Let’s say Jenski handed you the gun, not me. That big o’l revolver’s in your right hand, not mine. It’s heavier than regret and pulling your arm out of your shoulder, and Jenski’s pointing at the milk crate strapped to the cargo bay floor and says, Sit there. If one even starts twitching, shoot it. You look at him, wide-eyed, and he says, One of those fuckers starts flailing around while we’re in the air, this plane is going down and we’re dead. You look at the gun and you look at the horses—two geldings and a mare, a chestnut, a bay, an appaloosa—lying on their sides, soft cloths over their eyes, their rib cages expanding and contracting, expanding and contracting, and you look at Jenski and say Where? He turns and spits tobacco out the cargo bay door into the endless June sunshine. The skin in his bald spot, ringed by greasy brown hair sticking straight up, is impossibly soft. Baby soft. Jenski mutters something about cheechakos, about lower forty-eighters, and you wonder if whatever you’ve gotten yourself into is what you wanted when you drove north out of Colorado. Jenski turns and jabs a stubby, broken-nailed finger into your forehead. Right fucking here.
Let’s say it was you, not me, listening to Jenski cuss the pilot as the plane lumbered down the runway in Palmer and bounced over the Chugach Range toward the hunting camp. You, not me, hanging onto a strap riveted to the ceiling and getting sicker and sicker as the pilot circled where the landing strip was supposed to be and Jenski cursed the fog rolling off McCarthy Creek.
Your breath, not mine, catching when the bay’s velvety-soft ear begins to move. Your stomach, not mine, sinking when a shiver runs the length of the appaloosa’s body.
Your thumb pulling back the hammer.
Photo by Brian Shum.
Alaska fans, I know this pic isn’t of McCarthy Creek or even near it. It’s okay. Also, a few of you will recognize the surname Jenski. I based this story on a story AJ told one time when we were both supposed to be working.