Friday, 21 April 2023

The Pitfalls of AI

There is a stirring within Twitter's #WritingCommunity about AI replacing human authors, some decrying the extinction of the craft. The Writers' Guild of America is threatening a strike over the studio use of AI. They've discovered that the studios are taking the scripts they have written, and asking chatGPT and other AI text generators to come up with new plot ideas / character arcs, and then not paying the writers.

I don't ascribe to this doomsday thinnking. Writers translate life to words, AI researches and mimics

In the dirty-thirties, when John Steinbeck witnessed orange grove owners bulldozing tons of fresh oranges into a pit and covering them with lye to keep the price of oranges high, and they did it in front of starving migrant children. He saw a story that had to be written.

He bought an old WWI ambulance, tossed a mattress and coffee pot in the back and traveled from migrant camp to migrant camp listening to the stories told by the Okies. He absorbed not only their stories but their existence as well and won a Pulitzer Prize for Grapes of Wrath.

I recall one detail he wrote of that stuck with me; on a cold morning he approached a woman in a camp who was cooking breakfast for her husband and grown son. He asked if he could warm himself by her fire. She welcomed him to. He described stepping forward and reaching out, and when he felt the heat on his hands he shivered, his body acknowledging how cold he really was. An AI could only copy that, never create it with 'personal' experience.

I think the true danger of AI is the further dumbing down of future generations as they rely on AI to think for them. This past week I've heard two young reporters on NPR pronounce the word 'important' as 'impor-unt', telling me they've only heard the word spoken amongst their peers and have never read it.

The United States has led the way in anti-intellectualism for two hundred years, with each generation becoming more ignorant than the last, and look at the shit-show their country has become.  Image these borderline cretins relying on AI for thought, and when that happens how a generation can be steered to any nonsensical mindset if a government weaponizes a central AI;

"War is Peace"
"Freedom is Slavery"
"Ignorance is Strength"

Oh, how they will love Big Brother.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Monday, 2 January 2023

From 'Crimes Would Pardon'd Be' - a Devil Brigham Case File

A Butt-Shot Bishop

Deacon Fraser had sat quietly praying in the private hospital room beside the snoring Bishop for almost an hour before his superior awakened with a series of snorts, coughs, and moans.  It had taken Bishop McClure a few moments to collect his awareness that he was still in his hospital bed twelve days after suffering his injury.

As a fledgling priest, Deacon Fraser had been loaned to Bishop McClure to assist with his recovery and to act as private secretary during his convalescence.  He was intimidated by the often loud and demanding McClure, but served humbly in the grace of the Holy Mother of God.

"Archbishop Linus sends his prayers for your speedy recovery after the grievous assault on your earthly body, with the fervent hope that your pious soul is unrelenting in its service to our Lord, Most Reverend."

"Is that what he hopes?" McClure sputtered, "Arrogant man, the Archbishop, taking the name of one of our saints."

"It is said that when attaining a higher station, a new name represents a new life in our order, Most Reverend"

"I know what it represents, you young fool.  I was speaking to his character."

"Of course, Most Reverend." Fraser bowed his head.

"Oh, I am weary of lying on my side all the day and night to nurse my injury." McClure sighed, "I am weary of the food they bring me, weary of the rough hands of nurses who bathe me, weary of it all.  God, give me strength and relive my pain."

Fraser crossed himself and kissed his crucifix.

"What news of the savage who tried to kill me?" McClure asked,  "Is he in chains?"

"Not as yet, Most Reverend.  I spoke with Sergeant Brightworth today as I do every morning and he reports their best tracker is still on the hunt."

"It's been almost two weeks!" McClure shouted, then farted and winced.

"You are still in great pain, Most Reverend."

"Of course I'm in pain.  As you would be with this wound.  I was shot in the back by a filthy indian set to kill a white priest."

"Yes, Most Reverend." Fraser answered, wondering if the buttocks were considered part of the back.

"When the savages are caught, I want the boy transferred from the Inkameep school to St. Joseph's in Williams lake.  They know how to deal with reprobate savages there.  I'll contact the Headmaster myself and recommend daily beatings until that filthy animal is subdued or in the ground."

"He is just a boy, Most Reverend." Fraser said, aghast at the violence the Bishop espoused.

