Bad news. The wolves in the nearby provincial park have finally mastered the use of bicycles. It was only a matter of time. Everyone—town local and park beast alike—envies the beautiful out-of-town cyclists who swarm the trails this time of year. The taut, hairless perfection of their thighs and sleek racing suits make us all feel like slobs, given to degenerate practices like eating gluten and encountering air resistance.
It has taken the pack a few months to get the hang of the machines, during which many gorgeous cyclists were menaced and their bikes stolen. The Park is full of discarded tires lying like snakeskin along the trails, and its visitor centre teems with recently mugged city folk, their faces exquisite even in sorrow.
Problem can no longer be ignored. Today a ranger spotted two wolves on a carbon-frame Ibis tearing down a hill at fifty kilometres per hour. They can run at the same speed apparently, but I understand why they would forsake their paws for the symmetry of those two wheels. We all wish, sometimes, to rebel against the body assigned to us by the bureaucracy of the heavens.
Townsfolk are terrified of the fiscal and aesthetic repercussions should beautiful cyclists stop visiting The Park for fear of our thieving wolves. Breakfast restaurants abuzz with talk of advancing the local doomsday clock. Mayor Ron was missing for hours this morning before the municipal policy team found him lying down smoking cigarettes in the ditch behind Lorraine Halbert’s pancake house. We draw straws, and I am the one who must wrestle him out. Too muddy afterward to get pancakes. I help brainstorm ways to address wolf problem by shouting through an open window of the restaurant to my colleagues inside. Mayor Ron shares his cigarettes with a parking lot attendant throughout, chatting amiably.
No immediate solution to wolves, which are perfect killing machines subject to provincial conservation laws. Team returns to Town Hall dejected and full of refined flours. We are flattened by misery, scattered around the office like dead bumblebees.
More bad news. The Town’s new “toilet paper reconciliation” policy, an initiative I suggested, looks to be a failure. It gives local Indigenous folk permission to cover one white citizen’s home in bathroom tissue every month. I had pitched it as the perfect act of government reconciliation in its feel-good meaninglessness.
Trouble stems from last night, when the Métis council swathed the home of local business magnate David Roads. This was due to his consistent refusal to tip the native youth working at the gas station. Everyone attending had a wonderful time. Bannock was provided while children played fiddle jigs well into the early hours. David Roads is furious, claiming his bichon frise is now paralyzed with anxiety and also allergic to the rough fibres present in our cheap two-ply. He threatens Mayor Ron with pulling funds for this year’s County Fair, a ferociously popular event. Despite this, the Town is very much on the side of the Métis council; we all hate the nasty prices David Roads imposes through his local monopoly on pork meat, his chrome lawnmower so loud it killed all the birds in the neighbourhood, and his terrible mansion with its endless windows, each a different size and shape.
Mayor Ron livid with me today over failure of toilet paper policy. I eat the blame knowing my colleagues would do the same for me, our bond forged in the savage trenches of municipal governance. Definite potential for me to invoke my own Métis identity to defend myself, but I can see it would not help matters. Mayor Ron reaches a state of panic, tearing his clothes in a biblical fashion and screaming about the “jackals of the press” feasting on the “bayonetted carcass of his career.” Policy team must strap him into the backseat of a car and drive him along the empty highways until he gradually falls into the fretful slumber of a child.
I attend Métis council meeting to broach the subject of rolling back toilet paper reconciliation. Propose hastily developed alternative, something tentatively labelled “knife bingo,” but, predictably, am shot down by the elders. Clement Forester is president, and he has hated me for years. I am told my pants are too tight and am accused of being a coastal elite. He makes spurious accusations that I eat eleven-dollar quinoa salads and wear Lululemons while working in “new media.” Says I “have a face like a fucking pogo stick.” Clement Forester knows these are wild exaggerations, but he has recently joined a new Facebook group and is particularly radicalized at the moment against anyone under forty who hasn’t died in a war. For all of the dignity among my people, we are not immune to the firewater of social media, the silicone blankets of ignorance distributed by the idiot innovators of California. Council is unanimous against me—toilet paper reconciliation must remain.
Council is unanimous against me—toilet paper reconciliation must remain.
When I get home, my house is dark and quiet. I stand in the kitchen and smoosh my face against the backyard screen door for two hours, breathing in the smell of wet grass and the lone chrysanthemum bush. Fantasize about the political downfall of Clement Forester as I contemplate his words and the halfway house of my own identity.
