As the trio approached, Matt recognized the man with the Greer’s as Ivan the Terrible, the biggest misfit in a town of misfits.
Even back in high school Ivan Kalmakov was supersized, over six feet and in excess of two hundred pounds. Matt remembered seeing him shuffling down the hall in boots run down at the heels, frayed overalls and a Canuck jersey draped over his flabby gut. A loner, Ivan was always mumbling to himself and sneering like he was on the inside of a joke nobody else got. He would have been pitied if wasn’t so scary, but as it was, people didn’t want to help Ivan, they didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
Garth stopped and Ivan positioned himself at his right hand. From beneath his Frankenstein brow pig eyes roamed suspiciously over Matt’s body, then rested on his face.
“Hello, Ivan, Garth,” Matt said.
Ivan mumbled and sneered.
“We’ll be out looking for your old man tomorrow, weather permitting,” Garth said.
“I’ll take the Beaver,” Grant said
Garth jerked his head toward his brother. “You trying to be a big shot in front of your old high school chum?’
Grant looked at the stained carpeting.
“You’ll take the Cessna, there’s plenty of room and it uses less fuel.”
Garth turned back to Matt. “Did The Rev leave any information about where he was heading?”
“No maps or anything.” Garth studied Matt’s face. “It would give us a starting point.”
"No, nothing I know of."
“What about you, Lucky? The Rev tell you where he was heading?”
“Nope.” Lucky studied his beer.
“We’ll let you know if we find anything,” Garth said. “Let’s go.”
Grant followed his brother toward the exit. Ivan stood staring at Matt. Lucky moved a ways down the bar.
“Still raising pigeons, Ivan?”
The only time The Reverend Bennett visited the Kalmakov’s he’d taken Matt along. While his father talked with Ivan’s father, Sergei, Ivan asked Matt if he wanted to see “his birds”.
The Kalmakov’s lived in a broken down two-story house, situated in the middle of a field, littered with abandoned vehicles, appliances and towers of used tires. His father was a collector of other people’s junk, always with the mind, but apparently never the time, to turn it into profit.
He also ran a septic tank cleaning service and rumor had it he often emptied his truck’s tank in the field behind the house rather than pay to have it disposed of properly at the sewage treatment centre. In the winter when the ground was frozen there was no smell. But in the spring when snow melt raised the level of the Pitt River and the surrounding water table, low lying fields became shallow lakes. The Kalmakov’s property became a cesspool and the smell made drivers passing by on the highway roll up the window and press down on the gas pedal. Fortunately, prevailing winds were usually off the lake and the smell was blown away from the town.
Watching where he stepped, Matt had followed Ivan in silence to a small, dilapidated out building a hundred yards behind the house. As they neared the shed Matt noticed the roof had been patched with new shingles.
Ivan stopped at the door and put cupped hands over his mouth. “Coo, coo, coo-a-roo.”
“Coo ro coooo, coo ro cooo,” came a response. There was the sound of fluttering wings.
Ivan smiled, fit a key in the padlock and gently opened the door. Inside were at least a dozen pigeons in pairs and alone on perches. Some flapped their wings, others bobbed and puffed, all had seemed excited to see Ivan. He’d reached out and a black and white bird hopped on his stubby finger.
“These are your pigeons?” The question was rhetorical but Matt had been so surprised it seemed necessary to ask.
“Race them too.” Ivan stroked the head of the bird he was holding. “Popeye’s my fastest. Did you know pigeons can fly up to fifty miles an hour?”
It was the first full sentence Matt had ever heard Ivan utter. He walked closer to the perches. The birds retreated. “They’re different colors, are they different breeds?”
“They’re all rock pigeons,” Ivan said. “They have different morphs. Popeye’s a pied splash.”
Ivan shook his hand and Popeye fluttered to a perch. He picked up another bird and cradled it to his chest. “Colors. This is the most common; blue, gray and black, called a checkered morph.” His thumb ruffled the neck feathers and they shone iridescent green.
Matt looked around. “What do you do with all the bird shit?”
Ivan stamped his foot. “Metal mesh. It falls through into trays. I empty the trays, bag it, and sell it to the nursery. Every couple of days I power wash the grates while the birds are out exercising. Wash everything down with bleach. Birds get sick if you don’t.”
“Matt.” It was The Reverend summoning him to leave.
“Thanks.” Ivan picked up a spray bottle and misted the birds on their perches. They preened and cooed.
Matt stopped by the door. Hanging beside it was a crossbow. It looked real and lethal. “Is this yours?”
“Does it work?”
“What's it for?
“Gotta protect my birds.”
Later that same summer articles appeared in the Abbotsford Times of cats found killed with crude arrows, their bodies tossed in their owners yard. Matt also recalled more than the usual number of posters for missing pets appearing on telephone poles and public bulletin boards.
“I raise dogs. Pitt Bulls,” Ivan said.
Matt looked at the grown up Ivan and felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. He had the same dead eyes as mercenaries he’d met in the Congo, pirates in Ethiopia, boy-soldiers in Sierra Leone.
“That’s great.’ Matt pointed to the Canuck jersey Ivan wore. “Still a Canucks fan I see.”
All through high school Ivan had worn the orange and black jersey. His current one had been updated from the team’s ‘flying skate’ logo of the 1990’s to the franchises current blue and white ‘orca’ insignia. A pair of his signature overalls that got him nicknamed ‘Jethro’ encased the rest of his large girth. Back in high school no called Ivan ‘Jethro’ to his face. No one called him Ivan the Terrible either.
“Ivan.” Garth was waiting at the exit.
Ivan turned and left.
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