Read The Cast Stone Online

Authors: Harold Johnson

Tags: #Fiction, #FIC019000, #General, #Literary, #Indigenous Peoples, #FIC029000, #FIC016000

The Cast Stone (9 page)

BOOK: The Cast Stone
4.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

On the quarter section of land to the south of Abe's place, Ruben Weebe looked at the silent cell phone in his hand. The phone had died in the middle of his conversation with his daughter in Saskatoon. It squealed for a full second, sharp and shrill in his ear, then died. He put the phone in his shirt pocket and tried the landline, the old-fashioned phone. It was silent, dead. The screen on the computer in the den was blank. “Ruth, Ruth.” Ruben walked through the house calling his wife. She was in their bedroom, putting clothes into the closet. “Ruth, something's up.” She looked to Ruben's face for the answer, ignored his words. The face said urgent and she followed him out of the house, to the shelterbelt where the caragana grew thick, to the spot they had decided upon, created, a spot with a hollow where two people could hide. Ruth sat silent and hugged Chico, a spaniel who squirmed but kept silent as though he too knew something was coming.

Ed Trembley leaned against last year's straw bale, enjoyed the sun in his face, on his shirt, heating his legs through the denim. He read from a little blue book that he had read many times, started over at the first page. He spoke the words to the sky.

“The people of Venezuela, exercising their powers of creation
and invoking the protection of God, the historical example of
our Liberator Simon Bolivar, and the heroism and sacrifice of
our aboriginal ancestors and the forerunners and founders of a
free and sovereign nation

The remainder of the page he read louder, as though an oath, “
To the supreme end of reshaping the Republic to establish
a democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and
multicultural society in a just, federal, and decentralized State
that embodies the values of freedom, independence, peace,
solidarity, the common good, the nation's territorial integrity,
comity, and the rule of law for this and future generations,
guarantees the right to life, work, learning, education, social
justice, and equality; without discrimination or subordination
of any kind; promotes peaceful cooperation among nations
and furthers and strengthens Latin American integration in
accordance with the principles of non-intervention and national
self-determination of the people, the universal and indivisible
guarantee of human rights, the democratization of imitational
society, nuclear disarmament, ecological balance and environmental
resources as the common and inalienable heritage of
humanity; exercising their innate power through their representatives
comprising the National Constituent Assembly, by their
freely cast vote and in a democratic Referendum, hereby ordain
the following:"

Ed stopped for a breath and in the new silence heard the sound of diesel engines, then the sound of military bombproof tires on gravel. He slid down until he was lying in the short barley and looked toward the grid road that ran straight and bare across the earth from horizon to this rise of land where he smelled the dryness of the soil inches from his face. He did not need the binoculars; the convoy of Hummers raised a cloud of ashen dust that sped toward him and toward the people in the loft at Abe's place.

He kicked the straw away from the blocks of industrial Styrofoam, poured the plastic bottle filled with a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline, struck a lighter to the fuel, waited a long second and another, until he was sure that the flame had taken, then ran; ran hard for the river to the east, to the valley where the river wandered between steep banks and willow and aspen grew thick and would hide a person from the sky. The burning foam billowed a greasy black finger of smoke upward behind him as he ran crouched. His knapsack with the little blue book, a little food, water, a mirror, and an industrial laser bounced on his back.

Out! Out!
” Abe yelled into the loft. People scrambled, all laughter died at the sight of the black smoke in the distance climbing into the sky.

“I'll drive,” Monica almost shouted as she and Ben ran up to his truck.

Abe stood at the gate and designated the vehicles leaving the yard, spreading them to the four directions. “Go north and at the first intersection take the west road.”

“So, how's your day going?” The ferryman leaned into the passenger side window of the truck, rested his elbows on the door.

“So far, so good,” Ben answered.

The flat-bottomed ferry angled in the current of the South Saskatchewan River, followed the cable strung shore to shore. Its diesel engine rumbled and tugged against the cable, drew it into the little house and expelled it again out the other side, drawing the six-car ferry toward the far bank of aspen and the winding lane of gravel that ended abruptly where the heavy wooden planks marked the landing. Monica stared straight ahead, watched that landing draw incrementally closer.

“Would it be all right to get out and walk around a bit?” Ben asked.

“Oh, hell, yeah, everyone does. People just love to see water.” The ferryman stepped back so that Ben could open the door. “Takes about seven minutes to get across,” he added as he turned to talk to the driver of the older Ford pickup.

