Sea Without Shores: Chapter Two

Chair in the Sky

“It seemed to him that something, he didn’t know what, was beginning; had already begun. It was like the last act on a set stage. It was the beginning of the end of something, he didn’t know what except that he would not grieve.”

The BearWilliam Faulkner

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Scribbler One:

HEINRIK ENCOUNTERED bear scat while he blazed a new trail to nowhere. In the dark of night, Laura and Peter heard “the thing” maul their compost pile for its newest treasure. The Smiths found their paint cans smashed open and the paint spilled over their back porch and down the rocks leaving a dilemma for Nature to reconcile blue moss with pink tree roots. Jeremy’s outhouse got knocked down because of the off-stew he had thrown in the hole. “It” smashed through Sylvia’s garden fence in two different places and left waste to six rows of late corn. She cursed the beast; nevertheless, her invocation only served to make him bolder. Calvin discovered his eight-hundred-foot plastic waterline chewed apart in fourteen places, and, as luck would have it, he was out of connectors and hose clamps. While on a recent outing with their teacher, Laura, the six school children heard grunting and groaning in a valley behind the old orchard. Not an apple remained on a tree. The salal gatherers refused to work in the bush, and even the shellfish pickers, now that the night tides had returned, felt skittish, hearing it wander the intertidal shores, clanking, pawing, and crunching clams, oysters, and crabs. Somebody had to stand up for the Wild and it sure looked like the bear got the job.

The storekeeper, James, went to the Black’s cabin to feed Felix-the-Cat, because the couple, along with their daughter Sarah, had gone to visit their parents in Vancouver, and he, the busiest man in The Refuge, got stuck with the chore. Until the bear ransacked the Black’s cabin, no one believed the animal would break into a home.

As James and the dogs approached, he saw one board from the front door clinging to the doorjamb. The others were scattered in splintery dismemberment over the porch floor. A twenty pound bucket of bulk peanut butter lay ravaged and squashed – the contents no more – except for the odd brown streak, which Felix-the-Cat licked clean, as James, Angel, and Duende entered the house.

Broken jars and ripped boxes were strewn across the kitchen and side-pantry floors. A fine dusting of whole-wheat flour covered the walls and ceilings, as if a diligent behemoth had gone over the surfaces with an extra-sized powder puff. Crushed tins lay punctured everywhere. Apparently, a large spike, teeth, or claws had stabbed repeatedly through each container, and then the contents sucked dry. Shards of plates and glasses covered the surfaces of the counters and cupboards. The bear had ripped the curtains from the windows, shattered windowpanes, and smeared strawberry jam over the stove and stove pipe. It had devoured an entire case of six-inch candles except for a few waxy stubs. Untouched, the braided garlic hung on a beam, but a mishmash of spices plugged the sink. Kerosene odour from broken lamps contaminated the air.

That afternoon the community turned out to clean and board up the cabin. They scrubbed and disinfected. They dug a hole behind the Black’s home and buried the useless bits and pieces. Peter, from the seafarm, suggested that anything in need of repair should go to the store’s workshop. A group of men hauled down broken drawers, tables, chairs, and window frames. They agreed to have a work bee to mend the damaged items at a later date. The widow, Sylvia, suggested that the women assemble next day at her house to sew curtains and wash the sheets and blankets. She volunteered to organize a collection of canned goods and dry staples for the Black’s return.

James, Nicole, and the dogs walked home after the clean up. Nicole had hardly spoken a word all day, though she had worked hard with the others to bring back the cabin to a pristine condition. James’ wife had barely spoken to him during the last few weeks.

As they tread the trails, in an effort to ferret out the reason for her “silent treatment,” James recalled a recent quarrel about electricity, and wondered if that small tiff were the reason. She had requested, politely of course, that he install switches on the walls rather than have impractical and unsightly pull cords dangling from each bare bulb. Nicole had demonstrated how she needed to jump and grab the one in the living room. He remembered laughing. Then she requested that they run their own generator continuously, or, “here’s a better thought,” why not hook directly to the store’s big generator so they could have a freezer, fridge, and electric heaters. She wanted the luxury of flicking a light switch anytime, hot water on demand, and heat from any source other than the old wood heater and stove. Nicole claimed the logs he used in building the house were far too dark, and that it seemed like night even during the day. “Living in this cave makes me crazy.” His wife had asked for all the pleasures of modern conveniences, and didn’t think these requests out of line.

James had explained in a nicer way that he had no intention of making the Arabs happy by burning unnecessary fuel in the generator, pull chains worked fine (he could lengthen the one that was too short, which he had done the next day), appliances weren’t really necessary with the store’s facilities right there, and colour was colour when it came to logs.

Only a few tears had trickled down her cheek on that occasion.

But those were tears from the past.

Later that evening, after the couple put Wade and Tara to bed, they quarrelled again. Usually the husband and wife fought at night when they were sure the children slept, never in front of the community with its turned-up ear, and always following weeks of pent-up feelings and targeted silences.

Nicole started the fight. “I’m leaving with Tara and Wade.”

Her voice woke James, who had been napping on the couch. He sat up quickly, as did Angel and Duende, who were sleeping in their favourite spot behind the wood heater.

As he considered various replies to her declaration of departure, Nicole got up from her chair and walked to the kitchen. He presumed to make tea. The making of tea would signal that the fight would last longer than the one over electricity. Similar rituals had evolved during their twelve years of marriage, and both parties respected the fragile arrangement. He still, however, could not forgive her for waking him from his snooze.

As she walked into the kitchen, he answered her threat to leave with a gush of one word questions, “When?” then louder “Where?” and then he shrieked “Why?”

He fought an urge to rise from his chair, rush into the kitchen, grab her by the shoulders, shake her like a rag doll, and shout through a spray of saliva only inches from her face. Perhaps if it had not been so late at night, when, as everyone knew, the powers of judgment and restraint were lessened, then his thoughts would have been more controlled. Alarmed at his outburst – that feelings had nearly become actions – James looked up at the loft to hear if he had woken the children with the rising crescendo in his voice. He assumed Nicole did the same. Angel gave a moan, as if she understood the new emotion stifling the air. Duende sniffed the air and moved to the kitchen doorway so that he might have a better view.

As the silence persisted in the kitchen, James took advantage of the quiet and guessed the answer to “When?” – that would be tomorrow. And the answer to “Where?” – that would be her parents in Victoria. He should have just asked, “Why?”

