1. NO WAY DOWN THIS CRAZY RIVER
THERE’s silence up here, nothing but silence. You can go two weeks and never hear a human voice or the caw of a crow. Only the sound of the wind, reaching up from the river and travelling across unimaginable wastes, the vast reaches of the Arctic. Only the wind has an understandable voice…
Then there is the silence once more.
The fella over there is part of the Wait-A-Bit! stories. I’ve got about 16 people in the foxhole village – I couldn’t say all their names,
but I know who each person is &and what he/she wants.
There aren’t that many women in town, but there is Matilda, who has also been the mayor the past year.
The preacher who left the wild skin mags under his mattress of skins, straw, linen and furs….he brought a stripper to town. That’s just as well, because 1/3 of the town try to watch Matilda undress… Most nights the curtain at the end of her trailer tends to fall open.
I suspect that open curtain and a few other personal favours Matilda has given to the menfolk in town – well she won the mayoral contest in a landslide.
I’m Frank. I used to be mayor, but the mayor does very little except greet visitors etc… There were no visitors last year and no tourists, either.
Last time we saw a tourist
was eight years ago. Many of the native folks in the area
think this site is cursed – but I can’t agree with that.
It’s ‘INCINERATION DAY’ that got most people nervous,
when a jealous Canadian Forces pilot bombed every
brick building in the area. Reduced City Hall to a fine grain dust. The A&P didn’t fare much better.
Artie’s bar burned for some time after the firestorm.He’s the guy the pilot was jealous of. (Artie was havingsex behind the bar with her. Problem was he was doing it in public. This got stories told up and down the Mackenzie River, all the way down to Norman Wells, which was where the flyboy was stationed. Artie was having it off with
the young woman,the pilot’s fiancé, but he certainly never admitted to it…participating in these tales of wild doings behind his bar.)
She was the only woman in town for a whole year, so you can’t blame anybody too much.. for what happened.
Most of the townsfolk made an exodus to the East after the bombing. There used to be 157 people in _________. No one can remember what the town was called before the BLAST. None of us has had much of a memory since that day.
What good is a memory anyway? I don’t miss it. No point in worrying about the past or future, because they don’t exist.
I’m Frank, the former mayor. That idiot over there sitting on the big rock taking notes is Hank. He used to be a reporter for the New York Times. When he arrived here, he sure ran after the plane like a mad fool…looking to catch it. When he realized the newspaper building didn’t exist any more, he was troubled. Boy, was he ever perturbed! What really shocked him the first few days… was the endless, all-embracing silence.
Have I sent you one of the Mad Poet of Rat River’s Poems?
He’s our nearest neighbor, 400 miles to the east. Near Port Radium,or whatever the hell they used to call it, that now abandoned town. It seems the Mad Poet of Rat River has taken to travelling down the Rat onto the Mackenzie, and he’s getting all the women drunk, up and down the Mackenzie.We’re getting radio calls from Inuvik, demanding that we –
“Drag him the fuck out south!”
Now Ratty could always be a pain in the ass,and at the same time, his pervasive powers are remarkable. I only hope he’s stopped showing people his member. It has a remarkable effect, I’m told, to many of the women. After all he’s a poet. And Melissa whispered to me into my left ear: “All poets are well hung.” She played with a sensitive, hungry part of my being,at the same time. Proving her pneumatic point,whispering and pulling at me.Lucky I was drunk, or I might have embarrassed myself in my pants., before she even got going…
2. LIVING IN THE GREAT BEYOND:
I have no idea what time it is. We use the sundial
approach up here. That’s when there is a sun. about six months of the year.
It snows 9 months a year, at a bare minimum.
And when it’s not snowing we tend to be in darkness, because of the peculiar habit of the village council.
Of course living in bunkers underneath mounds of the last town… well, it’s dark underground every day.
I hear a peculiar jingling sound across the bunker. I turn up the oil lamp by my bed
so I can see… Hank is affixing a tall pointy hat to his head. When he moves his head
I see he has sewn tiny bells around the hat.
It looks for all the world like a fool’s cap, but I say nothing. We have to make our own entertainment up here.
Wait a minute, it’s a dunce’s hat! And when he
shakes his head he sounds like a wee reindeer.
I lie back down in bed, “That’s it!
He’s finally gone over the top.” I laugh
quietly into my pillow.
There’s no reason to hurt a person’s
feelings, even if he’s already crazier than a shit-house rat.
And maybe he’s getting worse.
The preacher showed up with some lumber the other night, and some kind of beauty queen.
It seems he’s going to build a small house over the bunker and use the bunker as a basement.
I go over to Artie’s bar, hang my coat on the moose head nearest me. I have the Lee Enfield bolt action 303 hanging under my right arm, as per usual. The barrel and the stock are both cut short, of course.
When living in the Great Beyond it’s best to stay well armed.
Preacher and Helga show up and they sit on the stools next to me. She has powder blue tight jeans on, and she has curves where most people only imagine curves could be.
The story unfolds naturally. Preacher had a small white church in Inuvik and he was getting no donations for his Feed the Children fund. So he got drunk and threw several well- publicized tantrums.
He was up on the church roof waving a scotch bottle above his head
and screaming “FUCK DONATIONS!” Helga says.
His next bright idea was to make porn movies in the basement of the church, and raise some cash that way. And bingo, it worked.
In the meantime he developed some arcane erotic tastes. And he had left his pervo mags under the bed in his bunker.
The upshot of this whole situation is – he wants his mags back now…!
And he thinks he knows who has them.
I get Artie to pour me another of the special standard drink of the house: “PROOF AND BUSH BERRIES” served in a tin cup.
The door of the bar opens to the Main Lane and I hear that jingling sound again…
Then I hear war hoots and the banging of
a drum! And somebody out there is chanting.
Hank has had those extra-special porn mags all last winter. Now he doesn’t want to part with them. He really doesn’t want to part with them.
I catch a glimpse of a man with a white priest’s collar wearing a very bright Indian
headdress. He’s chanting and waving a club
above his head. Also, he’s beating beating a drum. And making war whoops to a rhythm
no one can discern.
“This happens all the time up north,” says Helga.
IS HE LIKE THIS BECAUSE HE KNOWS SOMETHING OR BECAUSE HE DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING?
I ask myself.
I take a quick look outside the door of the bar. I see a scenario out of the stuff
of a weird comic’s dream. A man in a priest’s collar is standing erect in a headdress, holding a club over a man in a dunce’s cap who is on his knees, trying to extract something from
under the chief-priest’s foot.
This is a scene that is not approved by any version of the Indian Act throughout it’s entire twisted history.
If the legislators who wrote that moronic law, if they had had the imagination to foresee any scenes like this – the one unfolding on the Main Lane of WAIT-A-BIT… they would have outlawed such bizarre scenarios
with extreme prejudice.
And added major jail sentences to any and all of the participants, and forbidden alcohol and guns to everyone in the environs forever.
( Up here we have no police. And no maniacs with badges come through this valley
at any time. We make our own liquor, so no such law would affect us, or be any cause for concern.)
Except now I’m hearing slaps and body blow. And I see Hank is on his feet again, In his hand is a two pound weight swinging at the end of a nylon stocking.
The crazed preacher and my roommate with cabin fever, they’re circling each other with an evil glint
in and a mad look in their eyes. Both are carrying large weighted saps. In no time at all, someone will be unconscious.
We decide to go back into the bar and relax,
have several drinks… Really listen to the silence for a change,and like it.