THE EAGLE AND THE RAVEN
by Robert Gamer
I first laid eyes on her outside the Diamond Intercontinental on Franklin Street in Juneau. A breath taker in looks, she worked the crowd of tourists streaming by from the anchored cruise chips in port to lure them into the high end stone establishment. I saw right through her saccharine smile at once. It was like looking into the mirror.
Risking it all on one throw, I stalked straight up to her and said, “My name’s Tommy, and if your free after work, I’d like to take you out for a drink.”
Giving me the once over, the saccharine smile still in place, she said, “Sure Tommy, that’s awful nice. I’m through at ten.”
At ten sharp I arrived, but she was nowhere in sight. Not that I was afraid of being stood up. Twenty minutes after the hour she did appear. “How about the Sandbar & Grill down on Industrial Street?” I said.
“Okay,” she nodded her head.
Although the place was rocking, we managed to find a table all the way in the rear and sat down. When the waiter finally came over, I ordered a Jim Bean on the rocks, while she asked for a double shot of Canadian Club, with a glass of ice on the side.
“Sure you don’t want to get an order of halibut and chips?” I asked. “It’s about as good as you can get.”
“You just invited me for a drink,” she reminded me.
Waiting until the waiter had cleared away, she said, “I’m A Tlingit.”
“You’re everything!” I couldn’t help saying.
The sugary smile not fading, she gazed straight at me with those sparkling coal black eyes. “You just passing through, Tommy?”
“I think that I’m going to call Juneau my home for awhile. I’ve got a boat- a purse seiner. Brought it down from Sitka. My seiner can wrap up 250-500 fish in a set. Yes, I feel pretty confident that I can make do in these waters.”
The waiter returned with our drinks. I took a sip from mine, while she gulped hers right down. “You been living in Alaska long?” she wiped her lips.
“I came from Michigan when I was thirteen with my dad. I didn’t see much of him, though. He was off logging. When he did come back, he’d spend his time boozing and whoring. Finally, he beat a dude to death who he thought had cheated him in cards. That happened when I was fifteen. He got 12-25 years at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. I haven’t seen him since.”
“That’s too bad!” she said.
I took another sip of my drink. “Not really. He used to whip me something awful, and that’s when he was in a good mood. I never felt nothing much for him.”
“And your mom?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Never set sight on her. She left when I was an infant. Run off and never came back…How about you?”
“My people-they go back over a 1000 years. The totem pole outside our hut has 16 rings-sixteen generations.”
“You still live in your tribal hut?”
The smile became leery. “You mean where we do the war dances, and smoke the peace pipe?”
“No, I didn’t mean it that way at all,” I came back, chastened. “I was just curious about where your digs are.”
“For your information, we live in our quarter. Our Indian pride is still intact.”
“I ought to tell you that I was in stir,” I swallowed hard.
“You did time?”
“A year for Grand Theft, three for Aggravated Assault. I had a choice view of Gastineau Channel from my cell during the last stretch. Won enough playing Texas hold ‘em, though, to make a down payment on my boat.”
Finishing what was left of the Jim Bean, I signaled to the waiter to refresh our drinks. “You must have a lot of admirers,” I threw out.
“Your right, I do. For a squaw, I’d say that I’m in high demand.”
I had that coming. “That’s okay. I’ll join the line.”
When the waiter returned with our drinks, she drained hers right away, not even batting her eyelashes. I would have taken my usual time finishing mine, but she blurted out, ”Down the hatch, Tommy. I’d like to take you for a ride.”
Sounding like a fine idea to me, she was quick on the draw all right. I gulped down the Jim Bean, and we were out of there. She led me to a beat up Jeep Wrangler sandwich parked on 4th Street. Getting in on the passenger side, there was no question that the alcoholic content in her blood made her unfit to drive, but then, this was Alaska.
Gunning the jeep, she headed took a right unto Franklin Street. Taking Franklin to Front Street, she swung a left. Front Street crossed Main Street where she banged a right. Main Street took us right to the Egan Drive. Picking up speed, we were heading north.
As we passed by the Aurora Basin, I thought that I’d say, “Where I live.” She didn’t say anything. In fact, she didn’t say anything during the whole drive. We drove by the lone McDonalds franchise in Juneau and the miniature Costco outlet. before hitting the open road. There wasn’t much of anything to see after that.
After about 30 minutes, she started slowing down. I had no idea if she planned to make out me or kill me. Whatever she wanted to do was the way it will be. Stopping the car, she turned off the engine. We were in total blackness. “You come out to this spot much?” I asked.
I noticed that the saccharine smile had totally disappeared. Her face had been reconfigured to as true a look as could be. All pretense had been dropped. “Only with my Raven.”
“Can’t you take a joke?”
“I’m afraid that I don’t get the punch line.”
As she got out of the Wrangler, I decided to do the same. Although a brisk, cold wind had come up, she didn’t seem affected in the least. Not that there was any place to wander. Locked in by the foothills of a mountain, we had come to the end of the road. In fact, there was a signpost stuck in place that said just that: End of the Road.
Seeing that she had walked up to the signpost, I went over and joined her. After looking away for a few moments, she turned and faced me. “Kiss me, Tommy,” I heard her say. “Kiss me, Raven.”
It wasn’t as if I needed any convincing. I brought her into my arms as she squeezed her body into mine, a perfect fit. Our lips met.
I don’t know how long we stayed there necking, but eventually we got back into the Wrangler. Cutting a u-turn, she started back on Egan Drive. Although no words were exchanged during the ride, fully articulated was what was between us. I had never felt closer to another human being in my life.
Pulling into the first available spot at the Aurora Basin, she turned the engine off. “Are you going to invite me aboard?” she asked.
