In Deuce's dream Mae spins and dances in sunlit woods. She twirls into a blur. When she stops, it's a young Mary Bartoli smiling at Deuce.
"Deuce," Mary calls to him, but in his Uncle Bernard's voice. "Deuce!" she repeats more urgently. He wakes to his uncle's face staring down. "Grab some breakfast," his uncle tells him. "We leave in 15 minutes."
Deuce takes his Uncle Bernard at his word and hurries to the kitchen.
Sixteen minutes later the wagon is rolling through the predawn darkness toward Saginaw, Deuce and his uncle bundled against the icy cold of an early Thursday morning in November.
It's a half hour past dawn when Uncle Bernard brings the wagon to a stop in front of Pfiefer's Dry Goods. Saginaw is beginning to stir. Uncle Bernard leads Deuce to the back of the store where they find Mr. Pfiefer watching a young man about Deuce's age load a flatbed wagon. Straw pokes out the top of the wooden crates the man is stacking in neat rows. Deuce hears glass clinking as each crate is put in place.
Mr. Pfiefer turns his head to spit, sees Deuce and his uncle, and waves them off. "Your secret's safe with us," Uncle Bernard tells him.
"Go on, get warmed up," Mr. Pfiefer says and nods at his store. "And don't think you're privy to anybody's secrets." Another crate clinks.
Deuce pours himself a cup of coffee from the pot on Mr. Pfiefer's stove. His Uncle Bernard examines the items cluttering the store shelves. Mr. Pfiefer comes in and joins Deuce at the stove. With Deuce's uncle out of earshot, the merchant says, "I hear you're an able teamster."
Before Deuce has a chance to respond, Mr. Pfiefer continues, "Find an excuse to stay in town. We'll get you back to your uncle's place."
"I don't need to make any excuses," says Deuce, a little offended. "And what makes you think I want to go back to my uncle's farm?" he asks.
Mr. Pfiefer nods and drinks his coffee. "One load across the river tonight," he says, "a pickup and delivery in Canada, and back across Sunday night. One hundred dollars in your pocket on Monday."
Now Deuce nods and drinks his coffee. "How many wagons?" he asks.
"Two. You and Izzie out there," Mr. Pfiefer replies. "He knows the way."
Deuce stops nodding as his Uncle Bernard joins them at the stove. "You two conducting some business?", his uncle asks them. He's not smiling.
"I have some work for your nephew this weekend," Mr. Pfiefer replies. "Clearing and hauling timber up by Tawas." Deuce starts nodding again.
"A lumberman?", Uncle Bernard asks. "I've got work for my nephew this weekend as well. And his mother says to keep him out of lumber camps."
"It's work for hire, Uncle," pleads Deuce. "Cash money." He gulps. "I'll give you half," he offers.
"Half of how much?" asks Uncle Bernard.
"Two dollars," says Deuce.
"Four dollars," says Mr. Pfiefer at the same time. "That is, two dollars each day," clarifies the shopkeeper.
"We'll be on our way once the stock is loaded," Uncle Bernard tells Mr. Pfiefer. "You'll have to find another hand for your cash-money job."
Deuce follows his uncle out the store's rear door. When they reach their empty wagon, Uncle Bernard says "Mr. Pfiefer is not trustworthy."
The young man Mr. Pfiefer referred to as Izzie walks out of the warehouse behind the store. He motions for Deuce to help him load the wagon. Deuce's uncle watches until the wagon is nearly full. "I'll square up," he says and reenters the store.
"Midnight," Izzie whispers to Deuce.
Deuce hops down from the wagon after loading the last of his uncle's supplies. Mr. Pfiefer stands near the store's back door watching him. The storekeeper goes back inside the building. A minute later Deuce's Uncle Bernard exits, walks to the wagon, and looks over its contents.
"What about Agnes?", Deuce asks his uncle.
"What about who?" he replies, then adds, "Oh. The Canadian. What about her? She's in that school."
"Aunt Marguerite said see after her," Deuce lies.
Uncle Bernard spends a minute thinking it over. "Cover the wagon," he says. "We'll walk."
I'm disappearing, thinks Helen Havens Evenrudd. Dying by degrees. Just aware enough to know I used to be somebody. No one looks familiar. But I must know them. They act so friendly. All nice girls. And the big woman, is she their mother? I think she said her name was Black.
And here she is. "Are you well this morning, Mrs. Evenrudd? Do you recognize me? I'm Mrs. Blackwell." Ah, yes. Black well. That was it. A girl behind her. "This is Agnes. Say hello to Mrs. Evenrudd."
"Hello," Agnes whispers. I've scared her, thinks Helen. Poor girl. Who is she?
"Our new student, ma'am," Mrs. Blackwell answers without hearing the question.
"Yes, you're talking today. How wonderful. Can you say hello to Agnes?"
Agnes is the girl. "Did I talk?"
"Yes, ma'am, you did," says Mrs. Blackwell.
Another girl appears. "Black!"
"One moment, Mrs. Evenrudd. I need to speak with Iris."
I'm late. I must be late. "Late! Late!"
"You're fine, ma'am."
School will be starting. The children will be waiting. No time for breakfast.
"Sit back down, Mrs. Evenrudd. Iris, please fix her blanket. We have some unexpected visitors, ma'am. Please excuse Agnes and me. Iris will see to you, won't you, Iris?"
No school today? "No school?"
"That's right, ma'am," Mrs. Blackwell assures her.
"Mr. Merrill, what can I do for you?" Mrs. Blackwell asks. Deuce and his uncle stand uncomfortably inside the house's unlit front hallway.
"Beg pardon, ma'am, but the wife is asking after the young girl," Uncle Bernard says. He shifts from foot to foot, eyes down, hat in hand. Mrs. Blackwell motions to someone behind her. Out of the dark hall Agnes appears. She manages a quick smile for Deuce, then studies the rug.
"Say hello to Mr. Merrill, dear," says Mrs. Blackwell to Agnes.
"Hello," she says without looking up.
Uncle Bernard nods hello to the girl, then he says in a rush, "Mrs. Merrill asks can Agnes join us for Thanksgiving." The announcement surprises Bernard as much as anyone.
"Agnes," Mrs. Blackwell asks, "Would you like to join the Merrills for Thanksgiving?"
Agnes hesitates. "Yes, ma'am, I think," she whispers.
Mrs. Blackwell cocks her head. "You're not sure?" she asks Agnes.
"I'm not sure what thanksgiving is," Agnes replies, "but it sounds nice."
"Then it's time you found out," Mrs. Blackwell says seriously. "Can we rely on your nephew as her escort?", she asks Deuce's Uncle Bernard.
Deuce realizes Mrs. Blackwell, his Uncle Bernard, and Agnes are waiting for him to answer. "I'll be here Thanksgiving eve, ma'am," he says.
"We'll expect her back in time for Sunday mass," Mrs. Blackwell says to Bernard Merrill, who is still clutching his field hat in his hands.
After several awkward seconds Deuce follows his Uncle Bernard out the front door. Mrs. Blackwell leads Agnes back to Mrs. Evenrudd's room.
"Agnes will read you a story," Mrs. Blackwell tells the old woman, who sits wrapped in a thick quilt. Mrs. Evenrudd stares at her blankly. This girl is talking, thinks Mrs. Evenrudd. She's reading. Is she Madelaine? "Maddie?" I missed my sister so. Why does she look so scared?
Why did she call me Maddie? thinks Agnes. "I'm Agnes, Mrs. Evenrudd. I'm the new student." Agnes wonders why Mrs. Evenrudd looks so scared. "I better go now."
"No, Maddie, don't leave!" Poor Maddie. "Please take me home. The children will be coming soon." They will be so hungry, she thinks. "Help me, Maddie!"
Agnes matches Mrs. Evenrudd tear for tear. She doesn't run, though she wants to. She takes the old lady's hand. "They're all safe, ma'am."
Deuce mopes on the wagon bench next to his uncle as they take the rutted road from Saginaw back to the farm. Another river crossing awaits. In the months since he arrived from California, Deuce has made the trip between Michigan and Ontario a dozen times, always on the lookout. Mary is here somewhere, he thinks. His Uncle Joe's letter was clear: find her and bring her back to California. By next Easter, it said.
It's a mystery, thinks Deuce. Why does his Uncle Joe put such faith in him? Until the letter arrived back in San Francisco last spring Deuce was sure his uncle was dead. "Fetch Mary," it read.
The wagon is a mile from his Uncle Bernard's farm. Deuce and his uncle haven't said a word since they left Saginaw. Both look blankly west.
Fifteen hundred miles to the south, Deuce's Uncle Joe sits in a cafe on Calle de O'Reilly in Havana, swaying to the sound of a Cuban guitar.
Three hundred miles to the east, Mary Bartoli embroiders a holy lamb on a linen altarpiece in the basement of St. Francis of Assisi church.
Three days a week, weather permitting, Mary walks her son and other children the mile or so to the St. Francis School in Newtown, Ontario. Fr. Prudenziano lets Mary work at the church in exchange for food and the occasional used skillet, tin cup, andiron, or other houseware.
Cramped and cold as it is, the church basement is one of Mary's favorite places. It's quiet, for one thing, and her sewing feels like magic. Mary finds herself adding subtle, complex patterns in the needlework. Where do they come from? she wonders. Maybe I'm just imagining them.
On the rare occasions Fr. Prudenziano stops in during a break from teaching at the school across a small courtyard from the church, he seems not to notice Mary or her embroidery.
Mary has never adjusted to the sameness of farming. She misses the bustle of San Francisco, where a surprise waited around every corner. Mostly she misses walking with Joe in the still hour before dawn, winding aimlessly through the empty alleys and cowpaths of Rincon Hill.
