Racing beside a herd of caribou

Posted: September 13, 2020 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

RRBC Interview, Eyes on the Book hosted by Rox Burkey


16 April 2012

Sitting on the church steps, near where Nick usually sits, was a sad-looking man with a suitcase. He was pleasant looking, in his early forties with dark, wavy hair.

I introduced myself and said, “Are you hungry?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I wondered if you wanted a coffee, breakfast, bus tickets?”

“Oh, no, no, you misunderstand. But, thank you anyway.”

We shook hands. When I left he was smiling.

The weather at noon was warm and sunny. I met Joy at the bench. “How was the meeting with your probation officer?” I asked.

“It went okay. I told her I was losing it. She said, ‘You don’t have to worry. I’m not going to breach you.’ That’s not it! I can’t get my head together, and I feel sick. It was then that I threw up, all over her desk, her papers, everything. To make it worse, all it smelled of was sherry. I’ve cut back on my drinking a lot. I water my sherry down until it’s almost clear, but I haven’t been able to eat much.

“She filled out an application for me for housing. She also made an appointment for me, Wednesday morning, with the Center for Addiction and Mental Health. They may be able to help with my mental problems. They have a drop-in center for people with mental illness. They have medical staff, counseling, and health card assistance. She said I would have a better chance at housing if I am registered with CAMH.

“The main problem I’m having, at Roy’s, is there are too many people. I haven’t been sleeping well because of the noise. Dave is up three or four times during the night to eat. There were a lot of people over on Saturday. Chili drank a twenty-six-ounce bottle of vodka then pulled another bottle out of her purse. She was so drunk that when she walked back to the Shepherd she was nearly run over by a truck. They put her on suicide watch all night.

“Chuck wanted someone to walk with him because he’s getting so fat. I said to him, ‘Chuck, do I look like someone who needs to lose weight. Take Bruce with you. He could lose a few pounds.’ Bruce didn’t want to go. Chuck got mad and said he was going to buy a dog. That’s all I’d need. I’m already cleaning up after eight people. I sweep the floor and within an hour it’s dirty again. Today, I just refused. I was better off sleeping behind the dumpsters in the back of Starbucks, at least it was quiet. I had Big Jake then. Now I have nothing.

“Bruce took us out for brunch on Sunday. That was a waste. I only ate one sausage and a piece of toast. He and Chuck filled their plates about three times. I’ve never seen anybody eat so much. It was disgusting!”

Sitting on the curb beside me was Luther, who I’ve met before.

“I’m a member of the Dene, First Nations, from near Lake Athabaska, just south of the Northwest Territories. Dene means “people” in our language. At home, I was studying to be a shaman.

“Lately I’ve been playing guitar with a punk rock band in Montreal. We dressed in leather, with studs, the whole punk thing. It was rough. After one of our concerts, I was jumped by four guys. I’ve studied tai-chi, which helped. You have to look your opponent in the eye and show him you have no fear. I looked around the guys circling me and I found the weakest one. Then I struck. I beat three of them, the fourth ran away. Even so, I was cut in three places. I’ve got a scar at the back of my neck and on the left side of my ribs where I was stabbed with a sharpened screwdriver. I’ve got a six-inch scar on my left forearm from being slashed with a knife.

“I also lived in Vancouver for a while. I used to hang around the park at the University of British Columbia. I got talking with a professor. He had three degrees. He was impressed with how much I knew about aboriginal law. He also wondered why I seemed so happy all the time. I told him that if he was looking for happiness he should get a tent and spend some time in the forest, being alone with nature. He took my advice and couldn’t believe what a peaceful experience it was. The next time I saw him he called me over to his car. He pulled out a new backpack and gave it to me. He’d seen that mine was torn and patched. Inside were three bottles of wine and fifteen hundred in cash.

“I hadn’t been home in four years and I missed my mother. I traveled eighteen hours straight, by snowmobile, to visit her. At one point we were racing along beside a herd of caribou. When I arrived at our village, I was wearing goggles and a ski mask. I asked around where my mother and was and a neighbor told me that she was at Bingo. I knew she was a smoker and would be coming out soon for a cigarette. I kept the mask and goggles on and when she came out I started asking about her parents, brothers, and sisters. She couldn’t figure out who it was, so I took off the mask. She was so happy, she couldn’t believe it was me.”


Sample my books for free — To date, $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:

Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People ($2.99 Download) ($2.99 Download) ($2.99 Download) ($2.99 Download)

They Call Me Red: ($2.99 Download)

Private Eye: Eugene Leftowicz ($2.99 Download)


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