Pastoral Genocide

Something About Seattle

She told me it was over, that she was leaving. On her way out the door, she yelled something about Seattle and then stole my car. From the bedroom window I watched as she backed furiously out of the driveway and sped off into the afternoon. That was the last I saw of either her or the car.

I work in a canning plant ten miles away from my rented one bedroom apartment. Each afternoon, I wake up begrudgingly and ride my bike across town. Winter is looming, cold and terrible. Things are different in Alaska. Less exciting, less meaningful. This place is purgatorial holding cell set against a backdrop of snow-tipped mountain tops. Its beauty belies its cruelty.

I came up this way when I was 18. I took a bus from Little Rock to Tulsa, from Tulsa to Spokane, from Spokane to here. I bounced from job to job, drinking sometimes hard and sometimes long. I caught on with a fishing outfit for awhile. Made decent enough money that I spent mostly on booze. Eventually, I got a job in a canning plant and it stuck. I’m a supervisor now, I work 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., four nights a week. I drink less and I read a lot – books, magazines, the newspaper. It’s ok. I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen, epiphanic or otherwise.

I haven’t been home since my mom died in ‘96. I’m not sure where home is anymore. Not here, that’s for sure. I’m planning on getting out. I’ve got a couple grand in the bank and it’s more than I’ve ever had. But something’s keeping me here. Maybe it was her, but I’m not entirely sure.

The day that I decide to leave yawns only slightly awake. It’s December and this place is foggishly dim, even in the afternoon. Against the cold, I bike downtown, to Citizen’s Savings and Loan. I close out my account. Four thousand, four hundred and nine dollars. Seventeen cents. I feel good about it, mostly. I stop by Henderson’s for a drink before heading home. I pack my things into a brown suitcase. A couple shirts, a handful of books, a black and white picture of my mom from when she was 20. I light a cigarette and look around the apartment. I’ve lived here from 8 years and I still don’t have a thing on the walls. It’s good to be leaving, I say aloud.

I call into work. I tell them I’m done. They say its fine and wish me luck. I wish them luck, too, and then I hang up the phone. That night, I sleep well. I wake up around noon and head out the door. I’m leaving behind some tattered furniture – a peeling bureau, a steel corner desk, a stained queen mattress that sits on the floor, a lime green couch that I bought from the local Salvation Army. I lock the door behind me and drop the key in the manager’s box on the way out. My former landlord is an Aleutian fellow named Sam. Nice guy, a big hockey fan. I quickly scribble a note to him on the back of sporting goods catalog. I apologize for the lack of advanced notice. I push two twenties into the fold for his trouble.

I shrug against the cold. I won’t miss this, I think to myself. I straddle my bike and start to peddle. The wind is pushing voluptuously against me, almost demanding that I stay. But I’m not staying.

I arrive at the bus station out of breath. My fingers and toes are remarkably numb and my face feels chapped and stiff.

At the ticket window, a cute native girl greets me with a forcibly impatient half-smile. She’s chewing gum. “Where to” she demands. I pause for a second, unsure. I clear my throat and almost say Seattle.

“I’ll take a one-way ticket to Spokane, please.”