He reconstructed what had taken place so far and rationalized, I only raised my voice so that my wife might clearly hear.

James assumed that her threat to leave with Tara and Wade had not been blurted out, but rehearsed during the last weeks. Otherwise she would have said more; she would have spoken more extravagantly, giving a medley of reasons for her decision.

An incident had occurred two days earlier, and he connected it to their intended departure. He had passed by Alice’s house on the boardwalk and overheard Nicole and Alice through the widow’s kitchen window. Nicole said, “Life…my life…could have been…” and then something about “choices made,” and Alice’s reply, “Yes, yes, dear, it’s … for all women.” The blanks in the conversation had bothered him. James felt embarrassed about his eavesdropping, but the more he had thought, the more he became angered that Nicole and Alice shared such an intimacy. As in a simple equation, the computation went: closeness to others necessarily lessened closeness to himself. A plus B equalled less C.

Now, faced with Nicole’s ultimatum, James walked to the kitchen doorway. The water boiled on the Coleman burner, and Nicole watched it carefully. He knew nothing further would be said until the tea had steeped and been poured. He felt more at ease knowing that they would settle into an established pattern. He felt more at ease, because he was alert, or so he thought, to nuances missed earlier. James patted Duende on the head and scratched behind his ear.

Nicole had wandered into his life on a sunny summer day fourteen years ago. She had arrived with her parents on the Saga, and while they polished the brass on their fifty-five-foot, Chris-Craft yacht, she inhabited the fishing tackle section in the general store. The attractive woman filled the air with questions about whether or not to use a number four-and-a-half Tom Mack, or one of those “great big fives,” maybe half brass and half chrome, or just straight chrome, “What do you think would be best?” Then she wanted to know how deep to troll, and should she use one of those “new fancy dodgers,” and what size weight, “eight or ten ounce” or even heavier, what pound test line, how fast to troll, what would be the best reel to use – a shower of incessant questions. He had to come over from the cash register and ignore other customers, but she sighed so sweetly with each decision to make, and as her questions floated off her moist, red lips, his eyes fastened upon her pale white throat colouring quickly with cherry blotches, and lower down, he watched her chest heaving in fierce anticipation. Feeling obliged, James had to take her on the night bite after work and show her how to catch a salmon off Production Point.

During the winter they exchanged letters. For the first time, mail day became as important to him as it was to the rest of the community: her letters, entirely poetic (he attributed her expressive powers to a university education), on blue and scented paper, describing his world – trees, water, wind, and wild life – things he took for granted, in a way that caused him to stop and study intently what he saw, though the shopkeeper should have been replacing a rotten boardwalk or some other nonsense job. And Nicole enclosed little watercolours of wildflowers she had done herself. James didn’t recognize the Latin names, but he did recognize the flowers. He had never before known an artist.

His letters, on scribbler sheets, had described problems with machines – rings, pistons, commutators, spark plug gaps, and head warp. Rarely was he able to express his own dreams and ambitions, but somehow he must have said enough to bring their destinies together. When the Saga headed home the following summer, Nicole stayed behind. Her parents thought she was only playing a temporary and rebellious game, which they called “a silly phase.” When the lovers had married, James was certain their thirst for passion would never quench.

She poured the boiling water into the preheated teapot.

As the tea slowly steeped, she said, “Tomorrow!” then louder, “Parents!” and even louder, “Frightened!”

Those answers were out of keeping with James’ expectations. She was not supposed to speak until they both huddled over their teacups. He had almost forgotten his questions. Her loud staccato mimic came back more terse, more mad, and more hurt than answers from previous fights.

James let time pass.

They both liked strong tea.

She put out cookies – a good sign. She gave a cookie to Duende and one to Angel, who had now come into the kitchen too. Nicole’s movements seemed poky, but still deliberate. She grew more beautiful the longer James looked.

He reckoned that the presence of the bear had caused her to distort the very nature of The Refuge, as though it had somehow become a menacing place. He could see how she might think that worse things were possible. They sat down at the kitchen table, and Nicole poured the tea.

“A bear’s not going to come into a house if it’s occupied.”

That’s how he started, the beginning the hardest part. He told her everything he knew about bears and nature and wildlife. It occurred to him that if he could get rid of her fears, then he would be rid of his own. As James spoke, he saw that their fight would gradually settle into something gentle and familiar. She turned the gold band on her wedding finger. By telling her everything, and languishing in the details, and by recalling some of their best family memories, James found he could extend this moment of peace.

Their misunderstanding opened slowly like a magnolia blossom – white, sweet, and lime scented.

He said the bear would head for the mainland as soon as the salmon started up the rivers – “Any day now.” He explained how frightened even he could get in the city – “It depends on what you’re used to.” He assured her many times that she had nothing to fear – “You’re safe. The children are safe.”

It took time for the petals to unfold.

She stirred and stirred her tea, and when he couldn’t stand it any longer, he said, “You’re stirring your hair in your tea.”

She squeezed it dry.

A liquid pearl from the corner of her eye splashed on the table. He had seen this before, sadness and beauty woven into a fine tapestry.

The more he talked, the more she cried.

GEESE HONKED south in long trailing vees marking the change in season. Fall shadows lengthened. Eagles abandoned their nests and congregated at rivers for the great salmon feast. Alders and maples disrobed, leaving their limbs to hide the blue sky. Noisy, leaf-littered trails announced the footsteps of passers-by.

By now the bear should have made its way to the mainland and swum from island to island; it should not have been on West Redonda Island, and certainly not in The Refuge. While awaiting the salmon on their final journey, bears were supposed to be ripping grubs from old hemlock logs and working the late berries over-hanging the shaded riverbanks. Was not the time approaching to bask in a winter of animal stupor?

Following the “Black Attack,” people heard rifle reports in the middle of the night, and, if they looked out their windows, saw flashlight beams slashing through the trees. Then the community members held impromptu meetings at dark scenes, only to learn that the beast got away one more time.

Soon the bear discovered the beehives.

“Mein Gott,” Heinrik said a hundred times on that upsetting day.

The people called the hives, “Heinrik’s Condos,” and they loved “Herr Heinrik’s Honey,” the “3H” brand. His hives on the hill above James’ house had been four-tiered upon the bear’s arrival. Now the waxed frames lay scattered over a trampled and tortured moss. Contingents of upset bees made repair attempts. Portions of honeycomb lay about, the honey eaten. Drones, slow on assessing the nature of the dilemma, and unaware of the futility in their actions, guarded the bottom entrances to the tiers while the tops were open to the sky with workers coming and going freely. Opportunistic ants had located the debris, and the bee colony had to fight a rear-guard action.

