He was alone.
|Mountains across the lake from Harbor, Alaska|
Albert Aldrich looked at the words he’d just written. They were hard, sharp. They deserved their own paragraph. He flipped his pen over and tapped it anxiously against the page, wondering if there was more he could say. But after a moment, the epiphany was fading. Defeated, he stuffed the pen and the moleskin journal into his sweatshirt pocket and exhaled deeply.
The day was pristine, one of the best of the summer. Albert sat quietly on the beach, as he often did, with his back against the carcass of a surf-battered spruce. The cool breeze from the bay felt comfortable, even refreshing, having none of its usual bite. The sky was clear and generous views of the Silver Mountains, usually veiled by fog, could be seen across the water. Closer to land, massive tankers and fishing vessels crisscrossed their way through the Bering Sea at the mountains’ base.
Albert was late but showed no sign of hurry. Inspiration was more important than punctuality anyway, and the idea for how he could end the story he’d been writing had taken shape on his walk. Besides, the weather was beautiful, which was rare in Harbor. The sky was first-prize blue. He watched its reflection flicker off the placid ocean.
In one smooth motion, he withdrew his father’s zippo from his cargo pants, ignited it, and set the end of a small joint ablaze. Smoke plummeted into his lungs. He dropped the zippo back into his pocket. In the sand in front of him, Albert had subconsciously traced a shape quite resembling the waist-up profile of a naked woman. With some embarrassment he made the drawing disappear under a spray of sand. But not before adding two areola-like pokes.
A speckled, half-border collie mutt came bounding towards him, dropping a stick at his feet. The dog laid down with his paws out expectantly, looking—with the top half of left ear flopped forward—from Albert to the ball.
“No more, Trigger,” Albert said. His father had given him that name. And trained him well. Trigger licked his lips, let out a disappointed groan and laid his chin between his paws.
The loud toot of The Alaska Adventurer pulled Albert to his feet. He watched the massive, white ship lumber in from open water, returning after a three-week absence to bring a fresh population of 500 travelers mostly for a week-long vacation, as it always did from May through August. Albert didn’t share in the general disdain for these “sunbirds”, as they were sometimes called. He found the much-needed color in the otherwise bleak socialscape exciting. Since, in his mind, he’d tested the local waters as thoroughly as he felt capable, he couldn’t help but hope the Adventurer might bring the girl who could end his protracted drought.