"That's fine work, Mrs. Bartoli." Fr. Prudenziano's gruff voice jolts Mary back to the present. She just nods and keeps working the needle. Mary realizes the priest is waiting for a response. He repeats: "I said, where did you learn your embroidery?"
"San Francisco," she says.
By Easter, thinks Deuce. Months to find Mary and deliver her to San Francisco. Somewhere in Ontario. Deuce's Uncle Joe sure has high hopes.
On the other hand, his Uncle Bernard hopes only to make it through the day. Worries come to Bernard to roost. He never utters a complaint. Sitting next to Deuce atop the wagon, reins loose in his hands, Uncle Bernard has worn the same pained expression since they left Saginaw.
Deuce is worrying about how he'll make it back to Saginaw by midnight. His feet ache just thinking about having to cover the route on foot.
Dinner is waiting when Deuce and his Uncle Bernard get back from Saginaw. The youngest Merrills have gone to bed; the house is winding down.
After dinner, Bernard commences his nighttime chores. Deuce and his Aunt Marguerite are alone in the kitchen. "I have to go," Deuce says.
Deuce's aunt doesn't react. Did she hear me? thinks Deuce. "Mr. Pfiefer asked me to help him out with a bit of hauling." Still no response.
"A teamster are you now?" Aunt Marguerite says evenly. "Certainly never had the knack for farming. Just you mind who you do business with."
Feels like January, thinks Deuce as he stands on the open barge holding his team of horses. No shelter from the wind blowing off Lake Huron. Daylight is just three hours away. This has been one long day, thinks Deuce, and it's not over yet. Still half the St. Clair River to cross.
Deuce is on one of two barges being pushed across the river by a steam-powered tug. On the other one stands Izzie, holding his wagon's team. The boiler on the tug sounds like it's ready to blow though the caravan is barely creeping across the water. Deuce crouches out of the wind.
Deuce stares at the Canadian shore of the river, willing it closer. The dark outline doesn't budge. Paddling would be faster, thinks Deuce.
His thoughts return to his Uncle Joe's order: California by Easter, with Mary Bartoli, who is currently on a farm somewhere in Ontario. That narrows it down.
Just when Deuce is sure the barges will make landfall in Cleveland, he realizes the tug has them headed into a broad inlet he hadn't seen. As the barges near the shore, figures appear. The horses start forward while they're still yards from land. Deuce jumps onto the wagon seat.
Deuce is surprised how smoothly the wagons make it off the barges and onto shore. The bottles crated in the wagon bed barely clink at all. Up ahead, Izzie has stopped his wagon to transact with the two men who tied down the barges. Then he proceeds without a glance back at Deuce.
Deuce realizes he has no idea where they're heading or how long it will take to get there. He didn't have to ask what it is they're hauling.
The sun is well up on this Friday morning by the time Izzie drives his wagon up to a barn 75 yards off the road. Deuce stops behind Izzie. There's no sign of life. Izzie jumps out of his seat and enters the barn. A few minutes later he exits the barn and walks up to Deuce's wagon. "A problem," he says. "The buyer's delayed."
Izzie looks back at the barn. "They expect us to drive halfway across the province to get paid." He shuffles from foot to foot next to the wagon. "Says they're stuck in Toronto," he continues. "Supposed to meet 'em in Hamilton somewhere."
Izzie completes a full circle, looking everywhere but at Deuce. "All I know is," he says, "I'm back in Saginaw on Monday with $100 in my pocket, come hell or high water." Izzie walks back into the barn.
Deuce has a feeling they'll encounter both before they see any money.
"Waterloo," says Izzie when he returns from the barn for the second time. "That's where we pick up the new load. For ten bucks American each."
"What new load?" asks Deuce.
"A little side job is all it is. We'll be right back here this time tomorrow, give or take."
Well, thinks Deuce, it's not like I've got anything better to do. At least I'll have a reason for criss-crossing this province.
"Waterloo," says Deuce. "Something bad happened there once, didn't it?"
"That was a different Waterloo," says Izzie. "This one nothing ever happens."
Ten more bucks American doesn't sound like much compared to the $100 waiting for Deuce in Saginaw. "Keep up," Izzie says as he walks away.
One second Deuce is dancing with Mae Hanrahan on the porch of an empty house, and the next he's jolted awake nearly falling out of his seat. Deuce yanks the reins quickly enough to keep the wagon from sliding into a ditch. Izzie's wagon is nowhere in sight. Now what? thinks Deuce.
Deuce looks up at the overcast sky trying to guess the time. Waterloo must be close, he thinks. No sense in turning around. Izzie'll wait.
A half hour later Deuce passes a man working in a field not far from the rutted path. "How far to Waterloo?" he shouts. The man just stares. "Waterloo!" Deuce shouts at the man. He responds by pointing away from the road, which Deuce realizes is now little more than a muddy trail.
A hundred yards later, the road disappears entirely. The horses stop in what is now a pasture and begin to graze. Deuce lets them eat.
"Waterloo?" Deuce is startled by the voice behind him. It's the man in the field, who followed the wagon. Mud covers him from the hips down. "I'll show you," the man says eagerly. Deuce realizes the guy's probably no older than he is. "I'm Cyrus Duprey. Cy. Take me with you, eh?"
Deuce considers his options and quickly decides to accept Cy's offer. "How long will it take you to get cleaned up?" he asks the young man. Cy attempts to brush the mud off his trousers. "Not long," he answers and jogs toward the small farmhouse. "Come, eat," he shouts to Deuce.
Deuce wonders what sort of food he's likely to find inside the half-collapsed house, but he decides now is not the time to be particular. He jumps off the wagon and follows Cy across the field. As he enters the house's doorless entry, the stench nearly knocks him backwards.
Deuce isn't in the house long enough for his eyes to adjust to the dark interior: he's back out the open doorway as quickly as he entered. "I'll wait in the wagon," Deuce shouts toward the doorway as he retraces his steps back to the meadow. The horses take no notice of him.
A minute later Cy runs out of the farmhouse. As he nears the wagon, Deuce notices that Cy is wearing a formal morning jacket and a top hat. In one hand Cy carries a pair of muddy boots. In the other he holds a burlap sack. He leaps into the wagon seat next to Deuce and says "Go!"
An hour later Cy is still talking and Deuce is wondering if there is such a place as Waterloo, Ontario. He interrupts Cy's personal history. "Have you been to Waterloo recently? I mean, they haven't moved the town, have they?"
Cy weaves his response seamlessly into his narrative. "As I said a ways back, I worked for a Mr. Willis Ord, who shipped freight out of Hamilton. Had the northern route, twice weekly. Not a year ago Mr. Ord buys a fair trotter that up and kicks him in the head dead, so that's that for the freighting, and now I'm put out."
While Deuce listens for the word "Waterloo," Cy continues: "Because like that here's a brother-in-law he says shutting down the freightage. But Mr. Ord, he never says 'I got a wife,' let off a brother-in-law. From east is all he says and 'just closin' accounts.' So there I was."
"In Waterloo?" Deuce offers.
"'Course in Waterloo. What are we talkin' about?" Cy sounds disappointed. "Yeah, freighting out of Waterloo. That's how I know the way. Then who's in the road drunk but Mr. Wickersham, sad about his wife of course and he wants me to take him home. 'Why not?' I think, it being my Christian duty to help a soul in need."
Cy pauses to take a bite out of something he pulls from his sack. He breaks a chunk off whatever it is and offers it to Deuce, who declines. Cy continues his story as he chews: "So much for Christian duty. Do I know Mr. Wickersham lives 30 miles out of town? I do not. Do I know my poor old horse is ready to drop dead? I most certainly do not. I was stuck on that pile of mud he calls a farm for the last three weeks. This here's the last of that horse."
Cy holds up the burlap sack.
Two hours later Deuce has heard the story of Cy's relatives going back three generations, including their full work and medical histories. Cy's stories have a hypnotizing effect on Deuce. He has forgotten all about their destination until he hears Cy say "Here she is: Waterloo."
Deuce is surprised when he looks around and realizes they're in the middle of a small village whose main street is barely 100 yards long. The only soul in sight is sitting cross-legged beside an empty water trough. Deuce thinks, nah, it couldn't be. But he asks anyway. "Izzie?"
"Where in blazes did you run to?" Izzie asks as he gets to his feet and brushes the dust from his pants.
Cy asks Deuce, "You know this guy?"
"Where in blazes is your wagon?" Deuce asks back.
"Bushwhacked," Izzie says. He points a thumb at Cy. "Who's he?"
"Nobody," answers Deuce.
"A mile out of town," Izzie says, pointing back down the road. "I meet the wagon from Toronto and bam! Somebody throws a sack over my head. Tied me up, tossed me in a ditch. Thought I was done for. Woulda been but for a hay wagon approaching, by good fortune."
Izzie climbs atop the crates in the back of the wagon and says "Let's go find those voles before they sell the whiskey out from under us."
"How long have you been sitting here, Izzie?" Deuce asks as he points the wagon out of town.
"Not long," Izzie answers. "Hour or two maybe."
"We'll catch 'em," Izzie continues. "I have a grand notion of where they're headed." He nudges Cy. "Where'd you come from, again?" he asks.
Cy then regales Izzie with his family history going back three generations.
As the three pursue the hijacked liquor, Deuce ponders his fate:
I'm in San Francisco making good money in mercantile with Mr. Bartoli, then I get a letter from my uncle I thought was dead saying, "Fetch Mary."
She's living on a farm in Ontario with her Uncle Paolo and her husband-cousin Anthony, the letter says. "Here's $20. Bring her back to San Francisco by Easter."