James found the queen excluder. An immense bee-ball massed on it, and he presumed the queen safe. Heinrik spent the rest of the morning bringing new supplies and repairing the hives. He would have to feed them sugar water to overwinter – too late in the season for the colony to recover from the tragedy. His dog, Pemah, yapped the entire day.

Heinrik conceived a plan of revenge with an assist from James. In the afternoon, they spiked a long ladder made from long poles and two-by-four rungs to an old fir snag near the hives. They fabricated and fastened a comfortable chair at the top. Though James had larger worries, he agreed to take the night shift, more from an inability to say no than his strong sense of community responsibility. Certainly, he held no conviction that the plan was sound.

Heinrik said the early shift, “a precaution only,” would be James’ since he was a family man. Shooting from the chair would be, “Easy.” The beekeeper assured the storekeeper that the bear would not appear until after midnight, well after James’ shift had ended. 

Around the dinner table, James described the plan to his wife and children.

“It’s almost certain the bear will return. Heinrik and I will take shifts. Shooting from the chair in the sky should be easy.”

“That’s a stupid plan, Dad,” commented Tara.

He cited preparations and precautions they had taken and only partly reassured his family when he said his shift would finish at eleven o’clock, and then Heinrik would take the chair for the rest of the night. He emphasized that the bear stirred troubles after midnight, as everyone knew. He repeated “after midnight” three more times. Most likely his words had worn thin, diminished by over usage. Obediently, they ate their meal like monks in a monastery, steadfast in their oath of silence, broken only by the tinks of knives, forks, and spoons; the rustling of napkins, the occasional scrape of a chair leg on the floor when someone moved, and the loud tick-tick-tocking of the eight-day windup clock, which woke Angel and Duende on their mat behind the wood heater. The dogs cocked their ears and tilted their heads, trying to extract meaning from the remainder of time.

James skipped dessert and cleaned his 30-30 with the 4X scope. He experimented taping different flashlights in different ways to the barrel – bottom, sides, and top. He settled on the green “six-volter” and secured it to the barrel with windings of electrician’s tape. He attached the flashlight in such a way that he could still see the metal sites beneath the scope. I’ve got options, he assured himself.

A week earlier, on a mail day, James had participated in a discussion in the store on how to rig a rifle for night use. Some said scopes were useless in the dark. The seafarmer, Peter, confirmed that point, by citing examples from his youthful hunting adventures. Others, who thought everyone had dispensed with the scope idea, said to mount the flashlight so that it shone on the metal sights, and forget about lighting the target. Jeremy, a log salvager with many opinions, and a reputation as a successful pitlamper, one of those people who perennially goes in the Out, and out the In, a man forever in motion, exhibiting migratory unrest during all four seasons, disagreed, and recommended the light be mounted to shine directly at an imagined target, no more than “thirty yards max.” 

James’ rigging method ignored the advice given.

He put a new battery and bulb in his flashlight and tested the on-off switch. The flashlight made the gun feel heavy, clumsy, and off balance, not the light lever-action he was used to. As James made his preparations, Wade and Tara quietly started their homework. Nicole rattled the dishes in the kitchen.

Once, he said to her, “The whole community’s under siege,” perhaps forgetting her fears expressed from the day before, or perhaps regaining his sense of community responsibility. Nicole stared out the window over the kitchen sink with nothing to see except her own reflection against a blackening night. She coiled the ends of her hair with soapy fingers.

Later, he beseeched, “I can’t do nothing.”

That was when Nicole broke her silence.

“I know why you’re doing this James – you think this is how you can stop us.”

He didn’t like the way she put emphasis on you – both times. He assumed the children were in on the plan. He read more into her flare-up than may have been necessary. Now it was evident, at least to him, an exit strategy had been working inside her head even before the bear made its appearance. His mind so completely distorted her outburst, that no matter what he did, or whatever happened, it was a foregone conclusion that nothing could stop her from leaving. This new perspective on his wife made him think of the bear as a precursor to a far greater menace, even though he had no idea what that might be.

James took extra ammunition and an extra flashlight. He dressed in layers of wool not wanting to be shivery, if, though extremely unlikely, he had to shoot. He laced his newly soled Kodiak boots, put four of Nicole’s oatmeal, raisin, and carob cookies in his jacket breast pocket, and shoved a stick of Heinrik’s father’s special pepperoni sausage (deer and pig) in his hip pocket. James instructed Wade to make sure Angel and Duende didn’t get out. Tara watched from the stairway to the loft. He gave his wife an aimless kiss and said, “I’m doing it not why you think.”

And she replied, “You don’t know what I think.”

He patted the dogs on their heads and left. The hike to the beehive site took five minutes. He climbed the ladder to the chair in the sky with the same confidence of any man going off to work nightshift. The view would have been spectacular in the daylight.

The night cooled quickly, and the pale hives against the waning light looked helpless. James’ fingers numbed, as he gripped the blued barrel of his rifle. He’d forgotten to bring gloves. He hung his gun over the arm of the chair and tucked his hands under his armpits.

He gazed at Venus above the mountains of Vancouver Island. He recognized Orion in the clear night sky. Stars winked on in each quadrant, and as he imagined, chirped like crickets and flashed like fireflies. He knew there would be a small moon and that it would crest the hill behind him, but only later in his shift. Looking out over his world, he saw what he knew: calm water, fog gathering along the eastern shore of Centre Island, and lights across the channel at Seaford and Squirrel Cove. A dull orange glow in the far sky told of the big town, Campbell River, where he and his family shopped every couple of months.

A tug rumbled in Lewis Channel pulling a log boom – probably the L.O.Larson, which he had filled with diesel three days earlier. The crew had played basketball on the dock with Wade and they had fed Angel and Duende three packets of wieners. The L.O. slipped behind the hills of Centre Island, but he could still see the weak light from the lanterns on the boom trailing a mile behind, hardly creeping along the water’s surface, heading north, a flat boom on its way to Teakerne Arm for the sorters and bundlers. The boat made good time for a tug with a flat boom.

James ate the sausage and cookies. He stood on the top rung of the ladder and pissed onto the moss forty feet below.

