Authors: Kevin Hardcastle
A JOHN METCALF BOOK
Kevin Hardcastle, 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or a license from The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For an Access Copyright license visit www.accesscopyright.ca or call toll free to 1-800-893-5777.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Hardcastle, Kevin, 1980-, author
Debris / Kevin Hardcastle.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 978-1-77196-040-3 (paperback).--ISBN 978-1-77196-041-0 (ebook)
PS8615.A68D43 2015 C813'.6 C2015-903742-5
Biblioasis acknowledges the ongoing financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, the Canada Book Fund; and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council and the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
Edited by John Metcalf
Copy-edited by Allana Amlin
Typeset and designed by Kate Hargreaves
Cover image by angelandspot
OLD MAN MARCHUK
wo narrow beams of halogen
crisscrossed over the black prairie, found the warped and weathered sideboards of old man Marchuk's barn. An eerie blue round settled over the chained and padlocked barndoor handles. Up into the light rose a three-foot boltcutter. One man held the flashlight steady. One man slid the cutter-blades over the padlock shackle and squeezed hard on either handle. He had to reset twice before he'd cut through. The man with the light fussed with the lock until he freed it and could pull the chains clear. Then he pocketed the flashlight in his coveralls while he dragged the great barn doors open, his face lit like a jack-o'-lantern.
The cutter man had gotten to their one-ton pickup and he was backing it over toward the barnmouth, pushing a tow trailer by the hitch. He stopped short enough for the other man to loose and unfold the ramp to the trailer. The man in the truck waited while his partner hotwired a pair of four-wheelers and drove the first up the ramp onto the trailer bed, engine growling high. He parked it and went back for the other. Drove it into place and shut the engine off. The driver of the truck drummed the window frame and watched, red cherry of his smoke glowing in the black. The other man raised the trailer ramp and fixed it shut. He started for the passenger side of the truck and froze three steps out.
They'd not heard the squelching of bootfalls in the thawmud near the barn. Not until the old man was right on top of them with his twelve-gauge raised high, stock pinned against his shoulder. Marchuk pulled and sprayed the driver's door. Muzzlefire showed him briefly against the outer blackness. The driver barked like a dog, ducked low and tried to cover up. Marchuk took aim again. The young man at the rear of the truck pitched his flashlight and it flew end over end past old man Marchuk's wild-haired head. Marchuk spun and fired blindly at the spot. The young man dropped to the muck and shrieked. He'd taken shot in the side and through his upper leg but he managed to clamber onto the trailer and fall in behind the last four-wheeler just as his buddy punched the gas and sent the truck tires spinning. The old man had shucked his spent shells and set about reloading. Marchuk emptied both barrels on the truck and its trailer as the vehicle sped off serpentine through his fenceless backfields.
He came upon the trailered vehicle not ten miles down the county road. The driver sped just slightly and held the road straight. Marchuk drove an old Dodge pickup and he had his running lights turned off. He drifted up alongside the larger truck until he could see both men sitting wounded in the cab. When the driver turned and saw the old man coasting along beside him he panicked and swerved wide, caught the edge of the roadside drainage ditch and pulled back. The trailer nearly jackknifed before skittering back in line on the weather-buckled asphalt. Old man Marchuk cut into the other lane and the driver of the one-ton chickened out and slammed his brakes, went too far wide this time and ended up ploughing sandied ditchturf for about a hundred feet before the vehicle shuddered to a stop. Marchuk got out with the scattergun and pumped holes through the driver door.
Constable Tom Hoye got the call
from dispatch and had to floor it from two townships over. He saw four red eyes in the road and then felt a series of little thuds on the car's undercarriage. He drove on. The constable had lately been stationed at the lonely
detachment that served the county, with its three-man rotation and one dispatch to cover four barren townships. They got calls of gunfire a few times a week and heard gunfire every night. That night was the first they'd gotten a call from the man who actually fired the shots, and that man went by the name of Marchuk. Hoye took the details as he drove.
“What's he sayin' he shot at?” Hoye said.
“Two men tryin' to steal his
s,” said the girl at dispatch. “But he's not sayin' he shot at them. He's sayin' he shot them.”
“How far out are you?”
“Seven or eight minutes. Where's the
“They won't be a minute behind you if at all.”
When Constable Hoye pulled up
to the scene he saw the one-ton tipped over in the ditch, shards of windowglass that shone by the light of the cruiser's headlamps. Marchuk was leaning up against the side of his own truck, one foot crossed over the other, cradling his shotgun in the crook of his arm. The old man put one hand up against the headlights. Constable Hoye got out of the car with his hand on his pistol. He flicked the safety off as he stood. Marchuk just waited there, taking the air as the constable came over. Plains wind travelled warm and gentle through the pass. The faint sound of ambulance sirens called out from afar.
“Set your firearm down on the ground and step away,” Hoye said.
Marchuk frowned at him. Hoye had to pull his pistol and let it hang before the old man knelt and laid the weapon down on the tarmac. The constable waited until Marchuk stepped clear and then he gestured for him to keep going.
“Put your hands on the hood of your truck,” he said.
“Son, you are wastin' my time,” the old man said.
“Put your fuckin' hands on the hood I said. And stay put.”
Marchuk sauntered over and did it, slapping his palms down like a showy child. He stood there in his coveralls. Sandpaper beard and huge, crooked nose. Hoye passed him and stepped down into the ditch. Took his flashlight out of his belt and turned it on. When he shone the beam over the ditchhill he saw pieces of the truck's upholstery scattered across the turf like cottongrass, a full section of door siding with thin furrows in the mold. Then he saw the two shot men. One was on his side in the ditchbasin, his legs shuffling. The other lay starfished against the hillside in his bandit-blacks and he didn't move at all.
