Know Better?

ages  names

44 44 58 37 49 47 50 40

 

Selim Esen

Abdulbasir Faizi

Majeed Kayhan

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam  

Andrew Kinsman

Dean Lisowick

Soroush Mahmudi

Skandaraj Navaratnam

 

all men

old enough 

adults

not teen-age runaways

not ‘I’ll live forever’ twenty somethings

men

one commentator said

‘who should know better’

 

all men

all with beards

all found dead

two white

6 missed

2 not missed until found dead

1 unnamed even when found dead

7 found online

 

all looking for love

that isn’t clear

all looking for sex

that isn’t clear

some seeking asylum 

acceptance 

finding limits pushed

but not expecting 

to be pushed beyond limit

 

most so fearful

of discovery

they took what they could get

without … I want to say complaint

but no one knows

no one can know

what they were looking for

what they expected

we know what they got

death

 

a talking head on TV said

‘they learned their lesson’

what lesson

that homosexual men

are all sadistic murderous predators 

a cliche

once more proved valid

or

dating apps aren’t to be trusted

that searching for sex

deserves to be punished with death

that they got what they deserved

 

they deserve better

than some talking head on TV

shifting blame

from perpetrator

to the dead

I performed this piece as part of my Shanty Tramp set on Jan 26, 2020. I placed it in the middle of the set along with another of the Terra Cotta poems. All of them deal with the serial killer of gay men here in Toronto in 2017/18. Like some of pieces it deals more with the media coverage as the cases unfolded. It also echoes the naming of names that I have heard/read in relation to the massacre of trans people. This list isn’t as long. It also echoes the use of names & ages in the news. Ages are used when they aren’t relevant to the report – ‘an age gender died in a fire.’

 

Here I separated the ages from the names of the known victims. I have not memorized or perfected their pronunciation for performance – I never want them to come easily off my tongue the way they did with news announcers. I don’t even connect the names with the statistics around race etc. I don’t venture a statistic about their sexuality.

 

 

The commentator quotes are real. I found myself watching some of the coverage, even things on 2020 & ‘news’ shows of that ilk. I also read something into the subtext of remarks made by various talking heads – essentially these men got what they deserved for being gay – the same logic behind spousal abuse – if she had been more compliant etc. The shifting of guilt from the perpetrator to the victim.

Some of the subtext was that these weren’t good queers like the ones who got legally married & adopted children in heteronormative acceptability. The shaming of sexuality – no, it is broader than that – the shaming of enjoying a variety of sex partners (regardless of genders) played a bit part in the media coverage. Only married homos or celebrate homos are good – the rest get what they deserve & this serial killer gave them justification for this lesson.

My lesson: media will use any excuse to be condescending & self-righteous. 


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Risk Management

For me there is little danger in walking down the street, in going to a coffee shop, in going to bar other than drunken drivers. It has been decades since I was verbally harassed for being a ‘fucking faggot.’ For some friends of mine there is always danger in walking down the street – many I know feel unsafe doing such simple tasks, in particular trans men & women. Marginalized in various ways.

I know many trans people who have come into recovery, some have stayed & others have found the gendered language of recovery texts too difficult to deal with & chose to continue using. Another area of safety for me – I can read such literature & not feel the need to constantly re-contextualize the language.

These thoughts come about as the result of a transwoman I knew in the recovery rooms being murdered just before Christmas. I didn’t know her well, but her violent death resonated with me (& more with others who knew her better). When using one’s ability to judge risk factors is impaired – that was true for me at one point before I came into recovery. I was doing things not because I really wanted to but because I was drunk enough not to care what I was doing. With recovery I started to care more about myself, stopped taking risks to be ‘liked’, stopped needing to reaffirm my sexuality to myself.

I can’t speak to the murdered woman’s level of risk or why she was taking them – I do know how easy it is to get caught in those cycles even with some recovery. I doubt if I would be alive today if I had continued as I was – sometimes what kills isn’t the substance but what it allows us to do or what we allow to happen to us.