The forest grew quiet. The birds had retired, except once he heard a double-hoot from a Great Horned owl. If there was an augury in that call, he didn’t think to read it. Or know how.

A twig snapped – the nocturnal deer had started their search for the last soft greens before winter. He heard music from Calvin’s cabin on the knoll a quarter mile away. James knew the Smiths were there for dinner; he heard their laughter occasionally, and thought they might even be dancing. Jeremy, on permanent anchor in the lee of Baby Oyster Isle, in the box he called a houseboat, had turned his generator on. It putted quietly. Only the Storm Chaser, his beefy salvage boat, was moored along side, so he didn’t have company. James could barely make out the floatation on the longlines from the seafarm, where Peter’s caretaker, Sebastian, burned a weak light inside his floathouse. Bradley and Jim Jenzen’s rowboat sat beached below Adam’s rundown shack, so they were having a visit. For a brief moment, James worried about old Wilkes and his screwed up life.

A satellite blinked on and off every few seconds, slowly making its way across the heavens. James heard the distant drone of a jumbo jet from a long Pacific flight beginning a descent for Vancouver International Airport, a hundred miles away. He saw a shooting star, more the memory of it, like a quick trailing flash. And then, trailing quickly another flash. He wanted to see stars raining from the heavens. He stared into that section of the universe to really witness a spectacle, but the night sky revealed nothing more. Recently, he had read about the thirty-three year cycle of the Leonid showers in a National Geographic magazine and imagined himself and his family wrapped in sleeping bags on their front porch watching a deluge of space debris burning through the atmosphere. He played with the conversation that he’d overheard between Nicole and Alice and filled the blanks with numerous possibilities. What was her problem? What was it about “her life?”

When he looked down at the hives, they no longer appeared pale and white, but grey, shapeless, and seemingly without edges, as they slowly melted into the coming darkness. Behind him, when he turned in the chair, he saw on the mossy bluffs below, where it was open and lighter, large boulders and clumps of salal. They might have been juniper bushes. Even though his eyesight had adjusted to the night, he still looked forward to the arrival of the small moon.

James let his memory drift. He recalled their tender moments together, those joyous occasions that no one but they knew, or would ever know. He compiled a mental list of their best times and resolved to remind her of these; perhaps one happy remembrance per day would be the perfect tonic. Happy wife, happy life. He considered climbing down the ladder and running down the hill to reassure Nicole that everything would be okay.

A noise blasted through the darkness, a smashing sound from a scrub area to his right, a hundred yards distant, as if a bulldozer had flared to life. The animal racketed through salal and negotiated the forest without deviation – a straightforward demolition of the wilderness – no conscience, no thought for stealth, brazen confidence, and the master of its world. The noise rampaged by quickly and headed to the other beehive site above Alice’s house.

Damn, it’s not even close to eleven o’clock, thought James.

He took up his rifle.

The noise ceased. He calculated fifteen minutes had passed; time enough for condensation on his gun barrel to turn into a thin film of ice. The noise started again, not nearly so bold this time. He guessed the bear – behind him now, below him, somewhere near the base of the moss bluffs – had probably gone straight through his own back yard. Another twig snapped – not a deer this time – then a crunch noise on scarcely frozen moss. He turned his head to look down on the bluff. A new shape appeared on the hillside – dark, large, round, and motionless – not a juniper.

The small moon crested over a hill and partially lit the bluff. His concentration created interior silence: no hum of the L.O. Larson, no putt of Jeremy’s generator, and no music from Calvin’s tape deck. Then the shape moved to another ledge. James twisted in his chair and tried to look back and down, but his cramped leg screamed in agony.

James cursed that he had left his sign on the moss.

The bear snuffled and panted at the base of the fir tree, whiffed the piss, and gave a dry cough; then stood upright and clawed at the night. James had determined earlier that if by chance the bear came, he would wait until the animal engrossed itself in the hives before turning on the light. The bear jumped down onto a flat outcrop near the “condos” and made a “woof” sound when it landed. He saw a pale, lumbering blackness silhouetted against absolute blackness, and to the right of those images, the ghostly grey beehives.

It seemed the bear had satisfied itself that all was well; possibly the animal thought James had been and gone, or perhaps it wasn’t astute enough to conceive of danger high in the tree. The bear relaxed, anticipated the sweet honey, and panted steadily. James pulled the butt of the rifle to his shoulder. The safety made a faint click. The bear didn’t hear, or if it did, didn’t care that a strange noise came from above. James took a deep breath and turned on the light. The bear had taken the lid off one hive and already removed two frames. Like an experienced apiarist, it took painstaking care.

The light didn’t bother the animal either. And it didn’t look up. In fact, the bear seemed grateful finally to see what it was doing – as if perhaps James was the moon.

He couldn’t see the metal sights on his rifle foregrounded against the black coat of the bear so he looked through the scope. Momentarily, he congratulated himself for the options he had designed in his preparations. There was enough light to see the crosshairs in the scope but behind the crosshairs, he saw bristly fur, as though just inches from the bear. He ran the scope along the fur and realized he had been sighting on the rump, when the grey base of a bee “condo” jumped into view. He moved the scope back along what he thought might be the spine. He dissected the animal lengthwise until the crosshairs fell off the snout. James needed a perfect shot, between the front shoulders, over the spine, to shatter the lungs or explode the heart. He didn’t want a wounded bear running around the community, frightening his family, chasing away his family, destroying his family, and messing with their perfect life.

Entirely content, the bear was licking wax and honey from a frame when James pulled the trigger. James didn’t know why, but he switched the flashlight off. Maybe he thought turning the light off would restore the quiet.

His ears continued to hear the report of the rifle. The small moon found a small cloud so there wasn’t enough light to see the next sequence of events. He heard a thump, a grunt, and a gurgling cough. The ladder and chair shook violently. He levered a new round into the chamber of his rifle. He had no time to switch the light on. James fired a second shot, where he assumed the rungs of the ladder would be, and the bear climbing towards him. He kept hearing the report of the second shot. He heard crunching over the frozen moss on the open bluff and a crash into a patch of salal, then quiet.

Sometime later, Calvin yelled from far off, “Did you get him?”

He yelled back, “I think so.” James still sat in the chair in the sky.

After a while, he saw lights igniting the tops of trees approaching from many directions. The community arrived in a volley: Heinrik, the Smith’s with Calvin, the Black’s who were back from Vancouver, Sylvia, then Jeremy, the new kid, Carver, Peter, the Jenzen brothers, a little pack of dogs, and finally Nicole without the children. The men carried guns. Everyone breathed hard.

