8:31

8:31

What’s that thumping? Rowan rolled up off the floor beside the couch where she had been wrapped up in a pile of old afghans and embroidered pillows and headed towards the hallway. They are going to wake Gareth up.

It must be 4 in the morning, she mused to herself blearily. What the fuck were her neighbours doing at this hour? As she approached the chipped front door she heard a long scraping sound and another thump. Peering through the peep hole told her exactly nothing. No one was playing games outside her apartment at least, but there was definite something going on in the hall.

I better put some pants on. If I have to go out and crack heads they might take me more seriously if I wasn’t wearing pink pyjamas with bunnies. Rowan turned her back to the door and took a step toward her bedroom when a heavy weight virtually smashed into the door behind her.

“What the…!” She swung around again she grabbed the door, flicked off the safety chain and threw it open. The vulgarity died on her lips as she gazed down at ratty pile of brown fur that seemed to be covered in blood and mud.

She glanced quickly down the hallway in both directions but there was no one else around. Looking back at the pile of fur she barely swallowed a shriek as it rolled over slightly and she saw that it was actually an animal, a very alive, very bloody animal.

The sight of this pathetic innocent creature started to make her very mad. Who the hell has been torturing animals in my building? And how did arrive at her door? She bent down and tentatively reached out to roll the poor thing over. The coarse fur was matted and unkept and as she pushed it on to its side Rowan saw its head for the first time.

“Oh my god, it’s…”

“My beaver,” came a voice softly over her shoulder.

8:30

8:30

He’s so tired she thought, it’s been a long day. A long week really. I’m glad he decided to stay.

Rowan grabbed the shabby and worn blanket from the back of the couch and gentle spread it over the sleeping Gareth. She fingered the worn softness of her favourite blanket as she tucked it under his shoulders. It made her happy that the old thing was still of use; she’d had the blanket since she was a kid and rescued it more than once from her mother’s attempts to discard it as worn out and useless.

And now she’d collected yet another moment wrapped in it’s threadbare weave. Rowan shook her head softly at the memory of the last teenage battle over the fate of her beloved blanket. She had started out calm and mature,stating that she had sentimental attachments and fond memories associated with the shabby bedspread. When that failed she’d moved on to the tried and true petulant and whiney until her mother had thrown her hands up in disgust and stomped off.

Really, we teach our children the entirely wrong things she mused.

And now two of her favourite things were here on her couch. Tomorrow would be soon enough to explore the mysteries of Gareth’s packet. Tonight he could rest safely swaddled in her blanket and she could quietly sit here and enjoy.

8:29

8:29

The beaver looked up into Albert’s moist eyes and quietly spoke. “Oh my friend. You never told me. I thought you never spoke of those years because of the war, because of what happened after. I would have helped. You should have told me.”

“Should. Yes, I should have. I should have done so many things. My folly was that I believed myself invincible and that I could protect what was mine; that I had some semblance of power or control.”

“I know better now. I know I couldn’t even protect myself let alone my family. And so, my friend, I turn to you now. I need your help.”

“My help? Of course. But that was decades ago. What could I do now that will help. I mean, I’m willing to help but, jesus, that kid’s gotta be 50 by now..”

“54 this November. But let me finish my story and perhaps you can see how you might be of no small service to me.

Unfortunately for me, the war had not yet concluded and I still owed service to my country. A cold and bitter service that I fought against with a more vibrant hatred than I ever exhibited for the supposed enemy. For almost four more years I was forced to deal with the distraction of that so called world war and for four years I lied, stole and manipulated everyone around me working only towards my personal goal.

As a result, I found myself once more posted home and assigned to a branch of intelligence. This allowed me to use the resources of the the wartime effort to search for clues as to what my now estranged family had done.

