closely.

“Perivale? Yes. In Spring Bay.”

“Getting to know the Island a bit more?” Told her about riding and the guys at The Wick.

“Harold spent time there I think. Loved everything about riding that motorcycle. Everything, right down to his jacket and goggles. Have you told those guys about your B&B yet?” Silence answered her question.

“There’s so much that I need to do.” Pleading. “I don’t know where to start.”

“You have the beds and bedding now, and the place is looking cleaner. Might want a second fridge. Lemme know about that.”

“Old Doug was telling me about insurance I need and commercial zoning. I mean where do I get that done? What kind of insurance do I need? How much is this all going to cost? I don’t have much left over after the moving expenses and stuff. I mean I don’t even know much about motorcycling. What am I getting into?”

Gail stood up, inspected the kitchen, taking an inventory of the things that could be moved around.

“Not as difficult as you think. Use the same home insurance as Harold so they have all the information about the house, and just tell ‘em that you need insurance to cover liability for visitors. And the commercial license is from the municipal office in town. It’s easy to put it all aside but you need to do it. School will be out in a month so you should be set up by then. You’re not far from having a functioning guesthouse. Just a few more hurdles and you’re there.” Do it fast and make monumental errors, he thought.

“The authorities will be here knocking on my door asking me for paperwork.” Floundering without a paddle. Politely.

“Put those other signs out on the main road and people will start showing up. Kagawong along the downtown strip and at the highway turn off to Gore Bay. Can you get more signs?”

“I have two more. Bought them at the hardware store. Don’t I need permission to put them up?” Shook her head in irritation.

“You just put ‘em up and don’t make a big thing about it. If someone isn’t happy with them then they’ll tell you, but make it so they look good. Most of the time if it looks good people don’t mind so much.”

“You think the business will be good?” Patted Penny leaning against her knee.

“You have three rooms, maybe four if you use the one on the first floor. Could be busy for July and August. Lots of motorbikers here for those months. It’s the new thing in the last five years. You know anything about fixin’ bikes?” Shook his head, lifted an empty beer to his lips, too afraid to get another.

“I’ll try and learn.”

“Listen, you jus’ make sure you’re ready and they’ll come. No expense to you. You have the rental income from Detroit covering your living costs here. Jus’ don’t think too much about it. Jus’ let it happen.” Penny panted from the patting. “Keep all the money aside but keep some for when you need to declare your income for taxes.” Shadows returned overhead, his face heavy, eyes nervous and scared.

“Dad, when are we going to get the dog?” Harry stood at his arm, leaning against his shoulder.

“How ‘bout the weekend?” Taking on more responsibility at this point seemed foolish. Didn’t know the first thing about raising a dog.

“Cost much these dogs?”

“No, no. Get one for free. But don’t get yourself a wrecked dog, already hurt by bad owners. Get a puppy and teach her. Be kind to it. You got enough land here you don’t have to worry about traffic.” Had thoughts of a big mean dog barking his business away.

“I want to get a puppy.” Looked lonely, forlorn thoughts at facing summer without friends in an unknown land. “I can take care of it Dad.”

“Okay, on the weekend we’ll have a look.” Hugged him and ran outside, followed by Penny.

“You know once you put up a sign on the road you’re in business. You ready?”

“No, that’s my point.”

“I mean mentally. You ready for it – to have strangers into your home? To ask them for money? To serve them?” Shook his head, defeated. Immensity beyond words.

“Listen, it’s just like having me over. No different. Don’t make such a big deal out of it. You make the rules. The fewer the better. People come to the Island to relax. Be comfortable. If you don’t like someone say you’re full. But don’t put those signs up until you’re ready.” Empathy that had been in her heart was turning to impatience. They’re just people, she thought to herself. Be good for the boy.


Patterson on his back changing oil on a mid-nineties Ninja, Morrell having a smoke rubbing his gums together at the entrance. Talked about the poor quality of Japanese screws versus American-made screws, and compared models using the esoteric language of motorcycle experts. Songs from the radio drowned any semblance of comprehension. Legge near Morrell watching him gum.

“Looks like I’ll be running a B&B at Harold’s old place,” he said, nervous. “The Motorcycle Inn. So I need to put up some signs along the road. Have any ideas of a good place for a sign?” Held them up. Morrell stopped gumming.

“You mean for bikers?” Legge nodded. “I never seen that before but I hear ya. B&B sure, you gotta lot of space there, or so it looks like. I never been inside. Them bikers comin’ to the Island now are all sorts. Getting’ yuppies or whatever from Toronto and miners from Sudbury. Even Americans are biking up here. Secret’s getting’ out that it’s good ridin’ here.” Flicked his cigarette outside.

Placed the signs against the wall and took off his coat. Sun warming everything up.

“Good spot just up yonder,” said Patterson, wiping his hands. “High traffic spot at the turn off. Put one on a fencepost but make sure it’s facing the drivers square on. Gets windy here so put in two screws, good size with wide head.” Never occurred to him not to use nails.

“I know wheres yer talkin’.”

“Then you can show him,” Patterson’s halitosis spoiling the moment.

“I’m not yer damn tour guide, and the cops’ll be coming up and down there.” Patterson looked at him.

“You all legal now? Papers in order?” Morrell ignored him. Legge didn’t want to get involved in that conversation, Turned away and stared at Morrell’s Harley. The back tire wide and thick but the front skinny. Handlebars droopy, almost a chopper but not as serious as Fonda’s bike in Easy Rider. Thinking of Easy Rider, Morrell made sense: the jacket he always wore, lined face from riding and thin from lack of eating and too much smoking. Countless miles roaming the Island, unconcerned with proving himself. Without the bike he would implode, slave to two wheels, dreaming of ‘the balance’ during the night, leaning into corners that never end. Let his wife and children go on their way but had kept his motorcycling at maximum. Earnest fruition of self during the hot months, nourishing his patience in hibernation waiting for roads to clear during winter. Obsessed with living twice as hard in half the time.

“Ain’t been legal since my truckin’ days, but I’ll tell you I’m never lettin’ my biking go. Don’t care to go to prison agin but I gotta ride. Y ‘see, spending all that time driving I was thinking how much better it would all be if I was feelin’ that wind and in it more. None of this windshield crap.” Rusted gust from cavernous lungs without the laugh. “Thought I’d get busted sooner or later but didn’ know I’d go to prison. Never truck agin. Okay with that but not the bike. Cops don’t know ‘cause I give ‘em no reason to bother me. Off the radar. Theyz never git me off a bike. Bastards.” Lit a cigarette and spoke, smoke coming out in a cloud of gum and lip and hair.

“Harley’s are loud and they stick out,” Patterson added: “Cops don’t like Harley riders. You’d go to jail for a long time if you get busted.” Morrell raised his chin and adjusted his sunglasses.

“I tried different bikes but the best is the Harley. Jap bikes are like rockets and the old bikes are too tippy. Don’t handle well like the old Nortons and Triumphs, but a Harley has the power you want for those straightaways that beg for speed. No, I found my baby. Not gonna give ‘er up. No sir. Got too much ridin’ to do. Not enough time.”

Patterson started up the Ninja, revved it high.

“You have screws and square head?” Legge too embarrassed to say he had a hammer and nails. Patterson deflected.

“You need your chain tightened. Don’t forget to bring it by sometime over the next few weeks. You don’t want that buckling on ya. Pop the crank shaft off and then yer screwed.”

“Looks okay for now,” said Morrell. Usurped Patterson at every chance. “Give us your square head and some screws.” Waved him to the toolbox where he found them with ease.

“You get yourself some tools for your B&B,” said Patterson, holding up his wrench. “Guys’ll wanna tinker and tighten when they stay over. Ask Morrell for a list of tools you really need. And get yerself over to Needles there in Kagawong and tell Tuttle about it. He gets a lot of business.”

“I got all the tools yer’ll ever need Legge. Don’t you worry about that. Sure I have some extras. Ah, you can pay me with beer. Barter system is best. Need certain things if you’re gonna call yerself a motorcycle inn. Don’tchu worry. We’ll take care of ya.”

“Just as long as you have free beer.” 

“Damn right!” said Morrell, putting the tools under his seat. “Got yer signs?” Legge put them in his knapsack. “Follow me. Ready to stop behin’ me where I pull over. It’s near the cop station so be alert.”

Barely able to manhandle his RD backwards, Legge slipped it into gear with a high clutch rev, leaving Patterson to shake his head at the lack of poise.


