The hidden years in Canada 155, smoke signals

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Thursday 03 September 13:42

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Smoke signals

We drove in silence for a while and in the end I was the one who broke the silence. ‘How did Earney, finally get back in, let's call it civilization,’ I asked my boss? ‘That was about as much as a miracle as how he left it,’ said Bill. ‘It was as if destination felt that Earney had learned enough and turned the clock back. When Earney went for the umpteenth time with the men to get crates from the wreck, a part of the chassis of his sled broke loose, close to the shore. A small disaster, like breaking an axle of our lorry. ‘ I nodded. ‘His sleigh was kept empty and after the others had finished loading, the captain made it clear that Earney had to wait and they would come back to fix the frame. Earney knew that nothing would happen until the next day and took furs blankets from the sled and pushed them into the cabin. The carriage he tied to the truck and his dogs were added to the other huskies and later his tribesmen left him behind and became specks in the distance and then completely disappeared  in the distance.

He stood, months later now, in almost the same situation and he thought, ‘what if they won’t come back now not tomorrow but in a week.’ That thought troubled him. He was not indispensable in the tribe, if they would not return or a storm would stop them from doing so, he was done for. They would always come back  to get a load and the sled they would not leave behind. But if they would not come tomorrow, Earney wondered seriously. He walked around the truck and saw the empty pallets on the trailer deck, wooden pallets and before he did anything else, he went first to the cabin and opened the door with difficulty, pulling against gravity. This was his lucky day he realized when he saw his cigarette pack lying on the sloping floor, with consequently his lighter sticking out. A first cigarette or to first light a fire? He chose the latter and kicked the pallets to pieces. The little pieces he put up in a pile and took some loading bills and turned them neatly into paper torches. Moments later the flint on the lighter clicked and the paper caught fire. The pieces of wood followed and eventually he fed the larger pieces of wood to the fire. He took out a cigarette and held it in the fire and inhaled deeply. He held the smoke a moment and burst into a fit of coughing.

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Then he heard the growl that came from far and far in the distance, he saw very slowly on the horizon a few dots moving along. Earney immediately realized what it meant. He started jumping up adn down waving his arms but realized that he was an even smaller speck  than his lorry. If only they could see him. He ran to the trailer deck and tore apart the brackets from the spare wheel and slammed it down. Normally it would just fall but it bounced off. Earney jumped after it and cursed loudly, every second counted now. He put the wheel right and rolled it into the fire and pushed it over and watched it from a little distance Now the smoke changed color from light gray to carbon black as the flames licked along the rubber. A big exclamation mark rose into the air. ‘

Handy Andy had been driving for hours and Bill sat next to him, the lorry was unloaded and they were the last in a row of three lorries crawling across the ice. 'Gosh Andy, ‘said Bill,’ there is not a trading post here, is there now? ‘ ‘No,’ Andy replied with his eyes fixed on the icy surface in front of  him. ‘It will take another couple of hours, he cast a quick glance at a trip meter.’ ‘Then I should like to know what that is in the distance,’ Bill said, pointing to the black smoke plume that rose to great heights over the white plain. ‘We are empty, we’ll deviate a bit,’ was Andy’s answer.

‘So we found him,’ said Bill, ‘first we did not recognize him, we saw a man dressed in furs jumping up and down and screaming at the top of his lungs and when we stopped Andy said, ‘he is too big for an Eskimo.’’ Bloody hell,’ he continued, ‘it surely can not be true.’ ‘Earney,’ he roared. We ran to him and there was no sensible word that came out of Earney, he just laughed like a madman, holding his stomach with laughter. We were a little later the three of us in the cabin and drove away again from the wreck towards the base and Earney stank and poisoned with his stench our cabin and only muttered incoherent things that often had ‘thank you Lord ‘ in it.

San Daniel 2015

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