“Doesn’t your light work?” asked Jeremy.

After a pause, James said, “Oh,” and switched it on.

“Come down from the tree,” said Heinrik.

Heinrik and the others shone their lights on the ladder. James slung the rifle over his shoulder and started the climb down. His flashlight searched the sky randomly as he descended.

Heinrik called out, “Watch the rung!”

He did as he was told, skipping a broken rung with an extra long step.

“Where’s the bear?” asked Nicole.

“Over the bluff.”

Brad and Jim Jenzen moved to the edge of the bluff; divots of moss lay scattered here and there. Disoriented bees crawled everywhere. Brad searched with his light.

“Don’t see nuffin,” said Jim.

They inspected the ground for blood, bone fragments, tuffs of fur, pink and frothy lung tissue, but, as Jim had said, there was nothing to see. The dogs sniffed the ground but seemed reluctant to mount a chase.

Calvin said, “You said you got him.”

“I said, I think I got him.”

“We told you the scope would be useless,” Heinrik scolded.

“You also said he wouldn’t come ‘til after midnight.” James tried to shade his eyes from the lights.

They, one by one, cast their lights on the ground.

Heinrik asked, “What happened to the rung?” and all lights went for the mangled two-by-four. James looked at the rung too, and then down at his left foot.

“Maybe I shot my foot.”

They took turns helping him home. Jim Jenzen helped the most though he was a miniature man. Whenever Nicole assisted, she gripped James’ wrist so hard it made the pain in his foot slip away. During the descent to his home, the stars distracted him. They had increased in intensity as if enhanced by the crisp cold air. He wanted to comment on the spectacular sight but felt embarrassed about mentioning such an unimportant detail. When near his house, James said he couldn’t be sure if he hit the bear. In fact, now he had doubts the bear had shown at all.

Once they were inside the house, Peter, who had a first-aid ticket, took James’ boot off. The bullet had grazed the fleshy side of his foot above the small toe. Blood soaked his sock. He fell asleep on the couch while Peter dressed the wound. Wade and Tara watched from the stairs to the loft. People agreed to meet at daybreak to search for the bear; then they went home for the night.

As Heinrik left, he said to Nicole, “All we need is a wounded bear.”

“Thanks to your damned bees and damned honey,” she said.

When Jeremy left, he said, “I told him about that damned scope.”

Nicole didn’t bother getting James up to their bed in the loft, but covered him with their eider quilt. She propped his head with a better pillow and slept curled in his stuffed easy chair beside the couch.

He slept fretfully. Through the night he dreamed the same dream over and over. He saw a head rolling on the floor, unevenly thumping along, spinning occasionally, and powerless to keep a straight course, as it navigated across the great expanse of the room. There were holes in the head, and the brains had been sucked dry. The head reacted with aloofness – not horror, not grief, and not wonder.

During waking moments, he recalled the heroic fantasies that he had permitted himself through dinner, when his family refused to talk and the clock took charge of time. Typically, nothing worked out in the way he had imagined.

Realizing that he had performed badly, James dreaded facing the community in the morning, most of all Nicole. Secretly, he had hoped for a definitive outcome to the night in the chair in the sky. Regretfully, his family’s departure now seemed more a possibility. His foot ached and throbbed when he woke at daybreak, but he said nothing.

Community members assembled at his house. More arrived than had been there during the night. Rubber boots and rifles littered the back porch. The people seemed tired, grumpy, and still frightened; no one talked except to inquire about James’ foot. Jeremy arrived last, ready to tear the bear apart with his bare hands. Dutifully, Nicole served coffee. When Wade opened the backdoor to go to the outhouse, Angel and Duende raced by and headed for the bluffs.

Wade yelled, “Stay,” but the dogs kept running – their hackles up, skirting alongside the bluff into the little valley, and giving strange whines and yelps no one had heard before. People grabbed their guns on the back porch, and in the panic, some got confused about whose gumboots were whose, as most boots were black with red trim. A few of the over zealous community members ran in their socks. James went too, in his slippers. Nicole couldn’t stop him.

“Damn! If you could only see yourself,” she yelled, but he couldn’t hear her or see himself.

Angel froze ten feet from the bear, her front paw raised, hackles bristled even down her hind flanks, while the bear she pointed looked asleep, as innocent as any paschal lamb. Duende held back at a safer distance. When Heinrik arrived, he poked the black bulk with the barrel of his rifle.

“Dead,” he said.

“Good dog, Angel,” said Wade.

Then he turned and congratulated Duende, “You’re a good dog too.”

The bullet had entered between the front shoulder blades to the side of the spine, a tiny hole with only a few drops of blood clinging to the fur. No exit wound. Heinrik looked in the mouth and saw worn, broken, and missing teeth.

“An old bear.”

He gutted it. Steam and an off odour rose from the cavity.

“Tck, tck, maybe we got it too late.”

He showed round pieces of shattered lung tissue and said, “Lung shot.”

“It gotsa be dead now,” Jim observed.

Six men dragged the carcass back to James’ house. The children got a day off school and watched the skinning and butchering. Laura tried to turn the event into an anatomy lesson. When skinned and hung from a tripod of poles, Peter and Laura’s daughter, Charlotte, said, “It looks real, Mama,” and everybody knew what she meant – how upsetting seeing the humanness, the manlikeness, and the nakedness, hanging there for the whole world to witness, now splayed open, bulked, muscled, headless, pawless, and dismembered.

Many averted their eyes unwilling to see a defrocked body.

James recalled the detached head from his dream and his reaction of aloofness, and, as though the failure of emotion in his dream were a prompt, he remained detached through the buzz of the day.

The children migrated up the hill to the chair in the sky. For the remainder of the afternoon, they re-enacted the scene from the night before. Wade took his dad’s role, and the girls were happy to finally play with him. For once the basketball was silent. And for once, the girls were diverted from their dancing game on the dock. They limped from shooting their foot off and made a big deal out of climbing by the shot-up rung until Heinrik came and fixed it. They took turns role-playing the bear, sniffing the ground, pawing the sky, flopping with a thump, rattling the ladder, jumping up and faking a fall over the bluff, and thrashing in noisy clumps of salal. Laura supervised because of the height factor and to keep her students away from Heinrik, who was grumpy in a most bachelor-like fashion. He re-put his hives together, muttering low Germanic oaths while the children played.