“You want to-sure,” I stammered.
“What’s wrong, Tommy? Surely this isn’t the first time that you hooked up.”
Going down the row of boats, I led her to my craft, Drifter. She wasn’t much to speak of, but I wouldn’t have exchanger her for the Queen Mary II. Drifter held her own in the sea with the best of them.
“A little paint job wouldn’t hurt,” she looked the boat over.
“Nor would a couple of thousand bucks to have it done.”
Boarding, I took her right away to the cabin below. “I gave the cleaning lady a week off so I hope that you don’t mind the clutter.” The scent of fish overpowered the nostrils.
Settling on the bunk, she took a deep breath. “The Eagle and the Raven!” she declared, her eyes opening wide. “We are inviolate.” With that, she began peeling off her clothes. What met my eyes was not entirely what I expected. Her body was full of lacerations, as if she had been through a grinder.
“What the hell!” I finally burst out.
“Love marks,” she brushed me off. “I have a husband, and must stay with him.”
“Not any more you don’t! I’ll-I’ll put a stop to this.”
“Tommy, I appreciate what you are saying, but you are not of my people. We have to keep to our ways to go on. Now, if you are going to screw me, you’re sure taking your time.”
Up to this point, the relations I had had with the opposite sex had been with working girls, a few minutes of carnal pleasure and it was over, pure business. This, though, proved to be a world apart. I don’t know exactly how to put it: it seemed as if we both were gnawing for something interred deep inside, a complimentary side.
When it was over, she lay beside me tugging for breath. “My Raven,” she gasped. “A Raven, Tommy, do you understand?-a Raven represents a moiety.”
“So is an Eagle,” she ignored me. “To us, they are intended to be a match.”
“That’s fine by me.” I had had in my arms who I had always dreamed about, and it was as simple as that. My eyes were closing and I felt myself drifting off to a deep and gentle sleep.
When I opened my eyes in the morning, she was gone. I sat bolt upright. Thinking that she might have gone up to get some air, I scampered outside without a stitch on. She, however, was nowhere on the deck. Returning to the cabin, I noticed that she had left a neatly folded Chikat blanket by the pillow. Picking the blanket up, I noticed that woven in were two expressions stitched beside each other, Taakw aaneidi and S! eefk weidi.
Putting off her disappearance to having to go to work, I just prayed that she wasn’t going to take a beating from her other side. Although I had beaten a man to a pup once, I had no reservation about taking his life, if it came to that.
A day of fishing lay in between seeing her again. Going out trawling, the weather shortly turned. With the waves white capping, the boat began to bob. So did my spirits. The char, halibut and Chinook salmon crowded my nets, though.
At last, satisfied that I had had a respectable day out, I headed back to my berth. After hauling out and storing the catch, and battening down, I grabbed a quick shower. Dressing, I took off right away for the Diamond International, hoofing it into the central distract.
Expecting her to be at her assigned post drawing in potential customers, I was taken aback to see another taking her place. Although she didn’t lack for looks, there was no way she came near the beauty of who she was substituting for. Waiting until an hour after the Diamond Intercontinental closed, she did not appear.
I repeated my watch for a solid week with the same results. With a heavy heart, I made up my mind to go up a step- to inquire within as to her whereabouts. The artificial smile on the face of the greeter vanished the moment he laid eyes on me, as if he didn’t have to pretend with the riff raff. “How can I help you?” he barely got out.
“I’m searching for someone. Employed here, she stands outside trying to entice the tourists inside. “
“You don’t mean the young lady outside?” he snapped.
“No, it’s not her. She was working last week.”
“Oh, you must mean the Tlingit.”
“Yes, that’s her.”
“Pardon my saying, but you must be new to these parts. The Tlingit keep to themselves. As for the woman you are seeking, she was the easiest pick up you could find. She’d open her legs for you on demand. That’s the reason her husband used to beat her silly all the time. ..Where is she? Her husband probably had enough and finisher her. We’ll never know. What they do to each other out in the woods is their own business. Who cares, huh? She’s one less Indian who we have to bother about.”
What kept me from decking this man, I’ll never understand. Slumping, I just felt the air leave my system.
“You all right, mister?” the greeter asked, looking me over.
I turned and strided off.
When they say that life has its ups and downs, they certainly had me in mind. From the beginning, my life had been on a steady downward slide. Then I had run into her, and the direction reversed-at least for awhile.
Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling something has changed. Although I had been beaten down and knocked silly, my spirit had somehow remained intact. You can’t tame the wild. You have to kill it. That it hadn’t done, and maybe never will.
I have never mourned anyone before. The fishing helped. Being out in the deep, in the great, fertile openness of the sea, many times as I stared down into the depths, I have observed what you can’t see. I had the certitude that she would never leave me, no matter what.
A couple of weeks afterwards, I bought a quart of Canadian Club. Hailing a cab, I told the driver to take me to the end of the road. The driver understood where I meant.
When we got to the sign post, I got out of the cab. Opening the bottle, I took a few slugs. The whiskey felt good going down. I went and placed the bottle in front of the sign. The driver didn’t say a word. That’s Alaska for you. Anything goes.
“I will always be your Raven,” I said in parting.
The cab left me off at the dock. I made my way back to Drifter. The air felt crisp and clean. There was nothing to do but curl up in the Chikat blanket and drift off to sleep, content that she’d be soaring where it counted, in his heart, and in his soul.
About the Author:
Robert Gamer currently resides in Danvers, Massachusetts. Learning from such masters as Chekhov and Turgenev, he is working on a novel. When not writing, he continues to push for protecting the environment and fixing the immigration system.