Days later Deuce is on an eastbound train heading for a farm in Michigan, hoping his Aunt Marguerite and Uncle Bernard will take him in. His aunt and uncle are glad to have an extra hand around, but they never buy Deuce's story about giving up the city life for a farmer's lot.
The letter Deuce's mother sends to her sister Marguerite solidifies the couple's suspicions about Deuce's sudden interest in agriculture. "Keep a close watch on my boy," Alice Laffingstock's letter read. "I fear our brother Joseph continues to exercise an unhealthy influence over him."
Four months on a farm convinces Deuce that tilling the soil is tough work. He sports a new bruise, strain, or laceration every other day. Deuce's relief at being back on the road is tempered by the prospect of a winter roaming the length of Ontario looking for the Bartoli farm.
The silence shakes Deuce out of his reverie. He had grown accustomed to the drone of Cy's ceaseless narrative. They've entered a small town.
"Where are we?" Deuce asks.
"Guelph," Cy answers and then spits.
"There they are," Izzie says and points at a long, low, wooden structure.
"Stop! Stop!" Izzie whispers harshly. Before Deuce can respond, Izzie points in the opposite direction and says "Over there, over there!"
Deuce parks the wagon in a lane behind a row of small cottages. "Wait here," Izzie says and heads for the low wooden building, "and be ready."
Deuce and Cy watch Izzie disappear inside the building across the lane. Five minutes later he reappears riding a swayback horse. "Gone," Izzie says when he gets within earshot of the wagon. "But I know where they're heading. Meet me at St. Basil's on Yonge Street."
Izzie points the old mare he's riding south out of town. "Where's Young Street?" Deuce shouts after him.
"Toronto!" Izzie shouts in return.
"I know St. Basil's," Cy tells Deuce. "Nice church. My cousin Leo had a half sister was a nun there 'till she got her toe stuck in a drain." Deuce gets the wagon rolling southbound as Cy continues. "Seems she fell for the plumber they summoned to loose up her toe and off they go. Danged if St. Basil's parish priest didn't take after her, sayin' it's for her salvation, but turns out that priest was sweet on her, too."
"She was one handsome nun, I gotta say." Cy pauses. Deuce wants to ask Cy for directions but doesn't get the question out before Cy resumes. "Last I heard they were living up near Thunder Bay, her and the plumber. Don't know what became of that priest. Prob'ly a cardinal by now."
Four hours later, Deuce has become familiar with several dozen more of Cy's relatives. Out of nowhere, Cy says "That looks like the spot."
Cy points to the side of the road. Deuce spots a break in the trees. "Won't make Toronto tonight," Cy says. "I recall a camp not far off. Hauled freight for a time out of Hamilton clear to Belleville." Deuce guides the horses onto the narrow path through the woods.
Soon after leaving the road, the path opens to a small clearing. Deuce points the wagon toward a make-shift lean-to at the glade's far end. Cy jumps down from the wagon and tells Deuce, "You gather the kindling. I'll scavenge our dinner." Deuce watches him vanish into the woods.
It takes only a few minutes for Deuce to collect an arm full of firewood. As he approaches the lean-to Deuce notices something piled inside.
The pile starts moving. Then it starts talking. In French. No one is yet visible, but the speaker sounds unhappy. "English," Deuce tries. This really gets the pile jumping. The French is now a growl. A head pops out of what Deuce took for debris, blinking back the daylight.
One eye searches for the disturber, lands on Deuce. The growl becomes a low, engine-idling rumble. A menacing voice asks, "Key-ay-voo?"
Deuce pantomimes building a fire. The rumble builds. A hand rises out of the rags and garbage. It holds a knife the size of a small sword. Just as he's about to run full speed into the woods, Deuce hears Cy's surprised voice behind him: "Uncle Andre! We thought you were killed!"
The man addresses Cy: "Ee-dyote!" He shakes off his debris blanket, sheaths his blade, and walks past Cy and Deuce toward the parked wagon.
"My Uncle Andre," Cy explains to Deuce. "He--"
"Stop!" Deuce says to Cy, cutting him off. "Just skip to the 'thought you were killed' part."
Cy's uncle reaches under the tarp covering the wagon, retrieves a bottle, and takes a long pull on it. Then he burps and asks, "Got food?"
"I'll get a fire working," Cy says to Deuce. "You start on these." He hands Deuce a greasy sack. Deuce watches Cy's uncle stagger-stomp by, then he ducks back into the lean-to, sits in the pile of debris, and takes another swig of the bottle. Definitely not killed, thinks Deuce.
Cy is intent on getting the kindling to spark. Deuce dumps the contents of Cy's sack onto the ground. Two of the items attempt an escape. As hungry as he is, Deuce sees no food possibilities in the clumps of matter now scattered -- and scattering -- on the ground at his feet.
"How about a stew?" Deuce suggests.
Cy feeds small sticks to his nascent fire. He says, "How'd he get outta that ice is what I'm wondering."
That night, Deuce lies next to the embers of their campfire, looks up at the stars, and wonders: What am I going to do with this whiskey? Why am I chasing another wagon full of whiskey all the way to Toronto? Who is this guy Cy calls his uncle? What exactly was in that stew? How am I going to make it to San Francisco by Easter with Mary Bartoli in tow? Where in Ontario is the Bartoli farm? What's that odd noise?
At first, Deuce thinks it's a train whistle, but it's too close. Could be a kettle boiling if there were any sign of a fire anywhere around. It's coming from the lean-to. Cy's uncle has sprung a leak, Deuce thinks. "He'll be awake in a second," says Cy. "Best to cover your nose."
The whistle's high pitch flattens into a trumpet blare. A rotting-meat stench creeps up on Deuce and quickly fills his nose, eyes, and ears. Deuce's diaphragm locks, which keeps him from retching. Cy has buried his head in the ground. The trumpet blare becomes a rattling rumble.
By the time Deuce can breathe again Cy's uncle has returned to the wagon for another bottle. "That came out of him?" Deuce asks Cy. Cy nods.
Uncle Andre's olfactory assault leaves Cy and Deuce too stimulated to sleep, so they hitch up the wagon and make their way back to the road. "The priests at St. Basil's will clean him up," Cy explains to Deuce, who wanted to leave Cy's uncle in the lean-to. "I've seen him worse."
"Once," Cy continues as his uncle finds a space between the crates in the back of a wagon, "he shows to mass with two knives stuck in him."
A cold rain has been falling for an hour when the wagon reaches Toronto. Cy continues the family narrative as they wend through the town. "Not that I condone that sort of thing," Cy tells Deuce, "but the Dupreys have exhibited a knack for staying out of jail. Mostly, anyway."
They make the turn off Yonge Street and head down a rutted path toward St. Basil's. A figure huddles out of the rain in the church doorway. This time, Izzie spots them first. "Where in blue blazes have you been?" he shouts from the top church step. "We've got whiskey to unload."
Izzie leads the wagon behind the church. There stands the wagon Izzie lost the day before, but with a new team of horses harnessed to it. "I lost a few crates," Izzie explains to Deuce as he and Cy alight. "But these grays are beauties," he says as he pats one horse's neck.
"Where did you find it?" Deuce asks Izzie.
"Yonder," he answers. "I recognized one ambusher, Sam Geady. I knew I'd find 'em here, drunk. Candy from a baby." Izzie climbs into the wagon seat. "Let's go. We got a delivery to make before those Canuck yee-hahs sober up."
"Speaking of yee-hahs," Deuce says to Izzie, "We have one to deliver to the rectory, Cy's relation, sleeping." He points at the wagon bed.
"Let's drop off Cy while we're at it," Izzie says as he gets the wagon rolling. "Leave 'em both on the church steps with a crate of booze."
"Drunk!" the priest pronounces after taking one look at Cy's uncle through the rectory's back door. "Bring him back when he's not stinking."
"The thing of it is, Father," Izzie says, "we're overbidden for a consequential business interplay and must needs expire our God-like duty."
"Your duty to this creature starts with a scrub brush," the priest replies to Izzie. "And a week away from the spirits." He eyes the wagon. "Once he's bathed, bring him to the Sisters down the street." The priest points over his shoulder. "They'll sober him up but good."
The priest slams the door before Izzie can protest further. Izzie looks into the rainy sky. "We don't have time for any bathing," he says.
"I might know someone'll clean 'em up," offers Cy, who looks the same dripping wet as he did bone dry. "It'll cost you a dollar," he adds.
"Two cases," the tall woman says, still refusing to open the door beyond a crack. "Plus for new dungarees." Izzie doesn't bother haggling. "Not here -- 'round back," the woman says and shuts the door.
Izzie and Cy retreat down the steps. "Which way to the back?" Izzie asks Cy. Cy joins Deuce on the lead wagon and points him around a corner. Izzie follows in the second wagon, Uncle Andre snoring away in the back.
Cy signals Deuce to stop the wagon at a narrow gap between the tenement rows. "Go wake up your uncle," Izzie tells Cy. "We'll get the rye."
"Stop right there!" A huge woman blocks the small door at the dead end of the alley. Cy obliges her, propping his uncle against a woodpile. Cy doesn't notice the butcher knife in her hand until she starts carving the rags off his uncle with a few deft swipes of her thick wrist. By the time Deuce and Izzie arrive toting a case of whiskey each, the woman's knife has rendered Uncle Andre buck naked but for his boots.
"Fetch the bucket," the woman instructs Cy, motioning to the door. Cy retrieves a bucket of water and sets it down at the woman's bare feet. The woman points to Cy's uncle. "Douse him and draw another. I'll manage the scrubbing." She replaces her knife with a stiff wire brush.
The tall woman who met them at the house's front door pokes her head out the back and waves for Deuce and Izzie to bring the whiskey inside. Cy nearly dumps the second water bucket on Izzie and Deuce as he exits and they enter. The woman points at a short door. "There," she says.
