The pound, pound, pounding of running shoes hitting the pavement was the only song he heard many times during the day. There were no other songs to be sung because the road ahead of him was forever. He was used to it though. Those same sounds of footsteps were with him his whole life because that is what he was good at.
His grandfather told him to keep running. Those caribou are in you and you can run for long distances like them. He was molded to be like them. Molded by the generations of survivors who did what had to be done in order to survive. It was pre-assigned placement by the ancestors that guided his life. Sometimes it did not make sense but on he ran.
His thoughts were broken as he ran and another world entered. Help! Help! he heard once again and from his daze he looked down the alley. There he saw a young native woman being attacked by a man. It didn’t matter if the man was white, black or native he ran as fast as he could to help. He saw a fist come up and down.
Shut the fuck up you bitch!
I’ll kill you if you don’t stop yelling. You are a whore like the rest of the women here are.
Again he hit her. Again and again and she just screamed for help and cried
He couldn’t run fast enough. Each stride he took…. the alley got longer.
What the hell is going on? Why are they getting further away? He ran ever faster and the alley got longer. He couldn’t do it anymore and stopped. In the distance he saw the woman curl up and just let the man keep hitting her…. The man grabbed her by the hair and dragged her off into the distance looking back at him and laughing. He had the evil smile that men have when they dominate. Perhaps he was a spirit who toyed with his mind….
Make sure you drink lots of water. You should have someone running with you… If you are tired then just rest. You don’t need to prove anything. These words filled his mind…. and as much as he heard them a million times and was able to dismiss them…. they still came back…. He knew people saying these things meant well but why don’t they understand that he has miles to go before he stops.
He was following the scent of the rising sun…. It was his destination, and he was running to make it there to be free of the slave’s rituals…. Where the sun rises from the water.
The fire medicine it possessed… to clean the land and leaving its embers for water to cleanse. Its magic chasing his heartbeat in time with his feet.
He sang to himself …
Maybe he was just doing time.
It was all he knew from the things he did in his life. Was it salvation or was it redemption?
Those calculated measurements from the oppressive regime of Christian men and women that forever stitched into his mind the constant humiliation and moral beatings of growing up in Indian country where those fucking missionaries almost made him give up on life forever with their guilt.
…..Moving was better than staring at a wall…..
Indifferent to what the bleached skin people were saying and seeing
He was taking care of business…. the dreams,… the talk,….. the impotency of not being able to save anyone was coming to an end. The change came at the cost of deterioration of another relationship.
The ending did do something. He stopped existing with no understanding
It evoked memories of what he can still do. He can be like the caribou. He can run forever.
He followed the patterns of the trails that were embedded in the generations. Leading to the horizon to the place where dreams still existed in a natural intimacy only living on the land could provide.
His mind wandered under the heat of the day and the tiny songs of mosquito’s.
He remembered…. He did save one.
She was a beautiful woman.
The drum beat the song of romance and the words sang of her beauty. Her smiles were walls to the scars she carried and the men of Hastings added their own brands to her night after night. One spirit tried to take her spirit that night he remembered. She said she didn’t care anymore….
Let him take me…. I don’t have anyone that cares she spewed out. The spirit laughed and entered into her mouth riding the words that came falling out. He was going to steal her heart through any opening he could find. He sang his song of domination and he was going to hang her scalp on his belt. He knew it.
No!!!!…. I won’t let this one take you and he sprang into action. He jumped the spirit and fought him with all the strength he could gather.
Gone were the feelings of helplessness. The years of failed attempts at life. No more were days gone by where he could never see tomorrow. No more talk of the sorrow. He was mending a broken heart that was not his. It was hers and he wanted her to live again. She had a lifetime to live for. His were numbered.
So you want to be a fucking hero now do you!!!??? the Spirit dropped her and faced him. His war shirt hung the scalps of countless conquests. He was not shy to show this puny man his trophies.
If you stop now I’ll give you this new drug. Fentanyl… Use it. Make it your invisible tattoo that only I will see…. ha ha ha…
Still he ran to save her.
Not enough? Well then I can get you thrown into lockup for being a god damn drunk Indian. Go back to Pigeon Park and stay there…. the Spirit mocked him even more. Castrating him with words to make him remember the vendetta so many wounded women, men and relatives threw at him as they discarded his heart to the side.
He closed in and the stench of destitution and piss filled his nose. That was the spirit’s perfume. It drew many to him and he revelled in it.
Even he remembered it as part of his arrangement to exist.
You want a song?… Well this is your song – it’s the song of disappearing. He practiced it for many years and it became his stream of consciousness. He disappeared into his own universe where trained programming was the rule. He was good at it.
The only ones who saw him were the ones who had already left. He ran in that parallel universe – One foot there and one foot here. Still,…. the relentless pace of the Cariboo stayed with him and so too… did his Grandfather.
The language of respect was understood by few. It was recited by many, but the reality is… it is much easier to de-humanize.
The songs sang their words into his heart….
