After The Fires Went Out: Coyote (Book One of the Post-Apocalyptic Adventure Series) (2 page)

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Today is Tuesday, December 4th.

I think it’s time for me to keep some kind of record of our life up here at McCartney Lake. I’m sure we’re not the only place that got slammed with shards from the comet, that when the kicked-up debris came back down in other places it set the air on fire just as much, that the sky’s went dark all over the planet.

I’m sure most of the world has forgotten we exist.

I used to write a journal when I was in my twenties and even into my thirties; I wrote an entry almost every day up until my daughter Cassy was born, long-winded stories scrawled in little notebooks and probably illegible to anyone else. It helped me wind up the day, some kind of buffer between real life and falling asleep.

I wonder if any of those notebooks survived.

This time it’ll be on my tablet: the life and times of Robert Jeanbaptiste, village idiot. I guess this one is even less likely to last unless I print it out or share it or something, but I’m not sure I’d want people reading everything I feel like putting in.

I wonder if Ant had ever expected us to read what he’d written.

I was pretty surprised to find out that he kept a journal, and a handwritten one at that. I could see him writing out his sexual fantasies in nauseating detail, but a diary just didn’t fit. That isn’t the Ant I knew.

He wrote it in French for the most part, with patches of English here and there for slang and swear-words, and lines that maybe didn’t work so well in his native tongue. His English always sounded so natural that I would forget that he was born and bred speaking French, just like Sara and almost half the district. Ant’s French isn’t anything like the French my father used to use when he called back home to Port-au-Prince, or even the French they taught us in school. Sometimes I can read a whole sentence and not understand a word of it.

But let’s face it: I barely understood Ant.

He was kind and funny and completely shameless, and there was something about his baby-faced grin that let him get away with pretty much anything. He’d fiddle around with the world’s most dangerous shit, like blow torches and blasting caps, but I always had a feeling he was too smart to screw up.

It’s hard to believe he was shot to death yesterday.

I remember once Sara caught him in her bedroom; he had snuck in while she and Lisa were both downstairs and she came up to find him lying on her bed, with her photo album open right beside him. And Ant being Ant, he was completely naked with his hand on his dick, and he made no attempt to cover anything up.

I don’t know what that little perv was hoping for, that Sara would see him fapping to old pictures of her and her sisters and she’d decide she wanted to join in on the fun, or maybe that she’d simply take a good long look at his naked body and let the other girls know that not every part of Little Ant Lagace was smaller than average.

Whatever his plan, Sara just started to laugh, so loudly that all of us came running upstairs and saw a little too much of Ant that day.

It was only funny because Ant was the one who’d done it. There’s no way it would have been funny to see me lying there, my middle-aged cock in hand, rubbing one off using Sara and her dead sisters as inspiration.

I don’t really give off a funny vibe.

 

Today was pretty warm for December and it felt like being back home, like those days when Cassy and I would take the streetcar over to Eaton Centre for the painful tradition of finding Christmas presents for her mother. The crowds would crush against us so hard that I’d usually grab onto the sleeve of her sweater as well as her hand, just for the extra grip.

On days like today I can feel that same little nub of anxiety balling up in my stomach, even though streetcars and shopping and my daughter seem so far away now.

We’ve decided to take things easy; we're all still pretty messed up about losing Ant, and it just feels like we need a break.

Sara came up with the idea of a hayride and drafted me into helping her; she figured we ought to do something fun
together
.

Together means the whole cottage when Sara says it. To her we’re a family, even if our family is made up of eight random people who are only here because they don’t have anywhere else to go.

Actually, there’s only seven of us now.

I managed to convince myself that it was okay for all of us to go; we’d lock up the cottage and we’d be back soon enough. After what happened on Sunday I’d prefer to keep everyone together today; I doubt anyone would show up at just the right time to rob us blind. I was also looking forward to the idea of making some good memories with that cart, something better than carrying Ant’s body north to the stand of sugar maples along the creek.

We’d gotten the two horses and their cart by way of a good-hearted family a couple klicks east of Cochrane. They didn’t leave on the advice of that sack-of-shit Fisher Livingston... they waited it out for a couple months after The Fires, but eventually they packed it in. They’d known that Graham and Fiona and I had chosen to stay behind, and I guess they took pity on a couple of outsiders, so they gave us a quick lesson on hitching and driving before they hopped into their truck and hit the highway, never to be heard from again.

