by Greg Blanchette, Tofino
Clayoquot Sound - Five years from now…
They said he gave himself the nickname "Dynamite Dick" to get in with the ladies. I guess they won't be saying that anymore. Then they'd add that his scheme was seriously compromised by the hygienic challenges of living in a waterless squat on the backside of Morpheus Island. Right. After what Dynamite did today, I reckon we're all going to be smelling a little ripe in a couple of weeks.
That whole body odour thing never bothered me, you know. I suppose it's my animal side. There was eye-rolling all round when I took up with Dynamite (or Richard, as his mother called him, when she began calling me to get ahold of him). He's too weird, they'd say, or he's old, or you can do better. But I ignored them. You take your loving where you find it in Tuff, right?
Besides, he didn't make demands, and with my job managing the gallery and gift shop, and the expansion plans and all, I didn't have time to deal with the drama most Tofitian man/boys churn up.
Dynamite was a fiend for kayaking -- everywhere and anywhere, but mostly out on Kennedy Lake. That whole winter we were together, two or three times a week he'd disappear up there. He must have paddled hard and lived rough, for he always came back dirty and exhausted. Well, now we know.
I kept my room in town, of course, just spending one or two nights a week out on Morpheus. It was like camping, only with sex. Dynamite rarely stayed over at my place, which was fine because my roomies didn't want him there and complained about the smell. They never really got to know him.
But then, who did? Who paid any attention to Dynamite Dick? Even I, busy at the gallery all day, hardly saw him at all. Who would suspect a short, skinny, bandy-legged oddball of all that scheming, all that technological cleverness, all that hard labour with a sledge hammer and a rock drill? Who thought for a blistering second he'd have any effect on our lives?
Besides, this past winter the whole world was preoccupied watching itself falling apart. Things had been pushed to the brink on so many fronts, and then they all seemed to come smashing down at once. Super-storms, droughts, flood, famine, food wars, energy wars, species extinction ... you couldn't turn on the TV without hearing more sick disaster stuff. And everywhere, politicians and activists blaming each other, and nobody doing a damn thing. Few even believing it was possible to do anything anymore, except watch.
The pandemic hotspots started flaring up in Asia and we watched some more, waiting for the inevitable to make its way to North America, to Canada, to B.C., to Vancouver Island, to Co-op Corner. Bad shit was coming, and there was nothing we could do about it.
And though nobody was saying it out loud, you just knew everybody in Clayoquot Sound was thinking it: Better here than there, if it all goes completely to hell.
And then the companion thought: Thank God those people back then had the sense to stop the logging in Clayoquot. At least we still have something of an ecosystem left to support a few thousand of us until the rest of the world sorts itself out.
And then, of course, the zinger that hits you late one night and poisons your sleep for weeks: Sooner or later the rest of the world is going realize what we have out here, and the refugees will pour down that road from Port Alberni by the thousands and tens of thousands, in their trucks and RVs, with their guns and dogs and gangs. And where are we then, sweet baby Tofino?
Not a whole lot of sound sleep in town last winter.
* * *
But spring came regardless. One rain-free day in April, I'd finished inventory early and had two days off in a row, and Dynamite finally talked me into a kayak trip on Kennedy Lake. He's usually full of energy, but that day he was jazzed like I'd never seen him. Me, I was mostly just sleepy. So we launched at Kennedy River while the sun was just a pink glow behind the mountains, and paddled fast up the lake through the mist. Round about eight o'clock Dynamite laid down his paddle and said, "We're here."
I said where?, 'cause we were half a mile offshore in the middle of the lake. I'm looking around at the mountain faces, the clear-cut scars. It's real still, and across the water I can just make out an early semi trailer crawling up that crazy section of Highway 4, the cliff-hanger eyebrow where it's carved high into the rock face overlooking the lake.
Dynamite pulls something from a drybag between his legs and leans forward to pass it to me. It's this walkie-talkie thing, held together with duct tape, with a little white push-button crudely mounted on its face. I twist around and give him a what's up? look. "It's a surprise," he says, and giggles. He scans the shore with his binos. The semi's gone. "Okay, 's all clear," he says. "Pull the antenna out. Now look over that way and push the button."
Even then, nothing occurred to me. I don't know what I expected -- fireworks, maybe. Something romantic. I can be such a bimbo sometimes. I pushed the button.
Nothing happened. I thought it was just another ambitious Dynamite project gone wrong. But then I saw the series of puffs -- a dozen, two dozen little grey squirts of dust or smoke shooting out from below that eyebrow section of road. What's that? I thought. Earthquake? Some kind of accident?
The squirts bloomed like time-lapse flowers, kind of pretty in the morning light. And then that incredible sound hit us, like a 21-gun salute, a rapid-fire series of whumps that you felt as much as heard. And as it did, the whole face of the cliff started a slow-motion crumple-and-slide into the lake. I stared, utterly speechless, for what seemed like minutes, with that awesome thunder echoing five ways around the lake like it would never stop, and Dynamite hooting his head off in the back of the kayak.
I looked down at that button thing in my hand. I caught a whiff of body odour as a slight breeze began to stir. The question What the hell have you done? tried to tear itself off my tongue, but it stuck there as I began to realize what, in fact, he had done. It all comes down that road: our food, our clothes, our shelter ... our entire life as we know it, including the tourists that bring the money for us to pay for it. The gallery, my career, my life in Tofino ... everybody's life in Tofino had just changed, with the push of a white button.
I flung the walkie-talkie into the lake and twisted perilously around in the kayak cockpit to look straight at Richard. He was beaming like the Cheshire cat. I would have hit him if I could've reached him. I knew I'd be screaming furious soon, but now my voice sounded very small. "You blew the road. Richard," I said, "do you have any idea...?"
"Yeah, baby," he said, containing his crazy laughter, suddenly serious. "We're all locals now."
Greg Blanchette ain't exactly new in town, but ain't exactly old either. He specializes in thinking the unthinkable, and monitors firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tofino's author Greg Blanchette's 'Dynamite Dick', a short story that takes place in Clayoquot Sound - five years from now...