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)

6. A stage of a journey or course, esp.: a. Naut. The distance traveled by a sailing vessel or single tack.

Legge left his signs screwed tight on a cedar fence posts selected by Morrell. In Kagawong sailboats and powerboats moored at the docks, owners busy repairing with epoxy and varnish. Café patios peopled, maps spread out and kids running around with toy guns. The lighthouse freshly painted, pristine in its nineteenth-century sheathing. Waterside porches busy with people thawing from winter, hopeful with expectations of summer. Spring runoff had come and gone; time to clean the yard and plant the garden, no black flies yet. Out of winter storage motorcycles left idling, well-oiled engine when it hit the roads. The May long weekend was here and the summer residents had arrived.

A Honda Goldwing with panniers parked at Needles Restaurant near the new Motorcycle Inn sign across the street. Had an arrow pointing down the shoreline to Dragon Head Lighthouse. Legge had an hour before the school bus dropped Harry off. Had to go in; it was business.


Harvey Tuttle, proprietor of Needles Restaurant, looked out from the front porch of the saloon, watched Legge take off his helmet and forgetting to first remove his eyeglasses. Recognizing Harold’s motorcycle, Tuttle saw before him a novice rider yet to have his brush with death. The proprietor had seen his share of death. Liked to think it was because of his extraordinary courage but others might disagree. When young he and a few of the boys would go out as far as they dared in March when ice was still busting up, they had rules to their games. Only after catching your fill were you allowed to take a dare, refusal the quickest way to shame. Proving tougher than their fathers, Tuttle and his friends pushed the envelope and lost a few to stupid dares. Falling into ice-cold water only had to happen once before they knew the power of God’s wrath against youthful folly. Body shaking, teeth clattering as if possessed by the devil. Changed his ways after his brush, sailed some then bought the restaurant, safe and warm and all his own. Liked to think it was dangerous in its own way, but in the back of his mind knew it was as far from ice-cold danger as possible.

Legge walked up the wooden steps under a second-floor balcony, past wooden tables on the porch warped by the wind and snow. A couple shared some wine along the wall, motorcycle helmets placed on seats.  Wood creaked under him when he sat down at the window facing the bay. Old mill of limestone, church and cemetery, overcast sky and beach.

“See the fishermen at the mouth of the river over there?” Tuttle pointed past the old mill, bent menu in the other hand. “Salmon there but you need to know what you’re doing to handle the current. A few years back an Italian was swept out to the bay. Dead in five minutes from the cold. Lost his footing. Poor chappie.” Harvey Tuttle’s neck lined and moist, like soggy sandpaper, but tough as leather, a map of his life. Full head of hair combed back, thick eyebrows fell over his brow into his eyes, sandpaper moustache hiding an unexpressed thought, pain of a disturbing memory. Nose crooked from a past break.

“Salmon?” Face blank.

“The salmon go up the river to spawn,” he replied. Tuttle winked but Legge didn’t know why. Legge unzipped his jacket. Beads of sweat on his forehead.

“What de ya have to drink?”

“Coffee if you have some on,” he said. “By the way, I’m Harold Legge’s nephew, now living at his old place.” Tuttle’s eyes lost under the eyebrows, looking down to the worn floor.

“Hmmm.” Slightly bent, the proprietor straightened his back and returned to the bar. Trout hanging over the counter, a taxidermist’s magnum opus, over three feet long, a mammoth.

“Caught that in seventy-seven when the fishing was real good here,” said Tuttle, returning with the coffee. “Rainbow trout from Lake Manitou. Could hardly hold it up. Call her Lily. The boys liked that one – they wouldn’t let me eat it. Grown kinda fond of it now. Not many that big caught these days. Cost me a case of beer to get it all done up like that.”

“Speaking of beer, that’s my sign out there,” pointing. “Trying to run a B&B down at my place.” Nodded pensively, his eyebrows active, muscles forming at odd angles from a lifetime of squinting.

“It’s an idea isn’t it? We get lots of bikers coming here for the beach and refreshment. I’ll show you.” He followed Tuttle to the counter beside the telephone. A logbook, frayed edges and thick with ink and grime, pages full of past visitors, names and addresses, comments and dates. Tuttle flipped the pages slowly, smelling the paper in its yellowed state.

“Lots of names in here and lots of them come on motorcycles. I know the ones who are looking for a place to stay, especially after a few drinks.” Laughter from deep in his gut, a barbarous yawp from a netherworld, bringing a thousand lines to life. “So when they come again I can tell them about your inn.” A twinkle in his eye. “Beer? It’s four and that’s happy hour.”

“Sounds good,” said Legge. Sat at the bar, flipped through pages.

“Ohh!” grunted Tuttle, bent for the cold beer. “Damn back is the shits. Old injuries never heal right with me. Can feel them all. Too many damn scars. This was from a fall I took on the ice. Hard as cement. Cracked something, disk or vertebrae, but the doctors said they couldn’t do anything. ‘Just let it heal,’ they said. ‘Course I think it’s all healed up after two weeks so I’m out fishing in the hut with the boys and sure enough slipped on the ice again. Whole thing was knocked out a’ whack. Too many beers maybe, but I wasn’t about to go back to the doctor! But it don’t bother me much. Get along okay here.”

“How long have you been doing this?”

“’Bout fifteen years ago now. Quit the sailor’s life I was living. Damn hard to give up. Yep, sailed the Great Lakes all over, all five. Even Superior. Sit here and think about them days, all the places I’ve been to. In my early twenties when I left. My father was sleeping aroun’ and was kicked out of the house so we didn’t have much money. My old man was a plumber. Fished for food when I was a kid. But when I was hired on the boats I started as a deckhand. Moved up to the galley when some Spaniards quit. Oh those Spaniards were hotheaded. The captain got tired of ‘em fighting all the time so he kicked them off in Port Arthur. That’s Thunder Bay now. Stayed on the ships almost 30 years. Damn good life that was. St. Clair River into Cleveland, Lake Superior and the lake head. I remember it all you know. Sent money back to Mom and stayed at sea. The ‘freshwater sea’ we called it.” Sighed. “Needles used to be a meetin’ place for sailors a hundred years ago. Upstairs was an inn. Changed it into an apartment. Pays the bills.” Motioned to the RD. “You been riding long?”

“A few weeks.”

“Careful on that thing. Where were you before?”

“Detroit. My family’s from here but I’ve never been ‘til recently.” Sipped from his mug of beer.

Eyebrows burrowed hiding his eyes from view. “I know the Legge clan. Everyone has a story, eh?” Flushed, unsure if there was a story.

“Was thinkin’ of getting’ me one of them bikes when I retired from here but the rate I’m going I’ll never leave. Keeping with my boat. Want to see it? It’s at the dock there.” Brought their mugs and stood on the porch.

“That’s The Scimitar, the old sloop. Has been through the whole gamut that one. She’s tested her mettle on the high seas out there. The North Channel is no small potatoes, gotta respect her. Fished out there for years.” Thoughts of cold water and hidden rocks.

“I like the look of it but I don’t know a lot about boats.”

“120 diesel horses, heart inverter, chart plotter, teak floors. Even have GPS now. The bastards. Can handle her share of fish. Trout, pickerel, whitefish, bass, never go hungry on a boat lemme tell you. Gotta like the life though. And hitting rocks is part of it. She’s been torn before but that’s part of the life on a boat, just like falling off your motorbike. Just part of it. But don’t be stupid. Then you can go as far as you want.” Tuttle looked dreamy. “Got her from Old Doug down the street. Had too much history with her. Wanted to start fresh I think.”

“What history?”

“Had some history with his sons Kyle and Thomas on that.” With slit eyes squinted at the North Channel beyond the bay.

“Young lads have a long history of doing foolish things and Old Doug’s sons were no different. Old Doug had always warned them to be careful out there. Told ‘em the Indians seldom took it as a transportation route because it was open to squalls coming from the prairies in the west. Too unpredictable they said. But of course the sons don’t think twice about it and look at it as something to do to prove their old man and them Indians wrong. Old Doug always told them to mind the wisdom of the Indians, that there was always a good reason for their rules. Only a fool and a dead man crosses an Indian he always said. Want to sit?” Legge sat across from him at the wooden table with the warped countertop.

