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Part IV



Next time I opened my eyes I was in another world.

Everything was right where it should be, the fire and the clearing around us and the road over there. But it was all different. Like aliens had beamed us up in the night with our sleeping bags and our campfire and plopped us down in another dimension they wanted to fool us into thinking was the same but I knew wasn’t. time

The big, black, solid mountain of rock that was on the other side of the road last night, what we’d smashed chunks of mud against — it was gone. Now it was just a big hill. A big grassy hill with a few trees and these little crevices and stones here and there.

The clearing we were camped on was a shelf jutting out from the road. Maybe fifty paces further, it fell away into nothing. It was ringed with dusty trees, except the gap where we’d come down off the road and the other side that dropped off. On the open side I could see across to other green hills. No roads on them.

Our fire was out but still smoking, unimportant now. From Gus’s sleeping bag only his hair was poking out.

I stretched and breathed the air far down into my lungs. I made a loud yawning noise but it didn’t wake Gus up. So I left him at the fire and strolled to where the ground dropped off.

It was a long drop. The cliff we’d worried about walking over last night. Except if you walked off it you wouldn’t fall to your death. Not steep enough. You’d skid down and bang on rocks all the way until you hit the trees way down there. A continuation of the hill on the other side of the road. The two slopes made up one real mountainside and we were on a kinda plateau partway up.

Way down maybe a mile away in the valley between our mountain and the others was the water we’d heard. It stood out, brighter blue than the sky, a narrow long lake twinkling with stars of sunlight.

And at the far end of this lake was a boat dragging a long wake behind it. Squinting, I could see people on it. I thought I could hear their chattering, which was nuts, they were too far away. But I waved to them. Then the sound of running water came to me real clear and I wondered if that’s what I’d been hearing. The running water sound came from the other direction in the valley. In the thick trees there I caught a silver glint. I saw another glint further along and I knew it was all one river rushing through the valley and swelling up big and blue in the lake where the boat was. Maybe the boat took passengers to Vancouver. Could it go all the way through the mountains to the coast?

I went back to the fire and sat on my sleeping bag, waiting for Gus. He finally stuck his head out and looked around confused, like me earlier.

“Aliens did it,” I said.

“Need a drink.”

“The water is too far away,” I said. “I got two oranges left.”

He wriggled out of his bag and went to look over the drop as I had and out across to the other mountains and the lake and the river.

We took off the jackets we’d been wearing day and night since Winnipeg and sat around our dying fire. We ate the oranges, throwing the peels in the ashes. Thin lines of smoke went up from them.

Gus said. “A car.”

I listened and I did hear something coming on the road.

But it didn’t. It was a large truck and made a lotta noise to gear down and stop beside our clearing. It said Harpur-Bonisteel Ltd. on the side.

Three men in grey work clothes and hardhats jumped out and came towards us. Without saying a word, one of them pulled out a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam on our fire. Then another one dug it up with a shovel and stood back for the other to spray again.

Three men in grey work clothes and hardhats jumped out and came towards us. Without saying a word, one of them pulled out a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam on our fire. Then another one dug it up with a shovel and stood back for the other to spray again.

We held our sleeping bags out of the way, not knowing what to do or say.

The men ignored us and stamped their heavy boots on the drenched dirt covering the ashes. Only then did they turn to us.

“What are you doing here?” the oldest guy said. His grey hair matched his uniform. Shirt and hardhat had the same logo as the truck.

“What are you doing here?” the oldest guy said. His grey hair matched his uniform. Shirt and hardhat had the same logo as the truck.

“Nothing,” I said.

“Just hitchhiking through,” said Gus.

“You trying to start a fire?” said the man. “The lumber company has the authority in this territory to charge you for this. You could go to jail or get a thousand-dollar fine.”

“We didn’t know,” Gus said.

“You could set the whole forest on fire.”


“We could charge you.” He looked around our clearing. “Spend the night here?”

“Is that all right?” Gus said.

“Just don’t light any fires,” said the man. “I don’t care where you sleep, any of you people hitchhike through here. No skin off my nose. Just be careful. Got it, boys? No fires.”

They walked back towards the truck.

“Hey,” Gus shouted after them. “Can we get a ride outa here?”

Some more noise of starting up and Harpur-Bonisteel Ltd. was gone. We were still clutching our sleeping bags.

“Jesus,” said Gus, looking at our wrecked fire.

So we hit the road again, thinking if we couldn’t get a ride we’d walk until we came out onto a main road.

Hiking the road was kinda fun now that we could see it. An old lumbering road, switching back and forth through the trees up one hillside and down another. In some places the hill fell straight down beside the road and we could see for miles across the valley. On the high side of the road we found rivulets of water we could drink from.

There were a few cars on the road now too. By noon there was a sparse and steady traffic taking this shortcut through the hills, though none of it stopped for us. I wondered if any of them carried the people we’d left at the campfire at the corner last night. For a while we didn’t care a lot about not getting picked up. It felt good to be walking there in daylight.

Once a sports car stopped beside us. These two gorgeous women, maybe mid-twenties, were in the only seats and a dirty, young guy with a backpack and a dog sat high in the small space behind them. We agreed with them we couldn’t see how they could fit another two hitchhikers. Could they help us any other way? We said we were getting pretty hungry. They scrounged up an almost empty jar of cheese spread and a few biscuits left in a box. We took it and ate every last smear and crumb.

By mid-afternoon we were hungrier and tired of walking. The sun was baking those bare hillsides, which was a change from being cold but it was always too cold or too hot.

We didn’t get a ride until near dark. And then it was just to where the lumber road rejoined the main highway. The end of our great shortcut.

There were four other groups of hitchhikers strung out on the road there. First in line at the corner were two of my friends from Winnipeg.

“Hey, it’s the Runner,” said Scraggly. “Far fucking out!”

“Oh, man, I thought you were in jail?” said Yellow Teeth who still made everything sound like a question.

“Cops never caught me.”

“The Runner,” said Scraggly again.

They hadn’t heard I’d even made it back to the hostel in Winnipeg. The guy who ran the place never let on. I told them how Gus and me got our gear back and they thought it was hilarious.

I asked why they were taking this roundabout northern route to Vancouver. Yellow Teeth said he’d decided he didn’t wanna go home after all and if they went the southern way he’d have to pass through his hometown, I remembered as Korona or something. Scraggly thought there was a rock festival happening in the mountains somewhere.

I kinda hoped they’d invite us to join them so we’d be in the first group to get a ride from this corner. But we all knew they’d have a better chance as a twosome.

We carried our packs past the other groups standing a ways apart. The third bunch was the three guys and two women we’d left at the campfire the night before. We said, “Hi,” and the guys nodded but I couldn't tell if they recognized us.

We took our position as the fifth group in line. The chances of anyone stopping for us soon were slim. It was half an hour before even the first group, my Winnipeg pals, were picked up. They got in a van and all the other hitchhikers in the line lifted their gear to shift closer to the corner.

The van pulled back onto the road and went by. Then it stopped.

The side door slid open and Scraggly shouted, “Runner. You and your buddy, come on.”

We raced to the van, threw our stuff through the door and were hauled in by hands.

“I told these freaks you were with us,” said Scraggly. Three or four other long-haired guys and girls, two others driving up front.

Out the back window I saw the other hitchhikers watching us speed away.

“Far out,” I said.

“Far fucking out,” Gus said.


Continued >



Part I





Part II





Part III






Part IV





Part V







Part VI







Part VII















Part IX



Part X