It was about 7:30 pm when I drove into Pleasant Creek.
Never was there a more ironic name for a town, except perhaps for some
of those dismal little clumps of collected flesh along the southern
coast of Australia like Mount Hope or Coffin Bay-towns initially settled
by convicts or castaways.
I was a castaway in my own right, running from my
personal, repugnant past. The news hadn't reached the local radio stations
yet and for that, I was grateful.
Pleasant Creek was a hunting town nestled somewhere
in heart of northern Ontario. Where exactly wasn't much of a mystery
to the townsfolk as it was the mapmakers who placed all the towns and
villages on those impossible-to-fold sheets. It seems as though someone
neglected to include Pleasant Creek on the map. I found it just off
the Trans-Canada Highway, somewhere about sixty kilometres north of
I stepped out of my aging Intrepid. I had put many
miles on it and it was beginning to show. The transmission had begun
to overheat and after driving any distance now, it felt like something
kicked me in the ass when I slowed to a stop. Driving it had become
a nightmare, but it served me well in the past and I was not quite ready
to part with it just yet.
I stretched my arms high in the air and took a deep
whiff of air. The smell of asphalt and gasoline mingled with the sweet
odour of pine needles and ripening blueberries. Some days I really missed
I craned my neck and surveyed the locale. It was a
quaint town on the outside. Probably only about two dozen or so families
lived in the dilapidated houses. The town's only business was a gas
station that was also a grocery store and a hunting lodge. Only one
gas pump, with globe atop cracked and faded, provided service to the
locals. It looked as though it had transported through time from the
fifties. I half expected a team of sharply dressed gas jockeys to come
pouring out of the store. "Check your oil, sir?" one would
ask as another checked my tire pressure and another cleaned my windshield.
There was no pit crew for my gasping Intrepid. Instead,
I had to flip open my own gas door and unscrew my gas cap. I lifted
the nozzle from the pump. Ancient dials on it still read the last amount
of gas that the last customer had pumped: forty-eight litres at a heart-stopping
thirty-five cents a litre. That couldn't be right. I placed the nozzle
in the mouth of my car.
There was something almost erotic about pumping gas.
A phallic-looking nozzle forcibly inserted into an opening just slightly
big enough for it somehow seemed wrong. A gentle squeeze and liquid
would issue forth filling the belly of my old girl.
Only this time when I pulled the trigger the pump
refused to give up its golden treasure. It didn't even sound as if electricity
powered the unit. I looked over the pump; searching for a knob or dial
to turn the pump on. Nothing. I returned the nozzle to its holster.
My old girl would just have to go unsatisfied for now. I took a deep
breath (I didn't need this, not now) and headed into the store.
Joseph Currant, a francophone whose family had been
in Canada for almost as long as the natives, was the sole-proprietor.
Joseph (never Joe) was an elderly gentleman possibly in his late seventies.
He looked as though he hadn't seen a barber in a decade or a dentist
in just as long. He smiled a gummy, toothless smile when I entered the
store. The place smelled of pemmican and petroleum at the same time.
It was almost rancid. Pale sunlight drifted in through a grimy window
providing very little illumination to the store floor. Dust danced and
swirled in the artificial breeze generated by a small electric fan on
"Something I can help you with?" His accent was unmistakably
I looked around the store. Very little stock filled
the shelves. The goods were sparse-too sparse unless you dedicated your
life to curing and smoking meat.
"I'm just passing through I'm afraid. I was looking
to gas up but it doesn't seem like your pumps are working."
"They ain't worked since eighty-eight. Ain't
had much call for them."
I picked up a bag of seasoning salt and looked at
the price. I wasn't interested in seasoning salt; I just felt as though
I needed to touch something. I gingerly placed the seasoning salt back
in its place careful to try to line it up in the void of dust where
it once sat. I quite possibly was the first person since eighty-eight
to have picked up that bag.
"Do you know where else I can get some gas?"
Joseph scratched his hairless head with rough fingers.
Even ten feet away I could hear the course scratching. "You could
try Farquarh's up the road." He hummed to himself. "Nah, the
Farquarh's have been closed for over ten years. How far are you willing
My gas light had just turned on when I came into town.
I had another sixty kilometres or so but for some reason I didn't want
to let Joseph know that. "I don't know; probably about an hour,
"Kap is just up the road, don't you know? Why
don't you go up there?"
"Thanks," I said. Then added, "I just
came from there," under my breath. Joseph hadn't heard me and turned
back to his well-worn magazine.
I left Currant Goods and Outfitters and stood on the
stoop looking at the dense forest just beyond my tired old girl. An
unnamed county road wound its way through the foothills of the Canadian
Shield and disappeared into the dark wilderness. Back the other way
(the way I came) was my old life. I wasn't too eager to head back that
I walked back to my car; dragging my heels into the
dry earth, watching the wisps of dust kick up from my feet and tiny
pebbles scattered their way tracing little roads in the dirt before
of me. A cool breeze found its way down the road and across my back
despite the mid-July heat. Autumn was on its way early for up here.
Even though it was late in the day, the sun still hung high in the sky.
