Humber Literary Review: vol. 8, issue 1

Page 28

JOSEPH KAKWINOKANASUM

JOSEPH KAKWINOKANASUM // 26

CIPAYAK I

grew up quickly in the isolated village of Pouce Coupe; Mom had been gone for weeks drinking with her buddies. To make things interesting, all but one of my six siblings had scattered to the wind. It was just me and my eldest sister Deb at home. It was a good time to arrange a sleepover with my buddies Jacob and Eric. I cleared it with Deb and made a couple phone calls on the village party line to my friends, whose parents didn’t like me and weren’t about to let their kids sleep the night with a family like mine. So, Eric and Jacob fudged it. They lied about where they were sleeping while I arranged accommodations in my basement. Then, we met at the general store to buy as much junk food as we could afford with what money we had between us. In 1979 you could get a lot for five bucks. We loaded up with a big bag of chips, chocolate bars, soda pop, and a shitload of penny candies. We raced back to my place to stash the sodas, chips, and candy bars, then divided the penny candies three ways. Fueled by bitesized sweets, we rode our bikes from one end of town to the other, practising our wheelies and perfecting our powerslides. We took breaks, wrestling like maniacs, and playing Buck Rodgers. By dinnertime we were starving. We headed home and locked our bikes in the backyard shed; in our village they’d be stolen if they weren’t secured. The three of us wrestled through the back door trying to remove our shoes on the porch. I led the way toward the kitchen and the smell of hot dogs. Deb was there, she pointed to the washroom and ordered us to clean up. We raced to the bathroom sink, and Deb hollered, “You can eat downstairs if you promise not make a mess, and clean up after dinner.” We agreed to her conditions, and from the kitchen to the basement, balanced a plate of hot dogs in one hand and a glass of Kool-Aid in the other. We arranged furniture in front of the TV, ate dinner, and took our plates upstairs like we’d promised; I washed, Eric and Jacob dried. Deb sat at the dining-room table, one eye on her game of solitaire, and the other on us. “You boys can play in the basement as late as you like as long as

you’re quiet. Now go wash up for bed.” It was no use resisting, we tried. “Boys!” yelled Deb from upstairs. “I’m going to bed, watch a movie or something and keep the volume down.” One good thing about living so far north was, as part of the Northern Living Allowance, every home received the HBO channel. So, we settled in with our junk food to watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We tried to sleep, but our minds swam with extraterrestrial and paranormal what-ifs. “Okay guys,” I said, “Who wants to go stargazin’?” Faces lit, I grabbed my knapsack from the storage room and quietly led the way upstairs; Jacob and Eric fetched our shoes from the porch, I stole my way into the kitchen, prepared a thermos for tea and made three peanut-butter-and-jam bannock sandwiches while waiting for the water to boil. I wrapped the sandwiches in a tea towel and grabbed three tin mugs from the cupboard, a flashlight from the kitchen utility drawer, and some moose-meat jerky from the pantry. After loading the tea with sugar and cream, I tightened the thermos lid and packed it all into my knapsack. Deb did not stir. I crept back downstairs and stuffed in a small blanket and a pack of smokes I’d stolen from Mom’s nightie drawer the week before. Using a creaky wooden chair to reach the ceiling rafters, we slipped through a small window in the cold storage room. Jacob went first, he stretched over his head and hauled himself up, then aimed his feet toward the windowsill and shimmied out, then I handed the pack to him. Eric went next, but was not the most agile. He struggled to get his feet up to the window; so, Jacob grasped one of his legs and pulled him by the feet while I pushed from underneath. From Eric’s efforts, he farted. I was hit by the smell of sour purple flavour crystals and burned hot dogs. Eric barely squeezed through the window. I shimmied out last, emerging from the dark storage room to a sky filled with bright stars veiled by the pale Northern Lights; greens and yellows pulsed and


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