I discovered that my cousin Samuel, the disreputable husband of Aunt Harriet’s daughter Eloise, had been quiet vocal in his opposition to my pre-war machinations, and had, after I left, managed to convince the man who was my father that he was the best man to ‘solve’ the problem. For this, if for nothing else, I no longer consider that man my father. Samuel was a braggart, a climber of the worst sort and most unforgivably, a fool. I would no more trust my child to him than I would a kitten to a blind bear. It was even odds he would harm him out of malice or sheer ignorance.

As I discovered, Samuel first convince the mother of my child that I had changed my mind and abandoned them both. He eventually whisked her off to the continent with promises of money and security and then reneged. Worse, upon arrival, he also removed my son from her protection and left her alone and bereft.

I managed to discover that she had worked her way south to Portugal but then I lost her. Just three years ago I discovered her death certificate. She died not long after the war of Influenza in a village in Italy where she had been working in a hospital caring for those considered the detritus of battle.

Of my son, there was no sign. Samuel, in his post as adjutant to a staff officer, travelled widely through those years and I have never been able to find out if he ever travelled with a small child or servants of any kind.

You can imagine the kind of fate I had determined for dear cousin Samuel when next I laid my eyes upon his. My very soul festered and churned with a depth of emotion that I hope never to feel again. I was not blinded by hate, but rather driven by an inexorable destiny that has not oft been seen outside of a Elizabethan tragedy. My soul was forfeit and I intended to eat his.

On April 1, 1945 the universe played it’s ultimate prank on me. Many think that last casualty of a V2 rocket was a few days earlier on March 27. In fact, I discovered the last casualty was one Samuel Livingston, who died inspecting a captured V2 launch site in Dalfsen, Holland on April 1st while acting as a liaison with the Canadian 1st Army. It apparently exploded when the idiot got too close mucking around with it. No one else was injured as they apparently had the good sense not to stand too close to an enemy’s surrendered high explosives. I almost believe that they invented the term booby trap in reference to that unbelievably stupid bastard.

And so you see, any hope of finding my son quickly ended there. And to be completely honest, I almost ended my own life there. I endured an unspeakable period of despair upon hearing the news. Alone without family and friends, I collapsed in upon myself and ended up in the sanitorium that you found me in many, many months later.

And, when you and your kindness and friendship rescued me from that fate, I resolved to seem to put aside my differences with my family and once more entered the fold. You must remember that period; I cannot tell you how grateful I was for your intervention and how low it made me feel to deceive you in that way. But I truly believed in my madness — because yes, I believe now I was still quiet firmly in the throws of madness — that I need to to hold myself apart for everyone in order to perpetrate my masquerade.

Oh if you were to think that my deception and falsehood had blossomed under the cover of the military intelligence branch, you cannot imagine how I used and abused my family: it’s money and it’s influence were my weapons in the following years; more horrible than any of the bombs and rockets of the unlamented war I was thoroughly despicable and single-mindedly ruthless.

And in the end, I succeeded in my quest. Too late, I succeeded in my pitiful quest. Much too late.

“And now, good friend, my dear, dear friend, I turn once again to you.”

8:28

8:28

“Let me tell you a story. A long, sad story of one man’s folly and another’s criminal stupidity…”

It began just before the war. As you know I met a wonderful woman and fell in love. And as it often happens she was soon with child. It was a disgrace of course, but the kind of disgrace that happened more often than not and there were ways of dealing with it to the satisfaction of all.

Well, of course, being who I was, who I still am really, I found myself dissatisfied with the standard solutions. I had not much changed you see, from that impetuous boy you met high above the ground soloing ago. I was determined to find a solution that ended with me, a beautiful bride and our lovely son — it was a boy as I eventually discovered — living out our lives in comfortable bliss, free of stigma, free of the consternation of a rapidly dissolving and increasing irrelevant class system.

I really thought it would be easy. After all it had been easy all my life. Escaping the ties of my family’s expectations had been my calling so’s to speak; it had been one my one true accomplishment to date. I had every expectation that I would win through the day. I had every expectation dammit.