"Here," Izzie says and plops the box of whiskey at her feet. "We'll be back for the old guy by sunset." Deuce places his case atop Izzie's.
"What about the dungarees?" the tall woman asks as Deuce and Izzie head for the alley. Izzie takes a coin out his pouch and flips it to her. "Real fine American gentlemen," the woman says.
Deuce turns to her and extends his hand. "Deuce Laffingstock, at your service," he says.
"Call me Mouche," she replies, taking his hand lightly. "You stay longer next time, maybe?" she asks Deuce. "Let the girls give you a bath?"
"Keep that Sally wielding the scimitar out of the tub and we got a deal," Deuce answers with a smile.
"You maybe I see to myself," Mouche says.
When Deuce re-enters the alley Uncle Andre is on all fours growling as the large woman scrubs his bottom. Cy stands nearby, looking worried. Izzie has retreated to the wagons. "We better clear on out," says Cy. "Sounds like he's ready to blow again."
That's all Deuce has to hear. He half-trots down the alley as Uncle Andre's bellowing crescendos. As Deuce and Cy climb into the wagon seat, they hear the big woman howl.
Izzie has already driven his wagon a block down the street. By the time Deuce and Cy catch up, they're halfway out of Toronto, heading east.
It's nearly sunset when Izzie steers his wagon off the main trail and down a narrow path toward a farmhouse. Deuce's team follows unbidden.
Deuce thinks, What are the chances of us getting back across the river by Sunday night? About the same as us ever unloading this whiskey.
Deuce had been ignoring Cy's incessant prattle for the past several hours. Izzie parks his wagon beside the house and runs around the back. Deuce stops his team directly behind Izzie's rig. He buttons his top coat button and interrupts Cy's family narrative. "You know of any Italians living around here?"
"Eye-talians? There's a bunch over at St. Anthony's," Cy answers. "One time I freighted a grape press to an eye-tie farmer out by Oshawa. Expected me to swap my mules for some of the sorriest goats you ever saw. Told me to come back next year for some 'vino'."
Cy looks up at the darkening sky. "We won't get back to Toronto tonight," he says. "Uncle Andre's the only one gonna have a roof over him."
"The old man's prob'ly working on his third chicken leg by now," Cy adds. "I tell you, I'm ready to make camp in Bartoli's vegetable garden."
"Whose garden?" Deuce asks Cy.
"Bartoli, the Eye-talian farmer with the grape press." Cy answers. "Crazy squash. Tomatoes big as your head."
"His name was Bartoli," Deuce repeats, not as a question. He wonders: How many Bartolis can there be in Ontario? "Where was this farm?"
"Out past Oshawa," Cy tells him. "Some rocky patch. Farmers." Cy spits from the wagon seat. "Give me freight work any danged day."
Deuce asks calmly, "Did Bartoli have any daughters?"
Cy considers. "Naw, didn't see any children. Just them goats. And that garden, whoa!"
Izzie reappears from behind the farmhouse. He climbs onto the seat of his wagon, signals Deuce to follow him, and drives his team forward.
Up ahead Deuce sees figures emerge from the twilight, first two, then two more. Izzie stops his wagon, Deuce does likewise. Nobody moves.
"Now what?" asks Cy.
"Wait," says Deuce as he climbs out of his seat. Izzie does likewise. Two of the figures move toward them deliberately. Both men wear long, heavy coats and oversized caps. One goes to the back of Izzie's wagon, retrieves a bottle, and delivers it to the other. The second man uncorks the bottle, sniffs the contents, and hands it back to the first man, who takes a long tug on it. No one says a word.
The drinker hands the bottle back to the sniffer. The sniffer signs to the other two figures in the background. He reaches inside his coat. "You boys know your way back to the states?" the sniffer asks as he removes a dark leather pouch and empties gold pieces into his mitt.
"Headin' there straight away," says Izzie as he places the handful of gold coins into his own pouch. "Soon as your boys load the whiskey onto them sleds, we'll be on our way."
"Sure makes a racket now that it's empty," says Cy pointing at the wagon bed. Deuce wonders what Izzie has in mind to refill it. The two wagons are now miles northeast of Toronto. After the whiskey sale to the big coats, Izzie assured Deuce they were still on schedule.
"You'll be napping at Pfiefer's by dawn Monday," Izzie promises him. "Lamb chops for dinner tonight, but only if you keep up." And off he speeds.
Deuce is nearly standing out of the wagon seat, still his bottom is about to give out. Izzie finally slows his wagon. Deuce does likewise.
"How does he find these places?" Cy asks Deuce as they follow Izzie's wagon toward a ramshackle structure in the middle of a narrow field. Deuce smells the sheep before he hears their bleating. They park beside a low barn. Izzie jumps out of his seat and disappears around back.
Deuce is glad to be on solid ground and out of the wagon seat. He's thinking about Izzie's promised lamb chops when a robed figure appears. As he approaches, Deuce realizes the man in the robe is wearing a box hat. Izzie is walking in the robed man's footsteps, two paces behind.
“You load tonight,” the robed man says. “Leave before dawn.”
“What about my lamb chops?” Deuce asks Izzie.
“Load, then eat,” says Box Hat.
“Then sleep, then leave,” Izzie adds. “We got a good bit of wool to shovel.” Izzie returns to the lead wagon. Deuce rubs his soar haunches.
“You drive the team,” Deuce says to Cy. “I’ll be there directly.”
“Don’t go too deep into those woods,” Cy warns. “There’s critters about.”
“Can’t be any scarier than the character in the hat,” Deuce replies as he heads into the darkness. He gets the urge to just keep walking.
By the time Izzie, Deuce, and Cy have loaded the two wagons with Box Hat’s wool and eaten half a lamb shank, it’s only a few hours to dawn on Saturday. Deuce is so tired he doesn’t remember falling asleep beside the campfire. He wakes to the sound of Box Hat banging two big sticks together.
“Saturday services start in an hour,” says Box Hat loudly. “You either join us or clear out beforehand.” He turns and walks away hurriedly.
Izzie is first to stand. “Clear out it is,” he says. “I’ll fill the canteens, you two see to the horses. Don’t leave that mutton behind.”
“... which was just what he needed, him being a might club-footed to boot, as it were--” “Quiet!” Deuce interrupts Cy’s non-stop narration. The two wagons spent the morning circling back to Toronto on a southerly route. Canvas tarps keep their loads of wool from blowing free. For the second time Deuce hears behind Cy’s drone what sounds like an echo of the wagon wheels and horse hooves. The load obscures his view.
Just as Deuce is considering how to get Izzie’s attention in the lead wagon, it comes to an abrupt halt. The echo sound gets even louder. As quickly as Izzie’s wagon stopped, it starts again with a jolt. The first big drops of a pounding rain splatter against the canvas cover. Deuce is so focused on the runaway wagon he doesn’t notice Izzie lying face down in the road. Then Cy is flung out of his seat beside Deuce. An unseen hand grabs Deuce by the shirtfront and tosses him into tall grass beside the trail. As he attempts to rise, a boot thumps his ear.
“I thought you were dead.” Deuce can’t place the voice. The pounding in his head gets worse when he opens his eyes. “You’re not, are you?”
“I don’t think dead hurts this much,” Deuce replies, still wondering who he’s talking to.
“They even took Izzie’s pants,” the voice says.
“Who’s Izzie?” Deuce asks. His eyes still refuse to open.
“The guy in the road in Waterloo who stole back the whiskey,” the voice replies.
“Waterloo? Stolen whiskey? What are you talking about? Oh.” As soon as he asks, the answers come back to him. “You’re Cy,” Deuce recalls.
“Of course I’m Cy,” he says. “And that’s Izzie.” Cy points to a figure sitting in a mud puddle in his union suit. “He’s alive too, I think.”
An hour later Izzie has collected himself enough to be incensed. “I’m not crossing that river with empty pockets,” he says as he looks west.
“You’d be crossing with no pockets at all at the moment,” Deuce reminds Izzie, who refuses to acknowledge his pantlessness. Cy spits a bug.
“My gold’s on its way to Toronto, and I’m gonna get it,” Izzie says and starts walking down the muddy path. Cy and Deuce look at each other.
Izzie rounds a bend out of sight. Deuce and Cy haven’t budged. A half a minute later, Cy says “I know a guy nearbouts might have us a job.”
“Take your pick,” says the fat man in the oilskin apron. “The renderin’s going east to Bowmanville and manure’s heading west to Toronto.”
Deuce and Cy stand on either side of the man in the apron, whose name is Knarski. The three are looking at two wagons: one loaded with large barrels and one empty.
“Which is the manure?” Cy asks. Deuce notices a thick liquid dripping off Knarski’s apron. Apart from his boots, it’s all he’s wearing.
“Manure’s at Opdike’s,” Knarski waves vaguely. “Pick it up on the way.”
“The rendering,” Deuce says. “Five dollars American, half up front.”
“Two dollars Canadian when you bring my wagons back in one piece,” Knarski says without taking his gaze off the barrels stacked two high.
Deuce replies, “Three fifty Canadian plus provisions.” He looks over at Cy. “Plus a hot bath when we get back with your wagons intact.”
Knarski grunts. “My boy’ll see to your victuals. Be back here by noon tomorrow or I’ll give you both a good soak in the well.”
“Tomorrow’s Sunday,” Cy tells Knarski. “Gotta take the sacrament.”
Knarski grunts again. “By sundown then, but hang your bath.”
“You know the way to Bowmanville?” Deuce asks Cy between bites of victuals out of a sack. The wagon bounces down the muddy King’s Highway.
