Jericho

Jericho

by George Fetherling

Paperback

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679313861
Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
Publication date: 01/24/2006
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Jericho is George Fetherling’s second novel. He has published 50 books of poetry, fiction, memoirs, travel, criticism and history, including the much-acclaimed Travels by Night: A Memoir of the Sixties. He lives in Vancouver.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

• Now that the whole story is over, the question everybody keeps asking me is the same one I’m still asking myself: How did I get involved with a man like that? Or didn’t I have more sense in the first place than to run away with someone I didn’t know? I can’t explain, I can only tell you what happened, the same way I told the police and the lawyers. That’s the easy part.

I didn’t really like him that much, not at first and not afterwards, but only for a while in-between. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I guess I could make a pretty long list of things about him that would turn anybody off. For instance, he didn’t have very good skin. As someone who was a trained esthetician in those days, I always wanted to help him with this, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it without hurting his feelings — back when I didn’t understand this wasn’t the kind of thing he would have cared about one way or the other. Now I know exactly what he would have said: “Ha!” Which would have hurt my feelings. Another thing: his bottom front teeth were stained like those of an elderly Chinese-Canadian man who’d been drinking too much tea his whole life. And most of the time he didn’t make very good eye contact when he spoke to you. In my new career I know how important good eye contact is in dealing with the public. Not that he was a member of the public, of course. He was private. Being with him in those good weeks was like having my own private wild man. He smelled wild. His scent always made me think of a wolf’s den. I don’t mean that I really know what a wolf’s den smells like, but I could guess. When he did decide to make eye contact, though, it was spectacular. His eyes were the same colour as green grapes.

I’d sure never met anyone like him. There may be some others around, but I never met them in Alberta. He’s not the sort of person anyone would meet in Alberta. He was from back east somewhere. He used to talk about it sometimes, and I thought he was making it up or at least letting his own talk run away with him; other times I wasn’t so sure. I’d never thought much about the East. If you blindfold me and spin me around like a bottle, I’ll always wind up facing west. Of course, there are degrees of west, and I suppose there are degrees of east too. He was from someplace that must be pretty old — beaten down and worn down — though my instinct tells me it’s a place that’s not completely explored, maybe a place there aren’t even up-to-date maps of, I don’t know. I was so naive back then, I didn’t even know how naive I was. Bishop was a lot of things, but you couldn’t call him naive exactly.

If when I tell you this story I seem a little distracted, it’s only because I’m thinking of my mother. She’s practically the only one who never asked me why I acted so crazy and got into trouble and embarrassed everybody. But there’s another question, just as big, that hangs over us when we’re in the same room together now. It’s: How could I have made the same kind of mistake she made? I’m pretty much sure that’s why she doesn’t ask me the Question. Mother and I used to think we had the best mother–daughter communication it was possible to have. Now we’re not so sure. Or maybe it’s only that our best communication doesn’t find its way down from our brains to our mouths.

• The wolves have issues with the moon. Sometimes when I’m down really deep I think I hear em. I know I do in my head at least. You don’t need to be able to touch something or even see it before it’s real; a thing can be real in your brain. This usually happens when I’m all stretched out and everything’s ready to go but the mind won’t leave the body in the death-rehearsal that’s supposed to happen every night: it’s like a fire drill only it’s a death drill. Who else except me could wander off in the head when it’s so damn noisy? Then during the day, when I’m so tired I feel like I’ve got a layer of crinkled cellophane behind my eyeballs, I’ll all of a sudden think that I hear the wolves again, only way far off and weak this time. Or maybe they’re just secretive, speaking to each other in wolf whispers, barely working their mouths and with their ears straight up so’s to eavesdrop on us. But I figure out it’s only the heating system or a generator clicking in maybe, something deep inside the walls, and I come to my senses. I say to myself: Honestly, what’s somebody like you know about wolves?

• The first time I ever laid eyes on Bishop he was making trouble outside the Art Gallery on Robson Street. What he was doing was tormenting a mime artist. This strikes me as funny now, because Bishop was a man of words, big spring downpours of talk, sometimes beautiful and sometimes, well, disturbing. The street performer, who I now know was about half Bishop’s age, was doing the standard old-fashioned things that mimes do: man walking against a stiff wind, man in a foot race up steep stairs, man discovering that he’s trapped inside an invisible glass cube. (Why aren’t there more women mimes?) Bishop had obviously picked him out as somebody he could make life miserable for. He was parroting his movements, sometimes running a bit ahead of the poor guy just to confuse him, then putting his own face right up against the mime’s; their noses almost touched. I couldn’t tell from where I was sitting, at my jewellery stand, but looking back now I think Bishop was probably giving him the death’s-eye stare to scare him off. The mime was trying to keep as still as one of those Buckingham Palace guards in the tall fur hats, but Bishop got to him. The guy actually seemed close to sobbing as he picked up his jacket and his collection basket and hurried off to some other good tourist corner. Bishop was triumphant. As the fellow went away, Bishop screamed after him, “First we kill all the mimes! Shakespeare!” That was the first time I ever heard that little snorty laugh of his: “Ha!” People passing by stared at him.

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