Fiction: The Story of Canada

Driving Up

Driving Up

A country is not just its people and places, but its stories. On the occasion of Canada’s sesquicentennial, The Globe and Mail has invited a group of writers – from home and abroad – to celebrate the country’s history in fiction. The results will be published throughout the course of 2017.

A country is not just its people and places, but its stories. On the occasion of Canada’s sesquicentennial, The Globe and Mail has invited a group of writers – from home and abroad – to celebrate the country’s history in fiction. The results will be published throughout the course of 2017.

Ricky Boyce had come to Canada years ago. ’71. Years and years – to skirt the draft and of course the war. He was artistic. He liked assembling big, abstract sculptures made out of scraps he found in junk yards. Towering, shining, metal stalagmite things that corporations, he felt, would want to install in their head offices and pay big money for. Some would certainly have anti-war themes. In college at Ohio Wesleyan, he’d drawn a bad draft number, but had no business in the army, he realized. The moment he left school, they’d be transporting him to some shit base in Texas. Who knew after that? Khe Sanh. Towering metal sculptures destined for gleaming corporate lobbies wouldn’t be in that picture.

He’d only been to Canada one time – and then at night. Over the bridge and back from Detroit to buy beer. He’d been 17. Canada hadn’t seemed particularly foreign. Everything was English, etc. He’d taken his girlfriend, Delores McGuiness, whose father owned the Irish bar in Marysville, where they were from. Delores later went with him when he crossed into Canada “for good” at Sault Ste. Marie. One name for two cities. Delores hadn’t expected to stay.

In Canada things had worked out extremely well. His parents, of course, disowned him. But in Sault Ste. Marie there was a small, congenial college which was happy to admit Americans and honour their credits from down below. Canadians called the town ‘The Soo,’ just like the Americans. He was willing to work for the tuition. He soon applied for citizenship and received it. There was a feeling among his fellow students that Boyce was exceptional. An artist. Possibly an American patriot. He felt welcomed and appreciated. He earned his degree in a year and took a job immediately, teaching art in a high school north of the city. He’d gone on with his sculptures. Occasionally he’d sneak back across the border – which you could do – and visit his brother in Toledo, where he was a policeman. The parents never acknowledged him and eventually died. His father had fought in Korea and had iron-clad feelings about many things. Bravery and cowardice being two of them.

Delores McGuinness stayed three years beyond Boyce’s degree. They lived in the shabby, dusty little frame duplex in Steelton, not far from the school where Boyce taught. She did not wish to become a Canadian. Neither was she interested in college. She took a job in an Irish bar, like her father’s, and worked Saturdays at the humane society. She loved Ricky Boyce. He was handsome, had an artist’s unpredictability and a good sense of humour. She considered marrying him. She liked the idea of their children being Americans and Canadians. That seemed unique. Though before even very long, Boyce began to seem less like a totally good idea. He seemed satisfied with himself already. The big event in his life had happened too early, she thought – before he was ready. It’d stunted him. He’d become way too happy in Canada. She began to wonder if what had seemed like defiance and high principle wasn’t just laziness. Or fear. Canada wasn’t so great. Anybody could go there. Possibly Boyce wasn’t that smart.

Sometimes, she watched him from the kitchen window before she left for work. Boyce would be out in their small, grassless backyard, concentrating on his sculptures, laying out this scrap metal piece and that one onto the bedraggled Canadian ground in readiness for welding them together in some novel way. Which he rarely actually did. He would turn and look at her approvingly and smile. She watched him. Delores was 23. She might as well be his mother, she thought.

When she’d lived in Sault Ste. Marie for three years, her mother died, and her father began immediately to think about a move back to Ireland. If Delores was going to leave the country, he told her, Ireland should be the place. County Mayo. She had people there. She had no people in Canada.

Delores told Boyce she was driving down to help her father with the move. He was fine about it. He stood out in their doorway and waved to her as she drove away in their old Buick Regal. He understood she wouldn’t be back. Her father would give her the bar to run, along with her brother. It would be a good life. She could change the name of the bar Delores’s. He was that smart. The Boyce and Delores story had simply run out of steam.

Over the years now, she’d tried to stay in some contact with Ricky Boyce. The part he’d played in her life was, she felt, not easy to describe. It hadn’t been nothing. It probably had a name. But it had needed to be left back. Boyce hadn’t seemed to mind. He was on to doing what she thought he would do. Teach school. Later, sell some real estate on the side. He finished some sculptures. One – he’d told her – was on permanent display in the foyer of the school where he taught. A canoe made of chrome car-body parts, honouring Canadian exploration and the vital role of native peoples.

