Shirochan has only been exposed to Seasons 1 and 2, so she asked for something about Benny and Ray V because that’s the Ray she knows better at the moment.
Mega TYK to Wolfwalker for maintaining his scripts on his site and also conveniently supplying a little Robert Service poetry so I didn’t have to go looking around for it. I have stolen and juggled shamelessly, Wolf-ee-shore.
Anyway, this is a little rewrite of a few of the scenes from “North” the way I think would be nice.
It was a year ago that I gave Ma Vecchio a first name of my own choosing in a ficlet. It was “Gwen” short for Guenevere. (I had my reasons. Some people’s mileage definitely did vary. ‘Nuff said.) Now Pop Vecchio needs a name in this fic and I want him to be “Arthur”, Guenevere’s husband.
(The episode goes just like normal until this part of the fire-making scene)
“Fraser, you just fell on the fire, and you killed it,” Ray was getting close to being angry, for all that he realized Fraser was in bad shape and getting worse.
“I did not. You were blowing too hard, and you’re going to need more tinder.”
Ray gave up trying to stay calm. “Fine. You want to be in charge? You want to do everything, hero man? You start the fire!” He threw the matchbox in Fraser’s general direction and marched off.
“Moody,” Fraser muttered to himself and sat down on a rock. Then he heard the voice of his father beside him.
“You’re never going to teach him how to start a fire that way.”
Although Fraser couldn’t see he turned instinctively towards the direction of the voice.
“Oh, so now you show up with advice.” Fraser’s tone towards his father was not respectful. “What do you want me to do? Shall I teach him the way you taught me? Leave him alone in the woods? He wouldn’t thank me for that, I don’t think.”
“Whatever do you mean, son?” Bob was genuinely puzzled.
“Nothing. Forget it. You better just get out of here before Steve comes back.”
Bob Fraser just shrugged and vanished. Fraser didn’t see him leave, so he called out, “Are you still here?”
Ray came back at that moment with an armload of dry tinder, which he dumped at Fraser’s feet beside the fire-pit. “I’m not STILL here, I just CAME BACK here,” he said.
He’s talking to himself, thought Ray. Of course he does that a lot, so maybe it doesn’t mean he’s getting worse. Maybe. The few minutes alone in the cool dark of the forest had calmed him. Aloud he said, “You got those matches? Great, it’s getting cold.”
Fraser handed the matches over and Ray tried yet another, but still the fire would not start. He muttered a mild oath.
Fraser spoke up. “You know, Ray, my
father taught me how to build a fire when I was 6 years old. He took me out
into the woods, gave me a piece of flint, a hunk of granite, and then he walked
away without turning back.”
Ray’s attention was temporarily distracted from the making of fire. “You’re dad did that? He left you alone in the woods?”
Fraser grunted instead of pronouncing the full word “Yes” as he usually did to indicate an affirmative answer.
“Jeez, Fraser, you were just a little kid! He left you in the woods all by yourself?”
Fraser grunted again, and then said, “It was a test, Ray. A test of perseverance. You know, the funny thing – I have absolutely no memory of the fire itself, but I have this very vivid memory of the darkness, and knowing that I was all alone. I made the fire, though. I remember mum was so proud when dad told her.”
There seemed to be more of the story coming, so Ray waited.
“She died that same year. I don’t remember exactly how long after – but for sure it was before my seventh birthday. I recall that clearly because that was the first birthday I had without her. My seventh. Dad wasn’t there either; he was out on the trail.”
If Fraser could have been able to see he would have been embarrassed by his friend’s look of pity. He stopped talking, expecting some answer and hearing none asked “Ray? You still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here. I, um, I brought us some more of those dry sticks. So here, you can try using these. I didn’t find any flint,” said Ray, hoping to cover his embarrassment with his usual sarcasm. He scattered a few of the newly brought twigs over the remains of his previous attempts to light a fire.
Fraser reached out his hand. Ray gave him the matches and watched his Mountie friend extract one from the box, then light and drop it with a casual fling. The fire sprang up with a “whoomph”. The friends leaned forward and warmed themselves.
Fraser yawned. “We should get some rest, Ray. Tomorrow at first light we have to go after our man.” He yawned again and leaned back against a boulder.