 

I am deeply sadden by the cultural context that makes walking to the store dangerous for some. I play an active role in recovery to help reduce risk factors but there are limits. Also I have resisted mentioning the victim’s name – those who know know. I’m not one to coat tail just to get hits here. Maybe in a year I’ll add the name. Until then this is a woman who will be missed, even by someone who hardly knew her.

 


Law Breaker

when was the first time I broke the law

was it when I shoplifted

drank underage

had a few tokes

dropped pants with another man

did I bring something across the border

without declaring it

did I ever fudge my income tax 

to claw back another lousy 50 bucks

have I ever wanted to push someone 

in front of an on coming train

thought crimes

 

I’m not a good criminal 

petty at best through

that petty crime mindset

is eroding the very structure of our society

each small look away 

leads to people disappearing

without being noticed

dots of faces not joined

till they lead to a pig farm

or terra cotta flower pots

why bother even then

they were junkies users trans

not good god fearing coffee drinkers

 

when was the first time I broke a heart

well never 

as far as  know

I’m too petty in love for that to happen

my wounds never bleed enough

to attract healers

those people addicted 

to the hurt in others

my hurts are too minor

scrapes more than scars

 

if I were a better criminal 

perhaps I could attract

a more substantial class of healer

but I’m not into self-harm

or petty law breaking either

shop lifting – why bother

it isn’t worth the hassle

who give a shit about someone toking up

now it’s all medical marijuana

I don’t make enough money 

to worry about fudging my taxes

have to inflate not deflate

just to be credible

self-destruct mode turned off years ago

that save-me-please energy has been banked

 

I’d rather be as petty as I am

a minor offence

not a major attraction

the delightful surprise 

under a taupe surface

a surface very few penetrate

most slide along in favour

of the more clearly wounded

and I suppose 

there’s no law against that

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

January
Thursday January 23 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre – featuring ‘Yes The Poet’ https://www.facebook.com/events/577900226377507/ 

Sunday –  January 26 – 1:30 – feature: The Secret Handshake Gallery, 170A Baldwin (Kensington Market) – 1:30https://www.facebook.com/events/498405247456842/

March
March 5 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

April
April 3 – Hot Damn! It’s Queer Slam – Season 6 finales Buddies and Bad Times Theatre

May

Richard III – Stratford Festival

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

July

All’s Well That Ends Well – Stratford Festival

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Completion

Unsubstantiated

each day of silence

creates impatience

people want to know

families loved ones

want to know

reporters want to know

completion impossible

until we know

yet even when we know

the details are shocking

 

speculation remains unsubstantiated 

though the layers of facts

builds up

for two to three to eight

fragments found buried deep

in planters

under the noses

of even the lookers

of even the ignorers

 

each day of silence

is remembered with longing

the silence of unknowing

offered a solace

that the noise of facts

can never provide

Another piece that was written when the alleged serial killer of gay men was finally making the news. ‘Alleged’ is one of those words that allows media to distance itself – it doesn’t make a commitment to concrete fact – much like the notion of the serial killer that was deemed circumstantial & unsubstantiated for a few years.

The dots connected the many missing men were not connected but considered merely coincidental – after all, homeless and/or immigrant men were disappearing all the time – in some cases this disappearances went unreported or weren’t seen as connected to the gay missing.

This piece is as much about the media’s use of language as it is about the search, which by this time had finally turned up remains in planters. No names were associated with those remains while forensics determined if they were even human.

The alleged killer was identified as ‘a person of interest’. I rarely write about ‘current events’ but this one resonated deeply with me or many reasons – the prime being that I casually met one of the victims some time before he went missing. Many of the victims were a physical type I find attractive, the ‘alleged’ killer was not.

 

‘the silence of unknowing’ includes the not knowing the details of how these men were murdered. For some just knowing their loved one was involved in gay activities was already too much but the nature of the sexual activities involved was more than they needed to find out. I’m not sure what ‘sense of completion’ resulted for anyone.