The horses make a good team, a mare and a gelding, both saddlebreds. The cart is built completely of wood, even the wheels, with railings and a bench; it’s a little clunky at times, but the horses are used to it and now we are, too.

We threw some bales onto the cart and then I hitched up the horses, the mare first as always. She backs into place on her own, always on the right, and all that’s left for me to do is connect the harness traces and the centre shaft. The gelding goes second, and he’s just as quick. I can do it all now in less than ten minutes; Graham can do it in under five.

I stood and watched Sara as she spread a little loose hay around the box. She was dressed pretty light for the weather, but I’m not complaining; I could watch her forever.

There’s something different about beauty up here, in the landscape and in the women... they’re all more striking, I’d call it. You’ll notice the flow of the lines, soft and hard, angled and rounded, gentleness mixed with tough. For Sara, it’s pale blue eyes and coffee-coloured curls, and her sexy clenched-lip smile that makes me forget pretty much everything else.

She noticed me watching her and I could see her blush a little.

“Oh, and make sure you let Graham drive,” she said, as if we were right in the middle of the discussion. It might have been something we talked about twenty minutes ago; Sara just picks up where she left off, and I’m left without any clue of what she’s saying.

“You have a problem with how I drive?” I asked, not really sure if I should act playful or offended.

“I want you on the cart so I can throw you off. Isn’t that the whole point of a hayride?” There was a cheery sound to her voice that I’d longed for over the past few days.

“There’s no way you’ll be able to lift me over the railing,” I said. “You have weak little girl arms.”

“They’re not that weak,” she said with a smile. “And besides, I’ll have plenty of help. I’m not the only person around here who fantasizes about seeing you face-down in the dirt.”

“I think most people want to see me face-down in the Abitibi River.”

She chuckled. “Yeah... that or a toilet bowl. Maybe when we get back I’ll see if my little girl arms can hold your head under the yellow water long enough to make all our dreams come true.”

I laughed at that.

The hay in place and the horses hitched, I started to load up the waggon with everything we’d need for the trip. I threw in a couple thermoses of water, my binoculars and headlamp, and of course my constant companion, the defibrillator, charged from our battery bank and ready to go. I’d recommend it for anyone over fifty, but obviously for me it’s pretty much required; the only two reasons I'm still here at all are my trusty defib and the six months of heart pills I still have left.

There’s nothing like heart disease to remind you every goddamn day that you’re not invincible anymore. And there’s nothing like slowly running out of pills to make sure you never forget what’s coming.

I grabbed the shotgun too, checking to make sure it was loaded but that the chamber was still empty. I know this twelve gauge Mossberg pretty well, but I’m not always the last one to have carried it and I really don’t like the idea of an accidental discharge taking a chunk out of someone’s ass.

I have my service pistol too; at least it’s mine now, a SIG Sauer issued by the Ontario Provincial Police and definitely not issued to me. I have it holstered as always, along with my handheld transmitter, in the belt that I only take off for sleeping, showering and screwing.

I may also want to take it off when I’m being thrown from a hayride... I’m not sure on the procedure for something like that.

I placed the shotgun in the cart, up by the horses where the spotter sits. Where they “ride shotgun”, I guess you could say.

“You’re not on lookout, either,” Sara said.

I sighed and nodded. She knew all my tricks by now.

Sara gave a loud shout and people started to wander outside. Graham and Lisa came out first, and together, which was usually a sign that they’d agreed to another ceasefire. Lisa was dressed lightly, like Sara, with a knit hat hiding most of her short and nearly spiky dark hair, and wearing what I’d term a spring jacket. But Graham had his parka on, and while it looked like Lisa had talked him out of a scarf for plus five, he had his black toque pulled down as far as it could go, right down to the upper fringe of his close-cropped hipster beard.

“You guys don’t match,” Sara said. “And you’re going to die of heat, Graham.”

“I’m not used to this,” Graham said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this.”

“He’s a pussy,” Lisa said.

Sara scowled at the word.

Lisa laughed. “But he’s my pussy.”

Matt and Kayla came out next. Together they looked almost too perfect, Matt with his dark hair and broad smile, wearing a navy blue peacoat, and Kayla dressed about the same style but in a colour closer to robin’s egg blue, with a pink scarf and a matching pink toque, with tufts of her pretty blond hair spilling out.

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