brni (brni) wrote,

The First Canadian

In '91 or '92 I went driving cross country with some friends, out to Montana, up to Alaska, down to San Francisco, and back to Philly. We crossed the border up by Glacier National Park (which I suppose will have to be renamed sometime soon) into Alberta and found a campground somewhere between the border and Calgary. There weren't many people at the campground, and we were fairly isolated. There was a nice fire pit, though, so we built a fire and hung out pretending to tell ghost stories.

The first Canadian that we had a conversation with (lengthier than a commercial transaction or a bored border guard asking us if we were bringing in any illegal drugs, firearms or fruit) made his entrance there, somewhere around midnight. There was a rustling in the bushes, and when we looked up, a dark figure stood, just beyond the circle of light.

"Uh," he said. "Could I bum a cigarette off you guys? I, like, really need a cigarette, eh?"

Our first Canadian sighting, and he talks like Bob and Doug McKenzie. No shit. I mean, he didn't call anyone a hosehead, but the accent and the cadence was all the same, and every other sentence ended with 'eh?'

"Yeah, sure." Joe pulled a pack of Canadian cigarettes that he'd picked up when we put gas in the van. "But just one. Do you have any idea how expensive these things are?"

"Thanks. Hey, you guys want a beer?" The guy walked toward us and held up a six-pack of beer. He pulled one off the plastic ring and tossed it toward Joe. It was crappy American beer - Bud or Coors Light or something. Joe and Laura and Lynda each took one. I passed. I stared at the guy.

He was pretty messed up. His hand shook as he tried to light the cigarette. There was blood in his hair and on his face, and a bloody bandage across his forehead, covered in leaves and burrs and whatnot.

"Are you okay?" I asked. "What happened?"

"I got jumped, I think. I don't know, eh. I think someone like hit me in the head."

"Yeah, I can see that."

"I lost a tooth, too." He poked a finger through a gap in his teeth.

Lynda studied him. "I think you need to go to a hospital."

"I went to the hospital," he said, showing us his hospital wrist bracelet. "The lights, like, hurt my eyes ya know. So I left, eh."

So, it turned out that when he was at the hospital, he didn't remember his name. But now he remembered his name (though I've forgotten it). He also didn't have a wallet, or keys, or anything. It had all gone missing while he was unconscious. He didn't remember where he was when he got mugged, or what hospital he'd been at. He didn't know where he was. He was just wandering through the woods. Bleeding. With an obvious concussion and a six-pack of bad beer.

"Where'd you get the beer?" Joe asked, focusing on the important things.

"I don't know. I guess I picked it up somewhere. You want another one? I could use another cigarette."

"This cigarette probably cost more than that beer," said Joe.

"Yeah, the taxes here are killer, eh! But it works out okay for me eh. My brother, he like has a farm in Alberta, down at the border. And, like, my uncle has a farm in Montana, right on the other side of the border." He laughed. "So we like get pickup trucks full of Marlboros eh and bring em over, and then we sell them for twice the price we paid. And it's like still a bargain."

He hung out with us for about an hour. Then the beer was gone and the cigarettes smoked. He turned down an offer of a ride to the hospital and wandered back off into the bushes. Not down the path, but directly into the dense foliage. For a few minutes we heard him running into things and cursing, and then he was gone.
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