"He is no more than an animal.  Sired by animals.  Raised by animals.  And if he fails to renounce his filthy culture and come to the Lord and rise to the status of a Canadian citizen, he will be put down like an animal." McClure sputtered.

It is his pride that speaks such venom, Fraser thought to himself, shame from his wounded buttock.

"Have you met with the so-called Chief of the tribe?"

"I have, Most Reverend.  He expressed his deep regret of the attack on your Holy self, and wishes you a speedy recovery."

McClure snorted with derision.

"He also does not believe that Ruff, the young man who travels with his grandfather and cousin, fired the shot as he has always been a good boy who has assimilated with the Naramata community."

"Indians lie, young Fraser." McClure said, "It is a well-entrenched nature of their breed."

"I'm not sure, Most Reverend."

"I am sure.  You haven't worked with savages as I have.  They are a pack of liars, thieves, and drunkards.  Next you meet with the Chief, inform him his tribe will be held financially responsible for my hospital stay and Doctor bills, plus a fifty percent tithe to the Church for this vicious attack."

"They are a poor people, Most Reverend."

"And will become poorer until they learn to be Canadians instead of Godless heathens.  This is a Christian nation founded by good and powerful men and the sooner the indians accept that the better off they'll be." McClure told Fraser, "Invite him to bring his elders to Mass in Arawana and ask Father Urban to devise a sermon that illuminates the joy of servitude to the Church."

"Yes, Most Reverend." Fraser bowed his head once more.

Deacon Fraser was troubled as he walked to the train station to ride up the hill to Arawana and meet with Father Urban and fulfill the task set by the Most Reverend Bishop.  

His childhood placed him in New Westminster, a young member of Saint Peter’s Parish.  He'd been a timid boy then – as he was a timid man now – terrified of the chaotic and rough play of other boys his age and even those younger.  He never got the hang of sports, nor unravelled the mystery of arithmetic, and didn't understand the unpleasant humour of his peers, but like all boys he ached to excel at something.  Young Fraser found it in the Church.

His Parish Priest took pity on this frail timid boy and encouraged his obsession with the history of the Church by allowing him free access to the Parish library.  Fraser would spend hours in the dim room, tucked in a nook under the single window with a heavy tome splayed open on his legs.  He was fascinated with Eusebius' writings on Peter the Apostle, one of the three earliest pillars of the Church, along with James the Just and John the Apostle.  Peter had formed the Jerusalem ekklēsia, and led the early soldiers of Christ to convert the heathen Jews and Muslims to the true faith.

Reading Church history filled young Fraser's mind with images of struggle and triumph and he began to imagine himself as part of a great spiritual army, fighting a war to save all men's souls.  While most of his peers took their delight in the cheaply printed comic books of the era; The Yellow Kid, Little Orphan Annie, and lusted after Fritzie Ritz, Fraser was shaping himself to be a Church historian and ached to be part of a Holy Army.

At the age of seventeen he took his vows and sought out mentors in the Catholic hierarchy, and met then Bishop Garrison who would one day ascend to become Archbishop Linus.  Garrison fostered Fraser's greatest passion and appointed him to be one of his secretaries, setting him the task of gathering modern writings of noteworthy Priests in British Columbia to carry the tradition of the Church's recorded history forward.

Fraser had at last found his place in the world, compiling and cataloging sermons and writings that inspired and represented the current efforts of the Clergy to save the souls of human kind.  These men were the newest generation of the Soldiers of Christ and Fraser set a life goal to become one of them.

It was while at this duty that Fraser came across the Sermons and writings of a Priest named McClure – a man who had journeyed deep into the southern desert lands of the province to bring the word of God to the savages who'd lived for generations without the blessings of devotion and prayer.  McClure spoke of lofty battles against the savagery and superstitions held by the heathen natives, turning them from their false gods of land and wind and water.  Away from believing in the pagan spirit world and that animals had souls.  He spoke of the delight reaching their children and turning them away from the ways of their tribes and toward the light of the Saviour.

This was a Holy man pulled from the pages of the Church's early historic writings, a man destined for greatness, perhaps one day being Canonized to take his place beside Saint Peter,  Saint John the Baptist, and Saint James, son of Alphaeus.