I try to imagine what it would feel like to be irrepressibly Indigenous, the sort of native that people expect. Picture myself riding into Town Hall’s open-concept office on a horse as mixed as I am to stare mournfully into the middle distance of our video-conferencing camera. Public relations potential would be scintillating.
Peel myself off the screen door and boil kettle as I consider possibility that I’ve been infected with a settler notion of what it means to be native, like any other virus brought over from the old world. But I take too much enjoyment in the way my cultural betweenness makes me outrageously popular on LinkedIn for this to be true. Still, cannot help but dream occasionally of a life in which my DVD shelf full of British prestige drama generates less psychic weight.
Guilty thoughts surface about the traditional point-blanket capote stuffed in the back of my closet, which I never wear because I always struggle to fish my work lanyard from its thick woolen folds. I drink coffee and lie on the couch, living within the margins of myself. I expect it will be 1:00 a.m. when I begin to drift off to the sibilant screams of raccoons making love outside.
Town Hall receives notice from David Roads’s lawyer confirming he has pulled sizable funds out of the County Fair in rude vengeance for his toilet-papered McMansion. County Fair unlikely to move forward. We are desolate. Never again shall we cheer at the raw-vegetable eating contest, where girthy turnips skirt the bounds of decency and so rile up the Town’s elderly that it had a role in sparking the historic Rutabaga Riots of the 1980s. Nor can we buy another batch of menacing homecrafts from the farmers’ market; the sticky film of memory coats last year’s purchases like honey. No more boutique honey stalls either, for that matter.
What’s more, the bicycle wolves have now repossessed enough machines to rove in packs and are making raids on the visitor’s centre. The rangers trapped inside have been forced to eat the huge stocks of overpriced energy bars usually sold to tourists, threatening the Parks Department with total financial ruin.
Spit-roast between the loss of the County Fair and the wheeled wolf menace, Mayor Ron has become completely deranged. Personal Assistant Emily stands at the door of his office throughout the day and spear-tackles him every time he tries to flee. PA Emily is powerful, and we all fear her. A crowd gathers during one of Mayor Ron’s attempts to wrestle his way past. As I watch, a thought arrives in my head like a utility pole knocked into a river. I have just booked a meeting room through the office’s shared Excel spreadsheet in a state of delirium.
Policy team assembles to hear my pitch, Mayor Ron handcuffed to chair, donuts served.
My proposal: lean into the wolf problem by using remaining public funds to provide the pack with bikes, preventing further robberies. Establish annual Lupine Grand Prix, a 250-kilometre one-day bicycle tour of surrounding area for wolves only, to replace spectacle of the County Fair. Town would become a mecca for beautiful cycle enthusiasts, and toilet paper reconciliation can remain.
Policy team response is jubilant. They fling staplers into the air to celebrate before hoisting me on their shoulders. Mayor Ron looks cherubic; tears of joy wheel down his face. He insists we send a delegation to the wolves immediately and volunteers himself. We warily uncuff him. I am chosen to accompany Mayor Ron both because it is my initiative and also for the vague (racist?) notion that the wolves might prefer to speak to an Indigenous person.
It is decided we ought to bring a goodwill offering. All know the nicest bike in Town is an old Bianchi owned by local geriatric Peggy Marchand. After endless cups of tea, she agrees to part with the bicycle in exchange for a zoning amendment that allows her to bulldoze anything within a one-kilometre radius of her home if it can reasonably be described as “compostable.” Possible error in judgment, but our bladders are too full, and the celeste-blue Italian frame too beautiful, for any of us to care.
Mayor Ron and I prepare for our trek into The Park. Decide to wear my Métis sash wrapped several times around my waist to enjoy powerful support for my lower back, which is a serpentine disaster after years of desk work. Neither Mayor Ron nor I are worthy cyclists, so I carry the Bianchi behind me on a tumpline, as my voyageur ancestors did with their ninety-pound bales of fur when portaging. We enter from visitor parking once the sun has peaked, hungry to usher in a new era for the Town and fling away the dusty relics of the recent past. It is important to feel this way whenever you are about to introduce new legislation, lest the ghosts of history loom too large.
Hard going initially. Mayor Ron insists on brainstorming the next instalment of his true-crime podcast and plots a multi-episode arc about the bicycle thefts. He wears a full suit and smokes incessantly. We head toward the centre of The Park with vague instructions on the wolf pack’s territory. These we had received from the rangers, still half feral from all the cane sugar and rolled oats they’d ingested. After a day’s hike, we have set up camp beneath the stars.