 


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Cadaver Dogs

DNA Traces

did he live here

there

he tended gardens

the cadaver dogs

are nosing the rose bushes

the lilacs

he planted here

there

 

each was his place

refuge or hideaway

haven or grave

the men who know

will only talk

if their bones are found

traces of their dna

say

we were here

there

 

we now live in a digital world

symbols

of the discarded

the disappeared

never to be reported

not missed until

their remains were found

 

men with hidden sexuality

now with hidden bones

senses of self

some homeless 

before they were lifeless 

 

cadaver dogs are on the trail

some families still deny

their complicity

in a culture

denies its complicity

shaming sexuality into hiding 

long before those bones

were stripped of flesh

before being hidden 

perhaps

never to be found here

there

This is one of several pieces I wrote in response to the search & capture of the serial killer of gay men. Other pieces looked at the media response to the search, others to the denial that there was even a serial killer. Part of that inability/unwillingness was due the the social status of many of the victims. By social status I mean homelessness or immigrant. If you are homeless no notices you are gone.

As the piece says some weren’t missing until their remains were found. Some remains were of men reported missing but whose closeted culture didn’t include their sexuality. The murderer was found when he killed a white male who had people who missed him immediately. They were unafraid of immigration policies, weren’t so imitated by police, that they reported him missing.

Their insistence & persistence – putting up posters, searching themselves – lead to the eventual capture of the murderer. The murderer preyed not only on these’s men sexuality but also the shame that kept, for some of them, their sexuality a secret from families & friends. They were murdered a much by that culture of shame as they were by the actual hands of the killer.

The vicitms: Selim Esen, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam

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Coal Dusters – Chapter XLV – Birk Gets Questioned

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter XLV

Birk 

Gets 

Questioned

Birk was taking clothes off the line to bring in the laundry for his mother when Maddy came running out to the back,

“There’s officers here for you Birk Nelson.” she shouted.

“Officers?” Birk stopped folding the sheet he had just taken off the line.

“Yes. You better come quick. They are asking for Birk Nelson. You must be in big trouble.” She began to cry. “I’m scared.”

“Don’t be.” He said. “I’m a big boy I can look out for myself.”

He followed her through the kitchen and to the front door. There were two of Colonel Strickland’s officers standing there. One was laughing and chatting with Karen Dunlop from across the lane. When the two of them saw Birk their faces became much sterner.

“Birk Nelson.” one of them said.

“Yes.”

“Colonel Strickland would like to a have word with you. Come with us.”

Since the ambush Strickland had been investigating the supposed shooting murder of one of the scabs. Word had already spread that, in fact, the worker had not been shot but was scared and fainted. Birk knew that neither he nor Clancy had been armed. He hadn’t seen the other strikers carry guns. Unless there was one in the crate that had held the kerosene fire bombs. Several of the strikers had been brought in for questioning.

As the they marched with him between them Birk nodded and waved to his neighbours. Clancy was at the corner.

“So they finally caught you.” Clancy said. “Like they finally caught me.” 

“No talking to the prisoner.” one of the soldiers warned Clancy away with his rifle.

“He’ll have a much to say as any one us.” Clancy laughed and winked at Birk. “They’ll have to arrest every man in Castleton.”

The solider kept Birk moving.

“See you at the colliery gate.” Clancy said as they passed by him.

“Right.” 

They took him to Mrs. Franklin’s Inn. Colonel Strickland had commandeered the house for military use rather than travel back and forth from the barracks in Sydney. 

There were posters for the upcoming election, some with Steven O’Dowell’s picture on them and others with David Preston’s picture on them. When they took him into the house one of the soldiers knocked at the parlour door.

“Bring Mr. Nelson in.” A voice responded.

The other soldier opened the door and motioned for Birk to enter.

Furniture in the parole had been pushed to the walls to make a clear space in the middle of the room. There was a sort of desk at one end with kitchen chairs in front and in back of it. Colonel Strickland was sitting in the chair behind the desk.

“Sit.” Strickland pointed to the other kitchen chair. “Forgive appearances. I would rather a real desk than this …. I think it was once a side table?”

Birk sat.

“Mr. Nelson. Birk, isn’t it? Odd sort of name, isn’t it?”

“Can’t say. I’ve had it all my life, I’m used to it.”

