Author: Jeremy Nathan Marks
I jumped off the boxcar just in time because one of the bo chasers was slinging his matraque and almost cracked my dome. But it was my town, Simcoe, and I was home.
For once I actually had a purse, enough for a cup of joe and a dog, so I found an all-night gas ‘n go where I drank a bitter cup and who knows how old the dog was. The button pusher at the damper was an odd cat, I saw him eyeballing my bindlestiff, probably expecting me to have fanny packed some of his goods and I saw him cogitating whether to call a Harness Bull, but now there was a picture of the Queen in his hand, and I walked out with the dog and shoved it in my bazoo.
The Last Time I Was In Simcoe is a song that should have reached the heights like By The Time I Get to Phoenix, it’s one I wrote but never got the rights to, and everywhere I looked the neon was gyrating like a bo-ette. Kyle was her name; we rode all the way out to Vancouver and split up at the Victoria ferry. I met her in Regina; we were the same age and from the same town, Simcoe. But I never went to school so we never met; I taught myself the world’s ways at a dark track, but she said she was in pre-med at U of T and she reset my shoulder after I popped it trying to catch a Crew Car.
“How d’you end up livin’ the life?” But before she could answer I started chawing about my time down in the states in the aftermath of that vigilante verdict where citizens no longer had to make arrests, they could just shoot, and I ended up with some lead below my knee. “I coulda used you then,” I said, and she nodded. “You ever been down stateside?” But before she replied I took a swig from my flask and passed it to her. “What your name anyway?”
“Kyle,” she said.
“You mean like Kylie?”
“Kyle,” she repeated.
“No wonder I never knew you, you must be a baby.”
She nodded and we huddled up against the cold. Canada is frigid but citizens don’t pack, they don’t do militias and we have R-camps on horseback with their wide brims, red shirts, who say stop before drawing their shotty. Then in Calgary we played the part of some Doughtnut Christians which kept us fed for a time, but in Vancouver I let her slip away like Bobby McGee.
The streets of Simcoe don’t look familiar. The motel on Highway 3, where I had my cherry popped is now four hundred loons a night. And I swear I see Kyle everywhere. The Queen Street Motel has a 30-foot-tall androgynous salve regina stretching their hams on the roof, and its proportions match Kyle if she stood ten metres high. I hadn’t missed Kyle as much as I did just then. And when the neon started whispering words I’d heard he ruse, I knew I was left with two choices: it was either Kyle having freighthopped my poetic mind, or it was that all-night lamp dog talking to my guts which is where nightmares come from. I hadn’t toked from a Gonger since Winnipeg.
There’s no more freight yard in Simcoe, no more coal pile either so I had to find a spot on an old rail trail to build a fire, where I warmed my mitts. There was a light snow falling, tiny neon flakes that glowed like Christmas ornaments on my clothes. Kyle told me that William Blake said that if you clear your doors of perception, snow crystals and the integrity of every raindrop comes to you pristine like an angel speaking, or a vestal virgin having just sworn on the Bible before giving barrister testimony. The snowflakes on my pullover were these angels, virginal, talking to me and then I heard Kyle’s voice.
“Your life begins and ends here. God is a deity with a great heart whose mind has taken over.”
And Kyle came walking down the rail trail then. When she entered the fire light, she had an aura, glowing exactly like the Queen Street Motel stripper sign beckoning me, and other toms, to enter her doors.
“Are you dead?” I asked Kyle, but she didn’t answer. I handed her a can of beans that had been heating on a spider I built over the flames, and she spooned them barehanded, their molten skins not bothering those LED fingers that lit the night with an illumination surpassing my small furnace.
“You got any Whiteline?” I asked, thinking what I really wanted was some Jazz, but Kyle had more to say about William Blake.
“Blake used to walk around naked. He had a vision of a tiger while lying in bed. The tiger was lit up like neon, but Blake didn’t know anything about electricity, so he couldn’t patent it and make a fortune on sign futures.”
She finished her beans and walked over to me, laying her hand on my shoulder. I had to close my eyes otherwise her light would have fried them.
“There’s a concession road a short way north of here. That’s where you’ll find me. But if I were you, I’d find a sink, clean up, and become a citizen. Stay in Simcoe. Simcoe is the centre point of the world’s hoop, and you’ve done enough hoop jumping.” Then she walked off, dissipating in the penumbra of my fire.
I did wash up, but I also found the concession where her body lay. There were coyotes in the night, beating the buzzard that come by day. I bent down and pulled at the lapel of her coat and discovered a note pinned to the lapel:
“And may God deny you peace, but give you glory!” Miguel Unamuno. I asked a coyote whether she wanted it, but she sniffed the paper and turned away.