It seemed to Ray that Fraser, with his head injury, should be kept awake a little longer. So he tried to make conversation. “So, you really do know how to start a fire.”
“Murph,” was Fraser’s meaningless answer.
“My dad never taught me how to make a fire. He never even took me camping. Not once,” Ray went on.
Fraser had in fact drifted off by now, but the Mountie’s muffled noises every now and then that made Ray think he was still awake.
Ray went on with his story. “My dad, when I was a kid, he used to hang out at the pool hall, shooting pool, and drinking espressos with the guys, and acting like a big jalook, which he wasn’t. Anyway, one day I get this idea in my head that I want to go camping. I don’t know where I get it, out of a book or something. But the point is that I just want to be with him, you know? I just want to spend some time with him. So finally he says yes. And I go and I get a tent.”
Fraser was stilling grunting enough in his sleep to make Ray believe he was still awake.
Ray continued, “So my mom, being the sweetheart that she is, goes and gets me her best sheets, her really good sheets. So I get some wood cause I want to start a fire, right? But what I really want is for him to teach me how to make a fire. So, I’m waiting for him to come, and it starts to rain.”
Ray waited for a reaction, got what he thought was one and then went on. “I waited and waited, and he never came. So I go down to Finelli’s and sure enough, there he is shooting pool with his friends. I go home, I take the tent down, and we never spoke about it ever again.”
Ray sighed. “So, that’s my story about my dad teaching me about fire. Goes to show, both of us got a ‘left alone making fire’ story, don’t we? Well, at least you got fire out of the deal. All I got was wet.”
It was then that Ray realized Fraser had fallen asleep leaning against a boulder. Ray resolved to stay awake himself and take care of his friend. Diefenbaker came and sat beside him at the fire. “So, Dief, if I fall asleep you’ll wake him up every two hours, right?”
That’s when Ray became aware of somebody else sitting with them at the fire. It was his father’s ghost. Somehow Ray wasn’t really surprised to see him.
“You tell a stranger something like that, about your family?” Arthur Vecchio accused his son.
“He’s not a stranger he’s my friend.”
“Some friend. He’s going to get you killed. He’s loony tunes.”
“Look, you didn’t show up for camping when I asked you, so you might as well shove off now. Unless maybe you want to teach me how to make a fire with rocks. Oh, I forgot. You don’t know how to do that. All you know how to do is . . .”
Vecchio interrupted, “You don’t talk to me like that, boy. I’m your father.”
“Yeah,” Ray wasn’t impressed. “You’re my father.” Ray turned away, and when he turned back the image of his father was gone.
The episode goes pretty well as normal until . . .
Ray had intended to set Fraser gently on the ground, but he was so tired himself that he lost balance as soon as he tried to ease the Mountie off his shoulders. Both friends fell to the ground. Ray allowed Fraser a sip of water, and then went off into the woods to relieve himself.
As he finished up, his father re-appeared. “You’re going to give him all the water?”
“What’s it to you?”
“You’re doing all the work. You should keep it for yourself.”
There was some truth in this and Ray knew he had to take care of himself in order to help his friend. Dehydrated as Fraser was, it would still have made sense to allow himself a little of the remaining water to keep up his own strength. Still, Pop was being Pop all over again, and anything he said Ray didn’t want to hear. “Get away from me, Pop!” he snapped.
“You never listen to me, you never knew what was good for you. You never listened and you never learned.”
”And when did you tell me, Pop? Huh? When you didn’t come home for dinner five nights a week? Or when I found you passed out on the floor on Saturday nights from too much partying with the boys? Well, I’m not listening to you anymore.” Ray tugged his zipper shut, turned and stalked off back towards the clearing where Fraser waited. His father’s ghost remained, watching.
Meanwhile Fraser was also getting paternal advice, to the effect that Ray was slowing him down. As Fraser grew weaker and more dehydrated his father’s words just kept getting stranger and stranger.
“When I first joined the Mounted Police, all the equipment we got was a paper bag and a pointed stick. We used the bag to boil tea, and the stick was for killing game, and if you lost either of them, they charged you for it,” the older Mountie lectured.
Ray came back before Fraser had time to say much more than, “Are you ill?”
“No, I’m not ill. I’m fine. Let’s saddle up,” Ray groused.