“So one day Kyle and Thomas, who were always gung ho for a go in The Scimitar, take her out some time in June and got caught in a gale that come out of nowhere. This was a while back when regulations and weather forecasting wasn’t as good as it is today. Like a hurricane they said, 30-foot waves. An American sailboat still here after the race from Mackinaw in Michigan was smashed against rocks near Sextant Point after being dislodged from its moorings. Terrible gale that tossed her around like a toy. One of those fluke storms you hear about when talking history of the Great Lakes. Edmund Fitzgerald in 1973 and all that. When they happen you feel you’re in a great tub full of bouncing water spun with winds of 40 knots. Have you ever been in a storm on the water Mr. Legge?”

“No, thank God.”

“The crashing of water and whirring of the wind stay in your nerves forever. Can never hear those sounds without reliving the horror of being at the mercy of God. Sends a shiver down you every time.

“So they were in the strait when the waves pushed them against the rocks at Maple Point. The impact threw Thomas in the water and the waves smashed him into the boulders that split his head open. Nothing anyone could do. Happened just like that. Changed Old Doug after that. Hasn’t ever got along with Kyle since that day. Being the older one he blamed Kyle for lack of good judgment and disobeying him. Old Doug just never forgave him.”

The school bus drove by heading for the lighthouse.

“My son is getting back from school in that bus that just went by.” Legge stood up to go.

“Ah, just as well. I have to get back to work. Good meetin’ you Legge.”

At his motorcycle Legge saw her. Small woman in a pea coat, walking on the road beside the water, hands in her pockets, moving slowly. Long brown hair manhandled by the shore breeze. Boots high up to her knees as if expecting a flood. Waved to each other then both looked the other way. He guessed she was a local.


He and Harry walked past an old barn; old appliances and a rusted bathtub beside the house with weeds grown into the crevices. A tractor parked at the side door, rain barrel full and bent, mud splattered at its base. A shaggy Sheppard ran around the house barking, followed by a pack of dogs and puppies. At the front door a wooden sign: Dogs for Sale, Inq. within. The Sheppard approached, its tail wagging, tentative. A black and white puppy jumped on Harry’s leg, bounced off and jumped again. The puppy’s eye injured.

A boy looked at them with torn shoes and jeans worn with holes. The face tired, injured, a bearer of secrets. Said something that was lost in the cedar boughs.

“We ain’t charging nothin’ for that ‘un,” said the boy, who had followed them, holding a long stick.

“Why’s that? The eye?”

“Yep. We were gonna put her down ‘cause nobody wanted her. Sold her brothers and sisters all right, but not her. People only want the pretty ones. Kinda unkind in that way. But she was just as pretty before her eye got wrecked.” Eyes brooding, senses alert.

“Is she all right? Can she see out of the eye?” Friendly and playful, liked Harry. White paws and chest, small head. A few months old. Maybe the eye will get better. Legge rubbed his nose hard.

“Dunno. Think she can. Cut her eyelid on a branch we reckon so maybe she can see. Looks like it doesn’t bother her none. Always been happy that one. Maybe that’s why she got nipped,” said the boy, his voice solemn. “She’ll make a good pet for someone if she finds someone to feed her.”

“Who’s the father?” he asked, looking at the dogs. “The Sheppard?”

“You got that right mister. He’s the alpha male. He gits it all. His stick is always wagging, that’s for damn sure. And the mother’s right there.” The boy pointed at a black and white border collie, same coloring as the puppy.

“She doesn’t cost anything. What do you think Harry?” The puppy still pawing his leg, falling in the grass.

“We can’t keep too many here so we was gonna put her down, but if you’re interested then maybe we can hand her off to you.”

“No, don’t put her down,” said Harry.

“She’s a Sheppard-collie mix but she looks all border-collie to me, just like her Mom.” The boy came closer, teeth mossy. “Collie’s are the smartest of ‘em all. And loyal. Treat her good. No hittin’. Just smother her with your body if she’s bad. Only do that once or twice though. She’ll know after that. But no hittin’. A collie never forgives you. Too smart for that.”

“Can we get her Dad?” Couldn’t say no to what was in those eyes. He shook the boy’s hand. The boy’s shirt was deeply stained and shiny from the dirt, ripped at the neck.


“Naw, so you need to git her done,” said the boy, embarrassed. “Might have worms.”

He and Harry in the front seat, hands patting the puppy, already smothered by love. Approaching Gore Bay he wanted to drop by The Wick to buy some extra motor oil and chain lube for his guests, rain hammering the top of the van. The collie oblivious to the weather, asleep on Harry’s lap.


Cruised into The Wick, green doors ajar, letting rain wet the floor. Both mechanics there, Patterson dazed from fumes that filled the room. Tinkered with a gas valves and revved it high. Mac organized his tools in the corner, and pouring sawdust into a pail.

“The Legge man. No biking today? Just a wee bit of rain,” said Mac, smiling at the puppy. Harry followed his father into the garage.

“Have a new member of the family. Just got her.” Mac picked her up in his big hands, put his face into hers.

“Wee pup this one is.” Tiny against his bulk. “Oh, you have a bad eye. Do you have a name for her?” He looked at Harry. Engine now idling high, exhaust wafting into his nostrils.

“I thinking I’ll call her Manitou,” said Harry, absorbed in his thoughts.

“Smart kid Legge. I like it. The Great Spirit will be close to you at all times. Good medicine as the natives would say.”

The engine stopped. In the silence Patterson’s voice: “Is that a dog I saw in my shop?” Sweaty and mantled, standing over Manitou. “It better like motorcycles or it’s not allowed in here.”

“Her name is Manitou,” said Harry, bold with an emerging chin. “She’s my dog.”

“Well does she like motorcycles?” Harry considered her for a moment.

“She’s happy in here so yes, she does like motorcycles.”

“She’s a border collie isn’t she? Those white paws. Collies are good dogs.”

“Be good in a canoe,” said Mac. “Balance themselves after a few minutes on the water. Great thing to see, I’ll tell ya.”

“Yep, if ya train ‘er she’ll be a good one.” Smoke from his cigarette swirled around his eyes, grease smudged on his cheek. Stepped back to the carburetor.

“I’ll tell ya, get yourself a canoe, and she’d be a good companion to you. I’ll tell ya straight. Collies are the right size for a canoe, smart with good balance. Fiberglass 18-footer with room for two, that’s all you need. Camp wherever you want around here as long as it’s within sixty-six feet of the water’s edge. Thousands of miles to paddle if you wanted. Need a good dog for that, and now you have one.”

“I want to get a canoe,” said Harry. Patterson looked over, his eyes puffy from smoke.

“You and your canoeing Mac! The point is you got security now Legge. Need it for the inn. Need something. Can’t just be sittin’ there like bait. Gotta have something to protect yerself. You make that dog work for its food, hear me? Gotta be tough on the little thing so it knows right off the bat what’s what and who’s boss. Don’t go waitin’ aroun’ for training that comes too damn late. Teach her with a few commands to begin, then she’ll get the hang of it. You don’t want no Pit Bull or Doberman guarding a friendly inn so it’s good you got yerself a smart one. You take care of it young man. You hear me?”

Harry nodded, serious and august.


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)

6.b. The part of an air route or a flight pattern between two consecutive stops, positions, or changes in direction.

Gail chilled to the bone under her sweater, the woodstove off and air cool off the water when he walked in the house. Her face stoic, a melancholic tinge. Penny loyal at her feet.

“Has something happened?” he asked. Penny looked up with droopy eyes, devoted.

“Where’s Harry?” Voice languid.

“Outside. Is everything all right?”

“It’s nothing. Just thinking of some things, that’s all. Thought I’d come here and see Harry.” His aunt bent and broken, leaning on the table. Stoicism ran deep in the Legge clan. Found a bottle of whiskey in the cupboards and poured two.

“I heard from old Doug’s son Kyle and he’s willin’ to fix up your garage if you want. I told him you wanted it done before it fell down.” She drank the whiskey in two swallows.

 “Has he seen it?” Skeptically.

“Oh he knows this house. Been here lots of times. Knew Harold pretty well. Knows just what to do too. Needs some more support along the walls for the overhanging beams he said. Has all the tools. Shouldn’t cost too much. Happy with a couple hundred plus a case of beer at the end of the day.” She poured herself another whiskey. He listened to his aunt, distracted.