Reading further writings about Father McClure, Fraser found him to be a kindred spirit; another boy shunned by his peers, failed at school, but finding his path in a Church library to become a crusading member of the Clergy.

So when Archbishop Linus told Fraser of how Bishop McClure barely survived an assassination attempt by a heathen indian and was hospitalized with a grievous wound, Fraser grew alarmed.  When the Archbishop said the Most Reverend Bishop required a secretary to assist him during his recovery, Fraser was elated to volunteer and travel to the wilder lands of the Okanagan to fill that position.

It was Marcel Proust who cautioned his readers to never meet one's heroes, for the man Fraser met was not the man his writings portrayed him to be.  Bishop McClure was not the Crusader of Christ Fraser thought he was, who he met was a bitter man filled with anger and spite with a near bloodthirsty lust not to save the indian soul, but to punish it.  

Speaking to other local Priests, Fraser learned that they fell into three categories in regard to the Residential Schools run by their order; those who were ignorant of what happened there, those who were disgusted by abuses at the hands of the school's Priests and Nuns on the children, and those who saw them as prisons more to punish godless children than to save them.

Deacon Fraser's entire belief system and been challenged then shattered in the past week as Bishop McClure's secretary, and worse; given the parallel his life held with the Bishop's, he wondered if in time, he too would become bitter and hate filled.

As the train pulled him up the winding track to Arawana, Deacon Fraser wondered if Father Urban would be amenable to including the Local Indian elders in a celebratory feast of fellowship in the Church as well as a sermon.  Saint Lawrence's feast day was approaching and Fraser thought it apropos to honour him.  The irony that Lawrence had also been a Deacon when he was martyred was not lost on him.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Saturday, 8 October 2022

Foundation ...

William Kennet, 'Sailor Bill' to his friends, stood outside his large tent overlooking the village of Naramata drinking his morning coffee.  He could hear his two daughters kicking up a mild fuss at his wife Sheila-Anne inside the tent, wanting griddle cakes for breakfast down at the Arawana Hotel.  Myrna and Clara didn't like porridge no matter how much brown sugar and sweet cream was on it.  The hotel dining room served fat and fluffy griddle cakes with butter and fruit syrups from blueberry to cherry to smother them with.

Their stubbornness made him smile.  They knew what they wanted and refused to settle for less.

Stubbornness was a sign of will, and will had got him where he wanted to be in life, and at that moment building a new house in Arawana was where he wanted to be.  The south Okanagan region with its acres of fruit trees and vegetables would be a goldmine for his transportation company, and the larger towns providing new customers for his other enterprises.

Three events brought him from Vancouver to the Okanagan Valley. The first was the reliable Southern Trans-Provincial Highway from Vancouver to Alberta, that skirted the south point of the valley.  The second was the recent availability of gas powered refrigeration units for his trucks.  The third, and most damning, was the 21st Amendment, repealing the Volstead Act and making liquor sales once again legal in the United States.  Sailor Bill had made his early wealth running Canadian Club whiskey south of the border in swift, three masted sloops.  But that ended on December 5th, 1933 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the end of prohibition.  Like most rum-runners, Kennet knew the end of that gravy train was coming and invested in a new form of transporting goods; refrigerated cargo trucks buying produce cheap in far flung areas and delivering it to his Vancouver warehouse as fresh as the day it was picked.  The abundance of fruit and vegetables grown in the Okanagan made it a land of opportunity.

The Okanagan was a place begging to be staked, and drive his stake into its heart, he would.  Like he planted his stake in Vancouver long ago as a wayward delinquent, rallying Irish and French orphans around him to form the Beatty Street Boys.  They committed robberies and break-ins and thought they were rich because of it.  But when he saw prohibition begin, he knew selling booze bought legal in Canada and sold illegally across the border was the way to go.

He and the few boys from Beatty Street who followed him, started with a stolen and repainted twenty foot dory, rowing it across Boundary Bay in the dead of night from White Rock to Blaine.  It wasn't long before – by reinvesting their profits – they were sailing a single-masted sloop from Vancouver to Bellingham, then a two-master, then three, and soon a small fleet.  During those years he grew wealthy and powerful, meeting Sheila-Anne and producing his girls, making life complete.  But the tide had turned for Sailor Bill in 1933, so he turned his eyes from the sea to landward, and ultimately the Okanagan.  Here he would put down roots and grow his empire even further.