The older Mountie also stood saying nothing. Both ghosts watched Ray heft Fraser back over his shoulder and march off with Diefenbaker following along carrying the baggage.
For a moment the two spirits stood shoulder to shoulder, each watching his own son. Then they became aware of each other.
Arthur Vecchio was the first to demand, “Who the hell are you?”
Bob Fraser extended a polite hand. “Robert Fraser, deceased. Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
Arthur grasped the offered hand from force of habit, without thinking about it then noticed he could actually feel the flesh and bone grasped in his own. “Hey, you feel solid. I can touch you. How come?”
Bob gave it some thought. “Well, let me see. If we’re both equally incorporeal, maybe, two negatives make a positive. I never was good at math, but I think I remember that rightly enough.”
“You must be the father of that other nutcase. You’re both out of your trees.”
Bob looked around at the surrounding trees but decided it wasn’t worth pursuing the issue at this juncture. Instead he just said, politely. “You’ve got the advantage of me.”
“Damn straight. I’ve got all my marbles.”
Bob just looked at him, puzzled. “I mean you know my name and I don’t know yours.”
“Arthur Vecchio. Raymond’s father.”
“Ah. Well, Arthur, our boys are in a bit of pickle here.”
“You’re telling me,” Arthur Vecchio said, “And Raymond won’t let me help him. He just doesn’t listen. He never did listen. Except maybe he wasn’t the only one.”
“How do you mean?”
“That story about the tent and the sheets. I remember that night. I came home and there was my wife trying to wash some grass stains out of our good sheets from the old country. I made her tell me how they got dirty – my sainted mother’s best sheets. Gwen didn’t want to tell me, but I forced her. It seems Raymond had been playing with them outside. Gwen tried to tell me it wasn’t his fault. I guess maybe I shouldn’t have belted Raymond for that one. Not that he didn’t deserve it all those other times. Well, most of those other times.”
Bob stood aghast. “You used corporal punishment on your son? You struck him? Repeatedly?”
“You got to get their attention. Raymond never paid attention.”
“Still, that’s no way to raise a child. The thing is to teach them by example.”
“Oh yeah, right. I heard about your example. I heard your boy tell it. You left him alone in the forest,” Arthur countered. “I’ve heard your boy talking to mine. What kind of man leaves his wife and kid alone like that? I came home every night!”
“Drunk and disorderly! I didn’t come home much, but when I did I was stone cold sober. And I never raised hand to Benton, not once!”
“You telling me you took better care of your family than me? You telling me that?”
Fists were raised as two sets of ghostly eyes locked. As if mirrored, both fathers drew back a hand to strike. As they waited each for the other to move first, they heard Ray’s voice in the distance.
“Tuesdays, Ma always made a big pot of pasta fasule.”
Arthur pressed his lips together and slowly lowered his fist. He spoke slowly and softly. “She used to start boiling the beans early in the morning. Oh man, you could smell it in every room. Never home for dinner late five nights a week, my Raymond said. But I always came home early on Tuesdays.”
Then they heard the younger Mountie’s voice.
“Bannock. My grandmother made it. Hard, flat, unleavened.”
Bob lowered his own fists. “I can still smell it burning in the oven,” he finished his son’s thought.
“So how are we going to get our boys out of this predicament?” Bob asked the other ghost.
“We can’t. But, you know, Robert Fraser, I’m beginning to wish I knew how to make a fire.”
For the first time in the conversation, Bob broke into a smile. “Yank, first I have to teach you what flint looks like.” He took hold of Arthur Vecchio’s arm and led him off.
Skip to the end now.
Even though Fraser now had back the use of eyes and his legs, Ray insisted on being the one to guide the raft down the river. He wanted Fraser to rest and, he admitted to himself, he liked hearing the Mountie admit that, he, Ray, knew what he was doing out here in the wilderness, paddling them along. It was evening now, not quite twilight, but gearing up to be. Ray wanted to make as much time as they could before night fell.
And it was nice to know he was taking care of Fraser without having to actually carry the dude’s weight on his back. Okay, so maybe Fraser was the one that made the makeshift sextant and figured out where they were and just happened to know how far it was downriver to a town. But Ray was supplying the motor power and doing the steering. He felt good about that.