“Said he could come anytime next week. Might as well get it done now before people start coming by. He’s as fair as they come that one. Got that from being fourth generation Islander. Fair play or off you go! Knows his boats Kyle does. Lives on those boats all summer, as much as he can. Doesn’t like the land they say. Got water in his veins, sea legs like his daddy. Fighter too. No messin’ with neither of them. Never win a fight against a Campbell. Law of nature I reckon.”

Gail leaned back, letting her hands relax, cheeks colored. Harry walked in with Manitou in his arms, a bur of white and black like the underside of a bird’s wing.

“And who is this?” she said, eyes widening.

“Manitou. We just got her,” said Harry, proud like a father.

“Manitou! What a lovely name. Is it a boy or a girl?” She picked her up.

“A girl.”

“You have quite a responsibility mister,” she said, waving her finger in mock sternness. Harry wide-eyed, sitting at the large table. “She’s just like the one we had as kids. I was about your age when we got Amy. She was the apple in my eye, my favorite friend for a long time. You treat her good and she treats you good back. That’s how it works. You understand?” She wouldn’t let Harry look away until he acknowledged.

“Make sure she eats as much as she wants for the first six months, and always make sure she has water. Most important. You’ll see, puppies are always hungry. That’s how we done it way back.” Penny sniffed her new cousin, postured and wagged her tail. “Good to see Penny has another dog to play with. Maybe you can help me walk Penny sometimes if you’re already walking Manitou. My knees aren’t as good as they should be you know. I’m getting up there in age. No spring chicken anymore.”

Gail Legge poured herself and Legge a double, and gazed through the sliding glass doors at the dock.

“Kyle could probably fix up that dock too while he’s at it. Need a working dock here.” Remembered Tuttle’s voice.

The dogs barked at the sound of a truck in the driveway. Sound of boots crunching gravel, lazy pace, then a knock on the door.

“Legge old chap. How are you?” Mac came in, frilled native jacket, bandana hiding his mop of red hair, moccasins on his feet. Noticed Gail. “Didn’t know you had company. I’m Mackenzie.”

“Gail Legge,” she said, hand firm.

“Pleasure Gail. Hope I’m not interrupting something.”

“No, not at all. Pull up a seat.” Voice waning. Handed her a bottle of Pelle Island red wine. Patted Legge on the back like old friends.

“Thought I’d drop by since I was in the area,” he said, voice like thunder. “Liked talking canoes with you the other day. Thought I’d bring one by to see if you’d like to use her for a while.” Legge sat up in his chair.

“You brought a canoe?”

“I have three canoes so don’t worry about me. I heard your place was on the water so I thought if you didn’t have one you should. Your shoreline is good for paddling. Good push-off spot I’d say. Was thinking you could use it.” Gail smiled.

“Have some whiskey.”

“Ah! Irish wine. I’m partial myself. Love a wee dram. Ever know a Scotsman to refuse a drink?” Harry and the dogs walked in. Mac patted Manitou when she jumped on his leg. “Love this dog I do.” Told Harry about the canoe, who ran outside to look.

“Nice of you to bring the canoe. Are you sure though?” Beholden now, obliged and in the red.

“Oh yeah, no problem. Thought if it was here you could use it, give Manitou her sea legs and Harry some time on the water. There’s nothing like a canoe. No sound, no motor or fuel. Just the soft splashing of the paddles and calls from birds along the shore. Beats anything else in life if you ask me. Skimming the surface of a lake silent and safe and fully stocked with food and a tent and a dog, how can you beat that? You Canadians have it all right here at your fingertips. So many forget to use it. Never understand that. Brilliant canoeing around here. Best in the world some say.” Gail stood up.

“Well I’m going to look for my dog and then cook up some dinner. I’ve had a long day and I need something in my stomach. Hungry Mackenzie?” Wondered if the bandana could contain all that hair for much longer.

“I’ve had my tucker m’am but I might sneak a few pieces of whatever you’re serving.”

He and Mac went outside to check the canoe in the back of Mac’s pick-up truck. Red with some cracks repaired with white fiberglass, wood gunnels with meshed leather-strapping, rope and paddles, weathered by water but the wood strong.

“It all hit me only when I started to live here, the canoeing. So much water waiting to be explored. How did the red man get around before the Europeans? Canoe. When I breathed in the scent of the water it was so much different than Scotland. This here is drinking water, clean as it gets. You know this island is full of springs? That’s why there are so many lakes.” Brought it to the lakeshore. Legge and Harry squatted beside it and listened to Mac.

“I always paddle slowly for full effect. You’ve been out on one before?” His hand to his nose.

“I have.” Just a white lie.

“Good, then you know how to handle her. Don’t get caught out too far. Hug the shoreline as much as you can. I’ve been up and down these here shores for the last ten years, since I arrived here. See beaver and otters and fish jumping out of the water. Almost land in the boat! Great feeling, nothing better than I can think of.”

“Amazing,” said Harry. “We have a canoe so can explore!”

Gail brought dinner and whiskey down to them. “I’ll take a little more,” said Mac, holding his cup out. “If you have it handy.” Gail, with lips pressed firmly together, executed superbly. Presentation neutral, heart forty years in the past, distracted. Mac nipped from his cup letting the amber liquid coat his mouth.

“I’ve been spending my free time exploring in my canoe. Throw’s you back to the days of les voyageurs and even the Jesuits. Paul Rageneau and his mission at Ten Mile Point. No one talks about it but it was all here, 1648 to 1650. During those two years Manitoulin Island was the farthest outpost of European exploration north of Virginia. It closed only because the Jesuit mission in Huronia was stopped after the martyrdom of Brebeuf and the other seven.”

“Read a book did you?” said Gail, eyes relaxed with an ironic grin.

“I did indeed Miss Legge. How else am I going to know about this unusual location in the middle of the world’s largest reservoir of freshwater? We Scots have our history but so do you here since Champlain made his stand in Quebec. The British move up here and fortify after the Revolution in 1776, push out and contain the French and join forces with the natives. The stronghold of power was the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. It’s beautiful when you think about it.”

Gail finished her drink, patted her dog and listened sleepily to Mac.

“I go on canoe trips during the summer since I started living here. Lots of mileage. Took my Molly, that’s what I call her, across to Killarney Provincial Park. Rocks like you’ve never seen them before, ancient Precambrian shield. I wanted to canoe down to Tobermory but there’s something scary about that current around Fitzsimmons Island. Ferry traffic I don’t know. Kept north. It’s all accessible from right here. This dock is your home address to the world’s waterways.

“My ex-fiancé was a canoeing maniac so she had something to do with my initial involvement, but I knew before I landed it was a vehicle I wanted to master. I just never knew how beautiful it was. I’ve never lived off the land, but with a tent and some food sleeping by the shore is a total immersion in nature. Swim with beavers and watch them dive under you for five minutes and then reappear beside you. You’re lucky to be Canadian. I always say that but you have a lot here mate.”

“You’re not wrong there Mackenzie,” she said. “Good of you to see it.”

“On the rivers and lakes with its nooks and bays, just you and Mother Nature. Quiet and calm, violent and rough, you can’t help but see it up close. It is life as it was before civilization, before castles and bridges and motors, when it was on bedrock, the starting point, ground zero as the Yanks would say. That life is just off this dock. Go anywhere for a thousand miles, or if you think about it: anywhere in the world.” Mac poured himself more whiskey. Gail’s eyelids closing.

“Do you want to stay over aunty?” he asked. Gripped her empty cup and stood.

“No thanks, no, I’ll be going now. Where’s that dog of mine. Penny!” Once found, they left.

“Have one,” said Mac, filling his cup.

“Dangerous though, the water.”

“There’s always danger to an adventure. Look at motorcycling.”

“But with a motorcycle you can stop when there’s a storm. You can’t on a boat. You fall overboard and smash against the rocks.” Mac registered the reference.

“You heard about it then, the mystery of Old Doug’s sons?”

“Heard about old Doug’s boat history from Tuttle down the road. Went on about the son’s death and his beef with Kyle.”

“Tuttle, he’s quite the character.”

“You said ‘mystery?’”

“The mystery surrounding the smashed skull. Makes you wonder what happened to crack a man’s head open. Must have been a brutal wind. Always windy here on the island.”

“He said it was cracked on the rocks. Didn’t say anything about any mystery. He fell off the boat into the water and was thrown against the rocky shore. That’s it.”