Jeremy rubbed the hide (head and paws still attached) in rock salt and lugged it down to the store’s walk-in freezer. He wanted the community to send it to a taxidermist so that they would have a memento of this important event. When he mentioned to Nicole that her family could have first dibs on the bear rug, she said, “I don’t want first, second, third, or fourth dibs.” Sylvia, a widow by occupation, and witch by night, washed down the carcass in a light solution of vinegar, but that didn’t mitigate the ripe smell.

“It cooked itself,” she said.

Each family took chunks of meat home to can in their pressure cookers despite the taint. James saved a hefty haunch, and hung it in the store cooler. Heinrik laid claim to the four-inch-thick, back fat for making lard. No one objected. Sebastian got the bladder and showed everyone how to make a tobacco pouch. He had only done this with pigs before, but pretty soon a smooth leathery pouch emerged from his persistent rubbing and crinkling. When he finished, Sebastian said, “Pigs make better pouches.”

The dogs mauled the bones – Duende, Angel, Pemah, Moocho, Son of Mooch, and Sebastian’s snooty and ailing De Gaulle, who could only gum the remains. Jeremy came up with the plan for a potluck dinner featuring a “bearbecue” for the following evening, which was Halloween. James, in an unexpected surge of enthusiasm – the thoughtless man – offered his place for the party without consulting Nicole.

That night they did not speak. He dreamed another strange dream. This time he hung as a lightning rod, naked, upside down, on a structure of poles in the eye of a vast solitude. Each time a bolt of lightning slashed through the night, the sweet metallic smell of ozone woke him.

JAMES ROSE early to prepare for the party. He pretended the pain in his foot belonged to a stranger’s foot, and in that way hardly needed to limp. He built a new barbecue. It had to be big enough for the bear, but bigger still, because others would bring items for cooking, oysters for sure, and clams, maybe snapper and salmon if the new fellow, Carver, could perform his fishing tricks, and Sylvia might part with a harvest of fall mushrooms.

He found a rusted 45-gallon drum barrel in the creek bed and halved it lengthwise with his cutting torch. He welded the ends together and fabricated a stand with scraps of rebar. Physically, James felt better than the day before but the mood of aloofness lingered. Even though people kept appearing all day, loneliness crept in alongside that mood too. The two feelings competed and eventually blended into one, although there was no name for that hybrid emotion.

When he finished the welding job, he built a fire. He burned off the outside paint and the lube oil residue on the inside. He shovelled in a three-inch layer of sand and gravel, and then readied his achievement with a generous supply of fir bark. He retrieved a few grates from the burnt-out stoves in his “miscellany” shed behind the store. As James surveyed his creation, he thought the bearbecue ugly but functional; he had never thought of himself as an artist or designer, just someone who could make a new thing from junk.

Next, he cut the bear haunch into useable pieces and made a marinade to soak them in – olive oil, soy sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, and homemade red wine that had gone a trifle vinegary. He had hoped Nicole would volunteer to do the marinade, but she didn’t, or wouldn’t, so he remembered her recipe as best he could. For containers, he used four institution-size enamel pans, covered the meat with the spicy liquid, and weighted down everything with tight fitting boards and four big rocks.

Wade and Tara spent the day (Saturday, no school) constructing a giant burn pile in the backyard for the bonfire. Carver and a gaggle of girls came to help. With instructions from James, they put aside extra fuel for the bonfire by dragging debris from the forest, and then they made tables from sawhorses and old sheets of plywood. They put out tablecloths, dishes, and utensils. Another fine day – warm if you were in the sun, out of the wind, and wore a jacket. Maybe a scarf and gloves too.

Nicole warmed up slightly. She stayed out of James’ way, sewing costumes on the treadle for the kids. She suggested bear suits, as she had a couple of moth-eaten, fur coats that could be altered for the occasion. They wanted to be rabbits.

When James asked her to show him how to make bearbecue sauce, Nicole said she’d do it herself, but to go and fetch honey from Heinrik, which he did right away. She did not seem to care that he had to go all that way on his shot up foot.

As the day wore on, his energy returned. He entertained a fuzzy notion of turning the lighting of the bonfire into a special ceremony. The official lighting would be a moment of recognition for this historic event in the life of their community. Nicole had once told him ceremony was the glue that held society together, and now he could see the need. James wanted a rite because they didn’t have any, but more personally, he wanted it to be for them, and their children, and for their children’s children, and on and on. Perhaps if his wife hadn’t been a million miles away, she would have helped him sort out the words.

Before he knew it though, the over-eager children, spurred on by Carver, lit the fire. The fire raged quickly, so the local hero abandoned his vague idea about ceremony and the speech he had been rehearsing most of the afternoon.

THE MASON log home stood on a convergence of trails from around The Refuge. As the sun set behind Cortes Island, people arrived in a congestion, after tricking or treating at other houses along the old logging roads and trails. They were dressed in a flourish of costumes, except for Nicole who wasn’t into the spirit yet. Heinrik arrived in lederhosen, high-laced hiking boots, and a sporty Tyrolean hat covered in Germanic hunting badges. James wore a pith helmet, which his deceased father had acquired from somewhere, and that was the extent of his costume. Calvin came as a short “Captain Pumpkin,” wearing orange, stretchy leotards, stuffed with pillows, crimped at the neck, big black eyes for breasts, and a three-toothed mouth on the expansive stomach. Jeremy stumbled into the party already drunk and cross-dressed (socks for breasts and a sequined, black, velvet skirt over his jeans), as “Boomerella,” with two rusted boom chains looped around his neck and shoulders, the long heavy links clinking over the ground. He’d been a boom man at Teakerne Arm before coming to The Refuge. As the chains clanked, he sounded and looked more like a mean ghost from a Christmas past than the beautiful maiden in search of a logger prince. He wore one caulk boot, unlaced, his other foot bare, and asked everyone as they arrived to admire what a perfect fit the boot was. Duende playfully attacked the tongue and laces. Sebastian had decked himself out in eagle feathers, and he flapped imaginary wings. Sylvia came as a witch. No surprise there. By chance, The Rutabaga Family, from the commune in Galley Bay, had turned up that day for their annual washing adventure in the store’s laundromat, and on hearing of the party, they decided to overnight. Their psychedelic attire required little adaptation. The Smiths dressed as Siamese twins hip-wise joined, and they had a difficult time negotiating the trails. Their identical twin daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, materialized as identical but sexy clowns. The Blacks came as unexciting ghosts, and their daughter, Sarah, an unexciting sea hag. Jim Jenzen hauled a timber, making his tortured way up to Golgotha, and Brad whipped him with a bull kelp tail whenever his younger brother faltered. Jim and Brad’s Aunt Maddie had arrived in the Tom Forge, and also decided to stay overnight, when she heard that there would be drinking. She looked and dressed like the cartoon character, Olive Oyl, so there was no need for her to worry about a costume change. Peter and Laura chose to be clowns, but Peter added zest and variation to his creation by placing a nasty crown (made from blackberry brambles) on his head. When approached, he asked for respect due, by having people call him, “the Clown of Thorns.” Their daughter, Charlotte, nearly looked frightening as a Valkyrie. Even old MacLeod, who lived in a broken-down, marine ways, turned up as a blind man tapping over the paths with the cane he always used anyway. Carver wore a fake long nose, hair greased down and dyed purple. He had painted his face a bioluminescent blue.

