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“You get your lure deep down. These here are troubled waters. We aren’t gaff’n for Brook trout here Daryl. These are Chinook, and they spurt around the bottom see?” I point at moss green water bumping our steel boat, us inside this tin thing we must look like a pair a sardines if you flew in low, peeping out the windows of a Beaver at us.
Daryl nods, wipes his nose on his arm and pulls a tangle of line out, dripping all over his lap he plops an anchovy onto his lap and laughs. “Tom look it this mess. This lil’ sister a aignt got eyes anymore.” He laughs, wipes his nose again and looks to the sky. He flinches, hat falls to his boots when his head whips down, “Rain drop landed right in my eye!”
“Yeah, better turn in I suppose.” There’s no thunder, just wind as we row to shore, tie the boat to a red cedar and head up the beach to a truck we rented in town.
Daryl yawns, loops his fingers and tosses them over his shoulders swaying this way and that until tiny pops and loud cracks snap out from under his faded purple t shirt. “I wanna get my drink on.”
I park the truck by the pub, load the meter full of quarters till Daryl kicks the back of my knees. Hard. “Dummy.” He points at a sign above my head. “Don’t gotta pay parking after six.”
I look him dead in the eye as I pop one more quarter in and slowly rise my middle finger up so it’s directly between our faces. He shakes his head and walks through the pub doors, I wait a second, try and crack my own back but nothing happens so I follow him in there.
This bar looks like Bob Marley walked in here, looked around and exploded all over the place because he’s plastered all over the walls and I’ve never seen so many white people with dreadlocks. Rasta flags, lion murals, homemade portraits of Mr. Marley and outdated concert posters completely covering one wall. The letters on the men’s bathroom read ‘Mon’. I dunno about the chicks one though, I never looked. Anyways, as I stand there, pants down and aiming for the urinal puck I dolly my head about the place. There are no posters but the walls are red, the stall doors are yellow and the floor and ceiling are green. Even the floor drain is painted green. I shake the remainder and almost bowl over some girl drinking something filled with fruit. She grabs my junk, winks and says ‘get off me perv!” she wiggles her hippy ass away to some table covered in beer bottles and pint glasses filled with shriveled fruits and bendy straws. As she walks you can hear all these tiny bells jingling around her waist from some stupid belt made of garbage.
Daryl whistles and holds up his hand. “Over here buddy.”
I pull up a chair and turn my body around looking for a waitress. We wait ten minutes, no one comes so Daryl heads to the bar and asks for two beers and some menus. This bartender must have eyes on the side of his head because the whole time he’s grabbing beer from the fridge behind him, popping off the caps and handing Tom menus, he’s staring right at me. When Tom pays the bartender snaps his face forward, says something to Tom and then snaps his head right back at me.
“Beer.” Tom passes me an AGD and sits down.
I bring the bottle to my lips then put it down on the table. I lean in as Tom swigs deep. “What’s that guy’s deal Chief?”
Tom’s eyes roll over the bar, then rest on me. “Eh?”
I nod my head towards the bartender, “What’d he say?”
“What’d who say?”
“The bartender, what’d he say?”
“Oh.” He puts down his beer and scratches at the label. “Asked where we came from.”
He picks his beer back up and shrugs. “Yeah.”
I flick my tongue in my cheek. “Huh.”
“So what’d you say?”
Before he can answer something cold and sticky douses my hair, drips down my chin and washes my back completely. I stand up and turn to face a beach bodied guy with long black dreadlocks covered in colored wooden beads. He pushes my chest and gives me the surfer salute. “Not welcome here bra!”
“Bra?” I look down at my chest as a cocktail of fruit and blue juice and alcohol collide with my stomach. The little hippy chick with the bell belt is shrieking at the top of her rusty lungs, “Ta-ta, AL-BRA-ta!” From the corner of my eye I see Tom disappear beneath piles of blonde, brown and red dreadlocks. Skin toned bamboo fabric t-shirts and swimming trunks envelope him completely before the sound of broken glass pops loud and is the last thing I hear before everything goes black.
I swallowed a bug once, when I was a kid. I was riding a rope swing some friends and I set up at Sylvan Lake. Must’ve swallowed the thing whole ‘cause it went right through the gap in my mouth where I lost my first couple of teeth, bounced around on my tongue and then sailed straight down my windpipe. In short, it tasted awful and the experience was terrible least to say, slightly traumatic as I haven’t been on a single rope swing since. Anyways, I’m telling you this because first thing I taste when I wake up is that awful bitter, gagging taste of bugs. I reach my hand into my mouth to dig it out. It’s a wasp and it stings me twice before flying off half squished to death. Little bugger got me once on the roof of my mouth and once on the tip of my finger. Everything’s grey and smells wet and my head is pounding. I push myself up, I’d been laying on pavement in the rain, when I try and stand I almost fall over but my instincts make me reach for a wall and I’m grateful it’s there as I slide my back all the way down to the bottom and sit on my ass tonguing the sting on the roof of my mouth. My head feels soaking wet and when I go to touch it my hand comes back covered in blood. Around this time Tom comes strolling down the street and points at my feet.