“My word, he missed out on the most compelling part. So!” Mac lifted his hand above his head and gestured to the water. “As far as I’ve heard it told, some think the crack on the skull was from something sharp, like an axe. Wasn’t blunt enough to be the rocks. And how did he fall overboard? Why wasn’t he inside the cabin with Kyle? There were rumors that they had been fighting that weekend and that it had something to do with a girl. Now no one really knows but at the time there was talk about why Thomas had fallen overboard. And it wasn’t Kyle who found the body. It was a volunteer part of the search party.

“It was quickly ruled an accident and there was no investigation into Kyle’s possible negligence. If they did have a fight that day, who is to say if he didn’t kill him and throw him overboard and hope the wolves got him on the shore? All in a fit of rage. Who knows? But it made some people uncomfortable, people whispering and talking behind his back. There’s a hush every time he goes to the bank. Nothing proved but the whispers still come. Thomas still had his shoes on.”


“So if he was alive in the water and struggling against the waves wouldn’t he have removed his shoes? Morrell is convinced Kyle killed him. Goes on and on about it.”

“Sounds like Morrell.”

“So Old Doug doesn’t talk to him to this day. Must be a reason for that. Maybe old Doug believes he murdered his son, like Cain and Abel right out of the Bible. The thing was they could never find the murder weapon, no axe was found. But Kyle could have thrown it overboard anywhere out there. Who’s going to dive along the bottom and look? No one that’s who.” They listened to the gentle sound of the water like lips on sand and rock.


Gail Legge looked bravely into the north winds that harassed the boughs above her. Stood near the sand dune that defined the corner of the cemetery, sun only half shining through the hazy sky but already dry and smelling of pine needles. The tombstone a rounded arch, granite, durable. The knoll stirred with a circular gust caught by overgrown cedars crowding the perimeter. Hand shook as she placed her palm on the cold granite.

“You were a good man Benny, taken too soon from this earth. I cry inside when I think of what mighta been. But we had it good when you were with us, had that mischief that kept things fun. That’s what I miss Benny.” Eyes wet.

“We lost Harold this year. He never apologized for what he did to you. He went to his grave without coming clean. God rest his soul. You would like Harry. Named after Harold. Maybe he’ll lay down some roots here. Sorta think he has something that needs to get out.” Thought of the family she never had and cried. Shoulders collapsed and wept into her scarf. Anguished and reverberating.

After some time she stood and wrapped her tear-stained scarf around the gravestone, tying the ends together with a firm knot.


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)

6.c. One of several contests that must be successfully completed in order to determine the winner of a competition.

The sky a deep blue, barren of a single cloud, the sun magnified by water. A synergy of light. Thick forest infringed the integrity of the garage, decrepit wood, bent and broken pieces with patches of new shingles, an old camper on sawhorses waiting patiently to be used again.

Saturday morning when most of Kagawong was at church, he and Harry cleared debris and old lumber away from the walls of the garage.

“Are we leaving everything inside?” asked Harry, frowning.

“I think everything can stay. He’s going to rip off the old roof and put new shingles on. And fix that.” Pointed at the buckled corner, wood rooted at the ground.

“He can fix that?”

“Hope so.”

“What about the sides. Are you going to paint them?” Hand on the weathered wood.

“Yes, but I haven’t figured out what color yet.”

Kyle pulled up in his pick-up truck with a ladder sticking out the end, music playing loud.

“You must be Legge. Good to know you. Hear you have some work for me?” Big man, arms twice the size of Legge’s, the Campbell chin and bull neck, eyes dark and darting. Smelled of fishing tackle and bait. Gloved hands the size of a football.

“Kyle, good you came. We have a garage in need of repair.” Kyle easily a hundred pounds heavier.

Surveyed the garage. “Definitely needs a new roof.” he said. “Let me see this.” He walked to the buckled corner, his huge hands exploring the break in the joint. 

“Got a break in the two-by-six where it meets the supporting beam. Seen this before. Doesn’t look like a problem. Need to reinforce here with two pieces of two-by-four angled against this piece here, and maybe some added support there with some well-placed brackets. Strong’uns though. No sense puttin’ on a new roof and having the thing fall over in a big wind.”

After surveying the patchy roof, with the ladder from his truck climbed onto the roof and pinpointed a hole at the stovepipe exit. Looked massive twenty feet above. When he came down from the roof he leaned against his truck.

“It’s good ‘cause I have my nail gun. She’s a beaut. Pop those nails in no problem. My uncle owns the hardware store in Little Current so I get to try the new toys. Discount. Used to work there in the summers when I was at school.” Had the same Campbell chin but none of the wrath of his old man.

Just then Gail pulled up.

“Brought some fresh deli stuff for brunch. Kyle, good see you’re here,” spunky in her long wool sweater. “I’ll put on some coffee so you boys can get to work. Even brought some croissants from the bakery. Harry, why don’t you come in and help me. I have some goodies for you too.” Gail and Harry went into the house.

“So what color do you want for your roof? Dark green like your house?” he asked.


“I can pick some up tomorrow. Think I can get a good price. My uncle comes in handy when I do odd jobs like this.”

Harry came out with two cups of coffee. “This is tricky,” he said, balancing without spilling.

“Good job son.” He took the mug from Harry, hair disheveled in the wind.

“These croissants are good with the coffee,” said the aunt, finishing her second. “Can’t beat Mum’s Bakery. Everyone goes there for a reason. Big portions.”

“Serve a good breakfast,” said Kyle. “Those mornings you want something substantial to keep you warm, go there and have the full breakfast. Put you in business for week.”

After lunch he and his son let Kyle rip the shingles off with a pitchfork in peace and went down to the dock. Both eyed the canoe still on land, too timid to put in the water. So they both cleared the path to the water and rocks around the dock, adding a new leg.

When the sun began to lower Kyle came down to the canoe with a few beers, his face wet, marked by shingle dust, gloves wet from sweat, lumberjack jacket his solution to the water’s chill. Gail seated on the porch, a clear view of the dock. Harry did everything but touch the canoe. Forbidden fruit, too dangerous for hands not yet worthy of the task. Galahad not yet.

The fresh smell of marine life. Drank beer listening to water slapping legs of the dock.

“You canoe much?” Kyle eyed the red canoe with two paddles neatly lying next to it.

“Not yet. Just got it. Haven’t had the chance yet.”

“Get to it man. Nothing stopping you.” Looked at Harry. “No MNR patrols to worry about this far west. They tend to patrol inland lakes more.”

A purple hue reflected off the water as the sun fell off the end of the earth, the quiet dark of the water replaced the sparkle of day. Only Dragon Head Lighthouse marked the shore, its red light twitching with regular beats. A wave reaching shore drowned the cry of a loon.

Kyle gone for the day, the aunt held court in the temple kitchen, ceiling 15-feet high, playing backgammon with Harry. The woodstove heated with a scent of Maple.

“’Been playing this game for years. Thought I’d teach young Harry to play,” she said. “Used to play your father when he was about Harry’s age. Went through a phase we played it almost every night one summer. Didn’t have a television growing up, probably a good thing though I reckon. Backgammon and cards, only a few games. Good for two people.” Rolled the dice with a flourish of the hand, many years expertise coming to the fore. Harry observed, eventually developing his own rolling technique.

“See? Harry’s getting the hang of it. It’s all in the wrist. Gotta throw good dice to win. Need a good roll of the hand to even have a chance to win. That’s the way of it. Need good dice.

Lured by Manitou, he lost interest against the unbeatable Gail Legge. Wasn’t any fun. Her eyes became dark, lips thin as paper. His puppy had precedence over backgammon with his aunt.

Harry played in the upstairs hallway, throwing a tennis ball down the hall, the puppy retrieving it. Downstairs in the kitchen Gail slurped whiskey in her favorite cup.

“The dice sound good when they’re shaken in these things,” said Legge, picking up the leather shaker.

“These cathedral ceilings, that’s why.” Twinkle in her eye returned. “You like the sound do you?”

“Pass me a cup and let’s play. You might have the Legge backgammon gene.” Pout gone, pieces assumed their positions, a silent army waiting for the order. The orders hidden in the dice. Cricket songs coming in through the screen window.


Woken by pounding in his heart, a dream of being outside in the morning dew. Standing over a dead body, blood oozing from a bullet wound in the chest merging with the dew. Remained under the blankets, listened in silence, a ray of light hitting the windowpane, over the water the sky brightened the color of pink champagne. Only the sound of seagulls calmed his heart, coming from beyond the forest, the link between him and the wilderness he wanted to follow to make one.