"You seein' dat, Bill?"

Kennet pulled his gaze away from the lake.  It was his main man and bodyguard Serge Chéret standing nearby pointing at something up the hill.  Kennet looked and watched a cowboy on horseback leading a blond pony toward Arawana Road emerging from Main Street in the town above them.

"Dey got cowboys, 'ere?" Chéret chuckled.

"No, Serge.  I think that's their Chief of Police."

"Don't got no Chief.  They Provincials like da rest."

"I know.  But people still call him Chief."

Chéret hocked and spat on the ground, following the mounted man with his eyes, "He don' look so tough."

Kennet smiled at Chéret.  His man was half French and half negro, a large and capable mulatto he'd put up against any man.  Chéret had fists of iron and handled the straight razor he kept in his pocket like a surgeon.  Now always decked out in the finest suits and hats, he was one of the original rough Beatty Street Boys who was dedicated to Kennet and had saved his life more times than Kennet could remember.

"We'll see." Kennet said, "We don't go looking for trouble up here, Serge.  Kennet Transportation Company is a legitimate trucking company and that's what we want everyone to believe.  We play it friendly until we're pushed."

"Den we push back." Serge said.

"Yes.  Only then."  Kennet said, turning his gaze on Joe Morelli's crew working in the excavation for his new home, "But now we need to ask around.  Get to know this copper before we meet him."

Chéret hocked and spat again at the thought of asking around about a flatfoot.

"And stop doing that, Serge." Kennet said as he walked toward the excavation, "It makes you seem crude and uncultured."

The breeze climbing up the hill brought the earthy scent of the lake with it and ruffled Kennet's hair as he made his way toward the building site of his new home.  He missed the salt rich winds coming off the sea in his smuggler days, but did like the quiet of the small Okanagan town.

"Mister Morelli." Kennet called as he neared, Morelli lifting his head from the foundation he was creating; gluing large, glacial till stones together with thick mortar, assembling the round rocks into a perfectly level and squared foundation for the house to come.

He and his crew had reached ground level from the pit labourers had dug under his direction, including pony walls that would support the load-bearing walls above.  The spaces between and around the stone walls would be backfilled and tamped to pack them tight, anchoring the house that would stand above the silt cliff that edged his property to the West.

"Yes, Mister Kennet?" Morelli set down his trowel and climbed up out of the excavation.

"How is it coming?"

"We'll have the crawlspace walls finished by the end of the week and start on the chimneys and fireplaces while the walls cure.  You can schedule your carpenters to start in ten days."

"So, ahead of schedule."

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  That's good." Kennet said, admiring the man's craftsmanship, and appreciating that his crew kept working hard even though their boss' back was turned, "I know you live on the other side of the lake, but what can you tell me about the policeman people call Chief over here."

"Detective Corporal Brigham?"

"Is that his name?  Brigham?"


"What's he like?"

Morelli shrugged, "I've never met him, but people seem to like him.  I've heard he's a tough one.  A man criminals don't like to mess with."

"Lays down the law with a heavy hand?"

"Yes, sir.  People say he lives up to his name."


"No, his first name." Morelli squinted at Kennet, backlit by the morning sun, "Devil."

"Devil." Kennet repeated, "Good to know.  Thank you Mister Morelli."

As Morelli climbed back down to his work, Kennet looked back up the hill but the cowboy was gone.

"Devil." Kennet whispered, "I guess we'll see."

"Crimes Would Pardon'd Be"

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Vory v zakone

 In the time of the Russian Tsars, Vorovskoy mir (Thieve's World) existed as a massive criminal organization in Russia.  During the Soviet era, when Stalin and others sought to eradicate the Russian "mayfia", the Vorovskoy mir leadership saw the writing on the wall and began a transition toward Vory v zakone (Thieve's in law), manipulating the bureaucratic communist system of government to have organized criminal leaders placed in high positions of authority.

It was during the era of Perestroika led by Mikhail Gorbachev and his glasnost (openness) policy reform that Vory v zakone reached for its highest power, a power that still exists today.

