Monday, December 31, 2012

Alaska Shorts: Book Learning, by Rosalie Loewen

Hunger licks away at the edges of the mind the way flame eats a page, moving inwards from the edges until words fade to brown. 

Outside of the cabin, the morning air was chilly, sun coming up on the soft green of August grass already tipped with frost.   Even in summer in Alaska, winter pants at your back.

The cabin belonged to Brad’s family.  They used to fly in every June, he told her, with a few boxes of provisions and seeds for the garden.  The cold mists of Seattle pressed against her apartment window as he described the long golden days of his childhood summers.

His body was a whole other story for her: dark hair swept back, forearms tanned and ridged, fingers banded with scars.  When he invited her to the cabin champagne bubbles of excitement rose and burst in her chest.  

A toy plane dropped them onto a short gravel runway after a twenty minute flight; two duffels tossed out on the grass behind them.  It hadn’t seemed like much to live off for two months but Brad hoisted his gun with a smile.  “Plenty of ammunition."

She had brought a backpack filled with books and notebooks, a handful of good pens, her intentions to work on her thesis.  Those would be left behind now, sloughed away like any soft roundness that she had come with.  After just a week of being on her own, she could feel how sharp and bright she was becoming, hollow, light.   The little pack was now crammed with what she thought she might be able to use: the last two packets of oatmeal, a knife from the kitchen, half of a wool blanket.

They ate like kings at first.  They rolled fresh caught trout in flour and salt and fried in on the cast iron stove.  Brad snared rabbits and stewed them with the canned tomatoes until those ran out. 

One day she looked at the dwindling pantry and felt uneasiness twirl and wrap around her like smoke.  Brad looked too and tramped off with his gun, some jerky in his pockets, and an empty canvas pack. 

He didn’t return.  No gunshots, no cries for help, nothing but the wide blue sky above her, ringed by ice-tipped mountains.  The fireweed, lurid pink blossoms giving way to soft white cotton, had straightened out to hide his path. 

After she had scraped the last of the flour into a biscuit and eaten the rusted can of Vienna sausages found on the back of a high shelf, she went with the fishing pole to the river.  But the ways of the river were a mystery and she exchanged her three lures to snags on the bottom for nothing.  In the deep fast water she could see shadows of fish, as out of reach as if they were imagined, something read about in a book.

Once the sun was up, she walked through the door, long strings of geese flapping overhead to show her the way.

Rosalie Loewen lives with her husband and their two daughters in Southeast Alaska.  Recently, her short story, "The Alaska Finishing School For Girls" appeared in F Magazine and was the winner of their annual fiction contest.  For more of Rosalie's writing, please visit her blog: http://alaskarosalie.tumblr.com

49 Writers welcomes your submissions for Alaska Shorts. For details, see our guidelines.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. What happened to him? What happened to her? Love particularly the opening gambit.