Picture Perfect 56
“You need anything before we head out?”
“I got Hazel to pack us a lunch in case we need it. Plus she filled my travel mug.” He shook his Lyfend mug. He figured trail bouncing would be good test for it.
“I’m thinking the old Moose Trail won’t be too bad. Runs along the high ridge. Mostly rock too so shouldn’t be too mucky.”
Larry backed his SUV up then drove up a low hill near the entrance of the plot his tailer was on & directly into the woods. “I found this trail with the snowmobile the first winter I had one. One of my jobs is make sure this trail clear but not … too easy. The winter people like a bit of a challenge.”
The jeep rocked back forth as it negotiated the trail. Branches slapped at the roof, windows & the sides. Larry stopped at the brink of a steep downward grade. He grinned at Dan, released the clutch sending them bouncing down the side of the hill. Dan found himself grabbing the dash to brace himself.
“This is what I call driving.” Larry said happily.
“Now, I’m sure you aren’t queer.” Dan shook his head.
“What?” Larry laughed. “I could say the same thing about you.”
“Yeah. Most gay guys spot my big feet within minutes. In my case it is true what they say. Why do you think I made sure you saw them before you changed into those boots?”
“Jesus! I just thought you were being … nice.”
“No, playing hard to notice. Gay’s not something to broadcast in these parts.”
“You’re kidding me. You’re gay?”
“More like bi.” Larry shrugged keeping a tight grip on the steering wheel as they bumped over the uneven trail. “You might have good gaydar but lousy bidar.”
“I only use gaydar when I think it’ll serve a ….” the left side of the jeep did a sharp dip then righted itself. “A purpose. You get much opportunity out here.”
“Summer mainly. I suggested, half-joking, to the management at the Tartan they should advertise for LGBT honeymooners. I was shocked they were willing to put up a rainbow flag. They don’t grasp that there is a generation that grew up watching queers on TV. It means nothing to them.”
He stopped the SUV. A tree had fallen across the trail. “We’re going to have to move that. It’s a two man job. Think you can manage.”
“Is that a dare?”
They got out of the truck.
Larry walked around the tree peering into the trunk on either side. “I’m seeing where we would best put it.”
“Put it!” Dan tentatively lifted the part of the fallen trunk nearest him. “We’ll need a … I don’t know what to move this. It must weigh a ton.”
“Not a bad estimate.” Larry laughed. “We will have a little help.”
He went to the back of the truck and pulled out two steel spars about five feet in length. He gave Dan a pair of work gloves.
“You’ll need these. Let us … try over there first. You see where that other tree has been broken under this one.”
“Right.” Dan pulled on the gloves.
Larry showed him how to ram the spar under the tree as he did the same.
“Press down gently.”
They bounced the fallen tree trunk a few times.
“That’s good news. It is not lodged in that deeply. Now we go to here.” He jabbed under the tree. “No. the soil is too loose. We need bedrock.” He moved a few more feet along. “This boulder should suit us.”
They both pushed their spars under the trunk.
“Lift a moment, now push as hard as you can.”
The trunk felt immobile to Dan. “It’s like trying to move a sofa with a tooth pick.” He said.
“Yes. One of those situations that lube won’t solve. Stop for a moment. Once more. All your weight.”
For a split second Dan’s feet left the ground. He lost grip on his spar as the trunk moved a fraction then slewed off and away from them. While it did Larry pushed him to the ground. Freed from he weight of the tree his spar bounced into the air where he had been.
“What the …” Dan sat on the wet ground staring at the tree trunk. “I can’t believe we just moved that fucker.” His hands were stinging from the pressure he had been applying. “I have never done anything like that in my entire life.”
“I guess you don’t get to handle such big lumber in Toronto.” Larry lit a cigarette. “You handled that quite well for such a little guy.”
“Luckily your feet didn’t get in the way.” Dan started to stand but he was washed by a wave of dizziness. Spots danced before his eyes.
“Easy there.” Larry reached down to help him up. “All that exertion caught your body off guard.”
Dan let himself be led to the truck.
Larry went to the back and brought out a six-pack of beer & a plastic bag with some bananas in it.
“Time for a breather.” He offered Dan a beer.
“No thanks, I’ll stick to caffeine until we’re back on solid ground” He got the mug from the front seat. In the bouncing around the camera had been turned on. He resisted checking what footage it may have captured. “There’s a comfort station here after all.”
They tossed their banana skins into the brush.
“Ready to push on?” Larry asked.
The the next couple of miles were as rough but Dan was accustomed to the sway and lurch of the truck.
“There here is the old logger road.” Larry steered the ATV down a steep but short incline to a wider dirt road marked with tire ruts. “This will take us directly to the highway. How you doing there? Haven’t had much to say since we did right by that tree.”
“Thinking about what makes a man a man. A male a male.”
“Ah. There is more than one way to be who we are, right. I’m sure not your typical gay. Least ways not the type you usually meet in Toronto.”
“That’s for sure.”
“You are not quite what I expected. All I see are men who want to marry men, or who want to have sex with any man who is available. Available! They think it’s a challenge, their right to … corrupt the staff.”
“You didn’t find it easy to see me as gay. They see me as the bulky, heterosexual, staff. A challenge to get in the sack. You’re not like that.”
“Let’s face it, we’ve been too occupied for me to think about anything else but why I am here & how to get to where I’m supposed to be.”
“In the movies the hero always has a hard-on for the random women in his moment of crisis. Sometimes it is all they seem to think about. The bomb is about to go off – let’s make out. Here we are.”
The road ended at the highway.
“Great.” Dan was hoping the forest drive would last longer. After being surrounded by the trees the highway on either side of them was empty.
“You know where we are headed?” Larry asked.
Dan turned and pulled his shoulder bag from her back seat to the front. He got out the Cold Case itinerary. “We’ve been booked into the Wickham Arms.”
“It’s a decent b’n’b. Older than the Tartan though. I’ve stayed there myself.”
“Me too. But I’m sure it’s changed since the eighties.”
Dan wondered if Baxter had picked the Wickham in particular because he knew this was where Dan had stayed at the time of the disappearances.