I left Manitouwadge the year I turned eighteen. I’d saved enough of my wages to buy an older-model pickup truck that was outfitted with a steel box to carry the tools I’d assembled. There was no plan. I was just leaving. I was a working man. Work was everywhere. The highway led west to the prairies, the mountains and the Pacific coast, and I had never seen any of them. But it wasn’t a yearning for new geography that drove me—it was my tiredness of the old. The bush had ceased to be a haven. A vacant feeling sat where the beginnings of my history had once been. That part of myself was a tale long dead, one that held nothing for me. So I was heading out to create whatever history I could with muscle and will and no constraints. I was leaving the bush and the North behind. I didn’t think I needed them anymore. The echoes of those I’d travelled with slid into the trees I was leaving behind.

The Kellys took my departure with worry, though they didn’t try to stop me.

“It will be tough, Saul,” Fred Kelly said. “A working life is made easier by a home. People. Noise. Distraction. They fill you when you’re tired and depleted.”

“Feels like I’ve had enough noise and people for a while,” I said.

“That Toronto business was hard,” he said. I’d never told anyone about the ordeal of the bush camp.


“But you can let it go. You can stay here, work, get a life under your feet.”

“I’ve had a life.” It came out blunt, hard, and I could see that it hurt him.

“I know,” he whispered.

Virgil was characteristically blunt. “Feels like you’re fuckin’ running.”

“I’m not.”

“What would you call it?”

“I’m just moving on. Time for a change.”

He levelled a long look at me. “We’re supposed to be teammates. Wingers. You. Me. Nobody wins alone, Saul.”

“I’m used to alone.”

“You’re used to thinking you’re alone. Big difference.”

“I’m not disappearing,” I said.

He shook his head sadly. “Seems to me you already did.”