Terrible sleep. I dreamt that I hired the rougarou as my personal trainer. It wore a Lycra bodysuit and forced me to do endless squats. Cackled at my discomfort and my concave ass, before turning into a fanged Clement Forester. Awoke with startling violence before breaking camp.
We are nearing wolf territory. Mournful howls and the occasional tinkle of a bicycle bell set me and Mayor Ron on edge. The trail is full of rocks, inclines, and mud; the pedals of the carried Bianchi catch on sappy pine trees. Yet I am strangely content.
It has been years since I’ve journeyed this deep into The Park. Feel like I am not worried about anything for the first time since early puberty. Nothing I need to do except deliver a bike and grunt occasionally at Mayor Ron, who tells a story from his youth that involves making love to a stranger in a room full of fridge-sized computers during a tour of the Diefenbunker.
Without the minuscule tyrannies of cellphone reception and non-mayoral human contact to reinforce them, the small ruptures of selfhood that I fixate upon each day are revealed as irrelevant. Indigeneity doesn’t seem to matter anymore, and yet I have never felt more Métis. We walk for hours, The Park stripping away my neurosis like birch bark. God gives me a noogie and I am grateful. At one point, I yell loudly for the sheer joy of it, grit in my voice. There is a chorus of lupine howls in response, and Mayor Ron is annoyed I interrupted his erotic reverie. I do not care.
Thinking I will return in the future, barring wolf-based misfortune.
Still alive. Heading back to Town, alone. Halfway through the day, we had turned a corner of the trail to find a pair of huge wolves astride a tandem mountain bike blocking our path; one was so black the light turned its fur blue, the other a greyish white. A clacking sound of kickstands being deployed let us know we were surrounded by the lesser members of the pack. The Bianchi was the only thing that had stopped them consuming us, and I placed it before the alpha male and female as an offering, with words of acknowledgement and thanks using my limited Michif. My fear was an icy burn, and I stuttered a little. Mayor Ron, on the other hand, was entirely calm; he has no fear of death after decades of attending Town council meetings. He offered each wolf a cigarette before launching into my proposal to give them more bikes in exchange for taking part in the Grand Prix each year. Initial language barrier overcome by many gestures and creative use of cycling terminology, which all were familiar with.
The pack eventually agreed. Only two conditions: wolves must be permitted to apply for seasonal internships at Town Hall and, once per term, the mayor must spend a week living with the pack. Mayor Ron delighted to accept this cultural exchange and insisted that I leave him behind immediately. I gave him what supplies I could spare and reluctantly departed, worried that his podcast talk might compromise our fragile interspecies treaty.
Town will be listless without his antics. No one reminds us we are alive like Mayor Ron.
Good news. Lupine Grand Prix an enormous success. No deaths and only a handful of maulings, not much more than original County Fair. Town is bloated with bicycle enthusiasts, news reporters, and the greasy heaviness of bannock. Wolves look gorgeous on their bicycles, handlebars dropped so low they appear to fly along the ground like Skittles cast from God’s own hand. All enjoy the spectacle, and I bathe in the Métis council’s good graces. Even Clement Forester admits he is having a good time.
Furthermore, we have had numerous successful toilet paper reconciliations since July, and no one else was as shitty about it as David Roads. The Métis council is hoping to incorporate the practice into the “Way of Life” PowerPoint it uses when giving talks at the high school.
Our new intern has been howling all morning with satisfaction at successful implementation of her event site plan. Only alteration made by Mayor Ron, who insists on placing the bratwurst shack dangerously close to the final leg of the course. This is for his own convenience. All are disgusted by Mayor Ron’s unseemly pleasure at consuming these German meats; globs of pickled cabbage drop to the floor beneath him like discarded Christmas tinsel, and everyone avoids the ketchup-stained stigmata on his hands afterward.
Shack location causes problems at one point during the race, as smell proves distracting to the wolf cyclists. An unidentified bichon frise is eaten in the ensuing fracas, but disaster otherwise averted by PA Emily wrestling the beasts back onto their machines.
Mayor Ron exchanges growls with the race winner, the blue-black alpha, who licks the ketchup off his hands. Mayor Ron has never shared the language he developed during his time with the pack because everyone refuses to call him “Alpha Mayor Ron.”
After the award ceremony, the wolves cycle back into The Park. The sun is low and golden as we stand and watch them clear the boundary line. They pedal into the forested trails, free in ways we cannot imagine.