When it seemed that the whole community had assembled, Wade wished out loud that Alice – almost the sole person in the bay that wasn’t there, who lived below in her disintegrating home on the shore beside the store, who never went out of her house, though the women and children visited her often, and lived unendingly in the dark along with the blue glow of her 12/110 volt television, the only TV in the community – should be with them. “Why didn’t we think of that?” said Jeremy, and soon a cohort of men ran down the hill, packed her up in a rusted wheelchair, bundled in blankets, happy, wearing her felt hat with a feather slanting out rakishly, and clutching her thermos of rye and water.

They pushed her close to the fire.

“I’m fine here,” she said.

People adjusted Alice back and forth, as the fire roared up or died down, or as a breeze enveloped her in eye-watering smoke.

Mountains of food appeared, so much so that James worried the bear wouldn’t get touched. A massive pot of clam chowder (the tomato-base kind, only the Blacks liked the milk-base kind), half-shell oysters with goat cheese, crumbles of gritty bacon and a garlic topping (Duende wished later that a little absinthe had been added), salmon, snapper, and still-flipping “rockies” (it seemed young Carver could think the fish into a boat). Heinrik carried a full box of pepperoni, which he usually hoarded, and everyone coveted. Peter brought his pet rock scallops that were the size of dinner plates, as he had been growing them in sea-cages for six years. Sylvia, in her witchy way, revealed a tempting succession of chanterelles and pines (she wouldn’t say where she had found them), and goose green salad from the fifteen-foot intertidal mark. Of course, there were real salads (bean, green, tomato and onion, and potato), pickles (many kinds), steamed squash with almonds and maple syrup, zucchini casseroles (three kinds, though if eaten with one’s eyes closed, they would have tasted identical), smoked salmon jerky left over from last year, tons of candy, marshmallows, and alcohol to fuel the bacchanal. Sebastian’s creation was mashed potatoes (skins on, sans milk, and unmashable, as the tubers were under cooked). Jeremy supplied a major bucket of wiggling spot prawns and six Dungeness crabs. The Jenzen brothers brought ten bottles of cream soda, apparently their deceased father’s favourite, as they had discovered in his logbook. The Rutabaga Family brought onions.

The bearbecue sauce made by Nicole tasted peppery, but sweet, sticky and delicious. James slathered it on everything; she had made gallons. Heinrik slipped James some of his father’s slivovitz, but didn’t share it around with anyone else. The sharing, more so than the alcohol, made James feel even better. As people approached the bearbecue, he said, “How do you like your bear, burnt or black?”

“Grizzly,” said Jeremy.

People ate the bear any which way, and no one complained about the off-odour, or taste, that was not entirely concealed by Nicole’s tangy sauce.

James overheard Jeremy commenting to Calvin, “Just cuz he got a perfect shot it don’t mean he knew what he was doing.”

And later he heard, “It was the second shot that got his foot.”

He shied away from the male posturing, listened contentedly in the background, and tended the cooking. He definitely felt better and didn’t care that they talked about him. Had not the crisis ended?

They played a game whereby the witch (Sylvia) invited blindfolded kids and the stoned Rutabagas to crawl into her house (a table with sheets draped over it). They had to feel her dead husband’s brains (cold spaghetti), eyeballs (peeled grapes), fingers (wieners), and toes (cocktail sausages). Love Child, of the Galley Bay contingent, did not reappear for quite sometime, as she had stalled out while devouring the cocktail sausages.

Earlier, James had moved all their furniture against the walls thinking the party would migrate inside following the feast, and then they would dance until the cows came home. However, the kids rigged the music outside (Gary Glitter’s, Rock and Roll, played continuously). The girls began their twirling routine around the fire, and soon started swiping socks from “Boomerella’s” breasts so he switched personas and shed the boom chains and velvet skirt. He materialized, in his own mind at least, as a bear, and chased the children around the fire, stumbling mostly.

The bonfire roared.

Everyone crowded around because of the cold, and Jeremy did not complain about his one bare foot. Though unplanned, his self-disrobing, prompted by the children, became a nod for the others, who all shed their costumes with similar enthusiasm. In a frenzy, they seized back from the accumulating pile, bits and pieces of clowns, broomsticks, feathers, crowns of thorn, ribbons, one only Golgotha cross, gloves, socks, pipes, masks, psychedelic bed sheets, Jeremy’s brassiere (where he got it no one knows, as it was that time in the historical record for a natural look), hats, pillows, any object of potential disguise, and soon the community re-emerged, re-dressed in identities that lacked coherence and meaning, but asserted uniqueness in keeping with their growing passion.

As night enveloped, the well-tended bonfire projected scenes onto the trees and the bluffs, even the starry sky where Ursus and her new spirit-brother lurked. Dancing shadows distorted and quivered, forms blended and transmuted into contorted beings, sparks decorated and bedazzled the turbulent images, and the more aggressive embers sought to lodge themselves permanently in the heavens to become extravagant stars. People imitated witches riding brooms, of course the bear too, and goblins and monsters and hunters; the girls spun like diminutive dervishes. Carver twirled in their midst and demonstrated flips and handsprings. Aunt Maddie made a valiant effort to mirror Carver’s athletic prowess, but failed miserably on her attempted handspring, landing in the fire. Wade dragged her out. Even old Alice got going with Wade and Jim spinning her in the wheelchair; she waved knobby-clawed hands and hooted horrible noises. MacLeod laughed at the edge of the blazing light and tapped his cane to the beat of the music.

