It's been a while since we decided to publish once-a-month, and I have to be honest with you... I miss the weekly schedule. The reality of it is, however, that there's no way for me to write a fresh piece weekly, and I was running out of work to share with all of you... so, I guess we're all caught up, and it is what it is.
I hope to get a new essay or short story written on a monthly basis and share it with you here, on Teh Suck!
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
~ Edgar Allan Poe
The wet tundra went on forever beneath the dense layer of fog, and there was a distinct, knife-edged line between the two, startling unlimited visibility below, and above an ominous gray darkness.
The impenetrable layer above was falling quickly and had already obscured the slight rises in the land that seemed to reach up to claim us. To cross an enveloped ridge would break one of the cardinal rules of bush flying; never lose sight of land, and preferably water big enough to land the float plane, but our options were quickly disappearing. “I know it’s around here some place,” my friend and pilot, Larry, said over the roar of the big radial engine. He pumped in a bit of flap to slow us down and squeezed the de Havilland Beaver through a shallow saddle.
We crossed a small stream and his gaze followed it to its distant source. “Over there,” he said, as he dumped flap to gain airspeed for the tight turn we needed to follow the trace of water to its origin. The pond seemed identical to the hundreds of others that had gone under our wings that morning, except that it was slightly larger and elongated. At one end, near the mouth of the stream that drained it, was a tiny, squat, weather beaten shack; it was the highest thing around for miles.
There was no wind or time to circle; Larry set up to land as quickly as possible, and once on the water we taxied up to the old trapper’s cabin. As I tailed the plane and we lifted the heels of the floats onto the wet, yielding tundra the fog descended to the water. It was eerily still, and we talked in whispers, as if we might awaken someone inside the crude refuge.
The painting that illustrates this short story is an oil painting titled, “Beginning of the Day”. There’s nothing so beautiful as a calm morning in Alaska with float planes tied up to the dock. It’s a scene ripe with the promise of adventure.
The cabin was low swung but sturdy, and made weatherproof with the flattened tin from countless five-gallon cans of Hill’s Brothers coffee and Chevron Blazo Fuel. The colorful siding was nailed as shingles over every square inch, and made the place look as if it was covered with a patchwork quilt. The door, once opened, revealed a small room barely tall enough to stand in, even at the ridgepole. There was a pallet for a bed on one side of the door, and a table under a tiny window on the other. Between the two, and against the back wall, was an impressive example of bush-ingenuity; a perfectly serviceable wood stove made from a twenty-pound coffee tin set on four stones. The round door was hinged and latched, with a simple yet effective vent system, and the chimney was constructed of wired together soup cans.
“What do you suppose the trapper used for fuel?” I asked. “There isn’t a tree around for miles.”
“There’s plenty of scrub willow and juniper. It wouldn’t take much to warm this place. Why don’t you go find some twigs, and get a fire going,” my friend suggested, “and I’ll see if I can raise the lodge on the radio, to let them know where we are.”
A small, smoky blaze threatened to drive me from the cabin by the time Larry returned. “All of our planes are accounted for,” he announced. “Spread out all over the place, but safely on the ground.”
We each pulled a wooden Blazo box up to the table to sit on, and stared out the window at nothing. The stove began to draw, the smoke cleared, and the room warmed. “You ever thought about flying?” He asked.
“Once,” I replied. “I almost had my private license, but then the divorce happened and I decided it wasn’t safe to be flying around pissed off.”
“Good call,” he chuckled.
“I still dream about it a lot,” I continued. “I have this one dream where something happens to the pilot and I have to fly the plane back to the lodge.”
“Nice,” he said.
“It’s just a dream,” I replied. “Anyway, in my dream I have to choose whether or not to play it safe; wait for someone to come find us, or load it up and fly it back.”
“What do you decide?”
“I always chicken-out and wait.”
“That’s the smart call,” my friend said.
“Yeah, I know... but it’s just a dream. You’d think I could have some fun and be the hero just once in my own dreams,” I complained. “The funny thing is that one day, while I was guiding a duck hunt, the pilot decided to fly to the other end of the lake and do some fishing. It’s a shallow pond, and there’s no way to beach the plane and secure it, but it wasn’t a problem with an inshore breeze.”
“Yeah, you see it coming, right? The wind shifted and the plane drifted off. I watched it float down the length of the lake and decided that I better catch it before it was pulled into the creek that drains it.”
“Did you catch it?”
“Right before it went down the creek.”
“What did you do?” He asked.
“I tailed the plane and tied it up,” I answered.
“Yeah, but then I started thinking. You know, it was like my dream come true. I figured that I’d start up the Beaver and taxi back to the other end of the lake. Maybe, I’d step-taxi it for a while, and hell, since I was already on step, maybe I’d pull her off the water a few feet, just to see how it feels. If it felt all right,” I continued, “maybe I’d even circle the lake a couple of times before landing.”
“Are you nuts?” Larry asked in disbelief.
“So, I climbed in,” I said, ignoring him, “went through the preflight check list, hit the fuel boost and tried to start her.”
“She wouldn’t catch for some reason.”
“You’re lucky,” he said. “Then what?”
“I boosted more fuel, and tried it again.”
“And, pooof! The plane caught on fire,” I said. “I must have over boosted it.”
“Holy shit!” He said. “What did you do?”
“I jumped out of the plane and started splashing water up and under the cowling,” I answered. “The fire went out.”
“Not because of the water, you idiot,” he said. “The av-gas just burned off. Then what?”
“I tried it again.”
“And, pooof!” I answered. “The same thing happened again.”
“Jeeze, you’re killing me,” he said.
“After I got the second fire out, I decided to wait for the pilot to show up.”
“Yeah, sure.” I said. “Two hours later, the pilot shows up, on the other side of the creek, and asks in his Maine accent, ‘anybody seen my Beavah?’ There’s only one problem, he’s wearing hip boots, and the lake’s too deep for him to cross.”
“What did you do?”
“Well... he suggested that I taxi it across to him.”
“And, did you?” He asked.
“Hell no,” I answered. “Are you crazy? I stripped down to my long-johns and swam it to the other side!”
“Good,” Larry answered. “The fire’s out and fog’s lifting, let’s go give it a try.”
The fog had indeed lifted, and by the time the engine was warm, thin, pale patches of blue sky could be seen here and there. As we lifted off and turned away from the lake, Larry trimmed the plane and asked, “you want to take her back?”
“Sure,” I said, “Thanks!”
Thanks for visiting,
"Make it matter, fuckos." jhnnythndr
" Herre jävlar vilka fiskar!!" P-A
"I'm no saint though, nor a judge. Rock that shit good and hard, and on your way out, wipe your dick on the curtains." - Kyner