Traffic Life : Passionate Tales and Exit Strategies
Edited by Stephan Wehner
An Anthology
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 152                    Goulais River  ing four hours in the Soo rassling with the bearings and brakes (and finding nothing amiss), I was hoping against hope that I had accidentally fixed the thing. Before that it was a fan belt in Sturgeon Falls. Before that the solenoid went, in Pembroke. The starter still is temperamental. The fuel filter needs to be cleared every once in a while. And still this burning left wheel.    I wedge the car as far onto the shoulder as possible, flag down a passing SUV, use their cell to call a tow truck and slump in the passenger seat. Through the driver's window I have a nice view of Lake Superior. Its actually kind of pretty in a Northern Ontario kind of way. The highway is quiet, only two lanes out here. I get out and walk around, pick a few blackberries, listen to the crickets humming, think about bears. My foul mood slowly lifts and I crash out in the grass on the other side of the road, facing the lake.    Chet wakes me up about an hour and a half later. Stand- ing on the back of his flatbed tow truck, hollering for 'Who- ever called me to pick up this piece of shit'. I swing out of my daze, stagger out of the grass and cross the road to shake his hand. I like Chet immediately. He's about 20 years old, is clutching a tall can, has no shirt on, and flicks the long bangs of his mullet out of his eyes compulsively. He's wearing tight GWG's and steel toes, and has a good glint to his eye. 'B.C., eh? Got a ways to go. (Chuck- les, looking at my vehicle) Good fucking luck in that thing. (Turns back me to me, grinning) Some good dope out there, huh?'    A few minutes later we're hauling ass back to Goulais River. Chet drives his rig like a madman, careening along the highway as it twists and turns the 40 k or so along the Superior shore to his shop. Cindy (his girlfriend) and I are thrown around the cab like dice in a hand while Chet pounds beers and hoots at me when I lock my door and fish for a non-existent seat belt.    Calling Goulais River a town is seriously pushing it. I can't even see the rough outlines of a village or community, but Chet swears its there. 'The Goolie is just the Goolie, man. We know we're here.' Arriving at his house/garage/
                          Matt Hern                        153  parts yard, he leaps out of the cab, pops another brew and gets on the cell. In under five minutes there are folks show- ing up from every direction. Billy comes screaming in from up the road on a dirt bike, beer in one hand, massive joint in the other. Kojak walks over from his place across the highway. Moon Dog arrives in his jacked up 4 x 4. Wes, Jeff, Candy, Amelie, Andre and Little Bill all come out of the house or shop. To a person they are sweet, welcoming and commiserative. Each shakes my hand, pats my back or ruffles my hair and offers me a beer. 'Don't worry about yer car. Chet'll fix you up. Sit down, have a cold one and relax.'    Soon, after a couple beers, I do in fact chill out, sit down in a lawn chair on the driveway and watch a couple of the lads tear into my vehicle. There are three huge rottweil- ers sitting with me, assessing the work being done. Chet doesn't even bother to take my car off the truck, but al- ready has the tire removed and bearings in his hand. Af- ter some consultation with the assembled crew, he turns round: 'Well, I don't know what the fuck the problem is. Must be some bad grease in the bearings. Let's repack em, clean the pads and the well out good and send you on your way. Alright?'    Alright. Except its getting dark, I have three thousand miles to go, and my car is still totally unreliable. It is also getting expensive. And I am not getting anywhere fast. In fact, this trip is costing me vastly more than the train or bus, and I am way behind schedule, with dubious prospects in front of me. What was I thinking?    Chet is a good guy, and doesn't charge me anything. He also invites me inside to spend the night, which quickly devolves into a long evening of drinking blackberry hooch with a bunch of off-season loggers, playing cards and shoot- ing .22's at beer cans in the yard. By midnight I am truly gooned, and actually listening to their job offers: 'C'mon, come work with us. We need another guy to drive the skidder here for a coupla months. The mill just filed for bankruptcy, so we can't sell anything, but it's good work out at the bush camp. C'mon?'

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