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  • Go at Shaktoolik
  • Mattox Roesch

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Figure 1.

[End Page 120]

Sometimes the smoke in the village was so thick, if you threw a rock you couldn't see it land. Other times there was just a haze. That week there had been forest fires twenty-five miles inland from Unalakleet. East winds had suffocated everything, putting some jobs on hold and even closing the school for a few days. And since all the planes were grounded—nothing was coming or leaving—Go-Boy told me another week of this and AC Store would run out of food. But he laughed, [End Page 121] and said, "We got fifteen bags of French fries in our freezer." I checked, and we did.

Later that week, when the smoke had started to thin, Go-Boy left me a yellow note stuck to the on/off button of our TV: Meet me by the boat, two o'clock. We're spreading good news. There was a chance that Go would maybe give me the money I needed to move back home, so I didn't want to say no to anything.

The short walk to the slough seemed a little farther with the haze. I could see the sun behind this gray fog, a scar in the middle of the sky. Houses that were two blocks down the gravel road looked blurred. But this was nothing like the smokiest day, when the world was reduced to twenty-foot sections, like islands of visibility—gliding in view of dimly lit homes and telephone poles, then vanishing—the smell of burning in every sweatshirt hood and jacket collar. That was when the streetlights clicked on at noon. The occasional Ford would try to shine through with high beams. Everyone in town stayed home and sealed their windows, and even the post office closed early. The entire village shut down.

I knew why Go wanted to meet me at the slough. Just before the smoke came he'd told me about his idea to take a boat village to village around the Norton Sound, letting people know about the good news. When I asked him what good news, he reminded me that there was a conspiracy in the works. A good conspiracy. One that would eventually bring heaven on earth. That was why he had to cruise up the coast to a place he called Shak Town—Shaktoolik—a village smaller than ours. He said he needed to let them know about the good news. And that was why, he claimed, I needed to come with.

Go said, "The good news is that everyone is saved. Everyone is invited to heaven on earth."

He had been including me in all his conspiracy stuff, and I was starting to not mind. He told me after Shaktoolik we'd hit Koyuk and Elim and keep going right up the Sound to Nome. People would feed us and give us places to sleep in exchange for this good news.

I said, "That's just begging."

And he told me he only listened to his heart. "This is what I'm supposed to do. What we're supposed to do."

Since he'd been including me in all his conspiracy plans, I had the confidence to ask Go-Boy to bum me some money. I told him [End Page 122] that I needed cash for a plane ticket so I could follow my heart and move back to LA. I wanted to play drums. And even though I had just started, I could take more lessons, and in a year or two I could do some studio drumming. Maybe go to music school. Go-Boy was worried that I'd get back into my old life if I moved home, that I'd be back running with gangs. But he said he'd think about it anyway.

I'd wanted to return to California all summer, and my opportunity came when I found out from Go's sister that he had a big savings account. A week before the smoke came Kiana was at our house, snooping around Go's stuff one morning, trying...


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