I got back in my car. After a few minutes idle, the
air inside began to warm up. The coolness of the air conditioner would
be a welcome feeling. I turned the ignition. The engine whirred and
sputtered but did not catch. I groaned. I could already feel my blood
pressure beginning to rise. I tried again.
Again, there was nothing. The engine just sputtered
like it had before.
I tried again. The engine still did not respond. "Shit!"
My fists flew into the air. I caught the review mirror with my right
hand, bruising my knuckle. "Godfuckingdammit!" No matter how
much I cursed, the car wouldn't start.
I suddenly became aware of eyes upon me. I looked
out my side window. Two urchins, a boy and a girl, stood gape-jawed
and dirty faced. They looked apparently stunned by my poor choice of
language. I forced a smile on my face, telling them in my head, "I'm
all right. I'm just fine. Don't mind crazy ole me." The children
fled behind the store the moment I opened my car door.
I stomped back to the store, reminiscent of the way
I had done almost twenty years ago when my mother dragged by me some
place I didn't want to go. I slammed open the door, and the cheery bells
above rung out. Joseph looked up from his magazine, indifferent to my
"Do you have a phone?" I could tell my tone
was gruff but I didn't care. That damned car caused me so many headaches
in the past year; I almost wished I hadn't bought it.
"Na-ah," Joseph said quite matter-of-factly.
I squinted at him. He was lying. I could tell. I could
always tell when someone was lying just like the way some one can tell
when it's raining when they're standing in the middle of the street
during a thunderstorm. "My car won't start. I need a tow truck."
Joseph beamed at me for the first time and soon to
be the last. "Ah, my petit-fils has a tow truck. I'll telephone
him and he'll be right over to fix you up good."
I slowly walked towards the counter. "I thought
you didn't have a phone," I reminded him.
He smiled toothlessly at me. "It ain't for public
use." Joseph disappeared into a back room concealed by a dusty
red curtain. He hadn't disappeared far as I heard him pick up a telephone
receiver and dial.
" Bonjour, Alan? C'est votre pe-père. "
I almost wished I had learned French in high school.
I opted to take biology and other science classes instead.
" Il y a un homme ici, dit que sa voiture ne
fonctionne pas. "
There was a pause. It was probably 'Alan' talking.
I knew they were talking about me.
" Non, je ne sais pas il a trouvé cet
After a few moments of talking with his petit-fils,
Joseph emerged from the back room. The smile had disappeared from his
face and he looked almost worried. "I'm sorry mon ami. My grandson
is unable to bring his truck over right now. He said he would be here
in about trois hours." He held up three bony fingers.
I sighed-there wasn't much else I could do. "Does
this place have a restaurant?"
"Unfortunately no we don't. We do have a picnic
table out dos." He waved his hands, indicating the back of the
store. "I could have my wife make you a sandwich."
I rubbed my stomach. Now I was beginning to regret
not stopping in Kapuskasing for supper. The thought of food right now
was simultaneously appealing and disgusting. From the looks of the store
and Joseph's appearance, I leaned toward more disgusting. Images of
headcheese on pumpernickel danced in my head. My stomach turned. "Thank-you
but I'll be fine. Do you have some bottled water?"
Joseph laughed at the comment. "Who drinks water
out of bottles? If you're thirsty I can get you some water from the
I sneered but my body needed something to sustain
itself for the next three hours. "That'll be fine. You say the
picnic tables are out back?"
Joseph pointed the way and I found my way to the rear
of the store. The view was spectacular. Currant Goods and Outfitter
stood atop a steep cliff. Below, almost a hundred feet down, the floor
was carpeted green with Spruce trees. I hadn't noticed how high up I
had actually driven until this beauty greeted me.
The vicinity directly behind the store was far less
appealing. The stench of a dumpster, which was overflowing with rotting
garbage bags, overpowered any aroma that would have come from the forest
far below. Bald tires of varying sizes piled next to the dumpster. Wrappers
from chocolate bars and pop cans lay strewn across the area directly
under the table making it impossible for me to place my feet anywhere
I tried to distract myself from the mess around me
by gazing back into the deep wilderness. I almost longed for running
free in the woods.
My mind must have drifted further than I imagined
for when I swung back to reality the two children stood directly in
front of me. They giggled and whispered to each other. It was apparent
now; they were brother and sister, possibly only a year apart and looking
about six or seven years old.
"Hello there," I said in my most un-intimating
"Are you a..." the boy began but covered
his mouth and giggled into his hand.
"What am I?" I asked.
"You ask!" he demanded of his sister.
She giggled back to her brother and poked at him.
"You wanted to know."
"Great grandpa says you're a loup garou,"
the boy finally let out.
"He said what?" I was shocked. It'd been
so long since I heard that term. Most people didn't believe in my kind
anymore; those who did were too afraid to say anything for fear that
doctors locked them away.
"Allez!" The voice of Joseph erupted angrily
behind me. The two children scattered. I turned back to Joseph, who
was holding a glass of dirty water. "Pour vous," he said offering
the glass to me.
I gingerly took the glass from his frail hands and
set it on the table. The glass wobbled showing the obvious flaws in
the table's structure. "Were the children bothering you?"