So there I was, making plans, executing a delightfully complex set of negotiations and casting a shadow over everyone’s sight. I could see my triumph, I had inhaled the scent of victory as I arched out to take that fair morsel between my teeth.

And then — the war came. The marriage plans dissolved in a whirlwind of panic, the deals began to unravel, fear was everywhere, nothing was the same. I tried valiantly to hold the others to the bargains, to convince them that nothing substantial had changed. But that was when I learned the bitterest lesson that war has to teach: that the perceived value of any object or idea is as fleeting and delicate as a moment of silence. Suddenly my only value, the only value I could offer anyone was to fight. There was no question that I would be be bundled off to war to sacrifice what may be for the greater glory of god, my country and my oh-so-importunate family.

And God forgive me, I went. I went and abandoned my love and abandoned my child, giving them over to an uncaring and callous family’s care.

Oh my friend, I can not tell you how many times over the years I have regretted that decision. I should have stayed and fought my own war. I should have realized the import of my actions. No decision should be taken lightly, and that one would have repercussions beyond my wildest imaginings. It has not ended since that day, and I now realize it will not end for many years to come.

“But let me continue.”

For three years I fought on foreign soil and my only contact was through family letters. They told me of my son’s birth and his christening, of his first word, his first tooth and described to me his first steps. I took what joy and solace I could from those precious missives and tried to pretend that the lack of mention of his mother was solely because the family’s embarrassment.

But lied to myself. And they lied to me. And, when at long last I was allowed to return home, I found I had no home to return to. My love was long removed, my child not even a memory but for my sister how had been tasked with penning the dissembling notes and upon my discovering these pernicious truths, I no longer admitted to a family. I took myself away and began a search, that for many years bore no fruit but sorrow.

Albert stopped suddenly and his breathing became ragged.

8:27

8:27

The beaver closed his eyes for a moment. It had taken a bit of sleuthing, but he was pretty sure he had the address now. It had been a little more than an hour since he’d left Gareth’s place, and while the bleeding had slowed, it hadn’t stopped. His fur was matted and caked with dirt, and his head was spinning. As far as he could tell it was another ten minutes’ walk, maybe even longer at the pace he was managing.

Still resting his eyes, the beaver considered what would happen then. It didn’t look like he was going to be able to rest anytime soon, and he so needed to rest. Just stop and take a moment. He leaned against the hard brick wall of the alley and savoured the feeling of drifting off. Just a few moments more.

His breathing slowed and for a moment, he dreamed.

***

Albert looked down at him and said, “How are you old friend? I hope you’ve been well. I must say, I have missed you terribly.”

“Hi yourself. I’m well enough; better than well, I suppose. All that clean living.”

“Ah. Yes, I suppose you don’t often find yourself trapped here amidst the smog and pollution of the city, do you?”

“No. And I am eternally thankful for that. Literally.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true as well. Can I get you something?”

“No, no, I’m fine. I am a bit curious as to why you needed to see me so suddenly. Is there a problem?”

Albert looked away from the beaver and his posture suddenly collapsed. For a few minutes he said nothing and then, “Yes, my dearest friend. There is in fact a problem. And I am afraid there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it.”

“You see, it’s my son.”

 

8:26

8:26

He couldn’t believe they had shot him. He couldn’t believe how much it hurt. He couldn’t believe he was still moving, although he was pretty sure that state of affairs wasn’t going to keep up much longer. He couldn’t believe they had missed him lying there in the dark; he hadn’t really had any respect for them to start with, but that was beyond the pale. And mostly the beaver couldn’t believe that this might actually mean he was going to fail.

I never fail. Well, I might not actually accomplish what I set out to do sometimes, but goals are malleable and I always get something done. But dammit, I never fail. Jesus, it hurts. I really have to do something right now before I pass out or worse.

Damn. I didn’t want to involve him. It just seems so … so inappropriate. And if I ask him for help, I’m not gonna get away with ditching him before the last act. Christ, and the morons have brought guns into it; what the hell are they about, anyway, bloody idiots. No, the guns make it too dangerous to bring anyone else into it; I need to find someone … someone already at risk.

