Alaska Shorts: CHAPTER 40, Third Birth, by Arne Bue

Anne did
not wake me that Monday morning because I never saw her again, and the buzzer
on the radio-alarm didn’t wake me either because I didn’t set the timer.  That Monday morning the sun woke me when its
rays streamed through the galley window. 
I turned up the stove. Then I cooked and ate three fried eggs, six
pancakes smothered in syrup, and half a pound of bacon.  I drank a pot of coffee.
The sun
dried the Flunker’s aft deck where I later stood in bare feet smoking a
Marlboro.  No sprinkles today, because
the clouds blew south through Wrangell Narrows leaving a clear sky.  The breeze and the sun on my face reminded me
of my second birth when the shade raised for me on the dry grassy slopes above
Dunton Cove.  I thought of my new mom,
Sylvia, who loved me, gathering wild celery and picking blueberries.
today, I would go shopping at Rita’s. 
I’d buy a new jacket, new slacks, a fine cotton shirt and an expensive
pair of work shoes.  After all, an
Assistant Harbor Master should look sharp. 
Uncle Joseph would like that, looking sharp.  I showered and shaved in the washroom by the
Main Harbor Master’s Office.  I returned
to the Flunker where I wrote for an hour in my notebook.  My mood was light, and I wrote simple and
quick, and I thought of the water that flows from that creek, the one emptying
into the Kvichak River.
After I
bought my new clothes at Rita’s, I met with Harold at Sandy’s for afternoon
coffee and conversation.  We discussed
the harbor berthing problems, repair work on one of the floats, and the Flunker.
The Flunker would be sold next month.
sensed a difference in me.  He cocked his
head at an off angle, hearing the new way I spoke.  He sized me up and down, checking out my new
clothes.  He laughed when I said
“cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
refilled my cup and talked more.
Harold is happy, he makes broad swoops with his arms as he tells stories. This
afternoon his discussion became boisterous and he swooped his left arm across
the table and knocked over the half-full coffee pot.  The spilt coffee ran to the table edge and
dripped on the worn linoleum floor.  To
Harold, spilt coffee was the worst disaster possible.
say it.  I know what you are going to
say.  Sonja says it all the time.”
does Sonja say all the time?”
says, `waste not, want not,’ like Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richard’s
. So don’t say it.  I’ve heard
it before.”
face was serious as he worried about his spilt coffee and I laughed hard and
tears came to my eyes.  Minnie probably
had never heard me laugh like that before. 
She saw the spilt coffee and came to our booth and cleaned the spill
with a clean, white cloth with `Sandy’s Restaurant’ sewed in red letters near
the top edge.
loggers from one of the camps came in the restaurant and ordered roast beef
Out the
window I saw Trooper Marrington drive by in that old truck.  Baseball equipment for the Little League team
he managed filled the back.  He’d bring
the team to Haines for the Southeast Alaska Little League tournament next
month.  He was wearing his
sunglasses.  Marrington did not see me
sitting there happy in Sandy’s.  Oh, but
maybe he did: difficult to tell what Marrington sees with those
sunglasses.  One day I better get an
Alaska driver’s license in case he sensed I didn’t have one.
From our
laughter Minnie probably guessed Harold and I would talk longer than usual so
she brought another pot of coffee.  I
ordered a roast beef sandwich, apple pie. 
Minnie must have noticed a difference in me, because she smiled.  Her smile made something well inside me, so I
told her I loved her right there in front of Harold.
The two loggers sitting on the cracked red naugahyde stools at the
counter heard me tell her I loved her; the third stool from the end squealed as
one of them turned to look.  The words I
said to Minnie came out simple and quick, and again I thought of the water that
flows from that creek, the one emptying into the Kvichak River, and I was not
surprised that I was not embarrassed or afraid at all anymore.  From her apron, Minnie pulled a new white
wash cloth and she cried, dabbing her eyes. 
Near the top edge of the wash cloth she had sewn my name in red letters.
The End
BUE is a lifelong Alaskan.  He lives in
Anchorage, Alaska with his wife, Shirley. More on this, The Lid, here:

49 Writers invites you to submit your creative work, either poetry or prose (an excerpt is fine) of 800 words or less for publication in our Alaska Shorts series.

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