Slipped on his denims, threw on his hiking shoes and left for the cool morning air, following the sound of the seagulls. Disappeared behind a tree to relieve himself, shivering for a moment under the cedar, and discovered an old trail leading into the woods. Overgrown and unused, the trail bent its way east under a boreal canopy of maple and popular, spruce and cedar, keeping his hand in front for old cobwebs connecting spruce branches gnarled with knots, gray and brittle, bare of needles. Butterflies multiplied when he reached an opening, white, blue, purple and red. The sound of a creek urged him forward in a burst, breaking a branch and scraping his hand drawing blood. Beside the creek a hunting shack with only one standing wall, guidepost to hang slain deer to drain.

A beaver dam had flooded most of the land around it. New growth cedar groves grew out of the wetlands, a broken snake fence sunken into the water. Soaked his feet across the beaver dam, followed the water to the shore. That’s when he saw the jar.

An old moonshine jar covered in yellowed weeds and wildflowers, its handle still unbroken. Legge rubbed the neck until he saw writing on it: Broken Leg Whiskey. The cork dried and cracked. When he emptied it nothing came out. Bone dry. Found another jar a few feet down crumpled over and broken. He left the good jar there in the woods and took the trail home, past poplar patches and knotted spruce boughs, rigid like knives sharp enough to cut skin like a knife through cotton.

In a clearing he watched a man in a boat slow down in front of the dock, looking at the house. Old boat, wide and shallow in the bow, circled at low throttle, fifty feet out. A lumberjack jacket under a down vest and baseball cap was all he could see, red flag fluttered attached to the windshield. Water quiet and calm and bright until it turned back into the rough waters of the North Channel.

Legge picked up pace on his way back, used a stick to break the nasty spruce twigs threatening all who passed. Wanted to come this way again. His own piece of nature in this world.


“Looks like you found one of the trails,” said Gail, eyes puffy from the night before. The thick smell of coffee hung like chocolate, the sun shining off the aunt’s hair combed strictly off the forehead. Harry scooped large mouthfuls of porridge covered in a brown-sugar mess, milk brown up to the rim. 

“Had a call from Kyle. Says he can’t come today. I had a look and there’s only a small part left. You might want to take a crack at it. Said he left his tools inside the garage. Ladder looks like it’s still leanin’ ‘gainst the roof. Looks okay to go from what I can see.” He had his share of fears but his fear of heights was the strongest. Wondered if she could see the horror on his face. He felt wetness on his forehead confronting the real possibility of pitch-forking shingles off the roof’s edge facing a ten-foot abyss. Poured some coffee and went out to ponder the task.

From the ladder looking up, the roof had a hefty pitch for snow to fall off easier. Couldn’t stop thinking about slipping on loose tarpaper and sliding down. Finished his coffee and climbed with pitchfork in hand, dizzy from dread. At the edge of the roof his legs shook the ladder until it clattered against the garage. Only by going up could it be stopped. Pushed off from the ladder just as it moved, leaving it askew. Foot gripping the few shingles that remained he darted up to the apex, straddled both sides with each foot, legs shook like leaves in the wind. Had to crouch. Back pain and trembling arm.

Around the stovepipe a ring of shingles and along the lip in the corner. Would have to face down to pry them off. Crouched low and threw the pitchfork at the remaining shingles, unsteady on his feet. Didn’t look beyond the edge. Dug the pitchfork blades under the last row of shingles and shimmied them loose. Pulled the pitchfork back nearly fell ass overhead. Sent a shockwave through him, left leg shaking.

He was able to get a row off before he took a break, rubbed his hands and massaged his lower back. Moisture from waves splashing against the dock washed up in intermittent sprays through the poplar patch, tops rustling in the wind speaking a language only the wind God understood.

On the edge of the roof he guarded against overshooting his pitchfork, his left foot aching, the odds against gravity thinning as fatigue grew. Scraped and clawed until the only remaining shingles were around the ladder. Muscles long dormant screamed for mercy but the remaining few were a point of pride. Harry watched silently.

 Attacked the last of the roof until he forced the ladder off with one mighty blow, it falling on the driveway, loud whap scaring nearby birds. Stranded without a lifeline back to safety.

“Son could you put the ladder back please?” 

“Sure Dad.” Harry picked up the end of the ladder but was too weak to push it up so he dragged it around until it leaned against the wall. Pushed it up but the ladder was upside down, rungs slanting the other way.

“Is it in the same spot on the ground?” Harry stubbed his toe against the bottom rung, the angle now level with the ground.

“It’s in the same spot”

“Okay I’m coming down.” Reached for the ladder slowly putting his foot on first rung but couldn’t turn. Harry held the rope to the ladder, realizing he needed to hold the ladder. Not knowing where to throw the rope before he could hold the ladder, just then Legge swung around putting his weight on the second rung. The base of the ladder jerked backwards six inches until it caught. Legge’s foot went flying in the air at an odd angle and came down on the outside of the ladder, curled around the metal, clinging for life. Foot started to slip down, muscles raw, then caught the edge of the ladder with a toe inside on the next rung. Ladder thumped but didn’t slip anymore.

“Could you?” he said. Legs shook, tight from prolonged strain, shaking the ladder. Threw the pitchfork onto the driveway, took a breath and descended. On terra firma, he blinked at his son in bewilderment, stunned by how close gravity had come to pulling him down.


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)

6.d. Sports. One stretch of a relay race.

The canoe covered the water in efficient grace protected by the tree line but out in the bay the stern was blown away by the oncoming wind. It disobeyed the commands of his paddle. Couldn’t straighten no matter how hard he tried. Winds slapped it around like balsa wood. Tried to dock but scratched the gunnels. Back-paddled to shore. From the dock he looked at it, the scratches making it his own now. Pulled the bow by a rope around the end of the dock to launch into the big waters. Figured an onshore breeze would only blow him back to shore so he couldn’t get whisked out to sea.

Steadied himself on the seat, pushed off from the dock the stern into the wind and drove his paddle deeply through the water generating power. Nose rose against the waves. Steered it with choppy paddling to the open waters where he could see the lighthouse and the wide mouth of the bay. Stroked until he found his rhythm, like an old Indian spirit that had once dwelled in a past life. Looking back saw the Legge homestead majestic on the knoll above shore. This was where he wanted to be, he thought, on the water looking back to land. Relaxed in the canoe letting it be pushed toward the lighthouse. When he turned the canoe he caught the current and rode the waves into shore. Used his paddle as rudder to steer towards shore. Surfed a perfect balance between the two forces, floating in a moving oasis swirling with freshwater.

Hull skidded lightly onto the sandy shore beside the dock and pulled the canoe onto dry land. With shoes soaked and aching back, sat cross-legged beside his canoe looking at his blistered fingers and thought there had to be an easier way. Need Harry in the stern.


“That’s what it is. You need a second person in the front,” said Morrell, outside the doors of The Wick. “It’s a two-man canoe. You got two paddles so use ‘em. Steadier in the wind. Give yer boy some experience too. Gotta start some time.”

“I don’t know if I’m good enough to take on that responsibility,” he said.

“Be easier than with one. You gotta try on a calm day.”

“I don’t have a life jacket.”

“That don’t matter if he can swim,” said Morrell, laughing. “But there should be something around here somewhere.” Returned with one old lifejacket, passable for a floating device. “Better than nothing I suppose. Bin’ sitting there for a long time gathering dust. Give that to little Harry. He shouldn’ have t’be in danger.”

“No,” said Legge.

“Maps? Flashlight? You git yerself a waterproof bag with waterproof matches. Some things are mandatory for yer vessel. Small but adequate if ya handler right.”

“I’ll handle it right. Just getting my bearings.”


After school he and Harry shoved off in the canoe, Manitou in the middle.

“Just copy what I do,” he said, Harry watching him paddle slowly in calm waters.

“Yeah, I got it,” he said, leaning far over the gunnels when he stroked.

“Head up son.” A whiskey jack swooped down from a cedar and darted from branch to branch along the shore.

“Just paddle. Don’t worry, I’m steering. Make sure you’re legs are bent. Good.” Slid lower into the stern, legs protected by the gunnels.

“Where are we going?” Legge steered the boat straight out to sea.

“Let’s just go in a straight line from here.” Soon their rhythm matched and the canoe moved swiftly along the surface, rocks clear through the crystal clear waters.