Gareth. Shit, I need to warn him. Or at least get him out of the now all-too-real line of fire. And he can help with this little problem I seem to have acquired courtesy of the gun-toting twits with the politeness problem. Find Gareth, fix me, get him moving away from the action and …

The beaver stopped in his tracks. He had just remembered where he’d been when he encountered the simpletons with the Smith and Wesson.

“Oh fuck,” he moaned. “Fuckity fucking fuck FUCK!”

He started moving again, swinging back toward the apartment he had so lately abandoned. I must be in shock. They know about Gareth. They’ve connected the dots. How could I have missed that simple little fact? I need to find him. I need to fix this. Damn them for fools, I need to stop them. It’s going too far.

Panting heavily and leaving a crimson smear in the grass behind him, the beaver moved painfully up the slope and angled toward the street.

If I can figure out where he was all day … He hadn’t come home, and it was already too late to expect he’d be coming home tonight. So where… the girl! He’d been hanging out with that girl. And that was new. No one else would know about that. The girl could keep him safe and out of it.

The beaver felt the panic start to ebb and a wave of exhaustion take its place. But at least his brain was processing again, and it was starting to formulate a plan, albeit short term.

I need to find the girl, find Gareth and find out what, if anything, they know about this before it explodes in their faces. And while I’m at it, I need to find the interfering varmint and make sure he doesn’t make this worse than it already is. Just my luck and he’ll end up roasted on a spit somewhere and they’ll blame me for it. Then I need to end this stupid farce as soon as possible, before anyone else, including me, gets shot by the handgun-packing halfwits that someone seems to have set loose.

 

8:25

8:25

What I need to do, Edward pondered as he watched the sun slowly come up over the city’s skyline, is find out just why the interfering beaver is so adamant about this. Generally by now he would have given up; or at least have been willing to share some of his resources with me. Competition is all good, but he generally isn’t so stupid as to think he can take on all comers. Every time in the past when things have gotten this complicated, he has either bailed at an opportune moment or agreed to some sort of mutually agreeable solution.

This time I can’t seem to even get the stupid rodent to state his position, let alone compromise on it. Every time I turn my back he just vanishes and then reappears at absolutely the most inconvenient juncture.

So. I definitely think I better investigate this little offshoot before proceeding with any major revisions to the plan. Really, it has been foolish of me to put it off so long, but I guess I had hoped that my honourable adversary would eventually come to his senses. And that means I have so research to do.

***

Well, well, well. Edward had never visited Alberta and he definitely had never heard of Magrath. But it was beginning to look like he would have to do some serious research into that little town and one or two of its residents. Hopefully he could avoid the long delay that visiting there would necessitate, but if that is what it would take, then that is where he would go.

But before packing my carpetbag, I think I will just visit the national archives and see what I can see about a woman named Meredith McGrath.

 

8:24

8:24

CRACK

Edward swivelled his head toward the ear-splitting sound that shattered the evening’s calm and quiet, and laid his ears back against his head. Two showy figures stood at the edge of the field staring across the dark clearing; glancing in that direction he caught a dark shape rolling clumsily into the bushes.

“Oh my,” he muttered. “I did warn him.”

Edward prudently backed a little further into the shelter of the bush he’d been occupying. Thinking this was another unneeded complication, Edward was already revising his plans. While he hoped the beaver was all right, to be honest he was much more worried that this was going to throw up yet another of the roadblocks he’d been plagued with over the last couple of decades.

Taking too much time and nothing ever going right: that’s how this whole disastrous project had been going since the first moment it landed in his lap. And now this. Edward hated it when people got hurt; it always bought an air of unprofessionalism to the proceedings and ninety percent of the time is was simply unnecessary.