“I could get there dead drunk in a blizzard,” Cy answers. “Blindfolded to boot. Got a cousin in Oshawa once took me ice fishing in June.”
“Oshawa?” Deuce interrupts Cy’s tale. “Isn’t that where you delivered the grape press to the Italian farmer with the big garden?”
“Bartoli, you mean?” Cy says. “Not much chance of fresh tomatoes this time of year, but I”ll wager his wine is worth swigging about now.”
“Phew! I guess we found the Bowmanville renderer,” says Cy as the wagon creaks along King Street.
“That’s a saloon,” Deuce corrects him. An old man leans against a post outside the saloon door.
“Down river,” the old man replies perturbed when Deuce asks him where to find the rendering plant. That narrows it down, thinks Deuce. He's ready to dump the barrels of animal parts where the wagon rolled to a stop. He thinks again, How many farmers named Bartoli can there be in Ontario?
“What you fellas got in them barrels there?” Deuce turns toward the speaker, who’s wearing the most ridiculous uniform Deuce has ever seen: a bright red jacket, sleeves barely reaching elbows, epaulets, pie-pan belt buckle, pea-green riding trousers, and brown knee-length boots. But it’s the man’s hat that sets Deuce’s laugh to howl: an inverted, double-handled sauce pan with purple braids and folded-over feathers.
What isn’t ridiculous is the man’s sidearm, which he unholsters with a flourish. With his other hand he grabs hold of Deuce’s coat collar.
In the jail an hour later Cy tells Deuce “I coulda told you the OPPs are a humorless lot. Back awhile my cousin Murt and me were in Guelph....”
Deuce decides to let Cy talk on about Murts and Guelphs and Opie peas. They sure dress their cops funny up here, he thinks and smiles a bit. Then Deuce thinks about the trouble he’s in and feels guilty about smiling. No money, no wagon, no rendering, and only a gasbag for company.
Deuce takes in his surroundings and thinks, for a jail cell, not bad. I’ve paid for worse accommodations. Even got a fire lit in the stove. He's recalling the hollowed-out tree he paid four bits to stay in one rainy night in Indiana when the arresting officer enters the jail. The policeman is dressed as he was when he arrested Deuce and Cy earlier that day, minus the two-handled hat. He ignores his two prisoners.
Thinking about the officer’s outsized tam starts Deuce laughing all over again. This gains the policeman’s attention. Cy looks on nervously. “Youngster,” the cop says calmly, “your rudeness bespeaks of your citizenship.” He looks at Cy and frowns. “Your people live hereabouts.”
“Was that a question?” Cy asks the officer meekly.
Deuce cuts in: “You can’t dress like that without expecting to raise a few good guffaws.”
“Fortunately for you, youngster, insolence is not a criminal offence in Ontario.” The officer turns his attention to Cy, who smiles meekly. “Your fine for breach of the peace amounts to precisely one half of the proceeds of the rendering you were carting,” the officer announces.
“But that puts us in our employer’s debt,” Deuce protests.
“Be that as it may,” the policeman says, still looking at Cy. “You’re free to go.”
“Free to depart freshly fleeced,” Deuce replies. The officer unlocks Cy’s cell. He drops coins and a key in Cy’s hand, then he walks out.
“We’ll see ourselves out,” shouts Deuce at the closed jail door. Then he turns to Cy, who hasn’t budged. “So, you think maybe we should go?”
As he steps out of the jailhouse, Deuce takes a deep breath and regards the empty wagon parked in the road. He wonders what Mae is up to.
Mae Hanrahan is spending the Saturday evening on her hands and knees scrubbing a church floor. If only it weren’t Episcopalian, she thinks. Tomorrow Mae will hitch a ride with the Germans to Alma for mass at St. Mary’s. She thinks about Deuce only whenever she closes her eyes.
In exchange for use of the church basement as a schoolroom five days a week, Mae cleans the church on Saturdays and clears out on Sundays. Mae rarely sees either the Parson or Mrs. Ristelhueber. The Parson instructed her to confine herself to the church basement during the week. On Saturdays Mae has the run of the place. The Parson holes up to write his sermon. Miss Annamarie is nowhere in sight. Mae scrubs in peace.
By contrast, Sundays are as taut as a cheap fiddle’s E string. To Mae, the ride to church in Alma each week feels like a funeral procession. Friedreich Groger, his wife Stassi, and their daughters Alla, Katra, and Bruna rarely speak and never smile, all the way to church and back.
By her third Sunday ride with the Grogers Mae has adopted the same stoic demeanor. She thinks about Sundays with her family in Marysville. Unlike the Grogers, Mae’s family talks and laughs all Sunday long, and they rarely let up even when the priest is giving them dirty looks. Back when Mae’s father still attended mass, he was the one most likely to instigate the giggles. Even Mae’s mother would sometimes succumb.
Thinking about her family chortling through Father Trench’s gospel reading starts Mae laughing in her seat at the back or Herr Groger’s wagon. Alla and Katra look nervously at their father, who tightens his grip on the reins. Bruna starts to laugh along with Mae. Mrs. Groger moans.
“Christ died for your sins, and you laugh?” Mr. Groger says without turning around. “You mock the savior we stop our work to give worship?”
“Just recalling a funny story my mother told me, sir,” Mae explains. “You see, our pastor Father Trench--”
“Still,” Mr. Groger interrupts Mae.
“Yes, Father Trench is still pastor at Holy Name,” Mae replies. “Well, Father Trench once--”
“Be still,” Mr. Groger says. “No laughs on sabbath.”
Mae considers her options: Walk to Alma each Sunday, relocate the school, buy a horse and buggy, convert to Episcopalianism, become a pagan. Maybe I could place an ad for an itinerant priest, Mae thinks as she bounces along the road to Alma in the Grogers’ silent, somber wagon.
A brand-new teacher finds herself in a foreign land, living in a town without a habitable school, working for handouts from poor farmers. Worst of all, the teacher is in love with a young man she has spent all of twelve hours with, and whose whereabouts are a complete mystery.
On that Sunday morning, as Mae and the Groger family take their sullen ride to Mass, Deuce Laffingstock sits in the back of an empty wagon. The empty wagon is parked outside St. Francis of Assisi Church in Newcastle, Ontario. Inside the church, Cy waits to receive the sacrament.
In a pew against the church’s north wall sits Mary Bartoli and her eight-year-old son Anthony Jr., whom Mary refers to as Jay or, sometimes, Little Joe.
Priests in Canada sure take their time, thinks Deuce. Boredom and cold drive him out of the wagon and into the church’s narrow vestibule. From outside the door Deuce hears the priest reciting the Eucharistic Prayer: “...in primis gloriosae semper Virginis Mariae....”
It’s colder here than it was in the wagon, thinks Deuce. He slips into the church and finds a seat in the last pew. He’s asleep in no time.
“Where’s my newspaper, Alphonsus?” Deuce opens his eyes and sees Mary Bartoli standing in front of him. What a strange dream, he thinks. She’s almost real. Deuce blinks at the image of Mary Bartoli in front of him. Then the image wraps him in her arms and cries.
As Mary slowly loosens her grip on him, Deuce realizes the church is nearly empty. A young boy standing next to Mary looks vaguely familiar. At the end of the pew stands Cy with a puzzled look on his face. He holds his oversized wool cap in both hands, kneading its frayed edges.
Deuce looks at the three figures, who look back at him in anticipation. One breath later, he says “Let’s go,” but he stays in his seat.
“Go where?” Cy asks.
“San Francisco,” Mary answers. She looks at Deuce with the world’s smallest smile on her face.
“By Easter,” Deuce adds.
The church is now nearly empty, and the three-and-a-half figures convening in the back corner have piqued the suspicions of Father Prudenziano. “Father, these are friends of my husband’s from Toronto come to fetch me on his orders,” Mary tells the priest as he approaches the group.
“Do they know why Anthony hasn’t come to retrieve you himself?” Father Prudenziano asks Mary.
“His business is booming, Father,” Deuce responds.
The priest’s look of surprise makes Deuce think that Anthony Bartoli, Mary’s husband/cousin, may not be in business at all. “I mean,” he starts.
“That’s right,” Mary interjects. “Anthony has been working six days a week, twelve hours a day, Father. He says he has leased us a flat.”
“Leased you a flat,” Father Prudenziano says evenly. The old priest’s disappointment is obvious to Deuce. Mary’s embarrassment is more subtle.
“I’ll be back to visit my uncle and my little cousins,” Mary reassures the priest. “Carmella embroiders nearly as well as I do now, Father.”
“And I’ll be looking in on you and Anthony,” Father Prudenziano says to Mary. “In your Toronto flat.” Deuce senses the priest has his doubts.
Father Prudenziano looks at Mary, Deuce, and Cy in turn. Finally, he says “God be with you,” and walks back down the aisle toward the altar.
“We have to stop in Toronto,” Mary tells Deuce as he was about to ask her when they could leave. “Jay has to say good-bye to his father.” Deuce tries to picture Anthony Bartoli, his old classmate at St. Patrick’s, as a father. All he envisions is a clumsy, oversized boy in ill-fitting clothes, wearing a perpetually dour expression.
“What do you hear from your Uncle Joe?” Mary asks Deuce as the four walk down the church steps.
“’Fetch Mary,” he answers. “’By Easter.’”
Mary smiles and tightens her grip on Anthony Jr.’s hand. “How do you propose to get us back to San Francisco?” she asks. Deuce just shrugs. “How are you set for provisions?” Mary adds.
“We’re not,” Deuce replies.
“This isn’t even our wagon,” Cy adds.
“Who are you?” Mary asks him.
“I’m Cy. I delivered your Uncle Paolo’s grape press,” Cy explains.
Mary looks at Deuce, who shrugs again. “The more, the merrier,” she says.