“Jesus fuckin' Christ,” Hoye said.
He started to go for the men and then he stopped and levelled his pistol at Marchuk. The old man took his hands off the hood and put them up until Hoye barked at him to put them back. The constable came back into the road and took out his cuffs and braceletted the old man's bony wrists.
“Just what the fuck are ye doin', son?” said Marchuk.
“You shot those men?”
“They were robbin' me.”
“Your farm is fuckin' three miles thataway,” Hoye said, nodding south.
The old man stared at him sourfaced. The back of his scraggly head lit up in colours. An
wagon crested a rise in the roadway and coasted toward them. Hoye stepped out into the lane and waved it down.
He came home an hour before
sunrise, the sky paling to the east. The constable and his wife had rented a two-storey brownstone with no house number. Just their name stencilled on the mailbox. Their nearest neighbour was a gravel quarry some three miles away. Hoye parked the cruiser in the driveway and went into the house through the sideporch entrance. He hung his keys and undressed, put his jacket and his Kevlar over the back of a wooden dining table chair. Laid his pants overtop, flat to the crease. Then he went to the fridge and knuckled up two bottles of beer. He sat on the living room couch with the
on but nearly inaudible. The bottles were empty after maybe five pulls so he got up to grab another.
Hoye's eyes had turned to slits when the stairwell groaned behind him. He stood up and saw his wife descending slowly, tiny bubble of tongue bit between her lips as she concentrated on landing each footfall. She followed a dogleg near the stairbottom and made her way down the last three steps. The young woman stood maybe five-foot-three with copper hair and a round, round belly pushing up the cloth of her nightie.
“Hey,” she said. “Nice outfit.”
Hoye stood there in his gitch, his blues unbuttoned and his undershirt showing. He had the legs of a quarterhorse.
“What time is it, Jenny?” he said.
“It's not morning and it's not night,” she said.
He watched her shuffle past the couch and she eyed him sidelong as she went. She started smiling, deep dimple at her right cheek.
“If you sneezed I think you might pop,” he said.
“Are you gonna go to bed or what?” she said.
“I didn't really think that far ahead.”
“What happened out there?”
“That old fella Marchuk pumped about six rounds of buckshot into two city boys who were stealin' his
“My God,” she said. “Are they alive?”
“How was he when you took him?”
“He didn't think he did nothing wrong.”
She went into the kitchen and he heard the cupboards opening and closing. He came in to help her but she shooed him. Hoye got behind his wife and put his arms around her shoulders, held the belly in his big hands, his chin pinned to her shoulderblade. She reached up and cupped his cheek.
“Get off me you big oaf,” she said, but she didn't move. Finally he kissed her neck and stood up tall, let her loose.
“Go to bed for a couple hours,” Jenny said. “I'm not going anywhere.”
So he did.
The two young burglars didn't die
but came about as close to it as they could. The driver lost one of his feet and the meat of his right triceps and he had nerve damage throughout. The other burglar flatlined three times during surgery and that was after he'd almost bled out in the ambulance. They were under police guard and would be until they were fit for trial. But not their trial. They had pled guilty by proxy and were sentenced to community service and probation. The trial they awaited was Marchuk's. The old man had been arraigned and pled not guilty before cussing out the court and the sitting judge.
The old man had lands and money enough to post his bail-bond, high as it was, but some folks from that township and those that bordered somehow anted up the cost and posted for him. On a pretty autumn day Marchuk left the stationhouse shaking his head and then he drove back to his farm in his old Dodge. There he took back the tending of his property from cousins who had driven in from north-interior British Columbia. They didn't go back. Instead they shacked up with him and awaited the trial.
The first attack against hoye was
no more than the rude spray painting of the words “Eastern Pig” on his garage door. He managed to acetone the graffiti clear before his wife got a chance to see it. Hoye heard rumblings of who might have done it and he let it be known that the drinking age in that county was about to be enforced nightly. Fines to be given out and liquor to be confiscated. Two weeks later somebody tore up the sideyard of his house by spinning doughnuts all over the crabgrassed turf. It happened when he was out on patrol and when he got home he found Jenny on the porch steps with a pump shotgun on her lap. Shells in a line on the wooden planking beside her. He had to talk a long time before he could get his gun back. They went inside and sat together in the kitchen.
“What, are they retarded or something?” she said.
“They just ain't accustomed to having someone tell them no. But they're gonna figure it out real quick.”
Jenny sipped at a glass of water, the fingers of her right hand lightly stained with gun grease.
“He nearly killed those kids.”
“They think it was justified.”
“We don't live in Texas.”
“If we did he'd still be locked up. They would've had to be inside his house for him to open fire.”
“How much longer do we have before you can pick a new station?”
“One year, three months, and eighteen days.”
Jenny stood up slowly. Took up his empty beer bottle and carried it over to the counter. She got him another from the fridge and set it down.
“I just hope they quit it.”
Hoye pulled hard on the bottle, set it down on the kitchen table and stared at it. At the rough hand holding it.
“They will,” he said.
Jenny Hoye drove over an hour
get to the nearest big-box store. She took trips there weekly to load up on diapers and formula, toiletries, other household necessaries. From those narrow, sunbaked roads she saw miles and miles of shortgrassed dunes, low-rolling plains with not a pond or trickle of river. Rare sightings of stunted trees with their barks dried and sloughing. Remains of groundhogs and coyotes on the macadam or otherwise strewn in the roadside gravel. Once in a while a lonely oilfield pumpjack with its counterweight turning anticlockwise and its steel horsehead dipping low and rising again. There was a base and barracks in the town and on her visits she would see men in army camos trailing their wives down the aisles, some upright and solemn and others leaning down heavy to the carthandles as they shoved along.