“What happened to your shoes?”
“Ambulance is coming.”
“Yeah I used the payphone down the way there. You got knocked on the head with a beer bottle and tossed out here.”
“What? Who… what happened to you? I saw you get like..”
I laugh, my chest hurts.“Yeah. Total take down.”
“Naw, these BC beach boys aren’t squat. You start throw’n hay makers and just dummy a guy flat and they the rest of the wimps toss off like candy boys.”
“Oh…. Well, who hit..”
“That chick did. Grabbed your own bottle too.” He laughs. “We should come back at midnight and burn the place down.”
“Naw, we’d get caught and…”
In the not too far distance the whine of ambulance sirens screeches through the street.
We take the truck back and leave town the next day after all the glass is plucked outta my head and I’m fed antihistamines until I pass out and wake up covered in bandages that I pull off and toss in the trash at the automatic doors of the Hospital entrance.
Outside Tom steps on my slippered feet and says, “Well, we’re truckless, you’re shoeless and I’m bored, hungry and horny. Let’s get a hotel room.”
“We ordering in?”
“Uh huh. I love this day and age, don’t you? You get hungry, you call a pizza joint. Horny, dial up some escorts. Hell, even with this crap…” He points at my stitches and bare feet. “…life is still good buddy. Let’s go find you some shoes before everyone thinks you’re a hobo and I’m with you in your homelessness. Hell, if we get lucky we might find a pair of sneakers on a telephone wire and save a few bucks.”
The only store around is a tiny Sears place and they only had one pair of black flat sole shoes in my size. I buy them, ask if there’s any sale on or discount price or whatever and the tiny Asian woman behind the counter scowls and says loud enough for folks in airplanes to hear, “NO! YOU PAY! YOU PAY FULL YOU STUPID DUMMY!”
My fists go tight and after we eat at some dive joint and get a room I dial the local escort service and ask for an Asian. The whole time we’re waiting, Tom ordered a brunette with “huge bongos” I’m thinking about how much I want to smash that Asian Sears woman’s head in. I guess punish fucking someone, hopefully in her immediate or extended family, would be good enough.
When the door bell rings and the two chunky girls chewing gum and bulging in their fishnets and miniskirts ask if we called I don’t care the Asian I ordered is actually full blood Native and Tom’s brunette is six foot three with an Adams apple and no boobs. I pull that girl in and go from behind so I don’t even have to look at her face. I can hear her chewing gum and it smells like she’s holding in a fart. Just before I finish her cell phone rings and she starts yelling about rent. When I’m done I yank off the rubber, toss it toward the trash, hand her twenty bucks and push her out the door all the while she’s yelling, “Hey! No! Hey! Twenty isn’t enough! It’s ninety five! Ninety five!”
The six foot brunette with the Adam’s apple and no boobs is standing in the corner. Tom and I both look at her. I’m about to say something along the lines of “Get the hell out of here tranny.” When she whips out a ziplock bag full of cocaine.
She says, that deep voice of hers sending chills down my spine and filling my stomach with bile, “You boys like to party?”
Now, if you’re from BC, this becomes a moral question. You may think to yourself, “Do I really want to do coke with a tranny who arrived here ten minutes ago from an escort agency?” However, if you’re from Alberta, like Tom and I, you do everything but butter your bread with cocaine. So, it really isn’t an issue if there’s a transsexual prostitute in your hotel room because, if they’re holding a bag full of coke, it really doesn’t matter. Hell, I’d snort cocaine with Adolf Hitler, so long as he doesn’t pull any chamber tricks, it’s all good by me.
So what starts as a few lines in the hotel room winds up being a night of whiskey shots at half a dozen bars we stay at until we get kicked out onto the street by dweebs in black shirts wearing too much hair gel. We wind up at this gay bar in the heart of the city being bumped and grinded against by men with rhino guts and chicks with floppy tits wearing too much leopard print and blue eye shadow. Around one thirty, by our standards, everything is going great until the music stops, the lights go on and Tom is punching a drag queen in the face over and over screaming nearly inaudibly in a coke fueled rage, “I’M NOT A FAGGOT! I’M NOT A FAGGOT! DON’T YOU EVER TOUCH ME LIKE THAT! I’M GONNA KILL YOU!” I jump to his side when I glance around and discover the Adam’s apple tranny hooker with all the cocaine has ditched. I’m pulling Tom off the blood soaked drag queen when suddenly swarms of feather boa wearing patrons of the bar are screaming at us, hundreds of manicured nails are clawing at our arms, faces, our shirts being shredded, the odd punch landing against stitched up bruises lumped all over my head. I’m dragging Tom because he’s being kicked and clawed so much he can’t stand up and won’t stop screaming about AIDS. The bartender holds the door open for us as Tom’s screaming “YOU ALL ARE GONNA FUCKING DIE OF AIDS!” and he’s screaming at Tom and I, “YOU F**KING HICKS DON’T YOU EVER COME BACK HERE EVER AGAIN!”