Ben walked over to the ferry edge to watch the flow of beige water slip away down the river valley. He stood looking out downstream, felt the moisture rise from the water, and wondered about the others. Was anyone still there when whoever was coming arrived?

A lone gull tilted wings and glided beside the ferry, flashed white in the sun as it banked away and turned to follow the river. There's a shortage of birds, Ben thought.

Even though he was only a few kilometres from the university, Ben had never been here before. The river rippled far below its high-water marks. Willow and a coarse grass that he did not know had begun to grow on the dark mud flats abandoned by the shrunken river. But, it was green. The valley was lush in contrast to the burnt prairie it cut through. Comforting to see trees, green trees. Ben wanted to be home, the lake still blue, and evergreens.

Monica wanted to be anywhere but here, exposed, dependent, trapped. Any minute and Homeland Security would appear on that far landing that was taking forever to arrive and they had no way out. Jump into the river and swim back? If she had to. Could Ben make it? Probably not. Too old for that. But, maybe. Ben was strong. Built like a bear. Her mind tumbled as it raced.

Off the ferry the truck spun gravel as Monica turned sharply to the right, away from the main road onto a track that led into the aspen and willow, over a rise, down again, a curve then the truck was pointed at the steep wall of the river valley. The track ran at an unbelievable angle upwards. She pushed the four-wheel drive button and eased the truck into the climb. It pointed its hood at the cloudless sky and began the ascent.

“Hey, just a second.” Ben was reaching around for his seat belt.

“Not to worry. I've done this before. Well, I haven't actually driven up here. I had a boyfriend when I was in school who used to bring me here to show off his truck. It's okay. Really. We just have to take it real slow and steady. These Toyotas are incredible here. Watch.”

The engine changed tone as it began to work, a deeper sound, a grumble. It climbed the impossible bank upwards, pushed Ben back into the seat until all he could see was the blue of a hot, dry sky.

Ed Trembley ran hard for the green fringe at the edge of the dusty summerfallow. He found a strength that rose from somewhere, maybe from fear, felt it first in his chest, then in his legs as he increased his stride, stretched new legs and ran. The Hummer's engine grew louder behind him. The last vehicle of the convoy had turned as it passed the smouldering foam to give chase.

The river valley dropped quickly away from the prairie, a near vertical drop of a dozen metres where the cut bank had crumbled, hid at its top by a bramble of chokecherry and thistles. Ed charged through this brush, dropped suddenly and slid feet first down the steep decline. The roar of the Hummer and the sound of smashed brush behind him became the sound of an airplane over top of him. The driver of the heavy truck must have intended to run Ed over and now it was too late. The Hummer dropped grill first, slammed into the valley wall where the cliff bottom became a steep slope. It flipped end over end through the aspen, bounced incredibly high after each crash landing and ended on its roof in the swirl of the river bend.

Ed slid down the slope, caught a broken tree trunk, put his feet under himself and quickly worked his way to the vehicle. Two Homeland Security officers looked to be dead, hopefully dead. They were not breathing. Another black shirt gasped unconscious, twitched in the back seat. A fourth, opened his eyes when Ed pulled at him. Ed slammed a fist between the eyes and they shut.

The river current made canoeing tricky. The added weight of two bound black-uniformed officers in the small canoe helped to balance the craft fore and aft but made the canoe ride deeper in the water, made paddling harder. Ed followed the shoreline, less current here in the shallows, as he worked his way upstream, pushing the paddle into the mud as much as he drew strokes in dark water. Following close to the shore also meant that it was unlikely that he would be seen as he neared the city with his hostages. It was always good to have something to trade with.

“You're going out on the lake? You just got home.” Rosie walked behind Ben as he attached the boat and trailer to the truck, removed tarpaulin and straps. He turned and looked directly at her. The little girl was there again, for just a second it was little Rosie.

“Do you want to come along?”

“Me?” Rosie suddenly found herself flustered.

“Yes, you. There's no one else here.” Kindness filtered his words. “I wasn't talking to the puppies.” The first bold pup toddled out from under the house, fell, picked itself up, and pushed forward. “Hey, you.” Rosie picked it up by the scruff, cradled it in the crook of her elbow. “You're too small to go wandering around.” She gently rubbed the soft pink of its belly before kneeling, bending further than her body was accustomed to and placing the puppy back in the tumble of its siblings between the outstretched legs of the yellow dog.

BOOK: The Cast Stone
4.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

London Calling by Karen Booth, Karen Stivali
The Judgement Book by Simon Hall
Horse Fever by Bonnie Bryant
Rites of Spring by Diana Peterfreund