In 1987, while visiting Russia, ex-MI6 espionage officer David John Moore Cornwell (John le Carré ) reported that Gorbachev had issued a secret edict "... which sanctioned the privatization of the Soviet Communist Party and opened the door to the free-for-all scramble for State assets that turned post Communist Russia into a criminalized society".  This saw the emergence of the Russian Oligarchs.

Between 2000 and 2004, Vladimir Putin engaged with many oligarchs, reaching a "grand bargain" with them. This bargain allowed the oligarchs to maintain their powers, in exchange for their explicit support and alignment with Putin's government.

This is Putin of 2022; a grandmaster of Vory v zakone, a criminal leader of hundreds of ultra rich mob bosses overseeing hundreds-of-thousands of criminals who carry out voter fraud; propaganda campaigns; assassinations of their enemies both inside and outside Russia; illegal disruptions of other countries both through physical attacks and cybercrimes; and the attempted absorption of Ukraine for its vast resources and strategic position in eastern Europe.

Russia is a criminal state led by a criminal despot who cares nothing about the liberty, wellbeing, or rights of his own citizens nor those of any other country, who's sole aim is to rape the environment to increase and maintain his own wealth and absolute power.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Tuesday, 5 July 2022

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Character Development …

Let’s face it; character driven novels, movies, and television series are more engaging and garner the most emotional investment in the reader or viewer.  Just look at the success of novels like Catcher in the Rye or Merchanter's Luck, movies such as Raging Bull, The Usual Suspects, and television masterpieces like Breaking Bad, Animal Kingdom, Yosemite.  All of them are populated by well-developed characters who each speak with their own unique voice, have their own dreams and desires.  Here’s my method of developing characters for my novels.

Once I cobble together basic age, gender, orientation, occupation, political/religious views I move on to …

Hey, good lookin’ …

I have a mental image of my characters that I pretty much keep to myself.  I may hint at eye or hair colour, or if they have freckles or an overbite, or some other solitary physical description, but other than that I leave them blank.  That way my reader can flesh out their looks as they see the character.  A reader can come to either love or hate a character easier if that character fits with their perception of cute, evil, lovely, or handsome.

What’s so special about …

When developing a new character I often draw on people I know, usually an amalgam of a number of people mashed together.  For Carrie, the love of Denny’s life in the Gangster series, I created a gentle young woman whom the world treated badly.  Despite this, she had a naive belief that everyone was a good person, and if someone was unkind to her she internalized it as her own failing.  I had set out to create a tragic character that Denny would risk everything for to follow his self-cast role of being the white knight.  In That Dog Don't Bark, I needed a female lead who was a teenaged firecracker, so along came Angel who took no shit from anyone despite her being a hundred pounds soaking wet.

Finding their voice …

I won’t name it, but I recall a television series that sought to cash in on the success of The Walking Dead, by dropping their ensemble into a dangerous world filled with bloodthirsty zombies.  In the pilot episode they trotted out a number of what appeared to be unique characters, but by the end of the pilot they’d lost me because every character spoke with the same voice.  During one phase of my editing for each of my novels, I perform a pass for each character, one at a time, ensuring their speech pattern suits them, uses the same cadence and vernacular.

No one stays the same …

Not only must your main character have a personal arc in their journey, but so too must all your supporting characters.  People evolve over time and so must your characters.  You don't have to supply each of them with a groundbreaking epiphany moment, but each must be affected by the story as it progresses, plot shifts that can strengthen or rattle them, and large events that impact them emotionally.

Non-binary characters ...

I had a discussion on Twitter with a male writer who was afraid to write characters from the LGBTQ+ community.  I asked him if he only wrote about men, he said no, he had female characters as well.  Then what's so daunting about writing a non-binary character?  In Leaving Wonderland there are a number of gay male characters, and one male-to-female transgender character.  I wrote her as I would any other female character, and even included some steamy love scenes when she and the Cis man she loved came together.  I did run some of their dialogue past two trans writers I know and they gave me some solid advice that amounted to 'No trans woman would say it that way', so I made the changes they suggested and it worked.  And here's the thing; it didn't hurt at all.  So don't be afraid to include non-binary characters in your novels.

Let them off the leash ...