“Right. I’ve heard a fair bit about you these past few days. I know you were one of the men involved in that shooting the other night. Accessory to murder is what you are. You realize that don’t you. You can be put behind bars for life.”

“Won’t be any worse than being underground digging coal to make other men rich.”

“Folks tell me you are a decent man though. Prison is no place for decent men. If you help me find the others involved I could make things easy for you. We need to know who made those incendiary bombs. As well as who pulled the trigger.”

“I wasn’t there.” Birk kept his focus on the wall then looked Colonel Strickland directly  in the eyes. “Your informant is wrong.”

“Informant!” The Colonel stood. “What makes you think we have an informant?”

“None of the men around here would tell such tale unless it was to mislead you.”

“Mr. Nelson, we aren’t that easily mislead. Several miners saw you go off with the group of .… insurrectionist. All I need is the names of who they were. One of them was your friend  Clancy Sinclair.”

“He wasn’t …”

“Wasn’t what?” The Colonel came from behind the desk and stood facing Birk. “From around here?”

“That’s no news to anyone.”

“You know if you cooperate I can help get you enlisted with the service, you know. We are always looking for strong young men like yourself. Good pay, a steady job, fresh air, maybe learn a skill more useful than digging in the dirt.”

“And make war on my neighbours?”

“I can get you a posting somewhere else.”

“I got nothing I can tell you. I was there when the scabs was brought to the gate. We were all there. I had no part in anything else that went on.”

“Of course. Of course. I didn’t expect anyone to tell the truth. You all cover up for each other. Even the Catholic men have no idea who it was that tried to delay the convoy.”

Birk stood. “I’m free to go?”

“Not so fast.”

Eye-to-eye with Strickland Birk saw that they were almost the same height.

“I want to you know that I know who was involved but without collaboration we may have to charge the union itself with inciting you men into criminal actions.”

“Send us all to prison!” Birk was puzzled. He wasn’t sure he understood just what Colonel Strickland actually knew or even thought he knew. But he knew the less he said the better off he would be.

“That isn’t in my hands.” Strickland said. “Help me and I can make less trouble, resist and things will get worse.”

“Children are dying Colonel Strickland. I don’t see as how you could make things anywise than that.”

“Think it over Mr. Nelson. You miners are on the losing side. It isn’t too late for you to change your lot in life.”

There was no one in the hall when Birk left the parlour. There were no militia when he walked down to the street. Was taking him there with guards all just show to impress the miners? As he glanced back to make sure he wasn’t being watched he saw that the O’Dowell posters had moustaches drawn over the moustache that was already there.

 

It was nearing the end of his shift at the colliery gate with Clancy. They were as close as they were allowed be after the court had granted an injunction prohibiting the strikers of interfering with the emergency relief workers. Some days the only people Birk and Clancy saw where the militia guards and their union representative.

“What we need is a trap for some of them deer over by Blue Lake.” Clancy said.

“Easier with a shotgun.” Birk laughed.

After the ambush incident most of the Mudder families had been questioned, their houses searched for unwarranted supplies of kerosene. Some had had their firearms confiscated. 

“You know what would happen if either of us was caught with a rifle. You trying to get us both arrested? We could dig a pit.” Clancy said. “You could dig while I practice raking the dirt away.”

“With a sign to warn off any one else out in forest.”

“Deer can’t read. You have any better ideas. Rabbit is fine when we can get a couple.”

“Duck flying soon.” Birk said.

“How we goin’ to catch them? Lasso? Sticks and stones as they fly over head?”

They been over these ways of getting game many times.

“We could catch them in jars.” Clancy said. “If’n there are any left.”

“I didn’t think those soldiers, or whatever you want to call them, could act any stupider. You saw how that Strickland acted when saw all those jars Ma had been saving up for preserves.”

“He sure learned a respect for the wooden spoon fast enough.” Clancy laughed.

“I did I tell you when he got me for questioning he offered me to join up.”

“Me too! Asked if I could help on the sly because I wasn’t a local and had no family loyalties around here.”

“You turn him down?”

“Of course. You turn him down?”

