Monday, January 07, 2008

Son of Nyuk-Nyuk

by Dumas and Magda Silhavy

You may remember that last May, my brothers Edwin, Dumas, and myself made the long journey from our adopted hometown of Barrow, Alaska, to Corpus Christi, Texas. We were on our way to Mexico to scatter the ashes of our beloved father, who was killed by a moose at the tender age of 97, while our family was crossing the Bering Strait from his native Russia.

It was a lot easier back when there was a land bridge.

Our mother, who came to our father as a mail-order bride from Las Vegas, halfheartedly raised us alone before abandoning us to our own devices; she shacked up with some loser in Nome, and the three of us, practically orphans, struggled to make a life for ourselves. And of course we ultimately did, becoming successful whale marketers. And having established ourselves as prominent citizens of Barrow – I myself plan to become mayor one day – we decided the time had come to lay our father to his final rest in Mexico, where he can forever after enjoy the strains of mariachi music. Ah, how Father loved mariachi music!

Unfortunately, Dumas left Dad’s ashes on the baggage carousel in Seattle.

We’re planning another trip, and this time, we plan to bring help in the form of a brilliant young attorney named Ik-Ik, though you may know him as Tony, or perhaps even Cheryl’s Bitch. Ik-Ik is the only son of our maid (or butler), Nyuk-Nyuk, of whose gender we have never been certain. But surely, surely, his (or her) very own son can tell us. We’ve always wondered!

Ik-Ik claims attorney-client privilege, and isn’t talking.

Ik-Ik is the executor of our father’s estate, so it falls to his lot to oversee the arrangements for disposition of our father’s remains which were spelled out in his will. We’ll enjoy the chance to make the trip with him, and I personally feel that, after a couple of mojitos, and maybe a brownie or two, Ik-Ik will spill the beans on his mother’s (or father’s) gender.

Dumas disagrees.

No one in Barrow knows, Dumas points out, whether it was Nyuk-Nyuk or his (or her) spouse, Chris, who was pregnant. Both of them had been seriously overweight, and had cut out whale blubber in an effort to trim down; both of them had then lost about 100 pounds each, and it was during this time that Ik-Ik was born. Nor was Ik-Ik delivered in a hospital, or even under the careful eye of a midwife: eschewing even such assistance as is embraced by many Alaskan natives, Chris and Nyuk-Nyuk delivered their son alone, in the isolation of their own igloo.

Ik-Ik himself, remarks Dumas, addresses both his parents as “Baba,” so even he may not know which is which. And if he were uncertain, he could hardly have asked. To inquire of one’s parents what their gender may be is the lowest form of rudeness in Alaskan culture. It's unthinkable. It's even worse than wearing white mukluks after Labor Day.

Whatever mysteries Nyuk-Nyuk’s indomitable parka may conceal, we expect to have another enlightening and meaningful trip to Corpus this year. Especially if Dumas remembers to pick up Dad’s ashes.

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