Look out for the deer as you motor through the village of Kootmacs. They’ll occupy the middle of the road. They’ll blink at you and then, slow as a traffic cop sussing out the situation, saunter over, hooves clicking on the asphalt, push their noses on the windscreen hoping you’ll give them a leaf of organic lettuce. Failing that, they’ll amble into someone’s garden and eat the nasturtiums. It’s best to ignore them.
Turn left at the old tavern on the corner. It’s the only tavern and the only left turn. A right will take you down to the pier which they call the wharf and it smells exactly how it sounds. If you roll down the window, you’ll understand what I mean. But don’t roll it down when there’s a deer nearby or you’ll be impaled by antlers. If you don’t feel the burn of bile rising in your throat you’ll love this place.
Undoubtedly you’ll be impressed by the Brobdinagian hedgerows and fences but these are not protecting magnificent estates. Their purpose is preventive. They keep out the marauding deer, but not, unfortunately, the occasional cougar.
Follow the main road until you cross a brook prosaically called “Fish Creek”. I’ve never seen any fish but the local conservancy chaps insist that salmon run in the fall. Harry would say they’ve confused “insist” with “optimist” which makes me laugh since Harry can’t tell the difference between a noun and a verb. Regardless, science and hope are often one and the same, aren’t they? They certainly are in the Kootmacs Valley.
Yes, it’s a valley although this bemuses me since we are bound by mountains and sea. In my former world, a valley was a depression between peaks but things are seldom what I think they should be here.
The road climbs after the creek and you’ll pass a vast orchard whose spring blossoms almost mask the odour of fish and brine and pine. The deer and crows get drunk here in the fall eating the rotten apples on the ground. This probably explains their disinhibited behavior in the village.
Continue on the road which curves up a small mountain. At the top is cleared land with our house and barn. Twist of Fate is in the barn. You’ll notice as you drive up that the road falls away gently on the right. Look through the big fir trees and you’ll see our black llama, Elvis, and his harem.
You’re going to the ends of the earth. Bring provisions. Bring your favourite reading material. Bring rum. Don’t bother with your mobile phone – there’s no reception except in the village and it’s spotty at best. Fill your gas tank in Clanstumberland.
There’s only one road in and one road out and that’s the Sandbag Road from Clanstumberland. In the spring and fall it floods regularly. It’s pure hell. The road takes you through the village of Kootmacs.
The only place to eat or drink is the Deerstalker Tavern. They make decent fish and chips. The best is made with halibut.
Enjoy the waitress, Deanna. She’s got a fine sense of humour and many other assets that keep the patrons content. But for God’s sake don’t flirt because her husband Dwayne is the bar-keep. You’ll know him by the tattoo of two hearts with a double D linked by a ball and chain.
The Twist of Fate is not hard to find. Aim your automobile in the direction of the highest point and drive. If you get lost, ask someone. I know there are friendlies at 2115, 2344, and 3900 Bella Vista Road. Tell them you’re looking for Harry Bittercress’ llama farm. That should do the trick.
You know how to get to Kootmacs, right? It’s a 3 kilometer drive from Clanstumberland. Once you’re here, start at the Deerstalker Tavern. If you go in, please don’t tell them where you’re going or mention my name. Anyway, outside you’ll see a tree taller than all the others. You can’t miss the knitted orange sleeve wrapped around the trunk. Every 500 meters or so, you’ll see another orange band on a tree. Sometimes they’re on the right and sometimes on the left depending on whether I could find a tree that wasn’t in someone’s yard. Once you’re on the mountain you’ll see a lot of trees and fence posts and a few llamas wearing orange collars. Vee calls them girdles but they’re yarn bombs. The shop is on the right, near where the forest thins out, close to the cliff. It’s bright orange, too.
What? You don’t have a GPS? Can you buy or rent one before you come? I’ve no fucking clue how you get here. I hitch-hike or walk along the beach and climb up the dunes. Or I cut through the Blowyndell Forest until I find Elvis then I know I’m almost there. Sorry I can’t help. Oh. And for fuck’s sake, don’t eat at the tavern in the village. It’s a good place to catch something.
*For the backstory, start here. From there, you can click around like deer hooves on asphalt for more Harry and Vee stories. This is one of my favourites. This is the very first one I wrote. This is the introduction of Rose and this is the intro to Derrick.