Let’s say Jenski handed you the gun. That big ol’ revolver’s in your right hand, not mine. It’s pulling your arm out of your shoulder, heavier than regret, and Jenski’s pointing at the milk crate strapped to the cargo bay floor and saying, Sit there. If one of these horses so much as twitches, shoot it. You look at him, wide-eyed, and he says, They start moving around while we’re in the air, this plane goes down and we’re dead. You look at the gun and you look at the sedated horses—two geldings and a mare; a chestnut, a bay, an appaloosa—lying on their sides, soft cloths over their eyes, their rib cages expanding and contracting, expanding and contracting, and you look at Jenski and say Where? He turns and spits tobacco out the cargo bay door into the endless June sunshine. The skin in his bald spot, ringed by greasy brown hair sticking straight up, looks impossibly soft. Baby soft. Jenski mutters something about cheechakos, about worthless lower forty-eighters, and you wonder if whatever you’ve gotten yourself into is what you wanted when you drove north out of Colorado. Jenski jabs a stubby, broken-nailed finger into your forehead. Right fucking here.
Let’s say it’s you, not me, listening to Jenski cuss the pilot as the plane lumbers down the runway in Palmer and bounces over the Chugach Range toward the hunting camp. You, not me, hanging onto a strap riveted to the ceiling and getting dizzier and dizzier as the plane circles the landing strip and Jenski curses the fog rolling off McCarthy Creek.
Your breath, not mine, catching when the bay’s velvety-soft ear begins to move. Your stomach, not mine, sinking when a shiver runs the length of the appaloosa’s body.
Your thumb pulling back the hammer.
Photo by Brian Shum.
Alaska fans, I know this pic isn’t of McCarthy Creek or even near it. Also, a few of you will recognize the surname Jenski. I based this on a story AJ told one time when we were both supposed to be working.
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"Jenski jabs a stubby, broken-nailed finger into your forehead. Right fucking here." YIKES! I read this piece and have to wonder where it comes from, Jim, and if you have other similar furniture in your head waiting to be unleashed. I find the personal, conversational tone you use in this story, (just you talking to me) to be very effective. It would have had much less immediacy if written in the third person, past tense.
That was good, but sad. I’d hate to be in that position!