How a man found truth by chasing a myth.
JOURNAL ENTRY 38 – Muddled
I shuddered at the thought of returning to Oymyakon. I could already feel the ice crystals closing my nose and burning my lungs. I pictured Yemme–perfectly preserved–judging me from the comfort of his icy grave. There’s no way he would approve of this muddled journey. This exercise of uncertainty. My pendulum was swinging wildly.
We packed ourselves into the cabin of the puke green charter truck. Our driver, Peter, filled a large tank in the back with just enough fuel for our journey. He told us once the engine was started it would stay running to keep the fuel lines from succumbing to ice. Frozen lines have to be thawed by torches held under the vehicle—an incredibly dangerous and time consuming process. A botched thaw had started the truck fire that killed Yemme’s family so many years ago.
All four of us were crammed together on a long bench seat. Peter didn’t seem to care, but it was incredibly awkward for the rest of us. I was forced to hold Amanda on my lap as Bat resigned himself to holding tight to the pack containing the hidden pelt.
Amanda felt rigid as a tombstone on top of me. “Don’t get any ideas, and if I feel anything stirring down there I’m going to cut it off!”
“You’re giving yourself way too much credit,” I told Amanda, “now just sit down and shut up.”
“Switch places with me.”
“You heard me!”
Before I knew it I was sitting on Amanda’s lap. She was too stubborn to let her discomfort show. Bat laughed and grinned at Amanda. “Is this how Americans flirt?”
Amanda snapped her head toward Bat. “You, you shut up! I’ll personally rip your knee caps off like scabs and leave you in the snow to crawl home!”
Amanda was turning deep red. I’m sure I was flushed too. Bat eyes were gleaming.
Our driver Peter giggled to himself and shook his head. He put on a pair of massive head phones and pulled out a bright yellow box emblazoned with the word “walkman” on the side in block letters. He shoved a dusty cassette tape into the machine and clanked it closed. When he hit play I recognized the muffled croon of Frank Sinatra.
Peter turned to me and yelled “Sinatra is best! Best American!” He gave me a big thumbs-up and cranked the key in the engine. The starter labored until the engine finally roared to life. A halo of black smoke surrounded us.
“Off we go!” Peter pulled out of Matvei’s cathedral to shipping and pushed up the mountain. “We will take the road built by Gulag prisoners. Very safe, very nice!”
“Is this really happening?” I mumbled.
Bat elbowed me in the side. “Next stop, Oymyakon!”
To be continued:
Artwork by Skinner
Used with permission. © 2017 Skinner
Underneath its pulpy trappings, Siberian Waste is a story about conservation. Consider donating to one of the following Earth-friendly organizations:
Natural Resources Defense Council: www.nrdc.org
Environmental Working Goup: www.ewg.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org