Projects, Works in Progress
I'm always working on something. My plan for this particular page is to put excerpts of things I'm working on and maybe get feedback. This is Mahikhan Lake, a novel-in-progress. You'll have to excuse the machine language that I can't seem to get rid of for this preview.
In the snapshot, taken just after the Second World War, Uncle Frank wears an MP uniform of the Royal Canadian Navy and sits on an Indian Chief motorcycle smiling broadly into the camera. It is the last known photo of him aside from his wedding picture with my aunt Margaret—in which he is not smiling so broadly. Maybe he could see the day his widowed wife was somewhere lost in Nevada or New Mexico a few short years after his front wheel dug into a soft patch of gravel throwing him headlong into a power pole. This was in the days before mandatory helmets, and they wouldn’t have helped anyway. Uncle Frank left his diapered son, Chris, and my aunt Margaret to fend for themselves, and they did okay till 1983 when my cousin whumped into another dimension at the intersection of Avenue T and 22nd Street—truck versus his Roadster. No contest. And Chris was wearing a helmet.
I salvaged that bike, sold it, and by the time I bought my Road King with the money I made off the Roadster, Aunt Margaret had disappeared.
The common thread here is motorcycles—or really—dying on them. I write this posthumously, impossible though it seems, having suffered a fate similar to my cousin and uncle. Now, my brother and sister are about to dispose of my ashes. (I’ve since been cremated) and I’m curious what they’ll say about me—if anything—they are extremely self-centred individuals and don’t really have a clue about me, or even about themselves for that matter.
This story is about them, discovering each other—mostly through me even though I’m not there. Life is just full of surprises. At any rate, they occupy all the time and space, although I do make brief appearances here and at the end. They would both be surprised by my words. They thought that because I could not speak fluently that I could not think as well. I suppose it’s a natural enough assumption because nothing is as it seems. So while I miss the wind in my face, I am quite happy to be dead. Dave Currie 1955 – 2005
I knew it was Dave. You could hear him a half mile away. Straight pipes barking from his gleaming midnight Road King, all 1,600 cubic centimetres tucked into the chromed-out Twin Cam 96 V-twin that he would have rebored himself. Only wannabee lawyers rode stock. Or worse, Buells.
The percussive roar grew louder the closer it got, suddenly easing into its registered potato-potato murmur till it ceased altogether. A moment of silence. Then the unmistakable heft of Dave’s steel-toed, thick-soled boots striking the risers as he climbed above the paint shop to my apartment where my nominal rent is subsidized by my nominal job as night watchman for the store below—to which I do not even have a key. This casts a shadow over the efficacy of my role if someone should ever try to steal a gallon of latex primer at two in the morning. Except if it was Dave; I could tell by his footsteps.
Dave banged on the door. He did not wait for me to answer, not that I was going to get up for him anyway. I was already into a warm-buzz having started with the hair of the dog a couple hours earlier. It was about noon. No need to waste time.
Dave entered, a big man, he swung his arms to close the door like bear swatting flies. Dave always made big entrances.
“Fuf-fuf-fuck it’s cold,” he said.
“It’s not snowing.” I steadied my gin.
“It’s fuf-ucking m-m…” and here Dave’s throat and jaw seized up as it often did on “m’s”, “…mid-July,” he finished.
I resisted the urge to complete Dave’s sentence. I didn’t always.
“You sis-till drinking that shit?”
It was a rhetorical question. He didn’t expect an answer. I shrugged instead. The less said to Dave, the better. If you talked, he had to answer. Talking was not his strong suit.
Dave yanked the red bandana from his wiry red hair to dab at his gnarled nose. It was a habit of his because of its super-sensitivity, and he was conscious that it might be runny. The burn and ensuing mediocre surgery had mottled his face an uncertain creamy texture that flared red from time to time. His mouth was still perfect though, the lips of a Cree or Highland warrior from somewhere in his mongrel past. He surveyed my apartment.
“Got any mmmore?”
“Help yourself,” I pointed to the fridge. “In the freezer.”
Dave strode to it, his boots kalumping across the floor. I wondered if the paint salesmen below were concerned for their safety, that their ceiling might collapse. Dave’s heft was mostly muscle. He took the bottle from the freezer and carried it like a club. He didn’t look for a glass but returned to sit on a stool across from me, straddling it like a bike. It’s where I sat when I practiced the guitar—not too often these days.
Dave was in a power position—forcing me to lift my chin from my chest. This would be important. Dave wanted something I was not going to say no to. He unscrewed the top of the Bombay, took a swig, then reached into his jacket and pulled out an envelope. He began to pass it to me but snatched it back just as I reached for it. I left my hand hanging mid-air.
“D-don’t r-read it. D-don’t open it. D-don’t nnothing it.” He then placed it on my waiting fingers. On it, penned in Dave’s hieroglyphic scrawl, was Dianne.
