“We’re all of us haunted by our thoughts. So make friends with a ghost. It ain’t goin’ fuckin’ anywhere.”
Al Swearingen, Deadwood the Movie
There is a fox outside my window. I’ve seen him early mornings. He scavenges the local dumpsters for food and brings it back here to eat among the tall grass and fledgling trees. He leaves litter strewn about the place. He is large and his coat has a healthy glisten. I saw him roll gleefully in the grassy ditch beside Bay Street, anointing himself with whatever scent he had found there. His white belly wriggled and faced up towards the sky in a gesture to receive. Chris, the wheelsman next door, threw him the remains of a chicken dinner but the crows got to it instead. He turned 46 yesterday. Chris. Not the fox.
The hotel is a two floor L-shaped building. We have been placed, side by side, on the second floor. My window looks out onto a large field of poplar and pine. It is pocked by humps that resemble bronze age burial mounds made of sod and moss-covered stone. There is a bag of clear, plastic that clings to the low branch of a small tree directly in front of me. It has been there since I arrived. On mild days it sashays seductively in the breeze and makes a pleasant rustling sound. On blustery days it snaps and cracks like a prayer flag on a Himalayan peak. Beyond the trees is a float plane museum with a large sign out front that says
‘Where Adventure Takes Off’.
I can’t help but read this ironically. The trees make a soporific sound when the wind blows. I can close my eyes and listen to them from the bed. If I open them, I can see their upper branches, upon which the buds grow larger by the day.
You’ve all seen the big cat that paces it’s cage. The sad leopard that sways its head and walks wall to wall. Studies have shown that larger animals, used to a wide, ranging habitat develop this habit when confined. The behaviour, a symptom of their lack of stimulation, is known as stereotypy. My room is eight steps wide. Eight steps each way. Some nights I’ll walk the corridors when everybody is asleep. On tip toes, like a pervert in the shadows.
It is difficult to sleep well when one is doing so little. 45 minutes of yoga and 100 burpees a day don’t seem to cut it, nor does it ameliorate me to the guests in the room below. When I do sleep, it is fitful. I dream of enormous funeral pyres, past girlfriends and ships stacked on top of one another teetering precariously;
towering high in the sky.
The crew maintain contact with each other through a group WhatsApp conversation. Spirits seem good. A lot of joking goes on. Fitzy has been coordinating meals and delivering them door to door for some of the guys. We also monitor the ones who are positive this way. More test positive by the day it seems. We are at 8 out of 16 crew now. Lined up, side by side. Dominoes waiting to fall. This morning, Nick, one of the positives, sent out a message,
“Morning guys.” It read. “Is there somebody up that doesn’t have covid that could please bring me 4-5 bottles of water and 4-5 paper plates and leave them in front of my door please?”
I’ve taken to leaning on my windowsill. I’ve placed a pillow there to save my elbows. Chris next door has done the same. We’ve become curtain twitchers like Pearl, the old lady from the 1980s sitcom 227, which starred Marla Gibbs from the Jefferson’s. This way we can chat and smoke (obviously I’ve taken that up full-time) and feel the wind on our faces. The clouds are omnipresent this time of year up here, but they lend perspective to my vantage and give me a sense of distance and space of which I’m fond. Seagulls and crows cry out overhead and geese fly by in twos. A mallard duck walked through the tall grass outside and tripped and fell beak-first in the mud. I was the only one to see this. If I lean out and turn my head to the right, I can see the river and the big ships pass. At night, the lights of the Edison Sault Hydro Plant are lit up in a long line. I watched a thousand-footer slide slowly upriver towards the lock and thought how nice it would be to walk a thousand feet.
Fitzy tested positive yesterday so I’ve started taking care of the meals as well as grabbing anything from the front desk the covid positives might need. Not wholly out of a spirit of largesse, but also because I am desperate to stretch my legs in a meaningful manner.
I woke up with a sore throat this morning. I phoned Algona Health, who have been closely monitoring our situation, and was immediately taken to a testing station. The result came back three hours later, negative.
Better the fox outside my window than the wolf outside the door.