“What do you think! I couldn’t stand guard over m’own here. That’s what I told him. He said I could do my service somewheres else. Told him wasn’t fixing to leave my folks and get shot up in some war any time soon.”

“No war coming soon other this one.” Jim McKlusky arrived. “Time for us take over for a spell.”

“Much going on?” Tommy Driscoll asked. 

“A couple of them inside asked if we had tobacco and papers for them.” Clancy said. “When I said no, they asked if wanted to sig up because they had an endless supply thanks to His Majesty.”

“Buggers.” McKlusky spit on the road. “They been trying to get us all to sign up. Army pays regular, one of ‘em told me.”

“Me too,” Driscoll nodded. “Was tempted but because I’m smarter than them I couldn’t see myself taking orders from them.”

“They don’t know the difference between a huntin’ rifle and a shotgun.” McKlusky said. “And better learn to keep their hands off the women or some of them will be found with their under-drawers around their necks.”

“You votin’ for Steven O’Dowell’s running for election.” Clancy asked as they walked back to Birk’s house.

“For a mick he talks some sense. After all it is time for a change. A big change. Armstrong’ll never talk back to BritCan. We need someone who will.”

“Going to his rally tonight?”

“I hear there’ll there’ll be food.“ Birk said.

“Best way to a voters heart, right.”

“All the candidates have been doing that but …”

“The O’Dowell’s have better biscuits, right?”

“Right.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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Chapter XLII – Birk Hides in the Bushes

Coal Dusters: Book 1 is now available as as PDF – this covers the first 35 chapters – 65540 words – send $1.99 to  paypal.me/TOpoet

Coal Dusters – Chapter XLII

Birk

Hides

in the Bushes

Birk pushed the piss jar back under his bed. By the shadow of the moonlight he figured it was about midnight. With the colliery closed there was no hourly reminder of the time. He rolled back into the bed and found the comfortable rut that held his body like a grave. 

A grave! That was what his bother Geo would say when they rolled into each other in the bad. ‘Get back to your grave!’

The door to the bedroom squeaked open.

“Birk!” Clancy whispered. “Are you awake?”

“Yes.” His sleepiness disappeared. Had Clancy snuck  into the house to get into bed with him? “They kick you out at Franklin’s?”

“Get yer pants on. There’s trouble brewing down at the colliery.”

“What?” Birk pushed off the bed and groped for his trousers.

“I overheard that Strickland talk with Bowden, the mine manager and they are going to sneak in the scabs tonight. I’ve already told Gregory. He’s getting some of the men together to give them a proper welcome.”

“Those bastards.” Birk laced up his boots and started for the door.

“Might put a shirt on though.” Clancy laughed under his breath.

“This’un will do.” He grabbed the work shirt that had been singed in the fire.

Outside there was a dozen or so men milling around at the corner of Birk’s lane and the Pitt Road. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness. He recognized Jake Malone, Jim McKlusky, and the cigar-puffing, union rep Willam Gregory.

“I’ve been in touch with the men in North Sydney and the scabs is coming by bus along the number 6 road. They have troops with them too.” Gregory told them. “They left about an hour ago so they should be here pretty soon.”

“None coming by the ferry?” Jake asked.

“Not as far as we know. After that face-off t’other day the Dingle doesn’t want to take the risk of their boat being scuttled.”

“He’ll take us from side to side but he ain’t taking sides.” One of them said and the others laughed.

“Guess the navy has enough sense to stay out of this.” One of the miners said.

“Quiet now.” Birk said. “If they want to surprise us we better extra quiet so we can surprise them.”

“Right.” Gregory said. “Here’s what I’m thinking. Some of us can take the ridge trail over to the turn off from Number Six road.”

“There’s that maple outcrop along there. We can block the road with some trees.” one of them suggested.

“Not have enough time for that much chopping.” McKlusky said. “How about we scatter broken glass. Cut up the tires.”

“Good plan, if we can get enough broken glass. What did you have in mind Mr. Gregory?” someone asked.

“I think if we make a show of force there to delay them, we can get ready for them here at the gate. Or maybe they’ll turn back once they see there’s no surprise.” He said.

