Adam’s Summer Purgatory, 2008 (2013)


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EDSON, AB June 25th

I wake up on the day off with the worst hangover I have had all year. Yossef is asleep beside me, breathing deeply with the covers wrapped around him with his bandana and hat on. Yossef is bald and doesn’t want anyone to know. The phone rings and it is Cam, and he wants to talk to Yossef. I wake him, pack my bags and put in my laundry downstairs.

I locate and head to the library to type this out and it pours out of me and it feels good. I get to about 6:00pm in the day before Cam walks into the library, wearing the same clothes as yesterday, a great big orange hoodie from a rave he helped produce on Vancouver Island in 2001.

He calls my name, says lets go. I save the post, half-finished, and get into his truck. We drive to a hotel room in silence, and I have the same sick feeling of creeping dread, of menace, of the possibility of losing my job for something I did not do, of hurtful things that you cannot control.

Cam is calling all the drivers in camp and telling them to rendezvous at the supervisor's hotel room.

Pretty soon we are there - it is bigger and has more amenities than the rooms we are staying in. Yossef is drinking a cup of coffee. Slowly, people start coming in, everybody who was on the block where it happened the day before, about 25 of us, not including management, dirty and smoking in a single hotel room. People are joking around a little, and they laugh for a second and then there is silence, and people are looking around at each other. Someone walks outside and farts loudly, then returns. People thank him for his consideration.

The last of us come in, and then Cam stands by the door, closing it, and everybody looks at him and shuts up.

He says we are getting to the bottom of this in 10 minutes, or else he will be fired by Sundance, and will no longer be able to work for the company. That's it. Somebody comes out, or else Cam loses his job.

Deadline set for twelve o'clock.

He pauses dramatically.

He holds a tally book, something we use to write our numbers down in, and says that everybody here is going to go into the bathroom with the book and if they are guilty, they are going to write their name down on a piece of paper and give it to him when they emerge. If they are innocent, they will hand him a blank piece of paper.

A few members of the crew and camp give their last minute pleas to the group for the guilty party to come forth. They are not angry so much as sad. Kathi says, 'Please, this is tearing our crew apart.'

The first person walks into the bathroom with the book, emerges and walks past the sitting crowd and hands the piece of paper to Cam. Everybody follows him with their eyes. He gives the book and pencil to the next person and sits down again. We are mostly silent throughout this process. After a few people go I get the book. I feel hot and queasy. We are all here, stuck in the same small hotel room.

I walk into the bathroom, close the door and look at myself in the mirror. I pause for a minute. Am I actually considering writing my name down? Of course not. I smile. I tear a sheet off of the book and fold it up, and walk out.

I can feel the eyes on me as I cross the room and hand the paper to Cam. Cam is stoic. I hand the book over to the next person in the circle and walk outside, into the day. The tally-book ends up going clockwise around the room. We are pretty good at working together by this point.

Outside, we mill about, more and more of us, as time goes on, hanging around the great big white diesel vehicles that brought us. Some people continue to joke. Nobody knows what has happened.

Julien approaches me, smirking. He asks me if I put my name down and I tell him no. We don't have much to talk about beyond that. People are smoking. Chris, a long time vet whose girlfriend, Vanessa, was originally accused, and who has been one of the most outspokenly angry about the whole thing, pushes around on his skateboard while his dog, Sputnik, chases him, barking. I grab it for a second and busy myself doing manuals around the parking lot.

Word spreads that we will not be working tomorrow, and I am glad to have the extra time off.

Some of us are making plans to go to hostels. Management is inside the hotel room with all the little pieces of paper. They emerge slowly and head to their vehicles, giving nothing away.

Julien assumes that they haven’t gotten an answer. Meeghan, the supervisor, walks by me and I ask her if there was a name, and she says yes. Julien's jaw drops. I feel lighter, and start walking aimlessly around the parking lot.

I see Kathi crying, talking to Cam, and I think she must have put her name down. I don't think Kathi stashed the trees. She must have been pushed into it. The heavy feeling returns. I am talking to people on my crew. I say I don't know who did it and I don't need to know, then walk away.

I walk up the street toward a restaurant to get some breakfast, and Yossef catches up with me halfway. I ask him if he wants to join me for breakfast. He does.

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