We stay in the hotel until all our money is gone and our cuts and bruises aren’t keeping us flat on our backs.
One morning at eleven o’clock housekeeping calls security and we are rudely asked to leave within thirty minutes or they will alert the authorities. Twenty minutes later Tom and I, we’re squinting into the sun. Tom pulls out his cowboy hat from his back pack. I do the same and we start walking to the city limits to thumb a ride. The whole time we’re walking people are honking their horns and shouting out their car windows, “HILLBILLIES!” and “GO BACK TO BROKE BACK ALBERTA!” or “Hicks!” and of course, “Where’s your horse, Cowboy?!”
We wait six hours under the blistering sun and it isn’t until it’s cool enough that we take off our hats and when we do, not ten minutes later a kind looking elderly couple stops and asks us where we are going. We tell them “Edmonton Alberta ma’am.” The woman in the passenger’s side furrows her brow, looks over at her husband and says “Drive.” Before kicking up dust at us as they drive away, the kindly old lady does her best to spit on me, but it just comes out as wet flecks that land nowhere.
Second ride comes five minutes after and this time it’s a big semi loader. We climb in and chat with the driver who, after a good hour of journey, tells us he’s from Alberta. He tells us about growing up in Lethbridge and how he ran away to Calgary when he was a teenager and got hooked on crack then to meth. He talks about selling drugs in Calgary and how he got beat up so many times by other dealers, clean cops, dirty cops, and being robbed by customers and then eventually wound up in jail. He told us that he found Jesus in jail and he hasn’t touched the stuff in 20 years. He says, “I don’t even drink and I won’t do none a that chew stuff either. Reminds me too much of Alberta. I don’t even stop in that province no more. Nope. I gas up in Coleman enough to sail me straight through to Saskatchewan. Nope, it’s an evil province and I refuse to sleep, eat or even pee there. Hell, I’ll just whizz in a bucket if I really gotta go and I’ll dump it out the window laughing the whole time. I piss on you Alberta!”
It was about this time Tom felt it important to let our driver know we were both from Alberta and in fact where hitching a ride to Edmonton which is where we lived.
I kid you not, this guy straight slammed on his brakes and told us to get out. And we did. We got out into the dark and freezing wind, the terrible cold of the flat lands around the highway. We stood there for three whole hours before we saw a farm shack on the horizon. We ran, pounding our frozen feet flat and snagging ourselves all over the multiple barbed wire fences we couldn’t see in the dark, set up around the acres belonging to farmers. I buried my body inside a bale of hay, Tom did the same and when I woke up at the rooster crow the following morning Tom looked like a hot dog. Both ends sticking out of a hay bale, I slapped his feet and in no time we where stinging our thumbs and wrists on barb wire again trekking back to the highway.
From that point, it took us three days to get back to Edmonton.
I guess I should have mentioned earlier the whole reason Tom and I went to Vancouver Island to go fishing anyways. Well, about two months ago Tom went out to buy himself some fast food because he didn’t want to eat what his mother had cooked and they had gotten into a rather heated argument about it. Tom is about twenty nine and he lives with his folks still because for years he’s been nettling depression. Anyways, when he came home, burglars had busted in through the back and attacked his parents. They stole all his moms fourteen carrot jewelry and while his dad was upstairs loading a rifle one of the burglars tossed a cigarette out into the garage. The garage was full of boat gas because his dad was going to take Tom to the island to go fishing. Needless to say, the entire house exploded and when Tom came home his entire family was dead and the house he grew up in was blown to bits and pieces. He stood on the front lawn staring dazed into the flames holding a milkshake and a bag of Arby’s until firefighters came and wrapped a blanket around him. He’s been living with me in Edmonton ever since.
When we got back to Edmonton, for the next week all Tom would do is wander around the apartment talking about the end of the world and the Mayan calendar. Even at night I could hear him crying and sometimes shouting when he got the night terrors. I thought perhaps a good case of beer and some greasy food might cheer him up so I go to Burger King and get him a couple Whoppers, I stop to get cigarettes and beer then I pull into my parking spot and head upstairs. I open the door call out “Tom!”, drop the food on the counter and find him swinging from his neck on the rafters in my bedroom with a note pinned to his sweater. “And the Cowboy rode off into the sunset, the world forgotten at his back, the fading sun a gift of new life, bright and piercing deep into his new eyes and he then knew: Pure and true. He gave his nod, a fond farewell.”
I don’t even cut him down. I just sit in the living room and write this note for whoever finds us, for whom it may concern. Thanks for listening. Goodbye.