Deuce sits in the motionless wagon holding the reins loosely. Cy is sitting in the nearly empty wagon bed. He's relating a portion of his family history to Mary. Anthony Jr. sits between them. Deuce interrupts Cy: “First, Bartoli’s farm for Mary’s things. Next, Toronto to deliver Cy’s uncle to the Sisters.” Mary looks confused.
“Next,” Deuce continues, “find Izzie and the money, or what’s left of it.”
Deuce takes a breath. “Then we get our money and our hides across the river. Before you know it, we'll be on a westbound train.” He smiles at Mary. “Nothing to it.”
"But this ain't even our wagon," Cy says to Deuce. "Plus we owe Mr. Knarski for the renderin' the OPPs took half of in Bowmanville."
"Looks like we're taking a permanent loan of this wagon," Deuce tells Cy. "But once we're flush and safe in the States we'll have some good, American greenbacks sent over to Mr. Knarski for his rig and his tallow."
"Maybe you think we should stop and explain things to him on our way to Toronto?" Cy asks.
"Mr. Knarski doesn't strike me as the understanding type," Deuce says. "He's got plenty better rigs than this tub on wheels, and enough manure to keep the whole province sprouting next summer."
"I spose," says Cy. "But I don't think we'd be the first teamsters dropped down that well of his." The prospect of a 2500-mile train trip west doesn't appear to faze Cy in the least.
Deuce can’t believe this is Cy’s uncle. Shorn, shaven, and scrubbed, in a shiny pair of stiff dungarees, Uncle Andre looks almost healthy. Mary and her son are in the wagon parked in the same alley where just two days earlier Uncle Andre was defrocked and scoured by one of Mouche’s women.
“Ready for the nuns,” Mouche says to Deuce as Uncle Andre bids his reluctant good-byes to the ladies of her house. “A real lady’s man, eh?”
“You come back after you drop him, spend some time with us?” Mouche asks Deuce.
He shakes his head. “I got an important delivery,” he says.
Two of the tiniest nuns Deuce has ever seen take Cy’s uncle by each hand and walk him to a dormitory located behind the St. Basil rectory. It’s like they were expecting him, Deuce thinks. And Uncle Andre is as timid as a wet puppy despite the Sisters leading him into indefinite captivity.
Now to account for that money and wool Izzie has been chasing. Deuce looks at the wagon. Cy is talking. Mary isn’t even pretending to listen.
Deuce waves Cy over to join him on the church steps. “Who are the whiskey sellers in this town?” Deuce asks him once he’s within earshot.
Cy turns left, turns right, then squats and taps the church steps. After half a minute, he says “Lutz, or the brother he sent to prison.”
“How’s his brother gonna sell whiskey from prison?” Deuce asks Cy.
“He’s out now,” Cy replies. “Karl promised their mother, or so he said.”
“Who’s Karl?” Deuce asks Cy.
“Lutz, like I said. Sells whiskey. And Gustav, who he promised his mother to keep out of trouble,” Cy replies.
Deuce bites: “He had his brother sent to prison to keep him out of trouble?”
“Plus,” Cy explains, “Karl was sweet on Gustav’s girl, I hear.”
“Where might we find one of these Lutzes?” Deuce asks Cy.
“Can’t say for a certainty, but my guess is Dora,” Cy replies. “At the baker’s. Only it’s not a bakery. It’s a gambling parlor and Dora’s a dealer. She’s Gustav’s girl, or maybe Karl’s, or the baker’s. Who’s not a baker, of course, but says he is, and looks it.”
Deuce has known Cy long enough (two days) to know better than to ask him for an explanation. “Let’s go,” he tells him.
“Go where?” Cy asks.
“The bakery that isn’t, where someone’s girl Dora deals and Karl or his ex-con brother Gustav or maybe the baker who looks it sells rye.”
“Right, sure,” Cy replies. “It’s not far off. But....” He nods toward Mary and Anthony Jr. Oh yeah, thinks Deuce. The husband.
Deuce walks over to Mary in the wagon. “Where might we find Anthony’s tailor shop?” Mary shows him the return address on a folded envelope.
Deuce waves Cy over and hands him the envelope. “Our next stop,” Deuce says, pointing to the address.
"My reading's not so good as it was," Cy says. Deuce reads it out loud.
“Sure. On the way, almost,” says Cy.
Deuce follows Mary and Anthony Jr. into her husband/cousin’s tailor shop. He spots Anthony Sr. working on a coat at a table by the window. “Papa!” the boy calls out and runs to the man he knows as his father. Anthony Sr. is surprised and delighted as he takes Anthony Jr. in his arms.
Deuce notes that Anthony’s clothes don’t fit him any better now than they did on his wedding day in St. Patrick’s some eight years earlier.
“You’re a long way from home,” Anthony says to Deuce as he hugs the boy he calls his son. Mary remains just inside the shop’s front door.
“Canada agrees with you,” Deuce tells Anthony. “Where did you pick up tailoring?”
“Mary. She’s an absolute wiz with a needle,” he answers.
Mary walks up to her husband, gives him a half hug, and retreats to stand next to Deuce. “What brings you to town?” Anthony asks them both.
“I’m going home,” Mary says.
Deuce adds quickly, “I’m taking her.”
“Uncle Paolo?” Anthony asks.
“I told him you sent for us,” Mary replies. “He’ll never come to Toronto. He hasn’t strayed more than a mile from the farm in years.”
Anthony’s expression doesn’t change. “Uncle Paolo would expect us on the holidays, don’t you think?” Anthony asks. “Won’t your father send you right back?” He looks at Deuce.
“Back to what?” Mary asks Anthony. “An uncle who treats me like a servant? A husband who doesn’t treat me at all? Jay and I deserve better.”
“None of this was my idea,” Anthony replies. “Your father says ‘Mary needs your help,’ and a month later I’m on a farm in Nowhere, Ontario.”
Deuce remembers Anthony Bartoli as the big, quiet kid two grades ahead of him at St. Patrick’s school. None of us deserves this, he thinks.
“Anthony Jr. wants to say good-bye,” Mary tells her husband/cousin. “You’ve been a good father to him, but it’s time for us to go home.”
“You’re doing well here,” Deuce adds.
“I was useless on the farm,” Anthony tells him. “Uncle Paolo doesn’t object to the money we send him.”
Anthony’s reference to “we” hovers in the air. “How is Nicolas?” Mary asks.
Anthony hesitates before answering. Deuce senses he’s blushing. “He’s well,” Anthony says. “He’s picking up our winter wool.” Deuce is reminded of the wagonloads they lost to the hijackers the day before.
“I’ll go with Cy to find Izzie and our cargo,” Deuce says to Mary. “We’ll head for Michigan in the morning.” A bit optimistic, he thinks.
Deuce turns to Anthony. “Any problem with Mary and Jay spending the night here? We’ve been scrambling on the accommodation front,” he adds.
“We’ll have a grand time, won’t we?” Anthony says to the boy, who has made a game of the thimbles and spools of thread on Anthony’s table. Mary and Deuce nod to each other almost imperceptibly, neither smiling. Deuce walks down the tailor shop steps and thinks of Mae Hanrahan.
“I was just leaving,” says Izzie the moment he sees Deuce and Cy. He gets out of his chair and falls flat on his face without taking a step.
“Grab his legs,” Deuce tells Cy and positions himself at Izzie’s head. They lift and waddle the lifeless body out the saloon’s back door.
“Which wagon?” Cy asks when they reach the alley, where two loaded wagons are parked.
“Both,” Deuce replies. Cy laughs. “I’m not kidding,” Deuce says.
Deuce and Cy heave Izzie on top of the crates in the back of the wagon closest to the saloon's back door. They hear glass clink. Cy reaches inside one of the boxes, removes a bottle, opens it, and takes a whiff. “How’d you know?” he asks Deuce.
“A hunch,” he answers. "Plus the guys in the big hats playing cards in the front room. Let's get moving before the game breaks up."
Minutes later Deuce and Cy stand at Mouche's alley door, each holding a case of whiskey. Izzie snores loudly in one of the wagons. The rain eases up. The door opens a crack. “Whiskey,” Deuce whispers.
The door opens wider. A voice whispers back, “Quickly, before I am frozen.”
“What about Izzie?” Cy asks as he sets his case down in the anteroom.
“Leave him,” Deuce replies. “Might keep the whiskey from getting stole back.”
“You choose,” Mouche says to Deuce and Cy. “Cots now or upstairs after close.” The cots are situated next to a pile of coal in the cellar.
“When is close?” Deuce asks the lady of the house.
“When the last customer leafs,” Mouche answers. “Two, tree hours, maybe. Slow tonight.”
I’m so tired I could sleep on that coal mound, thinks Deuce. He hears voices shouting in the distance and is sure he’s dreaming on his feet.
“Excuse,” says Mouche and climbs the basement stairs.
Cy looks scared. “That sounds just like Uncle Andre,” he says. Perfect, thinks Deuce.
The slamming and banging have stopped by the time Deuce reaches the top of the basement stairs. He enters the empty kitchen, Cy behind him. Deuce walks to the hallway, which is lined by women in loosely tied robes and little else. Deuce follows their gaze to the open front door. Mouche appears in the doorway, spots Deuce, and motions for him to follow her back outside. The women smile and wink as he walks past them.
When he reaches the door Deuce sees two bodies in a heap at the bottom of the house’s front steps. Cy’s Uncle Andre stands over them, naked.
“Bad ones, these,” says Mouche looking at the two inert figures at the bottom of the steps. “Bad to my girls. You help Andre get them lost?”
“Shouldn’t he be wearing something?” Deuce asks Mouche.