Boyce eventually married a fellow teacher – and then divorced. There were no children. Then he married again – a woman named Sandra from Tahiti, of all places. An immigrant with a troubled daughter. It was Sandra who, one day, telephoned to say that Boyce – she called Boyce ‘Rick’ – that Boyce had had a stroke and the prognosis wasn’t good. He speaks, Sandra said, but you can’t really understand him. There were darker issues, too, things they’d found out about through the scans. Things that welding might’ve caused. Mentation issues. Boyce had retired from teaching just the spring before. He was 63. He’d asked if Delores would drive up and see him. It was an imposition, Sandra said she knew. But it would be so nice. A gift. A final gift. It would lift Boyce’s spirits while he still had any. Delores would be welcome in their home, which was near a golf course. Sandra said Boyce loved her, which Delores hadn’t thought was true.

Little Hansy sat staring out the car window at the frozen Michigan snowscape twiddling past. Occasionally he growled at something, then went silent. F-ing ice box, her brother had always said. He had gone ice fishing somewhere up here. “The You-Pee. Snow up to your Yahweh.” Just at dark now, you couldn’t even see trees behind where the snowplows had gunked it all up.

She’d had a swim that morning before taking off – at the indoor at the Quality Inn, where the desk girl was her friend’s daughter. It was what she did before work in the winter. It was January.

While swimming, she’d had a waking dream about Ricky Boyce. The tepid water made your mind swim sometimes. Boyce, in the swimming dream, was dead, but could talk. He talked like Canadians now. He was also glum, though he looked the same. His time in life, he told her, had seemed to last only a few seconds. And now here was all of eternity yawning like a dark train tunnel in front of him. He said, if he’d known it would be this short, he might’ve done things differently. How, she’d asked. She could talk to him in her dream. Oh, he said, he wasn’t sure. If you’d gone to the Army it could’ve turned out better for you, she said (though that was far from certain). How bad would it have been just to face it? Oh, no, Boyce said. Being in Canada had all worked out very well. I’m happy about that part. That wasn’t what I meant. I meant something else, having to do with you. But you weren’t really brave, she said. No, he said, I wasn’t. You were handsome, she said, but handsome means less if you’re not brave. I knew you thought that, Boyce said in the dream, and smiled that way he always had. I didn’t want to be the one who took the smile off your face, he said. Others, she said, had come along to do that.

A big lighted sign lit the snowy sky well before it came floating into view. There was a sense that a building was obscured behind the high snow banks. Menominee Means Money CASINO & CONVENTION CENTRE, the sign now indicated. It lit up the sky like a city. These were woo-woo Indians, she understood. Not dots. Dots ran cheap motels the way Micks ran bars. There were some Indian families in Marysville who tried to blend in. People said they were ‘Osage.’ One owned the True Value and went to the Church of Christ. They didn’t frequent the bar, she’d guessed, for obvious reasons.

She angled down off the Interstate toward where the casino sat beyond an enormous, plowed lot lit by a hundred tall sodium lights. There were few cars. A joke, Delores thought. Gambling in the tundra. Give ‘em a casino. Let ’em steal from each other. Make ’em happy.

It was now past dark. She’d driven all the day. The big foggy bridge was barely a memory. It was zilch degrees. She would stay here. They wanted you to gamble, but they gave the rooms away cheap. She could play the slots if she couldn’t sleep. Plus, dogs were welcome, which they might not, closer to the Soo.

The plan was to get across the border early tomorrow. You couldn’t tell how long that would take. She’d need to find Boyce’s house by the golf course, meet the Tahitian wife, sit down for the death-bed interview – all their old mistakes rehearsed but blessed with forgiveness, and Boyce possibly unable to talk. It was what she’d avoided for 40 years, but it was what he wanted for whatever the reason. A last request. Could you deny those? Only it was nerve-wracking to think how Boyce might be looking. With the stroke and the darker “issues.” Mentation. She looked fair, herself, she thought. She’d done okay with her paddy genes. It went by one way or the other. Fifteen years, or even 18, since she’d seen him.

