Thursday, December 02, 2010

Three Stories, Three Children: On the Requiem Road

The elderly native man stares at the white woman across the table of the greasy spoon in Kamloops, British Columbia, where they both wait for a bus. It is November 25, 2010.

His name is George.

I lived my whole life on our reserve, just south of Calgary. As a young boy, I got taken to the Catholic residential school north of us. That’s where I got all these.”

The man lifts his shirt and reveals deep scars on his chest and arms. Another deep furrow runs across his head.

But that wasn’t the worst. It happened one night in winter. Cold as hell, and blowing hard. These three little girls from our reserve had all been raped by the head priest. The oldest girl was only seven. The others must have been five or six. The eldest one said to the others they had to run away. They was just in little cotton nightgowns, no shoes or nothing. But they escaped and ran off into that blizzard.”

The man looks down and shakes his head.

They didn’t get more’n a mile. I was on the search team that found ’em. All three of ‘em were still holding each other’s little hands, lying face down in the snow. When we reached ‘em, the priest, the guy who’d raped them, got all mad and started cursing, like he was mad at them.

That’s when I saw the oldest girl start moving. She weren’t dead. But when the priest saw her move she told me to just leave her there. He turned away from her and left her there, dying in the snow.”

The man is about to continue when his bus arrives.

I couldn’t leave her there …” he begins. He turns to his wife, who has sat next to him the entire time, nodding sadly.

We gotta go” he says to the white woman.

2. Far to the west, a day later, William Combes shuffles into the Ovaltine café on Vancouver’s hastings street skid row with his few belongings stuffed in a backpack. He nods and smiles at me, for we haven’t seen each other in weeks.

I been drinking again, really bad” he begins apologetically, for he knows how much I rely on him, and how he relies on that reliance.

The memories again?” I ask.

Yeah, but it’s like now, I ain’t got nowhere to talk about it. Not now, with your radio show gone. That was the way I got by, talking on the show …”.

I nod, remembering with more than anger how his lifeline was severed so brutally. I say quickly,

I’ve got a new show, a blog radio program. You have to come on it.”

He looks at me wearily, then reaches into his bag and extracts a nearly-empty bottle and swigs from it. We let the minutes tick by, hoping for something.

Finally William says,

Remember when the Queen came to our school? How she took away those ten kids?”

Yeah, I checked on that. She was definitely in B.C. in the fall of ’64.”

I remembered their names. Some of ‘em. The boys.”

I pull out my notepad.

There was Harvey and Ralph Parker – Metis boys from Lytton. They were in the group taken away by the Queen and Philip, after the picnic at dead Man’s Creek. Five other boys went, and three girls. They were all in the smart group in school.”

The ten children were never seen again.

Are you remembering anything else William?” I asked.

He nods sadly.

George Adolph and Ralph Arnuse, they were with me that day, they saw the kids taken away. And how she made ‘em all kiss her foot.”


The Queen had on these white gloves, and she put out her foot and told all those ten kids they had to kiss it. They all did.”

William shuddered and started coughing.

I started talking about it the next day in school, said it wasn’t right. Then the nun told me if I said anything against the Queen I’d get killed for it.”

I stopped jotting notes and looked at him carefully.

There’s more, isn’t there?”

The man nodded.

I seen Brother Murphy throw that epileptic boy off the fire escape, three stories up. Murphy did that to a bunch of kids.”

How many?”

William screws up his eyes and stutters,

Happened all the time. I’d say fifteen. Twenty.”

He killed that many kids?”

Sure. Nobody survives that kinda fall. Murphy burned a few of them in the school furnace. I saw him do it once.”

William wouldn’t eat anything that day. I managed to get some oatmeal into him but he quickly threw it up into a urinal.

3. That night, waiting for a bus on Hastings street and sheltering from the rain, I encountered Josephine, an aboriginal prostitute I’ve known for years. Somehow, she’s still alive, although tonight she was bleeding from a new wound to her forehead.

Eduardo did it. I still owe him.”

She sat next to me in the bus cubicle, watching warily for the Guatemalan pimp and drug dealer who rules a two block stretch of Hastings as his personal fief. The cops don’t go near him. Rumor has it that he used to be a political activist in his homeland. Now he murders people.

Killed Francine by jumping on her head, over at the Patricia” recounted Jo to me once, years ago.

She owed him fifty bucks. Made the mistake of telling him off.”

Jo was cold that night, and I offered her my coat. She smiled shyly and declined.

Are you safe?” I asked.

She just tilted her head at the stupidity of the question, but being native, said nothing.

The elderly native man stares at the white woman across the table of the greasy spoon in Kamloops, British Columbia, where they both wait for a bus. It is November 25, 2010.

By Kevin D. Annett -


Blogger uniplmr1 said...

In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. I lived there. Maybe you never stop living there.

1:03 PM  

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