*from the creative category*

northern lights

A swim in Deadman Lake in the middle of winter is, for the young men of Pelly Crossing at least, a resounding proclamation of mettle.

“Go on, ya fuckin’ pansy. Jump!” Jesse Paul shouted as he launched a rock with purpose.

James, naked and uneasy, stared at the hole in the ice from atop Warrior’s Bluff. He thought of his young bride and his unborn son. He knew this was a place he didn’t belong.

“Jump! Jump! Jump!” the Barton brothers taunted as they tossed their empties.

That would be all the coaxing he would need as the bottles shattered against the rock showering the pristine winter crust with thousands of amber shards.

In the morning, Jesse had argued against the invitation. “He’s not one of us,” he said. “It’s not fuckin’ right.”

“Forget it, Jess.”
“Let it go.”
“What difference does it make?” chimed the others.

Earlier that summer, James Gardener had married Betty Sheldon in a traditional Tutchone ceremony in the longhouse of the Kluane First Nation. A union that did not sit particularly well with Jesse Paul, whose relationship with Betty Sheldon ended long before James Gardener showed up in Pelly Crossing.

He had only meant to stop for gas while traveling north from the coast, but his ’83 Toyota sputtered and coughed a last gasp, eventually rolling silently to a stop a few hundred yards from the gas station where Betty Sheldon worked. A consequence that extended his stay in Pelly Crossing far beyond that of a minor repair.

Back at the lake, in the dark, the once-raging bonfire has died away, leaving a smoldering snag of charred wood and embers. The boys too have gone. Peaceful. Quiet. Desolate. Nothing but a purpose for grace as falling snow covers the blood-soaked trail to the hole in the ice just below Warrior’s Bluff.