Authors: Jean Davies Okimoto
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For Nina and Joseph Norman
I would like to thank my friends in Seattle and in British Columbia for their help with Moonbeam's story: Katie Ellis, Tami Jones, and Richard Beaupied of Bear Watch, and the real Tom Stere, Gretchen Coe, and Jim Goltz.
Moonbeam Dawson sat in the old truck watching the rain pound against the windshield. It was getting darker by the minute. The place was giving him the creeps. The ancient trees surrounding the parking lot began to look like monsters with shaggy black arms towering against the steely sky. Weird. It didn't even seem like the same place he'd been with the commune school. That day it had been sunny, and the park glittered a hundred shades of green so beautiful he couldn't believe it. Now he just wanted to get out of here. She better hurry up, he thought. At the rate they were going he wasn't sure they'd ever get anywhere tonight, especially the ferry. That was a joke.
Moonbeam leaned his head back against the seat. Things were going to be different when they got to the gulf islands. Some things were definitely going to change, he promised himself. No matter what she said.
Abby Dawson emerged from the park bathroom, lowered her head to shield her face from the driving rain, and ran to the truck.
“You better go, too.” She climbed in on the driver's side.
me I should go!”
“I'm just suggesting.”
“Fifteen. You won't be sixteen for three months. I happen to know your birthday. I was there when you were born.”
Moonbeam rolled his eyes and stared at the forest in front of them. Sometimes she was really not funny.
I was there when you were born.
Abby pulled off the hood of her parka, shaking her hair. “It's so phony. It really galls me.”
“The way they name this part of the park
Emerald Forest, as if the greedy scum actually give a fig for these old trees. It's all for the tourists. A quarter of a million supposedly come through here every year. They want them to think McMullen Blundeel is preserving the forests because of this one bloody park!”
“It's a scam,” Moonbeam agreed.
“You're darn right it is.” Abby turned the key to start the truck. The engine started to turn over, then whined and didn't catch. She looked nervously at the ignition. “Don't do this to me. Please, not now.”
“I told youâ”
She glared at Moonbeam. “It probably is the battery and
say it,” she threatened, as she pumped the gas and frantically turned the key again. “I don't want to discuss it. Just pray to the Goddess of Car Engines to help us out.”
“She's a âhe,' and it's probably the battery so we should pray to Gob, God of Batteries.”
“I don't care who it is, just ask for this truck not to die on us.” She crossed her fingers, turned off the key, pumped the gas pedal, looked skyward, mumbled something indistinguishable, and tried the ignition again.
“Voila!” she shouted joyfully as the engine turned over. “Thank you, Gob.” She grinned at Moonbeam. Triumphantly, she shifted into reverse but had barely gotten it in gear when the engine died. Panicky, she tried it again. Then again and again, each time growing more frantic.
“Mum, don't! You'll flood it!”
“Don't yell at me!” Abby snapped.
She stared straight ahead, then bit her lip and put her head down on the steering wheel.
Moonbeam didn't look at her, not wanting to know whether she was collecting her thoughts or crying. Hopefully not crying. There'd been enough of that last night. Although he had to admit he really couldn't blame her, the way all her dreams went down the toilet yesterday.
“Look, Mum,” Moonbeam said quietly. “We don't have a lot of choices here. We're not walking back to Port Alberni or walking on to Parksville, so the best thing is to just wait here and I'll try and flag somebody down.”
“Okay,” Abby sniffed. Then after a bit, she lifted her head off the wheel and rummaged in her pocket. She pulled out a Kleenex and blew her nose. “Guess it's you and me against the world, eh?” She gave him a brave smile.
“Sure, Mum.” Moonbeam turned away from her and rolled down the window so he could look back at the road. She'd said that his whole life and lately it was beginning to make him cringe. But it was no time to argue. He'd spotted headlights. A pair of small yellow dots rounding the corner at the edge of the park. Moonbeam jumped out of the truck and tore across the parking lot, but by the time he reached the highway the car had passed. British Columbia plates, driving pretty fast. Probably a local who knows the roads well. Moonbeam pulled the hood of his parka down lower over his face and decided he better stay by the edge of the road. If the car was going the speed limit, there was no way he could sprint and make it from the truck in time for a driver to see him. Especially in this rain. He stuck his hands in his pockets and waited.
He knew something like this would happen. Leaving Heather Mountain was a big, disorganized mess. She said she wanted to be up and out of there at the crack of dawn. Right. It was midafternoon before they finally left. He should have stayed in bed. Then when he said they ought to have the truck checked out in Port Alberni, she didn't want to. “We're getting such a late start, Moonbeam. It'll just take too much time, the truck will be fine. This old thing has good karma.”
