Stories by Colin Burke

The Chronicles
of Angle Stream

Quick-draw scenes of the two Clint Eastwood “spaghettis” crowded his imagination as Edmund Peddle walked, in the autumn night air, along Chapel Street from the front steps of the Regal Theatre in Angle Stream, absentmindedly through the small crowd leaving from the side door toward Eastvale and the cars parked along it. He crossed Middle Street and began to walk up Read, mind glowing in the aftermath of depicted violent action which had hurt no real person.

Edmund was still in that blurring warm mental haze when, about ten minutes later, on O’Connor Drive, he heard a girl’s sharp scream, cut short, from the far side of the canteen-and-dressing-room building off to his left, just being passed, in Marjorie Bowring Park. Not jolted from reverie but drawn more deeply into it, he immediately conceived himself heroic rescuer, wishing, as he ran down the short slope of the road’s side, that he had a gun with him, to make the situation proper and complete. He turned the corner of the canteen and stopped. Dark shadows close together at the end of the wheelchair ramp were backgrounded by the white wall lighted by the moon, in gloom cast by building’s being on hither side of two bright lights. “Damn zipper’s stuck,” said the voice of the second crouching shadow. The third was under the two.

“Let her alone!” It sounded shrill to Edmund, but faces showed dim, turning up. “F— off, man,” said the nearest, in a young voice, mean.

“Let her alone, I said. Get up. Now.” Good; not shrill. Part of shadow blurred, and there was a sound of striking. “She’ll keep till Turkey learns his lesson. Now, F—er, what you buttin’ in fer? You know the c—?”

“That doesn’t matter. Get out of here now. Maybe she didn’t recognize you; you might get clear before the police get here.”

“The police aren’t in this, man. Not till after. Too late.” Arms of standing shadows moved; moonlight flickered as metal flicked. Knifers in Angle Stream! Time to bluff. Edmund assumed gunman’s crouch, hand dropping beneath right hip, with light enough behind him, he knew, to give them the gesture’s meaning. Then he thought, Damn Clint Eastwood! as fear broke into glory-hogging dream in moonlight: any gun he might have’d be under windbreaker, on the left. Should’ve faked cross-draw prep. Time to run, hope police get here to save the girl. He was a good runner, ran for fitness, running for life not difficult, probably quite safe. Then his hand swept up instinctively to solid weight at hip. He shot each would-be assailant in the right foot, and then he did run as they fell screaming, but he was running not toward the police. He scrambled up the slope to the Drive and ran back to the top of the hill near the Somme Armoury, no cars passing either way. He turned left at Elston, dropping into an easy lope to become a late-night jogger till he reached the Western Observer property. Then he walked down the paved lane across the lawn to East Street, and settled into his customary quick stride. Then it hit him. Where was the gun. He groped at his hip. Nothing there. He let his hand fall relaxed beyond the hip, willing comforting weight to hang there again, and brought the hand back up, as he had so explosively before. Three fingers touched metal and wood, and his thumb closed on the hammer-ear. A man coming out of the Yu Garden was looking at him curiously, and he shoved his hand into his pocket. Exploration would have to wait.

When he reached home, near the upper end of Mount Benedict Avenue, the house was dark except for the light in the kitchen. His father had the eight o’clock shift at the mill next morning, and his mother always went to bed when Sam did. Edmund let himself in, got a glass of milk and six Fig Newtons, wolfed them down, and went upstairs to his bedroom. Inside, he dropped his hand beneath the weight now solid on his hip and brought it up as he’d done on East Street. A gun slid up and was visible. It was a Navy Colt cap-and-ball somewhere about halfway between .22 and .45. There was a cap on each of the six nipples and each chamber was loaded. Shifting the revolver to his left hand, he reached down with his right and felt a holster, though he couldn’t see one. He felt from the holster along an unseen belt around his waist. He willed them to vanish from touch, and they didn’t. He took the gun into his right hand and dropped it into holster and willed them to vanish from touch and they did. He willed return and the weight came back. He drew the gun again and it was visible in his hand. He holstered it, it vanished, and he unbuckled his own belt and dropped his jeans, and willed return, and the weight returned. He dropped his shorts and repeated testing. The magic still worked. Magic! Going crazy? Could be. How settle? Ah! What will paper say tomorrow about shooting in park? Can wait till then, anyway. That decided, he went to bed and hardly slept all night, though in the morning he was neither tired nor sleepy. He didn’t listen to the news on the radio, fearing he’d betray himself to his mother watching him eat breakfast, but after eating went on to his job at the Angle Stream Video Mart, where he found himself functioning normally, or so it seemed to him, though a weight at his hip was coming and going all morning, at his volition. Customers returning movies mentioned hearing of two youths, wounded by gunshot, being arrested in the park, for sexual assault, but he felt he gave no indication of personal interest in the matter, though his heart quickened every time it was brought up. At noon he bought a copy of The Western Observer in the Buyer’s Drug Store in the same building. The story he was looking for said:

Two young Angle Stream men found wounded by gunshot – each in the right foot – have been arrested on charges of sexual assault, as a result of an incident alleged to have occurred Wednesday night at Marjorie Bowring Park. The two were treated at hospital after an RNC constable leaving the police headquarters on nearby College Drive heard shots from the park. Details are being withheld pending further investigation. The accused were to appear in court 2 p.m. today.

“Not much about the shooting,” he said, putting down the paper as a customer approached with a tape. He turned the paper toward her, a tall blonde with long hair and attractively irregular features.

“Interested in shootings, are you?” she said with a smile but took the paper and looked at the item, missing the blush that came to his chagrin. “They don’t say much, do they? In the States, they’d have at least the names of the accused, and probably a detailed account from the D.A. nailing the poor suckers to the wall before trial. We Canadians are better that way, I think.”
“Have you been in the States much, ma’am?”

“Just a year, taking a journalism course in New York. But I thought I liked teaching better, so I’m at Queen of Heaven now. Seems okay; I’ll probably stay awhile. Well, good day to you.” He watched as she walked out. She had a nice walk. Her name was Anna MacGillivray.