And speaking of unnecessary, just who did these fools thing they were dealing with? Weres? Did they go home and whip up a batch of mystical silver bullets? Guns are the last refuge of the stupid and incompetent, in Edward’s opinion, and their appearance in this round was just another indication that he was dealing with the desperate and dumb.

The two figures had moved quickly across the field to the spot where the object of their target practice had disappeared. They seemed to be examining the ground closely but were showing no indication that they were about to attempt the bushes. Edward watched them for any indication of just who they were, but as usual, they remained indistinct and bereft of any memorable aspect.

I’d best be going. This isn’t gaining me anything and leaves me open to the possibility of being these fools’ next clay pigeon. Edward backed slowly sticking to the thickest and lowest parts of the underbrush. A few moments later he turned and exited onto a shale footpath and picked up speed heading towards the lake.

The issue now was how to pick up the trail again. Edward might be the rabbit in this scenario, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve.

 

8:23 Him

8:23

Staring at the screen in front of me, I find myself at a loss of what to write. The story progresses, in fits and starts as it always has. Things change, plots evolve … shit happens.

Authorship seems to be very much the kissing cousin of the curse. A curse will slowly suck you into its tangled tendrils and wrap you in its weave until you find you and it indistinguishable from each other.

The story wraps around your mind, stealing parts, changing realities and eventually taking over the course of events until the intent no longer matches the reality. A story lies and breathes on its own yet remains powerless without the cooperation of the story teller. Together it grows and expands and hovers always on the edge of chaos. Always on the brink of becoming that which no longer has shape or form or even any discernible meaning.

Stories, like life, are the hardest thing you will ever do and yet one of the few true things that can guarantee you satisfaction in the end.

And my son is an magnum opus. The thing I am most proud of and the thing that, very often painfully, encircles my soul like divine geas.

On this day, I stare at my screen and wonder what to write. I wonder how to the tell the story of my child, my son, of the protagonist who has slowly slipped beyond my pages and grown beyond my imagination. And yet who will never truly be separate from the story of my life, who will always be a greater part of my storyline, and who remains the greatest tale I have ever told.

And who tells his own story now.

 

8:22

8:22

With age comes wisdom. Edward had heard that somewhere. Well, he had the age thing down. He wasn’t so sure about the wisdom, though. He’d spent a lot of time screwing things up lately, mostly because he hadn’t stopped and thought it all through. “Patience, my dear rabbit, patience,” he murmured to himself.

And so Edward found himself beneath the same bush, in the same park for the fifth night in a row. All the evidence pointed to this place; unfortunately, it didn’t seem to point to any particular time. Hence the patience mantra that had been rolling through his head these last few days and nights.

He’d watch the world go by, the insects speeding by at a rate that made Indy cars seem glacier like, and the passage of clouds drifting purposelessly across the skies. Young children had screamed by and an old man and his old dog had ambled across his sight lines twice a day, every day.

He’d miss that old couple. When they strode out, they had no place to go and seemingly nothing better to do. But Edward knew better than to write them off as the flotsam drifting at the end of a long life. Every day, twice a day, the two set out, companions and confidants, and faced the world head on. Twice a day, every day, they discovered new things, breathed new air and took in the world changing about them.

These are the observers: observers who  see the world and are not fooled by the masks and layers of social detritus that accumulate around them. Ancient archaeologists whose very years allow them to brush off the strata of time and change, and see the universe for what it is and what it is evolving into.

It is a pity, Edward thought not for the first time, that life holds to one of two cycles. Either we grow old and more childlike, seeing the world once again though an infant’s eyes but unable to affect it, or we grow ancient and wise, clear-eyed at last but without an audience. Either way the fates swing us, there may be only a tiny, select few, like Edward himself, who remain able to poke and prod and hopefully produce enough momentum to effect even the smallest of change to the raging currents of time.

And as the shadows slowly moved across the grass in front of him, Edward glanced across that mottled swath of green and saw the old white-muzzled dog awkwardly look back across his shoulder, catch Edward’s eye and wink.