Many times I have come to a point in a novel where I'd planned for a character to have specific reaction in response to an event, but when I got there I come to a screeching halt, realizing my well-developed character wouldn't respond the way I'd planned.  I write the scene differently by allowing them to react and behave in a way that suits their nature.  In That Dog Don't Bark, I set out to have Angel be a just another support character, but my main character Jackson fell in love with her – meaning I fell in love with her.  This worked to make the story stronger because – even though the story is told in the first person by Jackson – it is Angel who drives the story forward to its explosive climax.

Cliff hanger or wrapped in a bow ...

There are two ways to end a story; the first it to put a period at the end of the climax of the story, the other is to skip forward in time and tell the tale of where the main character(s) end up.  Cliff hangers are great for short stories, or if you plan a sequel, but I'm a sucker for the 'and-they-lived-happily-ever-after' ending, and most of my novels end this way.  After putting the characters I've come to love and admire through adversity and sometimes a living hell, I feel I owe them that.  Most of my final chapters occur days or months after the climax.  My record was in That Dog Don't Bark; the final chapter occurs 25 years after Jackson and Angel's triumph over the sex slave gang they face off against.

That's my take on character development for a novel, and I only know what I know, so your mileage may vary.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Crimes Would Pardon'd Be

The Loathsome Trail

It was an unfavourable path that pulled Devil Brigham and Rascal far outside their jurisdiction, drawn through the winding maze of mountain trails toward an undesired lodestone - a fugitive he didn't want to catch.

Rascal had no opinion on the matter, and just slogged along wherever Devil aimed him.  But Rascal had caught Devil's dour mood like it was a common cold and – uncharacteristic for a stallion – paced along the trails with his head hung low, the iron shoes on his hooves scraping the rocks at times.  He didn't even have the desire to fight Devil to try for the tall grasses that grew on the sides of sunny sections of trail.  Both stallion and rider were sullen and uninspired as they wove through the mountain glens and plateaus, in no hurry to catch up to their prey, even though they could accomplish it in a hour's good gallop.

Rascal missed his barn, his pasture, and the sweet water of his natural spring that burbled up through the split rocks in a copse of trees at home.  He even missed the mixed wolf and dog Chance that shared the Lazy B ranch with him.  But he knew Devil couldn't risk bringing Chance along for this far ride, for she'd surely be tempted to match skill and savagery with her wild kin that Rascal had been smelling and hearing since yesterday morning.  

There was a wolf pack out there paralleling them through the woods.  Rascal knew they were just curious, for no pack – no matter their number – would dare come close to Devil or even Rascal himself.  They feared the rifle that rested in its long leather case under Devil's right leg and the sawed-off shotgun in its holster hanging from Devil's belt.  Rascal had seen what both guns could do to living flesh and it was a horror that most wolves had seen as well.  Rascal also knew that the wolves feared his hooves that could crush a ribcage or skull with a single kick.  Nothing in these mountains frightened Rascal, nor Devil he supposed.

Devil had been tracking the small party for three days and two nights, east from Arawana and up into the high saddles of the Monashee Mountains.  The party they followed were moderately skilled at hiding their trail by avoiding soft soil and trampable grass, but the small pony they had with them wasn't.  Most times the pony's hoof prints told Devil that they were using it as a pack animal, but occasionally its prints were slightly deeper, telling him that during those times his main fugitive was riding atop the packs while the rest walked.

When he ran the bitter difficulties of the dilemma he was waist deep in through his mind, he understood the problem was that the moment he went from being the Arawana Chief of Police to being a Detective Corporal in the British Columbia Provincial Police, his jurisdiction expanded to include the entire province and at the same time his autonomy had shrivelled to a dried-out crust of what it once was.  Where he once was the final arbiter of the application of law in his jurisdiction, he was now just an arm of a large police force whose hierarchy decided who was a criminal and who was not, and he was sworn to pursue the wanted no matter his personal opinion.

This whole sordid episode began with a priest laid up in the Penticton hospital with a gunshot wound in his ample left buttock cheek and the order came down through Constable Bill Brightworth of the Penticton detachment.

Through Brightworth, Detective Sergeant Locke, the head of BCPP's Boundary Division, had set Devil on the trail of the suspects because he was an experienced horseman and tracker, and the runaways had taken to the vast forests to the east of the Okanagan valley.