“Him?” She shakes her head. “He just make them rags. You help him, I help you boat.”
Help I’ll take, thinks Deuce. “Lose them where?” He asks Mouche.
“Stables,” Mouche replies and points down the street. “Behind manure pile.”
“Ahhh!” Uncle Andre says when he spots Deuce descending the steps. “You I like. You have whiskey?”
“None at the convent, eh?” Deuce replies.
At least they’re not dead, thinks Deuce as the two figures in the street begin to stir. Bleeding’s nearly stopped. Deuce gets ready to lift.
“No,” says Andre. He retrieves a two-by-four from a push cart, slides it under the two prone figures, and lifts, shoveling them like snow. Deuce walks behind Andre as he rolls the two bodies toward the stables at the corner. Behind the stables Deuce spots a big pile of manure.
When he and the two tumbling bodies reach the manure pile, Andre grunts at Deuce, which Deuce interprets as “Come here.” Andre grabs one body by the ankles and waits. Deuce takes hold of the shoulders, and together they swing the body back, forward, and onto the pile.
Being introduced to the manure rouses the first of Mouche’s malefactors. His flailing sinks him deeper into the muck. The stench rises. Before the second disposal, Andre removes the man’s woolen shirt by grabbing the collar and yanking. Buttons fly in every direction.
Andre puts the shirt on backward and then grunts at Deuce to request his assistance with the evening’s second deposit onto the manure heap.
Andre exits the alley as pantsless as he entered it. He walks proudly toward Mouche’s, twirling the two-by-four like an ebony walking cane.
“Eh!” Cy shouts from the street. He points behind Deuce, who turns around in time to get smacked in the nose by the recently shirtless man. Deuce is so focused on the pain in his nose he doesn’t notice he’s being choked. A second later the shirtless man collapses on top of him.
Face throbbing, on his back, can’t breathe because of the manure-covered, unconscious half-naked man atop him, Deuce counts his blessings. Sure glad I can’t breathe, he thinks to himself, or I’d have a noseful of this guy’s stink. Just then Cy rolls the man off and Deuce gets a noseful.
“Miss Mouche sent me,” Cy explains. He’s holding the remains of the bottle he used to smack the stinking Canadian. “Can you walk?” he asks.
“If the alternative is remaining in this pit of a province, yeah, I can walk,” Deuce replies. He struggles up to his feet and proves it.
“Looks like Uncle Andre might be offered the door job at Miss Mouche’s,” Cy says as they walk. “If she can get him to keeps his pants on.”
Toronto on a Sunday night in early November, Deuce reminds himself. San Francisco and spring both seem a long way off. Good bye, Ontario!
“I’ll take the coal pile,” Deuce tells Mouche as he stumbles up the house’s front steps.
“We do you better,” Mouche replies. “Elise helps.”
“No offense, ma’am, Elise,” Deuce tips an imaginary hat. “But I need sleep.”
Mouche repeats, “Elise helps.” Elise smiles and takes his arm. She just might, thinks Deuce as Elise leads him up the carpeted steps to the house’s second floor. He forgets about his throbbing nose.
“I’m tired, too,” Cy offers.
Mouche shakes her head. “For you, cold ham and beer,” she says. “In the kitchen.” She points down the hall.
Mary Bartoli buttons her son’s coat. Outgrown it already, she thinks. Hand it down to warm some other child, find another for the trip west.
The trip home. She always believed she would see San Francisco again. Some part of her always knew she’d see Joseph McCready again, too.
“You really think Deuce will take you home?” Anthony asks Mary. “He always struck me as not good for much but trouble, like his Uncle Joe.”
“We’ll get each other home,” Mary replies. “And we'll bring Jay along with us.” She knows Anthony will miss her son, and her son will miss him.
Izzie, Cy, and Cy’s Uncle Andre are sitting silently at Mouche’s kitchen table when Deuce enters from upstairs. “We’re late,” Izzie says.
“Whiskey!” Cy’s uncle says upon spotting Deuce.
“Mouche says get those wagons out of her alley,” says Cy.
“Water,” says Deuce. “And ham.”
Cy continues: “Before the sheriff comes, Mouche says, or the iceman.” Cy pushes a platter of ham toward Deuce. “Or the priest,” Cy adds.
“Maybe we could sell the sheriff, the iceman, and the priest some of our whiskey,” says Deuce.
“Whiskey!” Andre echoes and lifts his glass.
Deuce says to Izzie, “Are we ever gonna find a buyer who doesn’t try to rob us?”
“I got it all figured,” Izzie answers. “One stop: Guelph.”
Cy groans. “You don’t like Guelph?” Deuce asks him.
“It’s my home town,” Cy says and spits. “Nobody there’s gonna buy nothing from me.”
“What d’you got to sell ‘em?” Izzie asks Cy.
“How many times do we have to sell the rye before we get to keep the money?” Deuce asks Izzie.
“Mr. Pfiefer didn’t say anything about picking up any passengers,” Izzie answers.
Deuce says, “He didn’t say anything about wool either.”
“I was set to make a tidy sum from that wool,” Izzie tells Deuce.
“All I got was a kick in the head,” Deuce answers. “What’d you get, Cy?”
“A hole in my trousers and a hip bruise,” Cy says. He looks nervous. “Mouche said, about the wagons in the alley.”
Deuce shakes his head. “Wool,” he says as he rises from the table. “Let’s fetch Mary and Jay, cash in this whiskey one more time, and get across that river.”
Uncle Andre is snoring in his chair. Mouche is nowhere in sight. Deuce, Izzie, and Cy exit the kitchen and file silently into the alley.
“What a trio you make,” Mary says. She smiles as the wagons stop in front of the shop.
Cy looks confused. “I didn’t make anything,” he says.
“There’s three of us,” Deuce explains to Cy.
“Who besides you and Izzie?” Cy asks. Deuce ignores him and climbs down from the wagon seat.
“You and Jay will ride up here with me,” Deuce tells Mary as he stows her carpetbag with the whiskey. “Cy will join Izzie, won’t you, Cy?”
“Aren’t we, um, overburdened?” Mary asks Deuce, motioning to the cargo.
“Only as far as Guelph,” Deuce says. “According to Izzie, at least.”
Third time’s the charm, thinks Deuce as the last case of whiskey is unloaded into the back of a basement saloon on Fergus Street in Guelph. Izzie ducks out of the bar’s low back door, counting money as he approaches. “Cy’s share is coming out of your hundred,” he says to Deuce.
“I get a share?” Cy asks them both.
A woman calls from down the street, “Jean-Ba’tiste!” Cy jumps out of the wagon and runs the other way. He sprints 20 yards, stops, and sprints back just as fast. “Give my share to my mother,” he says and takes off again.
“Who?” Deuce asks him.
Cy turns around and runs backward as he points at the woman who bellowed. He smacks right into the arms of a large man with a long beard. “Jean-Ba’tiste,” the man says as he picks Cy up and carries him back to the wagon. The bellowing woman approaches from the other direction.
Deuce notices the woman straighten up as she reaches Cy, who the large man has deposited next to the wagon. They size each other up warily. The old woman slugs Cy in the face with her fist. The punch is so quick Deuce isn’t sure it happened but for Cy doing a backward somersault.
“You steal from your own mother, your family!” the woman yells at Cy, who’s lying on his face in the street. She lifts his head by his hair. “From your own mother! Your own mother!” Her tone is so menacing Deuce feels scared. The woman drops Cy’s head, then grabs hold of his scalp again.
The woman drags Cy away by his forelock. The large man with the beard follows them. Deuce tells Mary, “Don’t let Izzie out of your sight.”
Deuce trails the Dupreys by 20 yards as they turn into Guelph’s main street. “Ma’am, may I have a word, please.”
The woman turns on him. “You take my little child to be thief?” the woman yells at Deuce.
The man in the beard points at Deuce and says “This is not the magyar.”
Deuce repeats “I’m not the magyar, or whoever.” He gives the woman several coins from a pouch.
She takes them and grabs for the pouch. “Not enough,” the woman says. Deuce puts the pouch out of her reach.
“It’s enough,” says the man with the beard as he nudges the woman away. The man turns to Deuce, smiles, tips his hat, and says, “Get lost.”
Deuce looks down the street. Cy and the woman are nowhere in sight, but Deuce hears scuffling and slams. “What is she doing to Cy?” Deuce asks the man.
“What she does to who?” the man asks back. Deuce walks past him toward the banging sounds. “A family matter,” the man says and grabs for Deuce’s arm. Deuce shakes him off and jogs around a corner to see Cy being tossed like a sack. Two younger versions of the man with the beard bat Cy between them, flipping him head to feet as they do. The old woman stands to one side.
Deuce jumps between the two men and intercepts Cy. The old woman says something Deuce doesn’t understand. The men walk over to her slowly. “You’re Cy’s mother?” Deuce asks the woman as he eases Cy to the ground.
“This one?” the woman replies and spits. “Owes me money, this one.”
Deuce looks at the coins the woman clutches in her hand. The woman holds the hand up and says, “Insufficiency!” Cy begins to rustle.
“That’s all you’re getting from me,” Deuce tells her. Cy jumps up and makes a run for the wagons. Deuce follows, walking backwards slowly. The old woman and the three bearded men watch Deuce retreat without budging. As he rounds the corner Deuce sees Cy already atop one of the wagons.
“That’s your family?” Deuce asks as he approaches Cy in the wagon.
“One of them,” Cy answers. “The other one’s nicer. Better groomed, too.”
Deuce climbs into the wagon seat and takes the reins. “Time to go home,” Deuce says to Izzie, who’s standing next to the other empty wagon.
“We can’t cross until nightfall,” Izzie replies. In the back of Deuce’s wagon, wrapped in a blanket, Mary and Jay sit on burlap sacks. Cy sits next to Deuce, uncharacteristically silent.