“Dad, this is great.” Straightened is posture and took a deep breath.

“Good we did this. Nice guy that Mac. Kind man to do that. You remember that Harry. Kindness never did any harm to anyone, even if they say they don’t want it.” Indeed, he thought: Kindness is the measure of man.


Manitou sprawled on the couch with eyes half open beside Harry.

“So we can go out again? When it’s not windy? Maybe you can find some maps so we know where we’re going.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” said Legge. “We could use a few different maps.”

“We could put one up there on the wall,” motioning to wall at the foot of the stairwell.

“I’ll look into it.”

“I mean we could go anywhere in the canoe Dad. Paddle to Toronto if we wanted.”

“Seems almost unfair doesn’t it?” Grinned from his book in the corner.

“You can teach me?” Too afraid to say no, he said he would show him despite not knowing anything about canoeing.


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)

7. legs. The streams of swirled wine that run down along the inside of a glass. -ntr.v.

“Good to see so many new faces here tonight. The Island is booming.” Tuttle’s nose red, grin buried under his bushy moustache, only visible at the corners of his mouth. “Good timing for you, a booth is open. Got some motor-bikers here. Bikes out back. Can’t see them from the road.”

“Friends of yours?”

“Everyone’s a friend of mine so what can I say?” Long skinny teeth could be seen through the frozen waterfall of hair from his upper lip. Whiskers gone mad.

He and Morrell ordered a beer and sat down. Music on, the bikers in the corner making noise, jackets off and relaxed, legs stretched out into the aisle. Thick leather pants; rider’s pants.

“I think those guys plan to stay at the Motorcycle Inn tonight, so they say,” said Tuttle, speech slightly slurred.

“First customers,” Morrell. “Look like real riders, at least that one in the pants.” 

“They said they’re doing an over-nighter on the Island and that Kagawong was a good middle point to stay the night. They look all right to me.” Tuttle back to the bar.

“We should be opening soon.” Morrell eyed him, wondered if he had it in him to open his doors to strangers. “Are you in business or not?”

“I’m open, sure. Just wonder if I have everything ready.”

“No problem. You gotta open someday. These guys won’t want much. You have campfire wood?”

“We have about a cord of firewood.”

“A fire will keep ‘em happy, those fellas. That’s what they want after a long ride; a warm fire and a drink in their hand. You have a campfire?”

“That’s one thing we’re missing.”

“If you have some stones, make a circle and you then have a campfire. Easy. We should get that done before those guys drop by.” Letting out a long sigh, Legge mustered his posture and left Needles knowing there was no turning back.


It had rained but a clearing could be seen between the clouds. Had to get better boots, purely waterproof. Tonight’s income would cover the cost, muck boots that went up to the knee. If he was going to motorcycle, dry feet were a must.

“Shoulda brought my rain gear,” said Morrell. “The one time I don’t have it with me. Didn’t see it coming this morning.”

Legge saw the woman in the pea coat, hands in her pockets going slowly, her high boots reaching her knees.

“See? I need boots like that,” he said to Morrell. “No gaps from the upper to the lower part of the boot. Seamless. That’s what I need. No strings.” He spoke to have an excuse to watch her, this time with her daughter beside her.

“That there is Mare Steed. I knew her from way back. She’s good people. Daughter goes to the local school. A nurse or something I think. Husband’s working in the oil fields out west.” Legge lifted his chin at her. Light fog obscured the light lost in the moist air.

“She’s coming this way.”

“I can introduce you if you want. Can’t hurt none.” Morrell crossed the street with Legge following. Morrell repeated their names: Mare Steed. Daughter Dana. Dana kept walking the beach just behind the old barn.

“Always a good day to walk along the water,” she said, voice neutral, her skin pink in the mist. He nodded, tongue-tied. She kept moving too, following her daughter to the beach.

“She was a looker when she was in school,” said Morrell, now beside their motorcycles. “All of us loved her but she never let us have any. Wholesome she was. Guess that’s the word. Her husband wasn’t from here. Lived here a few years and then left. Said she didn’t want to live off the island where everyone is so crazy. Let him walk away. Haven’t seen him in years. Now it’s just her and Dana. That’s just the way it worked out.”

“She fits that pea coat perfectly,” he said. Head wandering, figures blurring against the surface fog. “I mean it looks good on her like that. Fits well. Good wool.” Something dreamy about her, creamy and soft, strong legs and clear lungs.

“Kind of quiet, like her kid. Nice though. Never hurt a fly.”

“Quiet. Or do you mean hurt?”

“No man, I mean she’s quiet in herself. Gentle as the mist.”


Morrell poked at the new campfire, fire burning in a ring of stones when they arrived. The first bike an on/off-road motorcycle custom painted gray with Kawasaki stickers. A Yamaha FZR behind him, engine humming, elastic basket mesh over the large gas tank to store gloves. And speedometer rag, but it was the massive front fender on the on/off road bike that caught his attention, muddy on the inside, air-cooled vents and a bit of faring to protect the instrument panel and headlight.

“They might want some flat wood for their kickstands,” said Morrell. “The driveway’s new and it might give a bit.” Legge found two flat pieces of plywood from a discarded woodpile.

“That’s a KLR650 I reckon,” said Morrell. “Big motor on that thing. Could take that thing to Vancouver and back without a hiccup. Great over the mountains, prime for off-road trails. Maybe a little top-heavy. Would like to get my hands on one those.”

“It looks like a rally bike.” The number 13 was hand drawn in black on the side.

“Look at the size of the front wheel! That’s what you want for around here. Put it this way, you don’t wanna small front wheel. Just ain’t good mechanics.” Morrell shook his head. “Bikes are getting better every year aren’t they? Makes your RD look prehistoric.”

Morrell walked to the driveway with the wood. “Hello there. Welcome to The Motorcycle Inn, the Island’s only B&B for those on two wheels.” Morrell cracked up. Legge sure he could welcome better than that.

“Those are for the bikes?” A longhaired man with red cheeks, creases above the eyebrows, wind wrinkles down his face, leather pants creased that hugged the top of his black boots. Dusty goatee, nose red like a burgundy carrot.

“The driveway was laid recently,” said Morrell. The man with the leather pants slipped the wood under the kickstand and turned the front wheel.

“Much steadier.” Engine creaking in the stillness, eyes red and windblown.

Legge from the walkway: “We have rooms available.”

“Well good to have found a place. I’m Hendricks. Jimmy, my buddy on the FZR, wanted to go to a hotel in Gore Bay. ‘No,’ I said, ‘let’s try this new place for bikers.’ The guy at the restaurant said it was a good place.”

His jaws clenched and cold hands in fists, bag over his shoulder.

“Gotta shower I can use? I’m cold and wet.”

“On the main floor. Your rooms are upstairs at the top of the stairs, towels on the beds. Make yourself at home.”

“Funny guy that bar owner,” said Hendricks. “Said you were only just opening for business after being closed for forty years. What’s that all about? You used to be an inn and then you didn’t? Or am I getting my facts wrong? Never can keep things straight in my head ever since that spill I took in Cambodia. Damn shame it is.” Wiped his hand on his pants and shook his head as if he had ear mites.

“He was just joking around.”

“We gotta a campfire goin’ down near the water if you’re interested. Legge,” said Morrell, pointing, “will get us a few beers will ya.”

Hendricks and Morrell poked life into the fire. Smoke and fog.

“That’s a cool bike you have,” said Legge with some beers. Hendricks stroked his goatee unable to remove the dustiness.

“Bought one last summer. KLR650. Rides like a charm. On/off road so I can ride wherever the hell I want. Thought the snow machine was good! Lots of torque, gears are easy, brakes grip real good. Japanese thought they’d one up BMW and make something particular to this terrain in mind. You ever see this thing off road?”

“How does she handle?” Morrell itching his beard.

“Sings! Designed for bumps. Lots of bouncing around. Tough on the arms too. Have to fight for it. Gotta have the balls to give ‘er on this thing. Never see these in the cities because they’re for the country. I actually went to buy a pick-up truck but when I saw this I said I had to have her. Not even five years old. Got it with 11000 kilometers on it. Put on 10,000 on it last summer. And the gas! I pay one tenth of what the same distance would cost me in my truck.” Hendricks poked at the fire sitting on a stump.

“Getting a jump on the riding season.”