One early afternoon, out of the blue Boyce had walked into the bar and started talking to her brother. She’d stepped in from the back. Boyce was still handsome, had the hair – the ‘widow’s peak,’ he liked to say. But he’d grown thin. Tentative looking. Lines were worn into his pale mouth’s corners. Not laugh lines. “Look at this bag ‘a bones you brought with you,” she’d said to be lighthearted. “Don’t they feed you up there?” I am, he’d said. They’re starving me. Then he’d told them a joke. A Canadian joke. She couldn’t remember but the punch line. “Yeah, but I thought you had a full set of keys.” It was funny. And now he was dying. The air had gone out of the two of them long ago. Had there ever been an amnesty? She couldn’t remember.

Still. Sixty something. Too soon to die. Like the swimming dream said.

There were lots and lots and lots of rooms to be rented in the Menominee Means Money. The tiny Indian girl behind the big front desk offered a bridal suite for the price of a single. You could smoke, since Indians owned it. Their rules applied. Across the lobby, through a bank of open-wide security doors, acres and acres of slots spread forth in a thick, yellowish atmosphere. Few people were playing. Uniformed security personnel wandered about among the abandoned machines. All the poker tables were dark. Lights on a distant wall flashed purple and yellow as if beckoning invisible people to come. The Indian room clerk frowned over the desk and down at Hansy as if she didn’t like dogs, had possibly once had a bad experience. “What’s its name?” Hansy blinked up at her. “Hans,” Delores answered. “Hands?” the girl said. “What kind is she? “He. He’s a wiener,” Delores said. “A wiener?” the Indian girl said. “Is that like a Wiener-mer-ammer?” “Not really.” Delores picked up the Welcome Kit paper bag and looked inside. Poker chips wrapped in cellophane, some liquid in a tiny red vial, an airplane-size bottle of white Zin, two condoms in red foil, some red lip balm, some buffet chits and a chocolate chip cookie, all nestled into red tissue. I LOVE WINNNING was printed on the paper sack, also in red. Above the key rack, behind where the tiny clerk stood, a sign showed the black silhouette of a pistol, above the words Don’t Bring It In Here! We Check!

The TV was on when she stepped inside her room. The air smelled possibly of watermelon. “Welcome to Menominee Means Money, Delores!” the TV’s message already said. “It’s awesome you’re here. You can play twenty games of chance right on this screen. Just use the remote. Or let us show you an awesome time downstairs. Eat the buffet free with the chits in your I LOVE WINNING hospitality kit. Enjoy!!!” The message’s background was a topless, possibly Indian female giving Delores a big, promiscuous wink.

The room wasn’t big, but didn’t seem to have been visited recently by house-keeping. The bed was a waterbed shaped into a heart, its bedspread all-over red pink-and-white cupids with bows and arrows. Delores pulled it immediately off on the floor. Unspeakable acts had taken place on this bedspread in the spirit of matrimony. Plus there could be bed bugs. You forgot these things when you were tired.

It dawned on her – something about the room and the view between the heavy curtains down to the vacant, snowy lot where her car sat beside a light pole near the row of dark RVs – dawned on her, as it had a few times through the day – dawned on her about precisely how old she was. Or had become. Sixty-two since November. She’d been married twice. She had a daughter living in Tucson. She had a grandchild there, whom she seldom saw. She owned a bar that wasn’t doing well in a small-town in central Ohio. Her parents were dead. Her brother was dead. She lived above the bar. It bore her name. And now look. A shit Indian casino in northern Michigan, near the end of a winter’s journey to visit a dying man she’d conceivably once loved but didn’t now and wouldn’t recognize if he walked in the door, and whose only claim to the world’s attention was that he’d left his country because he was afraid to do his duty before he knew he had one. Did some part of this ask to be commemorated? Just because misfortune happened and you get old? Would she be able tell Boyce something? “What in the world?” Would that interest him, even if he couldn’t speak? She said these very words out loud but didn’t hear precisely them. Hansy walked out of the bathroom at the sound of her voice, sat on the cupids coverlet and looked her. She was not the kind of woman to act on meagre provocations, she thought. So, it must be that these weren’t.

She wished at this moment for a glass of wine – not white Zin. And she needed to speak to Sandra. Let somebody know something – when she’d be arriving. Would she even recognize the town after 40 years of progress?

