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Authors: George Fetherling

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Canada, #Social Science, #Travel, #Western Provinces, #Biography & Autobiography, #Archaeology

Jericho

BOOK: Jericho
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Praise for
jericho

“There is something brave about careening towards the darkness, whether it’s done via sexuality, outlaw behaviour or writing, and Fetherling’s ability to dispense with his critical mindset in favour of an exploratory one will be surprising to anyone who has perceived him as primarily a brainy person, abstracted on high.
Jericho
is risky and alive, and memorable in the long run for its presentation of a remarkable archetype.”


BC Book World

“Fetherling is a master of the perceptive comment and the dry remark, combining the keen observation of a social historian with a poet’s precision and joy in the play of words. In
Jericho
, he reveals his talent as a storyteller and maker of fables as well…. It’s fast, it’s funny, and by the time you finish it, much of what you thought you knew about the characters will have been inverted.”

—The New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

“Voice is Fetherling’s great achievement here: the book is divided into sections narrated by each of the three, and the passages are so distinctive, so sure.”

—The Georgia Straight

“At times funny… and at others puzzling,
Jericho
is driven by prose that bumps and bounces along as the characters search for Bishop’s mythical Jericho.”

—The Sun Times
(Owen Sound)

“Jericho
is a funny, quirky and acutely observed road trip along the rough edge of our culture. It’s a novel that retells some of the myths—urban and otherwise—that define us.”

—Nancy Richler, author of
Your Mouth Is Lovely

A
LSO BY
G
EORGE
F
ETHERLING

Fiction
The File on Arthur Moss

Memoir
Travels by Night

Travel
Running Away to Sea
Three Pagodas Pass
One Russia Two Chinas

Poetry
The Dreams of Ancient Peoples
Selected Poems
Madagascar: Poems & Translations
Singer, An Elegy

For Merrill Fearon

one

N
OW THAT THE WHOLE STORY IS OVER
, the question everybody keeps asking me is the same one I’m still asking myself: How did I get involved with a man like that? Or didn’t I have more sense in the first place than to run away with someone I didn’t know? I can’t explain, I can only tell you what happened, the same way I told the police and the lawyers. That’s the easy part.

I didn’t really
like
him that much, not at first and not afterwards, but only for a while in-between. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I guess I could make a pretty long list of things about him that would turn anybody off. For instance, he didn’t have very good skin. As someone who was a trained esthetician in those days, I always wanted to help him with this, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it without hurting his feelings—back when I didn’t understand this wasn’t the kind of thing he would have cared about one way or the other. Now I know exactly what he
would have said: “Ha!” Which would have hurt
my
feelings. Another thing: his bottom front teeth were stained like those of an elderly Chinese-Canadian man who’d been drinking too much tea his whole life. And most of the time he didn’t make very good eye contact when he spoke to you. In my new career I know how important good eye contact is in dealing with the public. Not that he was a member of the public, of course. He was private. Being with him in those good weeks was like having my own private wild man. He smelled wild. His scent always made me think of a wolf’s den. I don’t mean that I really know what a wolf’s den smells like, but I could guess. When he
did
decide to make eye contact, though, it was spectacular. His eyes were the same colour as green grapes.

I’d sure never met anyone like him. There may be some others around, but I never met them in Alberta. He’s not the sort of person anyone would meet in Alberta. He was from back east somewhere. He used to talk about it sometimes, and I thought he was making it up or at least letting his own talk run away with him; other times I wasn’t so sure. I’d never thought much about the East. If you blindfold me and spin me around like a bottle, I’ll always wind up facing west. Of course, there are degrees of west, and I suppose there are degrees of east too. He was from someplace that must be pretty old—beaten down and worn down—though my instinct tells me it’s a place that’s not completely explored, maybe a place there aren’t even up-to-date maps of, I don’t know. I was so naive back then, I didn’t even know how naive I was. Bishop was a lot of things, but you couldn’t call him naive exactly.

