Saturday, May 10, 2008

Once More Into the Beach, Dear Friends

This post guest-written by Magda Silhavy

The time has come, once again, to leave my remote but dearly loved home in Barrow, and make my way once more to the strange hot lands of the south: to Corpus Christi, whose tepid waters bear so little resemblance to the gray and icy ones I have known all my life. This time, however, I do not journey with my dear brothers and business partners, Edwin and Dumas. This is the busy season for whale marketing, and no time for all three of us to be away. I alone will go, then - yet not alone: two intrepid friends bear me company.

There is Ik-Ik, our family's attorney, who goes to ensure that the terms of my late father's will are carried out according to the spirit, if not the letter. After our last disastrous attempt to scatter his ashes in Mexico, when Dumas absent-mindedly neglected to pick up the urn from the baggage carousel in the Seattle airport, some others of us in the family felt it was time to get the law involved. Ik-Ik - the only son of our long-time family friend and live-in helper of indeterminate gender, Nyuk-Nyuk* - has interpreted my father's will to mean that it's good enough to scatter his ashes in the Gulf of Mexico. We need not actually cross into that unfamiliar land. And I am sure they have mariachi music in Corpus, so Dad should be happy. I look forward to at long last discharging my filial duty - as you may recall, Papa Silhavy died at the age of 97 while crossing the Bering Strait from his native Russia, when Edwin, Dumas and I were in our infancy. So this is long overdue.

Ik-Ik is a friend to the family and I have known him all my life, but another man travels with us who may cause some disquiet in my bosom. His name is Zachary. Zachary is a good man, but a stranger, an adventurer, a loner. He runs his own business from just outside town; he owns a small plane, and earns his living contracting out to local farmers, spraying pesticide on their fields. No one knows his last name: they merely call him Zachary, the crop-duster.

Don't get me wrong! If you are traveling to lands unknown, Zachary is the man to bring, and he comes at Ik-Ik's insistence. But you see, Zachary was once my lover. Our relationship was forever sundered when he was inducted into the elite and mysterious Barrow Fight Club (as a rule, we don't talk about it), and he left me alone to face the sobering realization that the man I once cared for would rather get punched in the face than enjoy my favors.

There's really just no good way to take that one.

Nonetheless, there is a task to be done, and do it I will: I am strong, and determined, and one day I shall be mayor of our village; and you don't get to be mayor by crumbling at every minor little personal setback. No, I shall do my duty, and leave our family business,, in the capable hands of Edwin and Dumas; Ik-Ik will turn his practice over to a junior partner for a few days; and, God willing, Zachary won't even think about crop-dusting until his return home.

We arrive in Corpus on Thursday: wish us Godspeed, my friends!

*Ik-Ik doesn't know either. In his culture, it's considered extremely rude to inquire of your parent whether he (or she) is your mother (or father).

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