“They’ll have troops with them.” Clancy said. “Least ways that’s what I heard.”

“Let’s burn em up.” McKlusky suggested. “We can make some kerosine bombs and toss them.”

“We just want to stop them,” Birk said. “Not kill them.”

“Speak for yourself little man.” McKlusky said. “We gotta show them we really mean business.”

“Okay. Okay.” Gregory said. “Six of you head over that turn off and do what you can to delay them. The rest of us will go to the colliery gate to reinforce our guys there.”

“Alright.” McKlusky said. “I’m for the turn off. Who’s coming with me. Tommy Driscoll?”

“Yep. We can handle ‘em.” Tommy raised his fists.

“Fists and flat iron.” Another miner shook an ax over his head. 

“Good man Davy.” Tommy Driscoll shook Davy’s hand.

Birk and Clancy stepped forward. 

“I know the Ridge Trail.” Birk said. “Stick close to me and we can get there without using lights at all.”

“Good lads. We’ll show them Cape Breton miners are as tough as they come.” Tommy Driscoll said. 

They set off up Pitt St. with Tommy Driscoll in the lead.

“Wait here men.” McKlusky said. “Tommy and I have to pick up something from m’place.”

They returned shortly. Each with an ax and carrying wooden crate between them.

“That’s kerosene.” Birk said.

“Yes it is. We made these bottle bombs a while back in case we had a use for them.” Tommy said pulling out a bottle half filled with kerosene with a rag stuffed into it.

“Okay Birk lets get a move on.” McKlusky said.

Birk lead them toward the trail to Blue Lake but took a different path that ran at a right angle off it. The smell of the kerosene made him nauseous. 

“Careful here.” He slowed them down. “We’re almost at the culvert by the road. The earth is loose along here.”

“You couldn’t find a better way.” McKlusky said. “Shit.” He lost his footing, let go of his side of the crate and slid down the embankment.

“Good thing there hasn’t been much rain.” Birk said helping Tommy hold the crate. “We all might as well take the McKlusky short cut.”

They slid down and Birk made his way up to the road. He reached out to help Clancy up.

“There’s a spot on the other side where we can watch who’s coming up or down the road.”

They dashed across the road to a hillock of bramble bushes. 

“You think we’ll have long to wait?” Tommy asked. “Must be near three bloody o’clock in the morning.”

“Ye missing getting your piece of fun?” Davy said.

They all started to laugh.

“Shh.” Birk said. “I think I hear something.”

The men stilled and held their breath.

“Sounds like motors.” Clancy whispered.

“More than one.” McKlusky said.

The noise got louder. Lights appeared on the road as the vehicles approached.

“That has to be them.” McKlusky stood to look over the bramble.

Birk crept carefully around to get a clear view. He saw at least two set of headlights, then a third.

“What was the plan?” He asked McKlusky. “We jump out and say …”

“This.” McKlusky lit the rag in one of the bottles and tossed into the road in front of the first truck. It arched up and landed at the side of the road, shattered & burst into flame. The three trucks stopped as the flames burned lower and lower.

The tarp cover on the first truck flipped open and troops climbed out.

Another bottle flamed over from the opposite of the road and smashed on the roof of bus in the middle of the cortège. As the kerosene flames spread there was shouting inside the bus. Men shoved each other out the doors. some climbing out the windows.

Birk looked beside him and saw that Tommy wasn’t there. He must have run dashed to the other side while the troops were debarking.

Another bottle flew into the air and landed on the tarp covering the first transport. Two of the soldiers shot in the direction the bottle had come from.

“I said not to shoot.” One of the militia said. He stepped into the headlights of the transport. “This is Corporal Stevens. We are armed and have orders to do what we have to get these men to the colliery.”

“Turn back if you value your lives.” McKlusky shouted back.

“You have been given fair warning.” Stevens signalled his men. “In the air.”

The men discharged their guns into the air. Another bottle arched down on to them. A spotlight on the roof of the first transport’s cab went on and began to play across the trees on either side of the road. A similar light shone from the roof of the third transport.

