The skin between my toes has disintegrated, raw and stinging as sweat and miles of movement rub my toes against one another. The cold too, the cold doesn’t help. Running through snow is slow and as it continues to fall so will slowness. This can’t wait so hurry. Hurry.
When Jim first came to the camp he was kind of broken, but kind of fixing too. We used to say he was on the mend a heavy drinker for sure, and he had his scars for sure, but he seemed to be the one of us that would make it back, I’d have put my money on it.
When he first came to camp he told me stories of his family, how back home they had great dinners when his uncles killed a moose, of how they boated their way up the shores of Georgian Bay out of Midland, past Penetatanguishene, all the way up past Parry Sound and towards French River. They hunted up there, deer, sometimes moose if they were lucky, or a black bear, and would boat it all the way back down and drag the animals to the trucks waiting there at the boat launch. They’d be gone for days he said, and some years they’d miss a boat coming back smashed on the Canadian Shield and the boaters dead in seconds of the icy water of Lake Huron. He said he swam once after a boat smashed on the rocks and felt the water pull him in but his uncle grabbed him from another boat and dragged him over the gunwale and kicked him for losing an animal to the lake.
He told us too how his father used to touch him and his brother when they were kids, how his brother smashed his father’s skull in with a rock taken from the fire pit, his brother now in jail or out of jail and out of touch, he didn’t know. But his father was dead, and by the sounds of it that’s a good thing, but I never said nothing when Jim was telling his stories. We drank together to get him going, he’d be quiet at first but would get going when the liquor hit his belly and warmed him up. We got along fine but we were pretty much the only ones that did, and we kept quiet when there was work to do.
Once we had an American hunter from Michigan I think come up and hunt moose with us. This American had a chip on his shoulder and that didn’t go well with Jim. The American wanted Jim out of there but my dad told the American he had no right, and he didn’t. He told him to lose the chip on his shoulder and fuck off or go home to his wife without a moose. The American shut up after that and got his moose, but he didn’t tip at all. On his way out on the plane he gave us all the finger out of the window. Jim and I laughed which probably pissed him off even more my dad smacking us in the back of the head for showing disrespect. Jim and I got drunk that night on whiskey the American left behind, and Jim told me this one last story.
Jim’s dad was a trapper and a hunter just like Jim. They grew up in Kitchener but his dad never had any work. I guess his dad quit high school pretty early, and then his back gave out and he never had any manual work after that. But he was a hunter, so his wife back then grew a garden in the yard of the house they rented off welfare, and Jim and his dad would spend their days in the farm fields around Kitchener hunting what they could. Out of season they’d shoot ground hogs and coyotes and they’d eat them just like any other meat. In season Jim’s dad would hunt deer around the farm fields and later wild turkeys when they came back to Ontario. The conservation officers told him to shoot deer out of season because they saw him and his boy all the time with ground hogs and felt sorry for him, but Jim’s dad never hunted out of season.
The uncles wouldn’t have Jim’s dad up north. It seems they knew he was no good and left him be. It seems once he had his own kids he left the others alone, so the uncles left him alone and ignored him and ignored his kids until Jim’s dad got his head smashed in. The uncles stood up then, but Jim and his brother were already hurt and it was too late.
So now we’ve got a missing snowmobile, a missing bottle of whiskey, and a missing Jim. My dad’s snowmobile almost ran out of gas following the tracks so he turned back and told me to wait, but once he turned back I started to run along the tracks of the other snowmobile, the moon is up and I’ve got that light so long as the tracks don’t fill up with snow. I’ve been an hour running, no sound of a machine behind me or in front, just me running in the moonlight and all this fresh snow and cold, the cold coming in quick and my cheeks frozen with it. There’s a lake up ahead I know about, about an hour and half by foot so I’m close and I know Jim’ll be there all the way drunk on that whiskey and I’ll drag him back and leave the sled out there for tomorrow, but this is a long, long way, and the cold, the cold is coming in awful quick and the snow, it’s pretty heavy now and that track is filling in quick.
I know I’ll get to Jim just sitting out there on the frozen lake watching the stars. He’ll be drunk pretending like he doesn’t have a care and that’s why he’s drinking way out here by himself and drove his sled till the gas was out and drank himself silly. He’s a tough son of a bitch and he’ll be okay, he never hurt himself for real just talked about it a lot. He’s just a talker and me, my toes’ll warm up again and heal and Jim and I’ll be working the camp again in a couple of days after this cold is over.