Spanish Flu

by Nic Olson

He preached at me with the knowledge of a seasoned pastor.
He told me not to open the fridge when you are sweating, or you’ll get the Swine.
He got angry with any nice farm that didn’t have a Canadian flag flying outside of their home. He was the most patriotic person I’ve ever met and wasn’t even born here.
He slept in the woods the night before I found him.
He was from Spain, but spoke half English and half French with a little Italian thrown in there for good measure.
He was over fifty-five years old.
He sold me a Saskatchewan flag for $20.
He told me he wanted to listen to hard rock music, something like Sum41 or Avril Lavigne, he said. But he hated Bryan Adams and Nickelback because they sold out to the USA.
He kept nodding and saying ‘Yeah’ or ‘Oui’ when the car was silent.

I picked up this man while driving to Calgary alone.  I think I remember his name as Luc. He was under six feet tall, stocky with layers of warm clothes on. He had gray and black stubble dotting his red face, graying long hair and aged spotted hands. I don’t think we made eye contact once but I think he had a lazy eye.  I was tired and about to pull over for a nap just outside of Medicine Hat at about 9am, and saw him on the road with his Canada flag bandana. I figured he’d keep me awake and alive for a few hours. When he first got in the car he didn’t say a word of English except for ‘Ed-min-tone’ when I asked him where he wanted to go. He spoke a few paragraphs in French and I laughed, assuming that it would be a long quiet trip. But it wasn’t.  I think he was a professional traveler. He had been everywhere in Canada, pretty much, and most of Europe. He bought or stole things, like flags, to sell on his journeys so he could buy himself food. He slept in his sleeping bag, snow pants, boots, and Canadian Goose-down jacket, in barns and forests near the highway. He was heading to Fernie to get a seasonal job at a hotel. He easily could have been a wanted man, because when I started driving, seconds after he got in the car, he told me not to drive faster than 110km/h because there were lots of mounties on the roads and we shouldn’t get pulled over.

He was the most interesting man I’ve ever met. And I’ll never see him again. But at least I’ve got a Saskatchewan flag. And the relief that I’m not the most mentally deranged man in western Canada. Thanks, Luc.

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