No one answered at Boyce’s. It was nice that her cell worked. When the call clicked to voice, it was Sandra’s – all cheerful and school-girlish and promisingly nasal. “We’d love to talk to you, okay?” Her accent seemed strangely southern, whereas when they’d talked before it hadn’t. “Rick and I aren’t home. But leave us a message. We won’t be away long. …” Some classical music started, which unexpectedly made her feel panicked so that for a moment she couldn’t speak. She managed. “Hi.” Then stopped. “Sandra … and Rick?” She had to speak quickly. “It’s Delores. From Ohio (why say that?). I’m just down south of the Soo tonight. I’ll try to get to you before noon. I’ll call about directions. Hope all’s well with you.” Another stop. Boyce, of course, was dead or dying. That was why she was here. He wasn’t well at all. “Bye now,” she said.

Who knew what was going on there? What if she arrived and something just amazingly awful had just happened. How would that be? No mentation of any kind. Followed by a long drive to Ohio.

The High Rollers Buffet was small, evil-smelling and bright – all its food items crusted under ferocious heat lamps. Broasted chicken. Deep-fried Shrimp. Parched meat. Oven-hardened potato planks. The brown group. The salad was grey and fatigued. Only the veggies looked like what they were. Dessert was a long metal pan of something yellow with a big metal spoon sticking out. She could wait till breakfast. She’d thought of bringing something up for Hansy. But he was asleep now. There’d be a Cracker Barrel on the Interstate. A glass of wine would take care of it.

The Wampum Bar was long and empty and too big, built for different days from these days. Places like this – if there were places – got put up and pulled down three times in one person’s life. Her dad’s place was 80. Red brick clay scoured out of the Ohio ground. It had never not been a bar.

The Wampum made a circle and served all around, the middle bottle tiers lit brightly from underneath. No one was visiting it at the moment. Christmas lights were still up from the holiday. Red neon was the dominant motif. Everything had a red glow, including your arms. Red neon, Indian-themed art hung above the bottles. Red neon braves shooting red neon arrows. Neon braves paddling neon canoes. Neon teepees. A rendering of a long red neon march with sorrowing women and children and their belongings on travois. The something-something trail. She couldn’t remember what precisely. Tears.

Back across the smoky slot-machine cavern, there were still only 10 or so sports playing. Muzak was piping in Engelbert Humperdinck, but occasionally that was interrupted by the startling, loud clatter of a slot paying off. There was mini-golf and a water slide in a far, more-dimly lit “pavilion” beyond the slots room. None of that was up and going. Where was the convention centre? Who’d have a convention here? Other Indians, she guessed. The place made you feel like you were possibly approaching the end of your life.

There was a gift shop open, where sportsmen bought women cheap sexy underwear, stale bon-bons, porn novels, more red-wrapped condoms and tee-shirts that said I’d Rather Be Gambling, or, Michigan: You Find Yourself in a Bewildered State. She’d seen those at the rest stop. She wasn’t bringing a gift. A dying man didn’t need a gift. She was bringing Delores. Delores would have to be enough.

“Should I consider that a cry for help?” The bartender had to be a big Indian. He’d poured her wine, then walked a few paces away down the bar and gone back to writing with a stub pencil into a paperback book while smoking. She wasn’t aware she’d cried out for anything except to ask for a glass of wine.

The bartender wore a blowsy white shirt, and had his long Indian hair slicked back in a ponytail. He had big dense black eyebrows. His big face could’ve been handsome but was wrecked by acne he’d been treating with a heat lamp that had left the skin around his eyes pale and weird. He had thick ears and thick fingers with silver and turquoise rings on them and tattoos on the knuckles. He was also wearing a medi-ident, plus one of the dopey silver-plated cell-phone holsters on his belt. Somebody would’ve found him attractive at one time, but then would’ve regretted it. He was younger than she was, though not much.

“I was just watching on TV,” the bartender said staying where he was. There were five TVs on the wall behind the bar, all sharing space with the neon canoes and bow ’n’ arrow shooters and the trail of tears. The same basketball game was in full, soundless swing on each one. “This guy leaves his old wife for a younger woman and moves to Kearney, Nebraska, okay? Guy’s got bad diabetes, and the new wife doesn’t know how to do his bandages because of bad circulation. So he calls his ex-wife and asks her to fly out there, but she tells him nothing doing. So he loses three toes.”

Delores looked at him and didn’t say anything. Just looked then back down at the translucent rim of her glass and her hands and the bar napkin.

“You’re supposed to say he got off lucky just to lose just his toes,” the bartender said, his eyes not rising from his book, which was a Sudoku. He smiled in a way Delores understood was supposed to mean something. He had the clipped way Indians all talked. Like an old movie.

She smiled at him amiably. “I’m just here for the wine.”