“You are a no good lazy man… Stuck in your aggravation… Why look for salvation…. stay where we put you… Soon you will not care… because of where we put you….” The lyrics ran through his head for longer than he can remember. It was his narcotic for too long…
The stars are bright tonight, he mused as he plodded along. The eclectic combination of Stars, Clouds, forest smells combined with the aroma of diesel from passing trucks taking their cargos to the borderlands of altered existence filled his senses. Day shared the Stars with the Night and they both stitched memories of long lost lovers and family. The sweetness of the water passing through his mouth brought back the gentle times he and his grandfather would seek while he was being taught how to survive on the land. Everyone knew Grampa Albert and his unassuming ways. Still Cariboo legs was the one that he showed the most patience to. He knew that he had a big task to do in his later years. They were almost ghost stories of a forgotten past. Running brought them back from the past. He sang the “Calling Song” as he ran. The song of memories.
Finding shelter in the evening away from any comfortable motel is something that just happens from time to time and he didn’t mind it at all. Others worried about him and compared it to being homeless on the streets. But he wasn’t homeless. Grampa taught him well.
He watched the sparks float up into the night and remembered her. She was like a warm summer rain quenching the thirst of love. They were the tears of being free from a pain she carried and her gift back to him was to let the tears wash over him as he laid under the cover of leaves. All he had to do is dream and the courtship took over. It could be that that is the memory he was looking for.
His heart raced faster and faster as he challenged the spirit out on the street. It was time to take him on… His first fist struck out only to hit the war shield and deflect away. He lost his balance and fell to the pavement. A boot hit him on the side of the head before he hit the ground. He shook it off quickly and rolled away from the rush of the next foot. The smell was overpowering and he only managed to get to one knee. A thud hit him behind his head and it felt like a rock was thrown at him. Still he fought to stand up. The breath of the spirit stole away senses and wouldn’t let him go.
As long as he’s not bleeding he is fine he thought. He worked himself behind the spirit and started to choke him. Eyes bulging out the spirit called for help. No one came.
He choked him even harder and the spirit began to sway. Breathing deeper he tried to fill the air with his pungent smell to lure others to join him. A crack and they both fell to the ground. No one moved. Crashing in sounds of broken thoughts. Was it a victory or not? What the fuck did it matter anyways…. He was still standing!!!…. and his opponent faded away in the increasing shadows from the dimming light…
She laid there motionless as he looked towards her. He was too late to help. Blood was covering her matted hair but her beauty never left. He wept at the futility of it all and an upheaval of useless wishes, dreams and broken dreams crept into his mind. All he could do was pray for all the lost yesterdays that consumed the growing crowd. He tried to do his best but it seemed like it was not enough. Those million dreams from a million stars shattered like broken mirrors reflecting the chaos of life.
There was a small whimper that rose from her battered body. It shook him back to reality and he yelled out for someone to call an ambulance. Maybe she will be alright.
Back to reality
Police pulled up alongside him as he ran. Lights flashing and he immediately thought that he was going to be hassled again for the umpteenth time.
Hey Buddy! your that runner aren’t you? That one that’s running across Canada.
It surprised him but he stopped and looked at the police car. Out stepped two officers looking like they were ready to arrest yet another Indian.
Yes sir I am.
Can we both shake your hand? We thank you for doing what your doing. We been watching your story from other police departments as you made your way this way. Maybe we can escort you for a few miles if thats alright.
That’s great. You can run with me if you want. One officer took up the challenge and together they ran. Slower than he was used to because the officer still had his uniform and all of his kit and equipment strapped to his body. We will run like Caribou he told the officer. Slow and steady with our chest puffed out and smelling the air for the way home. He was sensing the deep that was his heart with each step…. Together they sang the song of footsteps one after another. The police lights staying in time with the feet.
She was barely breathing but she was alive. Opening her eyes to see who was holding her like her grandfather did. All she could see was the faint outline of a man but his heart sang songs to her and she felt safe for once. Even in the pain she could feel the place where passion outlasts despair. Looking for the words of expression of hope and gratitude… Only to be replaced by gasps of agony as she tried to keep breathing.
He just held her and told her to remain calm. Help was coming and she will be fine. Looking beyond the sparks that were his eyes she told him.
There are other sisters that need to be helped. You are a good man. If only I could read your mind and tell you…. Thank you.
She would recover and be forever changed by him
You are retelling stories that need to be handed-down once again by your running…. The old woman said as he stopped by the water to soak his feet. He looked around….. the shape of a deer in the bushes was all he saw. He thanked the deer and understood. I will do my best grandmother. It’s what I am good at.
The place where the sun rises was getting closer now,… as was the chill of changing seasons. He had distance to make up and he was recharged by the people he met. He put many miles behind him and the memories felt good. It was love he was feeling and that made the steps go by easier and faster. There would be no more static silence to endure behind walls. He spoke loudly without saying a thing and the long lost sisters were crying tears of joy for him. He cared for them and they honoured him.
He sang his song and the caribou ran alongside him.
(Sept. 14, 2016)