Yellowknife

To live to see the great day that dawns / And the light that fills the world. — From an old Inuit song.


A man sits in a bar in Yellowknife. It has been six months to the day since the death of his wife. He isolated himself in their house outside of town, and worked on his novel. This night he decided to seek the camaraderie of the public house.

His wife, a freelance National Geographic photographer, was killed in a plane crash near Arctic Red River, just above the Arctic Circle. Her body was never found. It was a front page story in the Anchorage Daily News: Search called off for missing photographer.

She was eternally preserved in the ice. Beautifully dead.

In the bar, the more he gets into the Canadian Club whiskey, the more morbid he becomes. He decides it was a bad idea and looks around for the waitress to get his check.

His glance rests on a young woman sitting at another table with two friends. She immediately looks up and their eyes lock. She has those characteristic almond-shaped eyes of this land.

He raises his whiskey glass to her and she quickly looks back down.

The waitress comes to his table, he pays her and heads for the door. He sees almond eyes looking at him. He goes over to her table. 

He says: “Did you know Toyatuk?”

“Toyatuk Paquette?” she asks, surprised by his abruptness.

“Yes, yes,” he says excitedly.

“Were you her husband?”

“I was.”

‘I’m sorry,” she says. “I knew her a little.”

“She’s locked in the ice,” he tells her.

“I really don’t know,” she says.

No one knows what to say next. Then the woman says to her friends, “I have to go home.” She pushes her chair back and stands up.

“Where do you live?” he asks her.

“Past Franklin Street.”

“May I walk you?”

The woman looks down and her two friends exchange glances with raised eyebrows.

Then the young woman says, “That’d be all right.”

They walk out onto Franklin Street. It is the beginning of July but still cold. The night is as bright as day. Eighteen hours of sunlight. Soon, at the summer solstice, there will be twenty-four hours of sun. Sunshine at midnight. Winter is a different story. It was winter when Toyatuk disappeared into the ice.

“I didn’t know her very well,” the beautiful Inuit woman says.

“Who?”

She looks at him. “Toyatuk.”

They walk on in silence. Then the man says, “What’s your name?”

“Saluit. Saluit Smoothstone.”

“That’s incredibly beautiful.”

And indeed it was.


Saved by a Motown Girl

MORE IN THE MISADVENTURES OF GUIDO MICHELINI, VAGABOND WRITER

For a long time he lived in his car. He showered in the homes of one-night stands.

All his belongings were in the trunk of the car, a 1975 Monte Carlo with Florida plates. Clothes, books, typewriter, newspaper stories, manuscripts, a few photographs of the past, a copy of the divorce.

His ex-wife had most of it. The house, the furniture, the library of books, the record collection, the photo albums, the dog, the cat, the nine-year-old boy.

Guido wrote to him from the front seat of his car, parked on city streets in America.

He was in a bar in New York City when the car was towed from an expired meter. The cops had it towed to a cavernous shed on the West Side. Guido hadn’t paid the insurance. No insurance, no car. The hell with it. He transferred his stuff from the trunk to a battered tan suitcase and walked to Port Authority Bus Terminal.

He phoned a former girlfriend in Detroit and said he was down on his luck. She had a big heart. Get your ass here.

The Greyhound rocked west. Filled with losers and lost souls. Empty beer cans rolled down the aisle. A guy plucked away at his guitar. A black girl’s baby cried. Guido slept.

The bus rolled into Detroit. He walked around the side of the bus  to get his suitcase. The driver unloaded them all. Except his.

Where’s my suitcase?

They’re all here pal.

Mine’s not here.

I don’t know what to tell you pal. See the baggage claim office.

Guido asked the baggage claim clerk, Where my suitcase, man? My whole life’s in that goddamn suitcase!

No one had a clue what happened to Guido’s suitcase. Mystery of the ages.

Guido filed a Lost Baggage claim and walked to his girlfriend’s apartment in the Cass Corridor.

She opened the door. She looked like she jumped out of a Motown song. She gave him a sideways look. Where you been?

Nowhere.

Come on in then — don’t you have a bag or something?

Just me.

Man, that’s what I call traveling light.


 

Conversation with my cat

GOD AND THE CAT GOD

I tape record this with no regrets

My cat has grown weary of my threats

In the weeks since the death of my wife

To take a shotgun and end my life.

Just do it, he says, you’ve got eight more.

Are you nuts! I have one, no encore.

Are you telling me, says this feline,

That the Cat God gave us creatures nine

And your God grants y’all a measly one.

Bet your ass, I say, feeling undone.

Well, well, well, the cat says with a smirk

That must drive you biped dudes berserk,

Humanity’s fate is woebegone

Just one lousy life, the cat goes on

And yet a turtle, say, has no fears

He can crawl and crawl a hundred years,

And you can’t even kill a cockroach!

I am aware I begin to broach.

But then the cat turns to creation:

You believe in reincarnation?

I don’t know, why do you ask me that?

Believe, dude, and come back as a cat.

It’s not up to me you mad crackpot!

Screw it, says the cat, give it a shot,

I’ll personally contact the Cat God

And put in a good word, you ol’ sod.

Go ahead, the cat adds, grab the gun—

Hey, fill my food dish before you’re done.

So I fill the cat’s dish and go backstage

Plug in a shell and grab the 12-gauge—

[Tape abruptly ends]