“Then have some more.” He set down his book, brought the big bottle of Pinot Grigio down and topped her off.

She put her hand on the rim, though after he’d poured it. “I’m good,” she said. He was bigger close-up. You were expected to experience his large presence. He smelled like a cigarette and like Aqua-Velva. On the counter behind him was an orange prescription bottle she couldn’t read. Heart stuff. He looked like it. Maybe he had diabetes, too. Talking to men wasn’t bad now. Past 60 they got better. They all forgot something. Indians were probably different. She kept her little .25 in her pocket – in direct violation of the rules. Everyone at home knew about it. Life in a bar wasn’t always fun-filled. Things happened, and you got surprised.

Leonard Farr was this bartender’s name. The red plastic tag on his big white shirt said so. He was creasing and recreasing the wet bar towel on the glass rail in front of her. She held her breath then let it out slowly, as if she was waiting for something to happen. Whatever he’d say next. You couldn’t see the child in Leonard Farr’s face. He’d been this Leonard forever. Now that she’d had a drink, she needed to get up to bed. Put this day away. The feeling now was that whatever might be important wasn’t going to happen. Which was Boyce’s situation – she felt. What made anything or anyone special? That was a very good question.

“Let me try to guess,” Leonard the bartender said. His lips were dry, parched.

“What do you want to guess about?” she said, speaking to him for the first time as another human being.

“The gods to one another are not unknown,” he said.

“Is that what we are?” Delores said. “Are we gods?”

“I think you’ve had your little heart broken, and you climbed in your car and started driving north. Am I wrong?”

“Then what happened?”

“Our story’s still unfolding, isn’t it?” Leonard Farr said.

“You have a great talent,” Delores said. “You’re wasting your time tending bar.”

“My daughter – I mean, I’m her stepdad – she teaches at the college in the Soo.” Leonard cleared his throat heavily and tried to look earnest. “I’m just up from Sarnia to take care of her kids. And, of course then I got stuck here. But I help her figure her students out. You know? She says I’m a genius for intuition.” He smiled a particularly evil smile that said he might be lying about any and all parts of what he’d just said. “Paw-paw the genius. I did want to be an actor once.”

Down the bar, a young woman had come and taken a seat in the red neon glow. She was young and pretty but too thin. She was wearing a chorus-girl get-up in gold, which didn’t fit her well. She was the cocktail waitress. She reached across the bar, found a Globe tabloid and began studying it. She didn’t look Indian. She looked like a Michigan farm girl who’d gotten kicked out of her house because she’d done amphetamines with her boyfriend.

“That’s our Miss Tickly,” Leonard said, regarding the waitress in a predatory way. “Isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

“Tingle,” the girl said, without looking up. “Tickly’s the day girl. And she’s black, by the way.” Leonard’s talent didn’t quite stretch all the way to there. The Muzak again erupted with the sound of slots paying off, and behind that a woman’s shrill voice shouted, “Weeeee’ve … got-another-lucky-winner!”

“How close was I?” Leonard Farr said. He’d moved near-in again, though the bar was between them. This was his deal. Every tenth customer, he got lucky with in one of those RVs out in the lot. First you got to hear about the daughter, then the kids, then college in the Soo, then the spoiled acting career. Then came Paw-Paw. A dream you’d rather not have.

“Real close,” Delores said, sliding off her stool. “Too close for comfort if you get what I mean.” The waitress looked over and rolled her eyes.

“Come back when you hit the jackpot,” Leonard Farr said, staring at her too intently, unblinking. “If you know what I mean.” He took an orange Chapstick out of his shirt pocket, smeared some generously onto his large lips and walked back to where his Sudoku waited beside the cash register. “You look like someone I used to know,” he said and coughed into his white shirt sleeve so his germs wouldn’t spread to others.

In the elevator, to her immense surprise, she discovered she was crying. For what in the world? Since how long ago had that happened? Not when Billy died. Though when her dad had, she did – on the plane back, just as she was landing at JFK. Her sole Ireland trip. Hit a gusher, her dad always said. Crying women had never bothered him.

