Unalaska, Alaska the novel


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Jul 1, 2006
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An excerpt from Unalaska, Alaska
By Wolf Larsen

(Each novel takes hundreds of cups of coffee to finish.)

Chapter 6

The next morning I was up at 5 A.M. I showered and shaved. Then I headed out the door to look for work.

I needed a job real bad right away. I had less than 30 dollars in my pocket in a place that makes New York City look cheap and affordable in comparison. I had no credit cards and no bank account.

Within a few hours I had a temporary job that paid cash.
Me and some broke crab fisherman between boats were moving all these odds and ends on this old man’s property. The odds and ends were oil drums and big parts of machinery and the old man was some red neck. Almost half the words he spoke were obscenities. He was strong, he was crazy, and he was short-tempered.

“This place is getting too cocksucking civilized,” he told us. “I bet you soon those motherfucking cocksuckers are gonna pave the cocksucking roads.”

His eyes had the most bizarre far-reaching stare. It was like those eyes were soaring out into the universe and beyond. I would soon find out that a lot of people on the island had that stare – it was so strange. They called it “the Aleutian stare”. It comes from living under a big huge sky surrounded by a big huge ocean and an empty landscape where there’s no trees.

“How long have you been here?” my workmate asked the redneck.
“Twenty-five goddamn cocksucking years,” the old man said.
“I bet you’ve seen a lot of changes!” my workmate said.

“You bet!” the old redneck said. “When I first came here, there was no cocksucking bridge connecting the two motherfucking islands. Unalaska-Dutch Harbor is really two cocksucking islands. And there was only one cocksucking store: Carl’s. And you had to go over to the other goddamn island to get to the store and the bar.”

“So they had a ferry?” my workmate asked.
“A cocksucking ferry?” the old man exclaimed. “Hell, there wasn’t no cocksucking ferry. Not enough people for no cocksucking ferry!”
“So how did people get to the other side?” my workmate asked.
“They put on cocksucking survival suits and swam or they used goddamn fucking skiffs – they used any cocksucking whatever,” said the old man.

I wondered why he used the word cocksucking so much. But anyway, there was something about this guy. It was the first time in my life that I thought some old man could probably kick my ass.
Then the old man walked away. We rolled a barrel together somewhere as we talked.

“God, he’s a character ain’t he?” I asked my companion.
“You think so? You haven’t been on the island long, have you? There’s no such thing as normal around here!”
I didn’t say anything.
Then he added, “Yeah, he’s fucking been here for over twenty years and he’s loony tunes. If you’d been around this place for twenty years you’d be loony tunes too!”

I still didn’t say anything. I looked around me at the barren mountains that rose out of the sea like gods. The only vegetation I could see was this long grass everywhere moving back and forth with the winds. There were endless volcanic mountains all around us sticking up miles into the sky. At that moment the South Side of Chicago seemed very civilized. New York City seemed very friendly and hospitable.

“You just get off a boat?” my workmate asked.
“Yeah. You?” I asked.
“I was crab fishing in Russian waters,” he said.
“You were fishing in Russia too?!” I laughed. “Boy, those Russians drive a hard bargain. Look at us now!”

That night the old crazy redneck paid us and told us to come back tomorrow. I went back to the bunkhouse and grabbed my things. That night I slept in an empty shipping container on the old fart’s property.

The next day it was much the same. The crazy old man told us, “You should pay me for training you.”
Towards the end of the day we finished working on the old man’s property. The next morning the old man said to me, “It’s time to move the campsite.”
“O.K.,” I said. He put it so nicely I thought: “campsite”.

So I grabbed my stuff and I started looking for a home. I must have second senses, because I walked towards a place called Strawberry Hill, and I found an abandoned shack left over from World War II.

Then I walked down into town and looked for more work. I went to canneries and the “airport” and a store, and I even tried out boats again.
I managed to stab myself in the thigh climbing on to one boat. There was a sharp fishing knife in my coat pocket, and when I brought my leg up the knife went right into my thigh. THE KNIFE JUST BARELY MISSED MY PENIS!!!!!!!!!

It was a little awkward asking the skipper for a job with blood trickling down inside my jeans. It wasn’t too much blood, so I figured it could wait.

I just hoped the blood wouldn’t start dripping from the bottom of my pants and unto the floor. They might think that kind of strange, and not give me a job. The skipper said, “We might have a position available, though I’m not sure.”

“What kind of fish are you catching?” I asked.
“Cod,” he said.
I knew there couldn’t be much money in that. Gray cod is cheap and black cod is expensive but rare.
“Is there a daily minimum?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
I explained to them that I would be happy to work hard for them, but I said I needed a daily minimum, because I had just worked on another boat for free. (Minimum wage laws do not apply on fishing boats.)
“Come back in fifteen minutes and I’ll have an answer for you,” said the skipper.

So I went to a bathroom nearby and I cleaned up the blood and got rid of that goddamn knife. Fifteen minutes later I showed up at the dock. The boat wasn’t there at the dock anymore. It was now anchored out in the bay. I guess that was my answer.

I stood there and looked around me. It was twilight. The island felt so empty and eerie. I sat down. I felt so utterly strange. The place felt and looked so bizarre – like some kind of weird eternity between a dream and a nightmare. It was twilight but it wasn’t a normal kind of twilight that ends in half an hour – this was Alaska and the twilight dragged on for hours and hours. The landscape was so bare of existence and so inhospitable to life and it was so quiet. It all felt like death. The volcanic mountains loomed way up above my head like silent gods. It became darker so slowly… so very slowly. I felt so empty.
A cold night lay ahead.

Copyright 2004 by Wolf Larsen