Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jake's Fear Becomes a Reality during His Absence from Carmacks: Day 18 of the Yukon River Trip

Prior to Packing Up the Sundowner in Carmacks, YT

I threw a "Well, hello!" her way as I sized up my visitor & surrounding areas.  She seemed to be alone, and she seemed to be somewhat young.  How young?  I could not tell.  Based on only appearances, I would have guessed her age to be mid to late teens or maybe early twenties (at most).  She appeared short, though I was aware that her height could've been dwarfed by the difference in our elevations, me on the deck of the Sundowner and her on bank of the Yukon River.  Her dark hair hung straight & long on both sides of her round Indian face.  She smiled a Jack-o-Lantern smile, and among the spaces where I assumed teeth once were, a rotted, black tooth jutted up from her lower gum line.

"Why you have a pirate boat?" she asked.  I knew she was referring to Nurpu's large logo on the sides of our boat and concluded she had been the one, along with others, that had been yelling "Pirate boat!  Pirate boat!" from the Carmacks bridge over the past few days.  

"It's the logo of a gear shop where we're from," I responded.

"But why?" she asked.

Does she not understand me?  Am I not understanding her question? "Because they are one of our sponsors for this trip," I offered, hoping to appease her question.

"Why pirates?  Are you a pirate?"

Am I dealing with a language barrier or what?  She spoke child-like, but why?  I tried another answer:  "No, we're not pirates; we just like pirates."  That seemed to satisfy her interest, or maybe I was frustrating her by not understanding what she really wanted to know.

"I come on your boat?" she asked while pointing to the deck of the Sundowner.

"Uh, I don't think that's such a good idea."  Oh, nice one, Susan.  My response lacked tack yet oozed truth.  I was shocked at how rude I sounded for two reasons:  1.) I wasn't accustomed to being so blunt, especially to strangers, and 2.) I recognized that apprehension prompted my crass reply.  If Jake was here, he would validate my frank words right after criticizing my self-inflicted abashment.

"Why?" she pushed, and uneasiness began to take root in the presence of my mind.

If Jake was here, he would have no problem telling her exactly why.  "Well...I've got such a mess up here; I wouldn't want you to you trip over anything and hurt yourself--"

"I won't hurt myself," she insisted as she inched toward our makeshift ramp.  Obviously, what I wanted didn't matter to her.  Or, maybe she just wasn't picking up on the fact that I did not want her on my boat.

"I really don't have the time to talk.  I've got so much to do; I've got to get this boat cleaned and packed up before my husband returns."  If Jake was here, he would disapprove of me needing to justify my refusal to her request.

"I just wanna look," she implored.

"You can look from down there while I work up here," I retorted, but somehow I didn't feel she would comply.  If Jake was here....Jake's not here.  Trying to subliminally & further emphasize my stance in the circumlocution of my words, I twisted a bit--like I was stretching out my back.  I did this to make sure she had not missed seeing the black kukri machete attached to my belt.  Mildly flaring out from my waist down as I turned, my knife separated from my profile to reveal 17 inches of "subliminal emphasis."

Something stopped her from boarding the Sundowner.  Was it my kukri or my tone?  In that moment I yearned that both appeared inflexible and serious.  Whatever it was dissuaded her from pursuing her prior plan.  If Jake was here, he would commend my deliberate--though nonverbal--attempt to assert my message.

"I'm sorry that I don't really have time to talk.  I really do need to keep packing," I offered.  Jake would roll his eyes at my apology and politely enhanced tone.

"Why?" she questioned.  Here we go again, I thought.

"I told you that I've got to get this boat all cleaned up and packed before my husband gets back."

"Why?"  Seriously?! Is she presumptuous or just shamelessly curious?  Or worse...?

"Well...we've got a long drive ahead of us, and I want to have everything ready by the time he gets back."

"Where's he at?"

Geez!  Is there no end to this girl's questions?  "He went to get our truck and will be right back."  That statement was half true and half not so true.  Jake was getting our truck, but he was hours away from being "right back."

Why was I not surprised when she produced another question?  "Where's your truck?"

Knowing that my reply probably wouldn't pacify her inquiry, I said, "I told you...with my husband." 

"And where's he?"  Okay, where's the hidden camera?  I'm about to blow a gasket; this girl is not for real!

"Getting our truck so that we can haul our boat home."  I knew I was sending this conversation in circles, but I did not want to provide her with any more information, and I just didn't have what it would take to tell her to go away.

A brief moment fluttered in the air between us as she seemed to decipher my words...or perhaps change her tactics.  "Come meet my friends," she insisted. "They want to meet you."

Wait--what friends?!  And before my mouth could form the words, she pointed to her right, toward the bridge. 

Suspicious agitation shattered my uneasiness.  Out of the corner of my eye emerged a gray pickup truck--not even 40 yards from me--nestled between the Carmacks bridge and some unkempt brush just off the circle drive.  My peripheral vision detected two male passengers.  Questions spewed and clamored in my head:  When did they get here?  How long have they been here?  How did I not hear their truck?  What did they want? 

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