When Jeremy cranked his favourite tape, Rasputin, by Boney M, even the more cabin-fevered bachelors rose from their stupors of alcohol to become inept and unrhythmic advertisements for Stanfield’s underwear, Bannockburn wool trousers, and police suspenders. Sebastian soared over the fire, making eagle screeches and talon-grasping images that only he could see. The dogs went mad, formed a pack for the second time ever, and circled the fire, around and around, performing their own version of a primitive war dance – howling, yapping, nipping, and jumping. For the briefest of instants, all check-valves to a pagan blowout malfunctioned, and the people turned their heads toward the Rapture. With the ancient rhythm locked into Boney M’s numbing trance, life had become much more than waiting. Time would be forever, and the prospect of eternal bliss an easy reach.

Each time the Rasputin tape ended with, “They shot him until he was dead, Oh those Russians,” Jeremy raced for the rewind button, and during those potentially painful moments of silence, the community feared the frenzied emotion might sputter and die, while the tape raced back to its beginning, “There was a certain man, in Russia long ago,” and never regain the heights of the previous moment. However, Carver came to the rescue to the surprise of all, who knew every word in the long-story-song, and kept the passions flowing during the hiatus, leading his followers with, “Ra Ra Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine, It was a shame how he carried on.” The children answered, as they had memorized the lyrics much quicker and more thoroughly than the adults, “Ra Ra Rasputin, There was a cat that really was gone,” and that enthusiasm forced the adults to join the chorus too, with Carver clapping his hands and stomping his feet, shouting another two lines,“Most people looked at him, With terror and with fear.” The whole group answered,“But to the Moscow chicks, He was such a dear,” until finally the rewind button clicked, Jeremy hit “play,” and Boney M began their masterpiece all over again.

At another rewind intermission, before Carver could take charge of the hysteria, Duende quickly challenged his tenacity in the limelight with a long tortuous howl. Soon the other dogs took his lead, and one after another, each community member joined with their human howls, prolonged wails, not doleful, nor anguished, but real attempts to communicate with the night sky, unleashing their collective memory of primordial beginnings.

Once Boney M started up again, the howls ceased, the dancing resumed, and Jeremy, clutching in each fist the remaining pieces of bearbecued flesh – juices and cinders running down his wrists and off his elbows – threw his arms to the night and yelled above the throngs, “Thank you bear, thank you bear.” Everyone jumped and twirled, coupled arms, and stomped their feet. Their screeches blended as one joy. They flipped back their heads of sweat-drenched hair, as though dancing round the golden calf. Tribelike, and with glee, they closed tight their unchristian eyes, rotated shoulders, and vibrated sinuous buttocks – children, adults and the aged – all the cloistered spirits from The Refuge in an impassioned moment of synchronous resonance, the centipedel giant moved as a single organism, except for that one person.

James had kept his eye on Nicole even as he bonded with his community. She had lurked off-stage, in the shadows, not engaging, only smiling mechanically if people whirled by, keeping her distance from the mad night – still costumeless. When the fire flared, he saw the flashing in her blue eyes; her hair and throat appeared indistinguishable from the flames. His old desires returned, and when he thought she could no longer resist the mesmerizing music, Jeremy ran up, clutched James in an enormous bear hug, and growled into his ear, “Make it like this forever?” A surge of exaltation swept through James’ soul. Whatever misgivings he had about her leaving were gone – the bear was dead, fear had been vanquished, and the aloofness and loneliness gone as well. The last few weeks had been a temporary stretch of insanity, nothing more. Tonight they prepared for the next day. His paranoid thoughts vanished too – that she might be leaving for reasons other than the bear. 

But when he looked out from Jeremy’s embrace, with the certain expectation that she would now merge with him and the whole community, Nicole had disappeared into the darkness. In a panic, because the ugly feelings returned in a flood, he broke through Jeremy’s embrace and looked for her in their log home, the shadows, and even the outhouse. He searched for her in the swirling crowd dancing around the fire, but she was not there. Instinct told him he must sort this out alone and not ask for help from his friends. He had never brought others into his confidence. Still though, he thought of approaching Alice, but now was not the time, as she waved her thermos and shouted over and over, “What a marvellous night.”

A thought flashed, not an instant knowledge of what had transpired in that conversation between his wife and Alice, but the trailing flash he had sensed in the sky the night he killed the bear. And more thoughts flashed. They rained from the heavens, as he had wished, when sitting in the chair. Instantly, James knew where she must be.

A perfect plan formulated in his head. He ran in the dark without his flashlight: she would be in the chair in the sky, reliving the bear scene as best she could, experiencing his side of the affair, and stepping into his skin, just as the children had done yesterday afternoon when they performed their re-creation of the shooting at the beehive site. Yes, a ceremony roared around the fire, but also, a ceremony was about to take place in the chair in the sky at that very moment. Their quarrel had been a little one; the bear was dead, and the sacrifice complete. All would return to its former state once she had finished her work. Were not the sweet smells of burnt flesh wafting into the starry sky and intoxicating the gods?

The darkness in the forest approached absolute, yet he did not feel disoriented in the least. As he ran up the path, easily remembering all the twists and turns, every exposed root and rock, his imagination specified that when he got to the base of the tree she would invite him to join her. Together they would enter into new delights, and together, they would witness the Pandemonium below. Without a doubt there would be room for two in the chair. This was an invitation to a new beginning. Their naked bodies could mesh and meld, just like they had during that first summer on Production Point.

Halfway there, with the music and shouting barely audible, stumbling occasionally but still certain of his way, James saw a light inside a salal bush moving towards him. Growls emanated from inside. The bush shook its branches and rattled its leaves. There should not have been salal in the middle of the path, nor should it growl or emit light. It stopped in front of him and bristled.

“Your light’s in my eyes,” he said. 

“Sorry.”

Though the word, sorry, was beautiful, a voice from within made James think of sadness.

She turned the light off, and the leaves rustled.

“I thought you were up in the chair in the sky.”

She laughed in the dark, and the leaves rustled again. “Why would I go up there?”

“Just a thought.”

“I’m putting on a costume like everyone else.”

“You’re going as a salal bush?”

“Have you got a problem with that?”

“Not really, except you’re naked underneath.”

“And how’s that different from a salal bush, James?”