“Gggive it to Didi,” he said, choking on the “g”. However, he had no trouble articulating the redundant “d’s” when he referred to our sister.
“Why don’t you give it to her?”
“Cccan’t,” he said.
I knew there was no point in asking why he couldn’t do it himself, that he probably saw Dianne about as often as I did, which was almost never. Maybe our mom would die—which she was bound to do in the next four or five years—and we’d see her at the funeral. I could give it to her then. So could Dave, for that matter except Dave would not be going to Mom’s funeral—not if she was the second last person on the planet. He’d let her lie there and rot to die alone. I wouldn’t blame him. But really, the opportunities to see Dianne were few and far between. We might as well live on different planets.
Having completed his task, Dave then stood and made a kind of flourish out of screwing the top back onto the gin—my gin. “I’ll t-take this,” he said holding up the bottle. He headed back to the door.
“Where you going?” I had hoped he’d settle in for a bit and maybe we’d have a visit.
“M-m-mahikan,” he said.
Dave’d been staying there, at the cabin on the lake. I knew that. I watched his big, hooded back shuffle out the door. Then listened as he clumped back down the stairs. A few seconds later, a bike roared.
That was the last time I saw him.
I am not a violent man; I don’t like violence—can’t stand “ultimate fighting” or whatever they call it—and I avoid contact with whatever violence seems to be happening nearby—car accidents, for example. I cross the street. Take a detour. Violence is fraught with pain, and I think not getting involved with pain is a good policy. Pain hurts.
Despite that, I can’t get over how much violence and pain has been in my life. My mother used to beat Dave daily; I had an uncle and a cousin (not to mention a brother) die in motorcycle accidents; an aunt committed suicide; my dad drowned in his own phlegm (I doubt that you can get more violent than that). Violence seems to be pretty much all around me. You can’t turn on a TV without seeing something on fire or blow up. Why I don’t own a TV. Why I cross the street.
Why I make music.
All I’ve ever wanted to do is make music. And maybe drink a bit.
Rolling Stone Magazine once called me “the male Joni Mitchell” which was pretty heady praise, and quite unwarranted for my one-hit wonder, Lugaru, I penned back in the day, before the night fell. (Although my metaphorical night didn’t actually fall—as though onto its face—it did stumble around, however, lost in a kind of shadowy dark place that looked a lot like the sun was on the other side of the planet.)
All that’s left now from my sunny youth is the hardware—amps, speakers, mixers and two or three boxes of shit that might have plugged into something or other at one time but have no possible use whatsoever now, including an Ampex 1250 reel-to-reel that was top-of-the-line forty years ago, early solid-state mixed with vacuum-tubes for God’s sake. I suppose that makes it priceless now as I hear some of this gear is making a comeback for that warm, honey-thick sound that digital just can’t duplicate.
This was the equipment I used when Lugaru was big, the man/wolf running through my dreams—a song stolen from my long-dead grandmother Dupuis, a pinch-mouthed woman who always looked terrified. Or maybe just startled. But when she told that story, it made your hair stand up. It made you feel like prey. Like the wolf was outside the door.
It made you feel like Dave was around.
If Dave hadn’t given me the damned note or letter (or whatever it was) that I was supposed to give to Dianne, scrawled on the back of a blank, grease-stained service invoice, none of this would have happened. Dave would have picked his fight with the side draft, lost, got tangled under the truck, bounced around like a bloody paper cup, and that would have been that. Game over. I would have continued drinking myself into blissful oblivion none the wiser, even though I’m fully aware that wisdom is a tolerable virtue, despite its aspirations, and that once you have it, there’s not much you can do about it, except maybe deny, deny, deny.
But all that does is call attention. And God knows, I don’t want to call attention. I have all the attention I can handle and then some. But I promise myself I’ll start drinking again when I turn seventy-five, if I should live that long. It’s only another twenty-five years. I wonder if it will be a happy or a sad event. It will be an event though—starting anything is an event.
I remember starting drinking, the event—my first drunk. Four boys—we may have been seventeen or eighteen—one forty-ounce bottle of rye whiskey, one night and one tent in the middle of a cow pasture. We drank till we grew blurred and leaden, then toppled over one-by-one into dismembered heaps, our mouths open, drool trickling down our pink jowls like a sty full of demented hogs. Eventually, the urge to relieve myself grew pressing as did the stink of daylight, and I crawled out into the morning sun, its lightening whiteness hammering both inside and outside my skull, and plunged my right hand wrist-deep into a fresh cow pie. I then barfed over the rest of my arm. THAT was an event. You’d think it would be an end to drinking, and although rye whiskey and I never kept much company after that, it was just a start. The process of quitting took a bit longer. Thirty-five years. And I’m not done yet.