But this now? It might be better to cry more, she thought, since there seemed more to cry about. It was about Boyce, of course. Boyce had had a wonderful, sweet singing voice. A young man’s pure tenor. You’d never have expected it. Like a miracle. It was that making her cry – the memory of Ricky Boyce singing to her. She didn’t remember much about him anymore. But when they were living in Steelton at first, with no TV, no radio, he would sing to her. The first snow was flying. She sat at the little Kimball, which their rental for some reason afforded, and he would sing songs from The Fantasticks. Which he loved. It was so out of keeping – a boy to be singing to her. Soon It’s Gonna Rain, They Were You, Try to Remember. Even The Rape Ballet, which you could laugh about then. It was all perfect and rich with life commencing. Theirs. She would stay with Boyce, go to college when he was done; she would polish up her accounting skills and manage his soon-to-be burgeoning life as a sculptor of who-knows-what enormous, beautiful objects the world would come running to. “Rain pell mell.” It was their favourite line. Good things were coming soon.

Then that had ended. Not much past the second winter – quite some time before her mother died and she had left. Boyce stopped singing to her and began to think about a teaching career. She stayed two years more, most of that time tending bar on Queen Street West, and being not very happy about how things were going for her. She didn’t blame him. What was to blame?

When she closed the door softly, Hansy was asleep on his back on the cupids spread tossed in the corner. He goggled one eye at her, sniffed the watermelon fragrance but recollected nothing about dinner.

The room had become very hot. The TV still said “Welcome to Menominee Means Money, Delores!” She’d stopped crying and checked her phone again. No call from the 705. What was going on? Nothing she could make better. Better was to go to sleep, get an early jump and head south. Some journeys were only meant to go halfway. What would she say if she saw him? ‘Come home, Ricky, before you die? It doesn’t have to be forever up here?’ Only now it does. The swimming dream earlier in the long, long day had been a vision about permanence. The sweet boy singing beside a piano. All gone. It wasn’t worth crying over.

She found the cookie in the hospitality sack and ate it with the mini bottle of white Zin. She could play TV poker to get sleepy. Outside, eight floors down, she heard the gargly sound of the plow. Ping-ping-ping-ping- pinging. To let in cold air she slid the window back, but it opened only an inch. They couldn’t let the suckers take flight. In no time, though, enough would shift in. In 10 minutes she’d be asleep.

It had begun snowing harder on the few cars in the vast lot. All the tall light stanchions and the big glowing casino sign were turning the air dense and gold and swirling. Soon you wouldn’t separate sky from earth. The plow’s twitchy lights roamed all around. Two deer – does – stood motionless at the far corner of the cleared, white lot. Nothing the plow was doing alarmed them. A single figure emerged into view from below now, out from the casino’s big front entry. A large figure, a man, walking with a limp in too few clothes – a light jacket – pulling his collar up, heading toward the line of RVs at the edge of the parking, where forest took up. For no good reason she imagined this was the bartender. Leonard. This was where the two of them would be going if things had worked out his way? The big thick tattooed fingers. The orange Chapstick. The cigarette stink. So special.

Halfway across the lot the man stopped. His phone must’ve been ringing, because he clutched the little square instrument that had been attached to his belt, tight to his ear and seemed to speak, though he started limping along again, talking. Maybe it was his daughter up in the Soo, wondering if he was on his way so she could be rid of the kids. Get out for some fun. It could’ve been true.

Something about the snow coming down, bright grainy air and snow crystals shifting through the narrow window opening into the room where she’d soon be sleeping – something about this sensation made her think, no, the bartender was dead wrong about the gods knowing each other. They did not. The gods, whoever they might be, were as alien to each other as men are from beasts. Although, once you understood that, how did it help?

From out in the sequined air she heard music. Coming from inside, no doubt. Sinatra, singing something, something. …’Back in the ra-ace.’ There was no real reason to decide about tomorrow now. She’d had a drink. She’d had two drinks. Sound decisions didn’t follow two drinks. How many times had she observed this phenomenon? Suddenly the air made her shudder, then wince – almost with satisfaction. She pulled the window tightly closed and latched it. In the daylight the world would be different how from it looked now.

Author’s Note: I’d never written a story “on demand” before, so that was an inspiring challenge to me. I’d also, for a couple of years, been scheming about writing a whole novel set in Sault Ste. Marie (both sides) and it was of considerable interest to see if I could make such a locale plausible in fiction. Beyond that, the premise – an American Viet Nam draft resister who finds his life in Canada – seemed to contain a call to language for me, without really announcing how that call might be answered. Luck. Pure luck.

Richard Ford lives in East Boothbay, Maine. His most recent book is a memoir entitled Between Them: Remembering My Parents.

CREDITS: Illustrations by RYAN GARCIA; Design and development by DANIELLE WEBB; Art direction by BRYAN GEE