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got to be kidding.” “You’re laughing because you don’t need a sign to tell you the obvious or you have a problem not leaving a trace of yourself in every place you go?” “Leave nothing but footprints must have been Mary Beth’s motto. She certainly didn’t leave anything for me.” I looked at him and decided to come clean. “I’m not doing a research project on Mary Beth for the New York Times.” Pete’s grin was gone, his eyebrows set in a line. “Mary Beth is my grandmother. She gave my mother to some woman in the Bronx who I thought was my grandmother until a few months ago,” I said for the third time since learning the truth. “Mary Beth didn’t leave a trace for my mom or me.” I started to sniff, head down, shoulders shaking like a kid. “You’ve got some snot on your upper lip.” Pete produced a dirty red bandanna. “If you have to cry - cry. But that sign is bullshit. Everyone leaves a trace.” His eyes, the color of the forest, searched my face and then landed on my own. “Don’t lie to me anymore.” I took the filthy bandanna and blew my nose. VII Pete opened the door to the lodge. “See? There’s an entire trunk of traces.” He tilted his head toward a weathered crate next to the fireplace. “Good luck decoding.” He walked toward the sounds coming from behind a swinging door. The lid, heavy in my hand, creaked as I opened it. The trunk’s contents a jumble of stained and warped composition books, tattered newspapers, mildewed stained letters, official looking documents and mouse poop – a camphored archeological dig. I slid to the floor. Heart pounding, headache building, eyes blurring. I grabbed a journal and read: September 1949. Well, it looks like winter took me by surprise. Yesterday, I was thinking that the yellow aspens were just like me, shaking with excitement about their change of scenery as we settle in to what will be my first fall in Alaska. And today, I woke up to two feet of snow, maybe more. Jim’s in town off on a bender, no doubt. He left yesterday and I was so excited to be alone out here. Just me and the dogs. At first, I felt like a kid on a snow day. Until I realized that I didn’t have enough wood to keep warm for a day, just enough to thaw

out the dogs breakfast and cook up some gruel for myself (I think maybe the dog food looks better than mine!). I guess I better find a saw and figure out what to do with it. It can’t be hard. I saw Jim cut up some of the logs at the back of the lodge while he was three sheets to the wind. Should be easy sober. Or maybe a quick shot in my coffee would do the trick? Will report later! “Here.” Pete handed me a beer. I looked up at him, my fingers still touching my grandmother’s words. “How about I call the air taxi and tell them you won’t be going back tonight?” I managed a grateful nod. “I thought you didn’t have cell phone coverage out here?” “We don’t. Satellite phone.” Pete took a pull on his beer. “Where are you staying in town? We’ll have to call them or they might report you to the Search and Rescue Team.” Surprised that my whereabouts would be of concern to strangers, I gave Pete the name of my hotel. “Do you need to call anyone?” I could see Nana circling her landline, hoping that I would call. Even Brian was waiting to hear from me, bombarding my phone with texts and voice mails, sweetening his apologies with offers to meet me. I shook my head firmly. “I’ll make the phone calls but no Ken Doll action,” he quipped with a goofy grin. I’m not into ‘Found My Granny’s Journals’ sex. Especially with a New York Times reporter. Could get ugly.” I laughed, just a little alarmed. I knew more than a dozen people staffed the place during the tourist season. “Hate to break it to you but the Grizzly Adams Ken doll never did much for me.” “That’s okay.” Pete nodded at the trunk, unperturbed. “I think you’ve got plenty to do tonight.” Laughter exploded into the room. “I’ll ask him,” a tall woman pushed open the swinging door at the back of the room. She made her way toward Pete, her rubber boots and wilderness clothes looked like designer wear complete with a blond ponytail bouncing out of the back of an ALASKA ADVENTURES! cap. “Hey babe.” She wrapped an arm around Pete’s waist and plucked the beer out of his hand with the other. “Is it true? Did someone actually fall out of a float plane today?”

Profile for Michael Burwell

Cirque, Vol. 6 No. 2  

A Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Cirque, Vol. 6 No. 2  

A Journal for the North Pacific Rim

Profile for burwellm
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