Right. Moonbeam glanced back at his mother sitting huddled behind the steering wheel of the old truck. It looked pitiful sitting there in the rain, piled high with all their stuff. It had been tricky packing her loom with bags of rice and beans all around it to protect it, then covering everything with that raggedy brown tarp. The old Toyota pickup was as battered as its faded bumper sticker,
ARMS ARE MADE FOR HUGGING
, but the words were still readable and the truck still ran, at least until now. So much for the good karma.
She was always talking about stuff like that, karma and omens and the way the planets lined up, and also inventing Goddesses for everything. None of it did her much good. Things just never seemed to turn out very well for her. But he didn't have the heart to tell her he was secretly glad things had fallen apart at Heather Mountain.
Moonbeam stared at the empty highway. Where were all those quarter of a million tourists when they needed them? All those cars with the plates from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. Why weren't they here right now, vacationing in British Columbia in this very spot, cruising through Emerald Forest Park?
Amazing how deserted this road was. It was definitely spooky out here. Moonbeam jumped, thinking he heard something on the other side of the road.
Â â¦ “What's that?” he whispered aloud, trying to see into the forest. He was sure he heard something in there. Sort of a hollow thumping soundÂ â¦
Â â¦ There it was again. Probably just the wind, he told himself. A dead branch banging against aÂ â¦
Â â¦ tree or something. Was there actually such a thing as a sasquatch? The huge, hairy, manlike creature with long arms that supposedly lives in the mountain forests on the west coast of North America. He felt a knot tightening in his stomach.
Moonbeam tried to think of something to get his mind off the clunking noise. Think about when the school was here, he told himself. Think about the time line we made about the trees to get an idea of how old they were. He had liked making that time line. It wasÂ â¦
Â â¦ cool. Some of the trees were here in A.D. 1215, over 780 years ago, making them two hundred and three hundred years old when ColumbusÂ â¦
Â â¦ came to North AmericaÂ â¦
Â â¦ And in the winter of 1535, when Jacques Cartier'sÂ â¦
Â â¦ ship was frozen in the ice at the mouth of the St. Charles at Quebec City, some ofÂ â¦
Â â¦ the trees were already giantsÂ â¦
Moonbeam spotted headlights again, another pair of two small yellow dots. Let's hope this is a good person, he thought. The lights got a little bigger and he forgot about the clunking noise. Actually, a medium person would do, as long as they have jumper cables. But what if? He swallowed hard, feeling his fingers grow numb with fear. What if it was a rotten person? An evil scum. The headlights got larger and he saw the headlines on the
Alberni Valley Times.
It was a big, big story.
MOTHER AND TEENAGE SON BUTCHERED BY BAD GUY
Abby Dawson, 35, most recently of the Happy Children of the Good Earth Compound near Heather Mountain, and her son Moonbeam, almost 16, were found chopped up in Emerald Forest Park by Constable David Eyre. “It was a real mess,” said Eyre, “especially what was left of the kid.” The horrible bad guy is still at large.
The lights loomed larger and larger, and Moonbeam saw an old RV coming slowly toward him through the rain. The camper's probably full of body parts he thought, glancing back toward the truck at Abby.
Abby rolled down the truck window and stuck her arm out, wildly waving it. “Flag it, Moonbeam!”
Moonbeam raised his hand tentatively, half hoping the driver would decide he really didn't mean it, that he was just standing by the side of the road exercising, doing tai chi or something, and would drive right by. But the headlights got large, and Moonbeam stood still, caught in the lights like a deer as the RV slowly turned toward him and drove into the parking lot.
Abby leaped out of the truck and ran over to Moonbeam as the driver rolled down his window.
“Need some help?” A sandy-haired guy who looked about forty stuck his head out the window. Clean-shaven, looked okay, very presentable for a serial killer.
“Got cables? We think it's our battery.” Abby looked up at the guy like he was the prince himself who'd just galloped up on a white horse.
“Sure, let's see what we can do.”
He drove across the lot and pulled in next to the truck while Abby and Moonbeam walked back to meet him.
“I'm Harvey Hattenbach.” He held out his hand.
Watch out, you might be shaking the hand of a serial killer.
“And this is my son, Moonbeam.”
Not one word about my name, slime bucket.
“Hi.” Moonbeam clenched his teeth as he shook the guy's hand, trying not to imagine it dripping with blood.