The trouble was, Devil didn't believe the people Locke had named were responsible for the shooting, especially not the person whose name appeared at the top of the warrant list; William Youngblood - an eleven year old boy who had run from his Residential School to live with his grandfather and cousin off the reservation near Naramata.

Devil understood the boy's desire to escape the Catholic run Residential School he'd been forced to attend, having faced the same cruelty and nonsensical rigid teachings himself during his time at a Catholic orphanage.  Like William, he had escaped in his eleventh year, yet unlike William he had no family to run to, so took his chances on the streets as a petty thief and beggar.  William had the luxury of a family, a powerless one, but family non-the-less.

With Devil, the priests and nuns tried to beat the sin out of him for being born a bastard and branded with a heretical name.  With William they were trying to beat the indian out of him for being born Syilx on the Penticton reserve.  Being an indian was near as not to being illegal, and the federal government had passed laws to turn them all white.

Devil recalled reading a tale of a knight's quest as a youngster that began; 'Beyond seven mountain ranges, beyond seven rivers ...' and later learned that the phrase was an eastern European version of 'Once upon a time'.  But though it felt as though he had followed his quarry over seven mountain ranges and seven rivers, this was no fairytale quest of a knight-errant in search of virtuous adventure, this was a moral crime in Devil's reckoning, and he was ordered to hold to his oath as a lawman and commit it.

"You're kidding." Devil had said when Brightworth had delivered the news.

"I wish I was." Brightworth had said, knowing Devil's nature about laws made to oppress powerless people, but he was firmly pressed into the same mould of obedience as Devil in the Provincial Police.

"Who got shot?"

"Father McClure."

"The fat one."


"Bald as a boiled onion."

"That's the one."

"I'd like to shoot him in the other cheek." Devil had muttered and Brightworth pretended not to hear.

"So the boy is to be arrested for playing hooky, and his cousin Ruff for shooting the Priest."

"And their Grandfather for aiding and abetting."


Devil had leaned back in his chair, staring at the wall.

"Ruff didn't shoot that priest.  He's too smart for that."

"You know him?"

"I do.  Run into him a few times.  Ruff's bright and has never broken the law.  His grandpa Jack raised him to follow the white man's law, knowing if it was broken by a Syilx there'd be hell to pay for the whole band."

"You'll need these." Brightworth had said as he set a pair of miniature handcuffs on the desk.

"Are these a joke?  Some kind of novelty?"

"No."  Brightworth had said, lowering his eyes to avoid the shame, "They're child handcuffs for Residential School runaways."

Devil had picked them up and dropped them into a waste bin, keys and all.

"Tell Locke to go fuck himself."

"I'm not going to do that, Devil."

Despite how he felt about the task assigned him, Devil had left Chance with his neighbour and fellow rancher Herb Donaldson, and set out with Rascal to take his time and think the entire situation through before he decided if he was going to arrest an eleven year old for truancy and his teen cousin for attempted murder.

As they rode, Devil tried to render a time that was simpler and filled with a gentle joy.  He still possessing his fresh years then, astride a mare that was obedient and calm.  He wasn't experienced enough for a stallion yet, that mastery wouldn't seep into his nature for a few years yet.

Young Devil's segmented fishing pole was tucked safely in the empty rifle case under his leg, a small creel holding his rigging and reel hanging from his belt where one day would hang a sawed-off shotgun.  The frying pan that hung from the saddle horn tapped a regular rhythm that marked time on their way to Devil's favourite spot above the Lazy B.  

Once there the mare set to exploring and sampling the exotic grasses of the meadow as Devil teased a brown trout out of a pond.  Then the trout fried until the skin was crisp as a potato chip and the bright meat was dulled to the soft pink of bubble gum.

But that was another time.  A time before the war and the horror and blood while he was still learning his craft as horseman and tracker under the tutelage of Justice Brigham.  Now he was astride a stallion that needed a sharp rider lest he forget his mission and ignore his rider.  The landscape they travelled so different from home, threading through a forest of strangers, far from the ranch and following the trail of a boy, his cousin, his grandpa and a pony.

There was yet another misery that had driven Devil out of Arawana.  He'd been doing his ham-handed best at courting Hattie Mason and had completely buggered it up.

If he was going to be miserable, he might as well do it far from other people.

Aaron D McClelland
Penticton, BC

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