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  • Salvage
  • Hal Walling (bio)

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I didn’t see the cop car parked near Scotty’s house. Its interiors were off, there were no lamps around. After picking up, I’d driven maybe a hundred feet when suddenly the constable was in my way. He raised both palms in the air, then jogged around the side of my truck and ordered me in a low voice, as if this was a carjacking, to kill the lights. [End Page 11]

“Whatever you’ve got,” he said, “I can make it go away. Just show it and you’re off the hook.” He shone his flashlight over my legs, moved it across the seat. I could tell by the moon glinting off his bald head that it was Constable Dowd, but he didn’t seem to recognize me. “Now, now, now!” he said. I showed him the pills, watched him step back and point his beam down the road. There were only the woods and a dead end back there. He snapped the light’s switch three times. Then he kicked my truck and said, “Okay, scram.”

I heard sirens a minute later, after I’d turned onto West Coast Road. The sound faded as I drove away from town, became dampened by the houses and trees, so that when I reached my girlfriend Jessie’s apartment all I could hear was the ocean washing hard against the spit.

“What do you mean, they let you keep it?” she said. We were standing in her kitchen, both staring at the baggie. She started to laugh but stopped when she saw I was crying. “Oh, Blake, what’s the matter? You got away with it. We should be celebrating.”

I didn’t know what to say. Jessie was twenty-one. She wasn’t from Sooke. She didn’t know where I was getting that molly, or from who. So I told her she was right, and we took a blanket down to the spit. From our rock, a flat-topped piece of granite with a groove for our bodies, you could see for miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On the opposite shore lay a smear of tiny lights, the fishing communities of Clallam County, Washington. I’d never been to the States or even left B.C., but Jessie said we should come down here in a month to watch the Fourth of July fireworks. That was Jessie in a nutshell, an idea like that. Sometimes when she talked about the places she’d been, Mexico and Montreal, I could feel it rubbing off. I’d got a job that week digging holes for an irrigation company, and already I was thinking about saving some money and going down the coast. Even my old man had found a way to get places.

The next morning, after I’d dropped her off at the pharmacy where she worked, I went home to my basement apartment and turned on the TV. The Chek 6 News was reporting a drug bust on Vancouver Island: the RCMP had seized three hockey bags full of ecstasy and cocaine, plus a Christmas stocking stuffed with handguns. On the screen was a photo of Scotty Nix at a beach party, his frosted tips gelled up, a gold stud in his left nostril. I’d gone to school with Scotty and had been buying off him for years, but I was relieved when the reporter said he faced ten to twelve in prison. In the background of the photo, wielding one of those Ocean [End Page 12] Spray juice containers, was Scotty’s older brother, Vance. His face was scrambled, but I could tell him by his sandbag arms, the tribal tattoos on his huge pink chest. I’d never let myself look more than a second into Vance’s eyes, but for the rest of the morning, every time they showed the shot, I imagined those two little buttonholes peering out at me.

By five they’d stopped reporting it, and I drove to the pharmacy. I saw Jessie walk out wearing her red cashier’s vest and jeans, her long...


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pp. 10-29
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