I blinked at him for a moment trying to cut through
his accent. "Oh, no they weren't bothering me at all. They were
just playing. You know kids."
"Yes, I know kids." His voice was soft and
distant, as if reminiscing on days past.
I took a slug of water. It was warm and I could feel
the sediments sliding down my throat. Despite this, it was slightly
refreshing. "So, where is Pleasant Creek?"
"You don't know? You're here, aren't you?"
I laughed. "Sorry, I didn't mean the town. I
meant: where is the creek the town was named after?"
"There weren't a creek. Just some joke by the
settlers of this place. They thought it would be funny if they called
this place after some creek that weren't there. Some joke, eh?"
I laughed even though I didn't get the joke. I tried
to force myself to take another drink of the polluted water but I just
couldn't bring myself to. I pushed my glass aside. Joseph looked at
the glass then at me.
"Is there something wrong with the water?"
"No, well...It's just a bit dirty."
"Ah, Jesus! I've been drinking this water since
I was a baby. Ain't harmed me none."
I shrugged. It was hard to argue with Joseph's logic.
I picked up the glass again and took another drink.
"Are those your great-grandchildren?" I
asked and nodded my head in the direction the children ran off.
"Ah, oui. They're Alan's children. Alan is my
"Cute kids." I laughed.
Joseph threw me a cool look. "I don't know why
you're here but I think you better leave as soon as possible."
I smiled at Joseph through the side of my mouth. "I'm
trying; remember? Your grandson is coming to give me a tow."
Joseph walked around to my side of the table and placed
his hand on my shoulder. "I don't know why you came back but we
don't want you around here."
My spine began tingling. The tension emitting from
Joseph was nearly unbearable. "I don't know what you're talking
Joseph backed up and threw his hands in the air. "Mon
dieu, bâtard dégoûtant. We don't need your kind around
here; not again." He crashed back into the store cursing in French
as he left.
I took a deep breath and held it as long as I could.
I don't know why I wound up in Pleasant Creek. It almost felt as though
something drew me here but I couldn't say for sure. Maybe I could feel
the twilight. Maybe there was a calling deep within those woods; a calling
that drew me here. I returned my gaze back to the woods far below and
daydreamed of running through the forests.
Three hours passed quickly as I dreamed. The electronic
beep of a truck backing up and French cursing brought me back into reality.
For a moment, the sweet aroma of pine needles hung in my nose and I
swore my fingers felt tacky with sap. Then the putrid scent of the dumpster
overpowered it all again.
I pushed myself up from the picnic table and headed
back to the front of the store where my dying car sat. A bright red
diesel pick-up truck with a rigging on the back slowly backed up towards
my car. Chains and straps swayed uneasily as the driver, a large balding
man in his late thirties, sat forcing himself out of the cab window.
Big meaty hands worked the steering wheel and gearshift simultaneously.
Beads of forced sweat formed on the large man's brow. Behind the truck,
Joseph guided the driver in with wild hand signals. There was a sickening
crunch and a look of pain on Joseph's face. I knew Alan went back too
far. I didn't want to see the damage.
Joseph ran up, positioned himself between the tow
truck and my car, and rubbed his head with his weathered hands. "Ah,
mon dieu," he sighed. He looked up at Alan and then noticed me
standing outside the scene of the crime. "Is all right. There is
very little damage."
That sentence made my heart sink even further. I trotted
up to the car to get a better look at the incident. The front bumper
had cracked and bent. Thank frigging God for plastic, I said to myself.
Then I noticed the headlight. "Sweet Jesus fucks!" I howled.
This was going to cost a lot-a fuck of a lot. "What kind of asshole
tow truck driver are you?" My rage vented on Alan. I didn't want
it to but Christ it made me mad. The car was ten years old and I still
paid off the loan. This was going to cost. That kept running through
my mind repeatedly.
Alan hopped out of the cab. He stood much taller than
I did but I could see he was distressed. "I'm very sorry. I didn't
mean to. I really didn't."
"Well, who the fuck is going to pay for it? Not
you I suppose."
Alan knelt down and looked at the damage. He scratched
his balding head, much as his grandfather did. "It doesn't look
too bad, really. Not too bad."
"Not bad? You busted the fucking headlight. You
wrecked the bumper. Look, the radiator!" I noticed a puddle beginning
to form. Rivulets of anti-freeze began working their way through the
dirt forming a completely new world of lakes and rivers for the ants
that crawled by.
That's about when it happened. By God, I didn't want
it to happen but it did; much like it did every other time-why I had
to leave Kapuskasing in the first place.
I don't know exactly what happened. I never
really do. All I ever remember is the beast welling up inside me, like
a volcano on the verge of erupting. Sometimes I can remember my skin
tearing; sometimes I can feel my own blood pour out. Most times though,
I remember nothing at all. I only know when it happens in the aftermath.
Often all that there's left is the hint of the taste of blood in my
mouth. That thick, metallic taste was unforgettable. A few times I still
have the meat stuck in my teeth and I vomit when I awake. I've always
hated that taste. I once heard that the taste of pork is the closest
approximation to the taste of human flesh. What is it the cannibals
call human-long pig?