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The Would-Be Whale Eater
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The Would-Be Whale Eater

Snow falls like falling snow, blankets the land like a blanket white as white. All is what it is, nothing more and nothing less.

Banner considers the Inupiat who live so far north the darkness comes to stay more than a while. Ever diminishing returns from the sunrise till one day the sun sets for good. Even the sea freezes solid. And the Inupiat? The program he’d watched didn’t say what they did during the darkness, only that life there is difficult, subsistence they called it, and demands cooperation and sharing. Banner believes he might like belonging to these people who hunt bowhead whale from sealskin canoes during the spring migrations when the sun has returned to soften the sea ice. Like their ancestors [End Page 602] they harpoon a whale and drag the forty-ton beast ashore using a block-and-tackle rig anchored in the ice, a team of people tugging the thick rope as if their lives depend on it. And their lives do. Afterward the whale is cut and sliced and parsed among the whole community, even those who no longer live the old way but in cities where the sun changes regular as clockwork, which it is.

Banner wonders if he could hunt and kill a polar bear with nothing but his knife and his wits would they accept him as an honorary Inupiat. He wonders what wonders Blackbird would cook up with a mess of polar bear and whale meat. He wonders what stories, if any, this Missouri snow would tell a whale eater from the far north. Questions abound! Banner puts his ear to the snowy ground. If it has any answers he can’t hear them. The snow here is only snow.

Banner wants to believe in metaphor but when he looks out at the world today he sees only the world, its sky dim and gray like nothing but itself without any self. [End Page 603]

Miller Mantooth

Miller Mantooth has been hoofing the bearded Ozark hills with Redbone, the self-proclaimed preeminent tracker of Polk County peckerwoods, but no sign of Banner’s earthly whereabouts has been discerned. He is presumed to be headed for colder regions northward in quest for dog and a better biscuit. He will find neither.