“Yessir. Taking the week to check out Manitoulin and then over to North Bay around Algonquin Park and then maybe through Kingston if we have the time. Loose agenda. See how Jimmy stands the mileage. He’s determined not to show it but after the second day he’s feeling it. Tomorrow should be easier. Came from Parry Sound today. Meldrum Bay and then down the south side and then up to Little Current and across the bridge to the La Cloche Mountains. See where we end up tomorrow.”

Morrell exhaled his cigarette and groaned. “That’s the way to tour on a bike. General plan that don’t need too much tending to.” Hendricks swallowed the last of his beer.

“You run this outfit?”

“No, Legge does. That’s my Harley there.” Hendricks studied the bikes.

“Legge, that your RD?” Nodded. “Classic. Last legal two-stroke made for the road. She’s gotta have lots of pep.”

“Yeah. My first season. Did you say you were in Cambodia or somewhere.” Hendricks drank, then sat up.

“Had a wipe-out there on an on/off-road bike like this one, a CR250. Great bike. Cambodia was a great country to ride. Roads for miles. Did a big circle around the lake. Was only supposed to be there for a week but the day before I was leaving someone stole my backpack when I was swimming. Everything gone except the key to my motorcycle and my sandals. Had to ride back to Phnom Penh, six hours of riding in my bathing suit. Talking about burnt legs! That’s how I bumped into an ex-girlfriend of mine when I was walking into a bar. It was only after she made a comment on the burn on my legs that she recognized me. So I ended up staying with her.”

“Cambodia? When was this?” Morrell placed another bottle at his feet. Took off his baseball cap, a bump on his forehead the size of a golf ball. In the flickering light it was enormous, like a doorknocker grown into the bone.

“Late nineties. Lots of guys riding around with AK47s on their shoulders, women always taking care of the business. Lots of political turmoil there. The wounds were still fresh from the Khmer Rouge, lingering in the air. I only realized it was really unsafe after I came out of there. Thank God I met Lynn.”

“Which story is this then?” said Jimmy, fresh from the shower, eyes glazed from the steam.

“In Cambodia Jimbo. With Lynn.” Jimmy nodded and let the cold beer sooth his scratched throat. Held his right hand gently exposing the blisters that had failed to pop. Legge dodged smoke from the campfire, looking at Hendricks waiting for him to go on.

“So what happened?”

“I ended up staying for six weeks waiting for my passport to be replaced. Explored it all on motorbike. I rode all over, to the bombed mansions of Kep to the beaches of Sihanoukville, and Angkor Wat, a twelve-acre palace of stones and walls. Could ride from temple to temple. But you couldn’t do too much off-roading because of all the landmines. Entire hills that would have been ideal for an off-road bike were covered with landmines. Little red and white flags marking danger areas, some only a few feet from the road, labeled by mine experts employed by the UN.”

“Serious deterrent.” Legge saw Morrell wobble on his skinny legs.

“But the roads were great for the 250. Handled great, even over some tricky bridges. Solid bike. Never rattled. Chain was good. Tough little bike. Didn’t need any more power than the 250cc engine.”

“Don’t stop with that one,” said Jimmy. “Tell them about the Golden Triangle.”

The orange flame fought against the moisture in the air, creating a glow around the fire. Faces drawn to the heat, Hendricks warmed his hands.

“Thailand was the first of my motorcycle adventures,” he said, now proud to have a bigger audience. “I arrived in the north after two hard weeks of swimming and hanging out on the beach, boring if you do it right, and rode to the Golden Triangle on a rented dirt bike. The world’s epicenter for opium.”

“Where is it exactly?” asked Legge.

“The Golden Triangle is the very northern tip of Thailand where it meets Laos and Cambodia along the Mekong River.”

“Let him tell the story Legge,” said Morrell, impatient.

“Met a guy in Chiang Mai, a young lawyer from Tasmania who rode with me most of the way ‘til I lost him that day we left for the Triangle. You see, we bought some grass from a local in Chiang Rai and in the morning sprinkled it in our soup, not thinking it would make much of a difference. Sure enough we rode north and the roads became narrower, washouts more common and that’s when I saw the Tasmanian ahead of me wipe out. He was cursing when I stopped in front of him. Blood running down his elbow, eyes fierce with indignation. ’You okay?’ I asked him. He tells me he’s fine, when Three Thai riders stopped.

“’You want to come with us?”’ they asked when I told them we were going north. The lawyer from Tasmania was too stoned to come with us so we planned to meet at a hostel near the opium dens there. If I had known then what I was getting myself into, I would never have left the lawyer – forget his name. Went way off road with these three guys who knew the back trails right along the border of Burma, in and out of the country, a trail across mountain streams and around long hills open to the sun. Thailand has a serious jungle in the north.”

“Tell them what happened,” said Jimmy. “Don’t be shy.”

“We were crossing this creek and the rocks were loose under the wheels, so my chain buckled in the crankshaft, popped off the casing exposing the engine. The bike wouldn’t go. Thought I was doomed in the middle of nowhere but one of the guys was a mechanic so was able to put in a temporary fix. He used string and an empty plastic water bottle I had in my knapsack.

“Sure enough I got myself out of there and up to the triangle, but not without a bad fall near the end of the day, taking a corner where there was loose rock. Wasn’t wearing my helmet so the bounce hit me hard. Concussion over there can’t really be treated though thinking about it I’m not sure how it’s treated here. Count myself lucky. Too tired from the riding I think. Was almost there. Ever since I’ve had these headaches. Hard to say if it’s the cause. Just know I ride with my helmet now.”

“You haven’t told them what exactly happened to you.” Jimmy was almost asleep laid back on the lawn chair, intent on Hendricks’s story.

“Couldn’t make it back during daylight after separating from the three Thais, found myself stranded in a small hamlet of five bamboo huts, nowhere else to go, head splitting after the spill. Last thing I remember was smoking myself a pipe and woke up two days later. Missed a whole day. Went up in smoke. Tired from the riding, head recovering from impact. Truth was my helmet was too snug for my head. My brains were maybe a bit swollen. Bad thing a concussion. Need to watch the tissue damage. Like a yolk in an egg, don’t want to break the membrane.” The beer in his hand empty. The wood crackled and sparks flew up over to the water.

“Head injury in northern Thailand, smokes opium to take the pain away. Then what?” Hendricks focused on the fire, ignoring his friend and the people around him.

“What exactly happened my dear sir?” asked Morrell, words a haze of alcoholic stupor, beer foam on his upper lip. Clinking of bottles, Morrell the self-appointed gatekeeper of beer, handed him a beer.

“All right, if you really want the whole story. I rode back to Bangkok, cruised into a local bar, met a chick and went back to my room. Come morning my wallet was cleaned out, ID still there and air ticket but not a cent. The whore had robbed me blind.”

“Did you get out okay?” Morrell cradling his bottle.

“I got out, yeah. But not without a good case of the clap.” This set Jimmy howling, the crackerjack that was beyond all others. Morrell keeled over like a leaf in the wind, hacking up a lung.

“The clap!” Morrell had both hands on his knees, trying to stay upright. Legge threw another log on the fire, trying to imagine the riding through the Southeast Asian jungles.

“How do you like the riding here?” Hendricks cleared his throat and stretched out his legs.

“Wanted to see why CAA Magazine rated Manitoulin Island one of the ten most beautiful spots in Canada to drive. Motorcyclists say it’s tough to beat. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s very cool. Like Providence Bay and the ride to the north shore. Good clean roads and no stop signs or streetlights or traffic lights. Some of the back roads are crazy, like that Bidwell Road, and Union Road. We went through Bidwell today, almost got lost. Like Europe in there, some French countryside, like one of those ads you see. Could smell the cows and the damp culverts, the cold lakeshore and the smell of grass. Good churches and ghost towns. Pretty damn sweet if you ask me.”

The fire died down but the wind would not let it sleep, sparks in the air, the lap of the shore in the background.

“I’m getting home now,” said Morrel, too drunk to stand up.

“The couch is good for you tonight,” said Legge, firm and responsible. Morrell stumbled inside and fell on the couch, out cold from all the booze.

“Let me pay you for the rooms now since we’ll be up early. What’s the exact amount?”

“Fifty dollars for a room.” Hendricks handed him a hundred. “Feel free to put on coffee and make your own breakfast in the morning.” His guests retired for the night. Legge wondering if he should do more for his guests. Thought of providing free maps for his guests. A freebie, with all the good roads highlighted. Streamline a two-day visit for guys like Hendricks.