“We’ll pass the time elsewhere,” Deuce tells Izzie. “Best we not tarry in Guelph.”
“We gotta go nord,” the man explains to Izzie and Deuce. The three stand 100 yards from the dark water of Lake Huron. “Too much boat here.” Mary and Jay are sleeping in the back of the second wagon. Cy watches from the seat of the first wagon. “Soft water tonight,” the man adds.
Deuce hasn’t yet gotten a good look at the ferryman’s face. There’s no moon, and no lights this far north of Sarnia. Izzie stares blankly. “If we gotta, then we go north,” Deuce tells the ferryman. “Get us to the States with dry stockings and we’ll buy you a paddle steamer.”
On the water for 10 minutes, Deuce wonders whether the ferryman will ever point the wobbly craft westward. They’ve been heading north into Lake Huron since they left Canada. Both shores disappear. Deuce strains to see anything but the dark sky and darker water. The chop picks up across the surface of the lake.
The ferryman swings the tiller just as Deuce asks him where they’re heading. The flat-top craft bearing the wagons begins a slow left turn. The horses stomp and snort as the ferry approaches the lake's western shore.
The steam engine propelling the boat starts to clatter and belch white smoke. The engine clangs once, wheezes, and falls silent. The lake’s current starts turning the ferry south. The boatman grabs Deuce’s shoulder. Mary holds her young son in the bed of the second wagon. The boatman yells in Deuce’s face, “Take the reins, and when I say jump, you jump!”
Izzie and Cy are already climbing into the seat of the first wagon. Just as Izzie grabs the reins the panicky horses leap into the lake. To Deuce it seems the lead wagon has disappeared. The boatman yells “Jump!” Nothing happens. Then the horses decide it’s time for a swim.
Deuce expects the wagon to sink like a rock, but his seat remains just above the water as the team swims toward the dark line of the shore. The current slides them south as the horses pull toward the lake’s western shore. Deuce holds tight to the reins as the wagon sinks lower.
Mary has placed Jay in the seat next to Deuce. She stands in the wagon bed directly behind her son, her arms wrapped tightly around him. Just as the water reaches the seat, the horses’ hooves touch bottom. A few seconds later, the wagon’s wheels make contact with the lake bed.
As the horses struggle to pull the wagon onto shore, Deuce realizes Jay is laughing in the seat beside him. Mary seems to be mumbling a prayer. Once it’s clear they’ll make it out of the lake, Deuce takes a quick look around. No sign of Izzie, Cy, the other wagon, or the faulty ferry.
“Fun!” Jay remarks after the wagon makes it over the low bluff running along the shore.
“We need a fire to dry these clothes,” says Mary.
“We need to find Cy and Izzie,” Deuce replies. He drops the reins, stands on the seat, and scans the water and shoreline. All is still. Start a fire or look for Izzie and Cy? Deuce decides they could all use some warming up. Cy and Izzie too, if they made it out of the lake.
A half hour later, Jay is sleeping next to a small campfire. Mary sits on the ground next to her son, nodding off. Deuce eyes the shoreline. North or south? Deuce figures the current most likely took the wagon south toward Port Huron. He decides to start looking in that direction.
Deuce takes two steps but stops when he hears someone approaching from behind him. He turns to see Izzie and Cy stumbling toward the fire.
“What happened to you?” Deuce asks as Cy and Izzie cozy up to the fire.
“Ask him,” Izzie says, pointing at Cy with his thumb. Cy shrugs.
Deuce tries again: “Where’s the wagon?”
Izzie starts to disrobe. “I need dry clothes,” he says.
Cy looks back and says, “Saved one horse.”
“The beauty,” Izzie adds. He strips to his union suit. Deuce tosses him the canvas tarp from the remaining wagon. “Saved my gold,” he says.
“Mr. Pfiefer’s gold,” Deuce corrects him. He asks Cy, “Where’s the horse you saved?” Cy just gazes at the fire. Deuce settles his curiosity.
“Mine and his both,” Izzie replies.
After a few seconds of silence, Cy says, “I gotta go.”
Deuce asks, “Go where?” Cy gazes into the fire.
“You’re soaked through,” Mary says to Cy. She stands, takes the tarp from Izzie, and wraps it around Cy. “This fire needs wood,” she says. Cy’s expression hasn’t changed since he sat down. Deuce tries to get Cy’s attention. Then he heads into the darkness in search of firewood.
When Deuce returns, Jay is curled up asleep, Mary is cradling Cy, and Izzie is standing in front of them. Mary looks at Deuce. She’s crying.
Deuce approaches Cy intending to shake him awake. He stops when he gets next to Izzie. In the dying firelight they stare at Mary and Cy.
“Does he need a doctor?” Deuce asks Mary. She shakes her head and slowly lays Cy on the ground.
“He was just fine,” Izzie says defensively.
Deuce is still holding an armload of firewood. He can’t see Cy’s face in the low light of the campfire. Mary stands, keeping her gaze on Cy.
A minute later, Deuce says, “We’ll bring him with us to Saginaw.” He drops the wood on the ground and sits down next to Cy.
No one sleeps. They hardly move until gray appears in the east. Mary gathers up Jay. Deuce and Izzie carry Cy in the tarp to the wagon.
The meager campfire is about to put itself out. Mild for a November morning in Michigan, thinks Deuce. Almost muggy. He looks for a trail. Mary and Jay sit next to Deuce in the wagon. They wait for Izzie to finish tying the gray horse to the tailgate. Deuce listens to the lake.
Once the horse is tethered, Izzie joins Cy in the back of the wagon. Deuce urges the team on, hoping they’re as ready to leave as he is. The horses oblige their driver, walking steadily westward, away from the lakeshore. Deuce thinks, a northbound trail can’t be far from here.
The passengers are jostled as the wagon travels over uneven ground. Deuce is happy to see the line of a road not more than 100 yards ahead. As the wagon nears the road, Deuce realizes they will have to traverse a shallow culvert running beside it. He slows the horses and comes to a stop.
“Untether the gray and walk him up to the road,” Deuce tells Izzie. Then he turns to Mary and says, “Best you walk young Jay up there, too.”
The team hauls the wagon through the culvert and up the rise quicker than Deuce expects, nearly tossing him out twice: on the down and the up. As the wagon steadies on the road, a voice from the back says, “Hey!” Now I’m hearing Cy in my head, thinks Deuce. He jumps out of the seat.
Deuce sees Mary standing at the side of the road holding her son’s hand. She’s staring wide-eyed at the back of the wagon. Then she points. Deuce turns and jumps back when he sees Cy sitting up in the back of the wagon rubbing his head. “You just about kilt me,” he says to Deuce.
Deuce jumps into the back of the wagon and lifts Cy up by his shoulders. Cy looks him in the eye and asks, “What?” Deuce just stares at him.
A few seconds later, Deuce says to Cy, “You’re alive.”
“No thanks to your driving,” Cy replies.
Izzie, Mary, and Jay walk up to the wagon. Mary asks Cy, “How are you feeling?”
“My head’s broke, but I’m alright, I guess,” he replies. He asks Deuce, “Hey, where’s the other wagon?”
“You don’t remember getting off the lake?” Deuce asks Cy.
“This is the States?” Cy asks nervously.
“Where else would we be?”
“Are you gonna keep answering my questions with questions?” Cy fires back.
Deuce replies, “Are you ever gonna answer one of my questions?”
“Which one do you want me to answer first?” Cy asks Deuce.
Deuce takes a deep breath. He turns to Izzie, who’s tying the gray to the wagon. “Do you recall what happened on the lake?"
Izzie replies, “We lost a horse and a wagon, saved a horse and the gold. Okay? We still have one more horse than we had when we left Saginaw, and a sack of gold to boot. Profitable, I’d call it.”
Not to mention three passengers picked up along the way. Deuce's three new charges: his Aunt Mary Bartoli McCready, his young cousin Anthony Bartoli Jr., and Cyrus Duprey, Canada's least-favorite son.
Deuce considers the last three days. Lost and found six wagons, four teams, and three loads. Head stoved in. Jumped in an alley. Jailed by the OPP. Dumped in Lake Huron. Two churches, three barns, convent, brothel, tailor shop. Waterloo, Guelph, Bowmanville, Oshawa. Uncle Andre, Mouche, Mr. Knarski, Box Hat.
Izzie and Cy both rising from the dead all the livelier. All that, and only a day behind schedule. Deuce looks at Mary, who’s looking at him. “What happens in Saginaw?” Mary asks him as the wagon rocks to a start.
“We take Mr. Pfiefer his money and we get paid,” Deuce replies.
Mary asks, “What happens after Saginaw?”
Deuce doesn’t answer her. “Cy, are you alive or dead?” he asks over his shoulder. Cy sneezes in reply.
An hour later, Deuce is the only one in the wagon who’s not sleeping. First Mae, he thinks, then Agnes, now Mary. A woman delivery service.
Mae in sunlight, Mae in shadow. Smiling, pensive, smirking, determined. Visions of Mae cascade as the wagon limps north along the lakeshore. Deuce thinks, I could be at Mae’s school in St. Louis, Michigan, in just a few hours. Instead, I’m heading to California, Mary, Jay, and Cy in tow.
Deuce thinks, taking the long way home, as usual. Not near as long as the road his Uncle Joe is taking to Mary and the son he doesn’t know he has.
Forty-five years later, Deuce’s third son Chuck is commencing his journey from Michigan to Camp Roberts, California, and maybe far beyond. Thirty years after that, Chuck’s third son Lonny-Donny limns a route from Dogbone to Los Angeles. Hollywood, more specifically.
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