The First Pearl in the Necklace

Sami is at the start of her journey along the chain of the Aleutian Islands, in the company of seven other rebels against the Universal Novel Laws. They are accompanied by Akasua, their guide from the No Novel Underground. All are subject to Fixed Death Penalty notices issued by The Corporates under the aegis of the Fictitious Prose Narrative Commission (FPNC).

The following is an extract from Sami’s journal.

Thursday 2nd June 2069

At last we are meeting the outriders of the Aleutian Islands! And Akasua has timed our training to perfection. We are now pretty much proficient in the tricks and wrinkles of Roomy Baby, our already beloved ancient purse seiner.

The boat has a drum net mechanism and we are always at the ready to spool it out should we come under surveillance. We practised it many times in the fog that seemed to duvet us all the way from Womens Bay on Kodiak Island to Spectacle Island. We even caught, or should I say ‘seined’, a big shoal of sablefish on one of the practice casts. The promised hydro-fin would have been nice but we couldn’t risk waiting for it any longer around Kodiak.

Akasua has had no word from the hydro-fin crew and I can tell she fears the worst.

Now the fog is no more and we seem to be enjoying the benefits that climate change has brought to this archipelago, aided by the massive eruption of Tanaga Volcano in 2021. The force of the submarine explosion accelerated a shift in the tectonic plates, and the old Aleutian low pressure weather system seems to have become a thing of the past.

We raced Roomy Baby across False Pass by night (all 3 hours of it) and hit the northern shore of Unimak Island in glorious sunshine sixteen days ago. Now we are camped out above Scotch Cap at the western tip of the island and I have time to catch up on this journal.

I can just make out the shapes of the mountains on the second Aleutian, Akun Island. I feel so excited and lifted by the prospects ahead that I’m struggling to accept the measured pace that is necessary for this journey. But that’s just something I have to learn. I look at this beautifully gracious sweep of a braid of rocky tundra jewels on the map and I want to absorb the uniqueness of them and the sameness of them and the character and the beating heart of each one of them.

They lace the ocean ahead like a thrilling poem, a poem full of cryptic meaning behind the music of old Russian names, English names, and Unangan names. We will be avoiding Unalaska and most of the villages, so our poem for the next few years will include Avatanak, Kagalaska, Egg, Buck, Emerald, Pustoi, Ogangen, Uliaga, Chuginadak, Seguam, Agligadak, Sagagik, Salt, Kasatochi, Igitkin. Sitkin, Asuksak, Elf, Crone, Dora, Ringgold, Egg (again) Tag, Ogliuga, Amatignak, Semisopochnoi, Rat, Pyramid, Segula, Sobaka Rock, Buldir, Niski, Attu, Agattu…and many more! If anyone other than me ever reads this journal, please just read them aloud. Read them aloud.

I can’t do justice to all that we have seen so far on Unimak, but we will be building up a record of each island as we go, with Raki in charge of the visual stuff and Tanner seeing to the collective words. It will take us another month to complete the circuit of Unimak Isalnd, back to the bay where we have hidden Roomy Baby. {We all wish that she could be a little more ‘roomy’ but we love her all the same}.

When we were at Sleap Airfield (that seems SO LONG AGO) I remember having doubts about not finishing “Pull Yourself Together”, about going on the run and spending the rest of my life dodging The Slush Pile. But I’ve truly woken up from Sleap now! There are people and places that I miss, but I have no regrets.

I’m sitting here scribbling this in Old Longhand whilst all eight of us sunbathe on the slopes of Faris Peak. I glance round at each of the others and wonder if any of them have experienced a doubt?

I look again at the litany of island names.

Something triggers a memory of my last ever holiday with my parents. I was 13 and we were staying in a quaint old bed-and-breakfast in the Lake District. Squirming with embarrassment and boredom I accompanied Mum, Dad and John, my younger brother, down to the breakfast room on the first morning. We were late and I had to sit with John at a separate table from our parents.

We sat for several minutes waiting to be served. Then an old man dressed in a tweed suit and flat cap approached our table. He stood over me and didn’t say anything for what seemed an age. Then, in a low, confiding voice he uttered a single word: “Wunnegertu”.

I asked him to repeat whatever it was he had said.

“Wunnegertu”. He must have noticed my flushed discomfiture because he repeated it a third time.

My first thought was that he was a guest at the b ‘n b, possibly a visitor from one of the Balkan nations. I spoke French, German and Spanish and I couldn’t recognise the word. I glanced desperately across to my parents’ table. Perhaps he had wandered in from the village street…a local eccentric who only spoke an ancient Cumbrian dialect.

He seemed to be getting a tad impatient. “Wunnegertu?” This time there was the hint of a question in his inflexion of the final syllable.

Mum and Dad were oblivious to my plight, and John had started to giggle nervously.

Suddenly a flustered young woman emerged from the kitchen and shouted across the room: “Grandpa! Get a move on…does table 3 want one egg or two?!?”

Now I definitely have two Eggs to appreciate, if we get that far. I’m hungry now.

~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~              ~               ~

Ted Eames poetry collection: Between Me and You (Cairn Time Press, August 2014) £6.00 (plus £1.50 p/p in the UK).

Please order from the author at 73 Pyms Road, Wem, Shropshire, SY4 5UU

Email: tedeames@btinternet.com

Or message via ‘comments’ on this blog.

A big thank you to all who have picked up copies to date. The last few weeks have been full of great experiences, new connections and wonderful re-connections.

Ted x

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