When the crew finally reached Jack’s hut, Celeste was amazed how cozy and perfect it was for one person. Jack had skins of many different animals hanging and drying in the shaded trees for the winter. They both unloaded the meat off the horse and started the prepping of curing the meat. Celeste watched Jack with interest, his skilled aged hands stretched the large hide on a stretcher. “This will make good clothing for me Nujalik, for many years.” They both worked their magic skinning the hide of the bear to perfection in no time at all. “You are good with that blade woman. I did not realize how good you are in skinning an animal, impressive I do say.” Celeste smiled knowing she was doing something right.
Celeste whistled out loud for wolf. “Why you doing that for girl, the wolf is having a fling with another. He will not be around for a day or two, so leave him alone and let him do his business.” Celeste looked at Jack and asked. “How do you know?” “Well, while you were sleeping you did not hear the calls.” Celeste nodding her understanding, and began to take the hide of the bear that Jack skillfully skinned and nailed it to several boards. Laying the fur out straight and tight, they attached it to the boards so it would not curl up. When finished she took her knife and started to scrape out the flesh, while Jack cut up the meat. Both worked in unison, with skill and knowledge on the bear.
Celeste worked quietly making sure she didn’t miss any flesh that needed to be removed from the hide. As she worked on the hide, she got the nerve to ask Jack a question. “Since I keep asking you why you live here, and we keep getting interrupted, don’t you think it’s a good time to tell me your story, Jack? Also, do you have some salt that I could cure this hide with?” Jack looked at the skin and left his task of cutting up the meat and hanging it dry over a small fire he built to make jerky. She watched him walk up close to his hut, grab a man made pitch fork and started to remove some debris away into a pile. He then opened a hidden door going down inside the ground. “Pretty cleaver Jack, I wondered how you stored your food. Did you build that cellar or did it come with the hut?”
Jack didn’t say anything until he came out of the cellar with a box of salt. “I built this hut and cellar with my own two hands . Took me a long time, but I was younger then and could do most the work by myself.” He handed her the salt and returned to cutting his meat up. Celeste asked again. “Now old man, let me hear your story!”
No more interruption, Jack took a deep breath and began his story.
“I am in my mid eighties, I have been here I think over 50 years. I like it here, its not too cold and I love the plenty of food the forest offers me.” Jack looked at Celeste and watched her use the salt on the hide. “Good job, you are doing on hide!” Celeste didn’t look up at him, she stayed quiet and let him speak freely.
“I came here when I was in my late twenties, escaping mankind and it’s ugly world. When I was younger, I wanted to see the rest of the world. I would day dream of seeing different places and people. I loved living in Alaska Nujalik, but I also have a wondering spirit. I learned to hunt very young to help my family survive the freezing weather. I have killed many bear and seal to survive with my older brother’s help. When I reached the age of 19, I never married because I wanted to see the world. I thought since I have an older brother, he could spill his seed. I was too young to think of having a family. I was a strong cocky young man Nujalik, maybe too cocky for my own good.” Celeste looked up at Jack when he didn’t proceed. She watched him battling with the right words to say, while reliving his memories silently.
“I thought I knew everything as a teenager, but I didn’t. Yea, I thought I was big bad strong man, because of my many battles I fought with the Earth elements, and creatures. I did have many near death experiences, but survived. One day we got word that World War II had begun. So I saw this as my chance to leave Alaska and do a service to our country. How stupid I was Nujalik! Do you know any of your history girl?” Jack suddenly asked Celeste. She looked up at Jack and told him what she knew of the History of World War II.
“It was known as the second World War that included many Nations to gather. It was a horrible global war that lasted if my memory serves me from 1939 to 1945. There were two military alliances, called Axis and Allies. To me it was probably the worse of all wars, due to the Holocaust and the only nuclear weapons used in human warfare. I think the lost of humans were over 50 million.” Jack smiled and said, “Very good girl, smart you are! Your teacher was good to educate you on this war.” Celeste smile and thought of her wonderful male tutor.
Celeste proceeded to tell him more of her knowledge of the war. “In 1941, Japan joined the Axis alliance, an attacked the United States, Hawaii to be exact. Then in 1942, I think Japan lost a crucial battle in Midway, and never gained back their momentum back after that lost. Now, back to you Jack.” Celeste returned her attention back to the hide.
“To make a long story short, I enlisted myself into the Army. My parents thought I was crazy and should stay out of the affairs of man kind. But I thought this was my country too and needed a free ride out of Alaska. I fought for the United States bravely Nujalik, but was scared by all the death I had seen. I killed many men due to that ugly war. In the end, I think I lost my head. And the next thing I know I abandoned the service. So I became a fugitive of war. I headed back home to the safety of Alaska. When I returned I found all of my family dead and frozen. They were killed by a polar bear Nujalik.”
“I really went crazy in the head at that time, and went out with rage to kill the beast. Many days I hunted that bear down, but I was looking for a needle in a hay stack. How stupid I was thinking I would kill every polar bear I saw, until the thirst of revenge was complete. In the end I got what was coming to me. I met up with a ferocious bear and lost my eye in the process. He walked away from me after taring me up and leaving me for dead. But I didn’t die, I made shelter out in that winter land and healed. I returned back home to clean up my home and bury my family, when I saw a USA truck in the front of my igloo. I knew they were looking for me as a deserter, so I left Alaska and ended up here being a coward.”
Jack didn’t say anything else, while Celeste stayed quietly pondering on his story. The more she stayed quiet, the more Jack worried if he did the right thing telling her his shame.
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