Jimmy Jesus: the long dash to freedom

tale by Jim Green | illustration by Alison McCreesh

(for Jimmy McLean)

Jimmy Jesus was running

he was running just as hard

as he could Goddamn well run

slamming out of the Gold Range

wheeling down the dark alley

humping up over the black rock

stumbling through Willow Flats

across Franklin Avenue by Johnson’s

keeping to the back roads

shying from the streetlights

hammering down the night trails

burning feet slapping the gravel

won’t get me

won’t get me

won’t get me

you bastards

Jimmy saw them come in

two uniformed Cops

together in the bar

He knew all day

it had to happen

after not showing up

blowing the subpoena

He sauntered from the table

like it was just another duty call

headed for the can

bolted out the side door

busted into the October night

made a bee-line for Rainbow Valley

and his battered green canoe

So Jimmy was running

just as hard as he could run

Thirty days or thirty dollars

ain’t no choice at all

when you haven’t got a dime

no Goddamn way

won’t get me

won’t get me

you bastards

It was freezing some already

and if he could just make it

to open water and the river

to the log cabin on the island

he’d be safe for days

the ice too thin for walking

So Jimmy’s going for it

he’s running like hell

fists cross punching

the night air

gaping mouth gasping

throat rasping

lungs blasting

stomach heaving

blood exploding

in his head

But he makes it by God

yanks canoe from green shadows

shoves out onto the lake

starts bashing ice with his paddle

smashing a trail across Back Bay

a quarter mile and he’ll be free

clear of the ice

clear of the town

clear of the Cops

clear of the whole Goddamn works

Jimmy’s headed for open water

The river is still ice free

so if he can just keep going

crashing through the ice in the dark

stabbing and smashing

and pushing ahead

he’ll reach that open water

And he doggone near made it

but he’d been on the sauce for two weeks

hadn’t eaten since he couldn’t remember when

the ice seemed to go on forever

and he was so tired

so damn dog tired

He caves in

he gives up

lays back in the canoe

gives in to the cold

hasn’t the strength to go on

gives up in the black night

finished too tired

to go on

and nowhere to go

A few folks in the Old Town

heard some hollering and carrying on

thought the voice might be familiar

but things quieted down after a while

and they were able to get back to sleep

When Jimmy jerks awake it’s first light

the canoe is stuck fast in the ice

and he’s just a jumping

my God has he got the shakes

He breaks his paddle on the ice

and when he’s through cursing

he starts in hollering for help

A Giant gold miner

taking in some crisp air

before a bunkhouse breakfast

and going down for another day

heard shouts across the bay

spotted Jimmy way out there

made a Good Samaritan phone call

And oh that coffee felt so good

Jimmy gulping it down

burning hell out of his tongue

crouching against the vibrating wall

way back from the yawning door

of the Armed Forces helicopter

Guzzling coffee from a Styrofoam cup

as the chopper rises over Latham Island

above the dozing planes at the float base

the smoking chimney on Jolliffe

above Franklin Avenue where it climbs the hill

over the Post Office the school and the hospital

out over Tommy Forrest ball park

the still spruce and gray granite

and Jimmy is just about to ask

for another coffee

when notices they’re touching down

in the familiar parking lot

of the YELLOWKNIFE

CORRECTIONAL

INSTITUTE

you bastards

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