If when I tell you this story I seem a little distracted, it’s only because I’m thinking of my mother. She’s practically
the only one who never asked me why I acted so crazy and got into trouble and embarrassed everybody. But there’s another question, just as big, that hangs over us when we’re in the same room together now. It’s: How could I have made the same kind of mistake she made? I’m pretty much sure that’s why she doesn’t ask me the Question. Mother and I used to think we had the best mother—daughter communication it was possible to have. Now we’re not so sure. Or maybe it’s only that our best communication doesn’t find its way down from our brains to our mouths.

The wolves have issues with the moon. Sometimes when I’m down really deep I think I hear em. I know I do in my head at least. You don’t need to be able to touch something or even see it before it’s real; a thing can be real in your brain. This usually happens when I’m all stretched out and everything’s ready to go but the mind won’t leave the body in the death-rehearsal that’s supposed to happen every night: it’s like a fire drill only it’s a death drill. Who else except me could wander off in the head when it’s so damn noisy? Then during the day, when I’m so tired I feel like I’ve got a layer of crinkled cellophane behind my eyeballs, I’ll all of a sudden think that I hear the wolves again, only way far off and weak this time. Or maybe they’re just secretive, speaking to each other in wolf whispers, barely working their mouths and with their ears straight up so’s to eavesdrop on us. But I figure out it’s only the heating system or a generator clicking in maybe, something deep inside the walls, and I come to my senses. I say to myself: Honestly, what’s somebody like you know about wolves?

The first time I ever laid eyes on Bishop he was making trouble outside the Art Gallery on Robson Street. What he was doing was tormenting a mime artist. This strikes me as funny now, because Bishop was a man of words, big spring downpours of talk, sometimes beautiful and sometimes, well, disturbing. The street performer, who I now know was about half Bishop’s age, was doing the standard old-fashioned things that mimes do: man walking against a stiff wind, man in a foot race up steep stairs, man discovering that he’s trapped inside an invisible glass cube. (Why aren’t there more women mimes?) Bishop had obviously picked him out as somebody he could make life miserable for. He was parroting his movements, sometimes running a bit ahead of the poor guy just to confuse him, then putting his own face right up against the mime’s; their noses almost touched. I couldn’t tell from where I was sitting, at my jewellery stand, but looking back now I think Bishop was probably giving him the death’s-eye stare to scare him off. The mime was trying to keep as still as one of those Buckingham Palace guards in the tall fur hats, but Bishop got to him. The guy actually seemed close to sobbing as he picked up his jacket and his collection basket and hurried off to some other good tourist corner. Bishop was triumphant. As the fellow went away, Bishop screamed after him, “First we kill all the mimes! Shakespeare!” That was the first time I ever heard that little snorty laugh of his: “Ha!” People passing by stared at him.

Soon I was seeing him all over Downtown and the West End. One day I was coming back from selling my handcrafted jewellery near English Bay when I saw him with two girls, a black one and a white one, walking up the other side
of Robson, with him in the middle like he owned them. Later I thought: He probably does. When they got to one of the little hotels there as you go east up the hill, I saw the three of them stop and Bishop started to jump up and down, as high as he could, with his left arm stretched out over his head. I began to jog with my big folding display table so I could see what was going on. He was hopping and hopping, straight up, as if he was on an invisible trampoline, one arm stiff above him like he was reaching for something he couldn’t quite touch. One of the girls seemed to be urging him on, the other one was nervous, like she was looking out for the cops. Three huge flags—an American flag, a Canadian flag and a B.C. flag—hung down from poles fixed into the hotel’s electric sign. When I got close enough I could see that Bishop was trying to set the U.S. one on fire with a butane cigarette lighter. Whenever he got high enough off the ground, the wind made by the motion of his body blew out the flame. The one girl was giggling uncontrollably, the other looked as though she was about to go into serious panic.

BOOK: Jericho
4.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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