|Chapter 87||Table of Contents||Chapter 89|
Going North, June 15, 2060
I was worried about going North and leaving Edie alone while she was pregnant.
She had another opinion. “Don’t be silly. I’m a big girl, Luc.” She took my hand and held it to her barely showing stomach. “I can take care of myself, besides I have Anna and my friends to protect me. You go and do what you have to do.”
She had that look about her. I knew it would be no use arguing. We compromised by arranging for Mark, the share-crop gardener, to check in when he did the garden.
“Besides, Mark is quite handsome.” She gave me a sly look.
“Why you little minx!” We wrestled on the floor, tickling each other.
We were snuggling in a happy heap when Anna brought me up short with a question. “What is a minx?”
I was a little stunned. “What?”
Anna read my surprise and elaborated. “You called mommy a little minx. What is that?”
Edie laughed and made a strategic retreat to the bathroom.
“Well,” I started…
I left to do my first survey tour the last week of April. By then the melt was well under way across the North. In an odd echo of my father’s travels through the region, I was granted a beat-up old Beaver float plane and an equally beat-up old pilot named Johnny Joyce, who everybody called JJ.
JJ was one of those old alcoholics who had an engaging repertoire of expressions and sayings that were charming for an hour or two and then began to grate.
He picked me up at the railhead in Churchill and we flew North along the Bay and then NorthWest. I needed to document EF1 growth along the advancing tree line.
Being stuck in a small confined area with JJ could have been onerous, but I spent most of my time on the recording equipment, so I could do a comparison after the next tour. Every once in a while, JJ would come out with a new line.
“Well Jesus H. Jumpin’ Kee-rist on a rocket assisted pogo stick! Will you look at that!” He pointed through the cockpit window and I came forward to look see.
A greenish-grey circle a kilometer wide covered a lake and extended up a waterway towards a mining complex. An elevator superstructure over the shaft towered over a small village of huts and shacks. I was reminded of Rio Triste. It had the same ‘thrown together for temporary exploitation’ feel to it. I checked our location by Galileo.
“Kierens lake,” I said. “That must be the GE bacteria designed to clean up their taillings.”
“Ghod’s bother! What an abomination!” he declared.
“It might look funny, but it’s better than poisoning the land with arsenic.”
“Gghhaaa!” JJ made a guttural expression of disgust and swung the plane away from the scene.
I went back to recording our flight path.
For the next six weeks, we flew zig zag across the North measuring and recording, landing every once in a while.
We zagged south to Yellowknife so I could visit the forester Drew Matheson and then kept heading West.
In Fort McPherson, we had to wait for fuel. There was some problem or other down South. I didn’t get the whole story, but there was no fuel and we had to wait.
JJ took the opportunity to get tanked himself. I didn’t get the whole story about that either, but two days later at 7 in the morning, he was delivered to my trailer beside the airport by two officers.
JJ’s face was cut and bruised. He smelled like he had pissed himself. After a quick shower — the water was none too hot — he passed out and slept until mid afternoon.
A day later, we were in the air and flying East towards Churchill again. I was glad the trip was ending.
Edie was in the kitchen when I stepped in the back door. Now she was definitely showing. When she heard my voice, Anna came running and threw herself at me.
“Look at my little brother!” she exclaimed, tugging me towards Edie. “See how he is growing.”
I let her put my hand on Edie’s tummy, then Edie and I fell into a long hug.
“I’m so glad to see you,” she breathed.
“I’m glad to be home, believe me!”
“I’m glad you’re home, too,” said Anna distinctly. “There is something we have to discuss.”
I looked down at her in some surprise. “Oh yes? And what would that be?”
“What about it?” I asked, a little amused at the tone of her voice. She had obviously been watching some British video.
“Mom won’t let me go.” Anna pointed an accusing finger.
I frowned. “I thought we had agreed,” I said.
“We did.” said Edie quickly, “…agree on kindergarten.”
“But I want to go to school this summer,” said Anna.
“The Gaian school,” said Edie.
I looked at Edie. “Gaian school?”
“The assembly has put together a summer school for underage children.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“No problem. I just wanted to talk to you about it before I said anything.”
I reached down and picked up Anna, sitting her on my arm. “Oh, you are getting too big for me to heave around anymore.” We rubbed noses. “Your mother and I will talk about this and let you know.”
She was not happy, but she didn’t complain.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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A Gentle Introduction.
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Last modified April 15, 2014