“Get back in the bus.” Stevens ordered the men. “Nothing more is going to happen.”

Birk kneeled and felt on the ground beneath him and found a stone. He stepped briefly into the light and threw it at the spotlight. It hit the bulb and it flickered out.

“Lower aim.” Stevens ordered.

The troops fired into the bushes on both sides of the road. 

Birk heard a ragged cry from the woods near him. 

“They must have hit Davy Rudenko.” McKlusky said. “You two get to the colliery and tell Gregory what’s happened here.”

“What about Tommy?” Clancy asked.

“He’s already hightailed it back the way we came. I’ll check on Davy.”

There was another round of shots. Bullets hit the dirt at Birk’s feet.

“Let’s get.” Clancy grabbed Birk by the shoulder and started to the wood behind them.

“This way.” Birk nudged him into a different direction to a well-used path that took them directly to Chestnut Street. 

When they got to the colliery Birk quickly explained what had happened. 

“You and Clancy best get back to your place Birk.” Gregory said. “You both stink of kerosine. Wash up as best you can when you get home.”

 

Birk woke to voices at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor. At first he thought it was his mother talking with Sal then he remembered Sal was no longer with them. He rolled to get out of the bed and Clancy was there beside him. When they had gotten to the house it was too late for Clancy to go back to the boarding house without drawing attention to himself.

He got out of the other side of the bed and tip-toed to the door to listen. He recognized Mrs. Franklin’s voice.

“It’s best that you tell anyone who asks that Clancy Sinclair has been boarding with you since he returned.” she was saying. “If they find out it was him who alerted the miners there’ll be hell to pay.”

“Yes. I understand Mrs. Franklin.” he heard his mother say.

Birk got dressed silently and went down stairs.

“She gone?” He asked his mother.

“Yes. She brought Clancy’s kit bag over. That Colonel Strickland is convinced Clancy was spying on him. Davy Rudenko is dead, you know.”

“Yes’m I was there when it happened.” He quickly told her about trying to delay the cortege. 

“That’s why your clothes are hanging on line.” she said. “Yours and his.”

“Yeh. We must have got splashed with those kerosine bombs Jim McKlusky was tossing. We never handled them, Ma.”

“It’s all made a mess more trouble that it avoided.” she poured him a cup of tea. 

“I better take this up to Clancy.” Birk hefted the kitbag, “Or he’ll be coming down the stairs naked.”

“You mean you boys snuck in the house like that!”

“Yep. We were too tired to think beyond making sure our clothes was airing.”

He took the steps to his room two at a time. Clancy was still asleep.

“Getting near 10 m’boy.” Birk shook Clancy by the shoulder. 

“Like old times.” Clancy sat up.

“Here’s your gear. Mrs. Franklin brought over. Colonel Strickland is on your trail. So as of now,  you’ve been here since you got back from the mainland, right?”

“Sure. Any other news from last night.”

“Only what we know already. Davy Rudenko is dead.”

“You decent?” Blackie came into the room

“Yes Da.” Birk stood the closet door way to make room for his father.

“Thanks to the militia those scabs got into the colliery. There was a face off though. Father McTavish come down to try and get the strikers to see sense but he got bashed good on the head. That shut him up.”

“Bashed? That all.” Clancy said. “By one of his own parishioners.” 

“No one know for sure.” Blackie said. “There’s talk of murder though.”

“You mean Davy Rudenko?” Birk said.

“No. One of the new miners was shot out on the road.”

“What!” Clancy pulled a pair of pants out of his kit bag. “None of us had guns. Must have been one of the soldiers that shot him.”

“Don’t matter to BritCan, now does it? They’ll blame the union for everything.”

“Shit.” Clancy said.

“Except the fact that the miners they brought in don’t know what they’re doing. Most of them have never been near a mine in their lives. Most of them were recruited off the street in Halifax and Montreal.”

“Figures.” Birk shook his head.

“They’re sweeping up the yard until the company can get someone in who can teach’em how to wield a pick and rake underground.” 

“And set a blast.” Birk said.

 

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