“Ray, is that a waterfall?” Fraser asked.
They were over the falls before Ray had a chance to answer. Ray floundered around in the water looking frantically for Fraser. If there’s any rocks at all on the bottom, dollars to doughnuts he’ll manage to hit his head on one, Ray thought.
True to Ray’s prediction, Fraser floated to the water’s surface, face down and quite apparently not swimming. Ray wrapped one arm around him and with some kicking and reaching with the other arm managed to pull the unconscious Mountie to the riverbank and push him on shore. Damn, there was a fresh cut on the man’s forehead. Can’t he rescue me for once this trip, Ray couldn’t help thinking.
It was only then that, with a little guilt for momentarily forgetting, Ray remembered Diefenbaker and looked around for him. The wolf was climbing onto the bank beside them, seemingly unhurt under his masses of wet hair.
Fraser was breathing so Ray forced himself to leave him and go back to the pool at the base of the waterfall to salvage what he could of the raft and any supplies. Their packs were already far downstream but the raft had wedged against a protruding log and didn’t appear to be going anywhere for a while.
Ray swam back to where he left Fraser and was relieved to find the Mountie conscious and sitting up.
“Yeah. That was a waterfall,” Ray said, nonchalantly as he waded up onto shore. “You feel okay?”
Fraser fell into a moment of silent concentration, seeming to be taking stock of himself and his condition. Ray thought of Data on Star Trek Next Generation and decided Fraser must be performing some kind of Mountie self-diagnostic.
“I’m fine,” Fraser finally announced, “But maybe we should stop here for the night.”
Ray agreed. “You rest here and I’ll go get some more of those dry sticks. We should have a fire.”
It didn’t take Ray long to gather the requisite three sizes of wood: tinder, kindling and fuel. He laid it all out neatly in three piles and then arranged some stones in circle.
Then his pride in these preliminaries vanished when Fraser said, “I guess you didn’t rescue any of our supplies, did you.”
“Well no, Fraser. I sort of had to save your life first.”
“I’m not criticizing, Steve. I’m just trying to take stock of our situation. We don’t have any matches.”
Great, thought Ray. There he goes off the deep end again. “But you know how to make fire with stones, right? So what kind of stones do you need?”
“I’m hungry” The Mountie’s eyes were starting to glaze over a little and didn’t seem to be focused on anything in particular.
Oh yeah, really great, thought Ray.
“And hunger not of the belly kind, that’s banished with bacon and beans
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means.” Fraser continued but it was clear he was quoting something now. “It’s from ‘The Shooting of Dan McGrew’. Robert Service,” he explained groggily.
“That’s nice. Now about making a fire . . .”
“Some planks I tore from the cabin
floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher,” Fraser intoned.
Ray moaned. “They had a fire in that poem?”
“No Ray, that’s from the ‘Cremation of Sam McGee’.”
“Silly me. What was I thinking?” He couldn’t help being sarcastic even though Fraser was far beyond noticing and reacting.
Ray looked helplessly at the fire preparations he had made. “Night’s coming. And we’re both wet. It’s going to be a really fun campout tonight. Soaking wet and no fire. History repeats itself.”
Then Ray heard a voice say, “Come with me, son. I’ll show you where to find some of those flints.”
Ray whirled around in the direction of the voice to see his father’s ghost standing a few feet off.
“Come on,” Arthur repeated. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”
“I’m delirious,” Ray announced to nobody in particular. “Now that’s me and Fraser both out of our gourds.”
“You’re not out of your gourd. You’re just a disobedient brat of a son. Now follow me and do what I tell you for once.”
Ray decided he had nothing to lose by playing the scenario out. He told Fraser to sit tight and not go anywhere. Just to be on the safe side he asked Diefenbaker to stay there and watch him before getting up and following Arthur into the woods just beyond the bank.
Half an hour later, Fraser began to feel warmer. He had been sitting huddled and still, with the vague memory of being told to not go anywhere, but little memory of anything else. He straightened up and stretched his body toward the heat. Fire. There was fire. He looked around trying to focus and saw Ray sitting beside the fire, poking at it with a stick.
“Where did you find matches?”
“I didn’t. I made the fire from stones. My dad taught me.”End