Last Frontier by Michael Igoe (Prose stories) Last Frontier

Last Frontier

Franklin Street skitters, unpaved,down past doorways,mostly of saloons. It angles off the business district down to piers and landings.. Then disappears later on the inlet. In mud flats, stretches no one can travel.Every bar has its moonglow; some are strictly Indian, others White. Northern Lights, Red Dog, The Arctic Tap. In November, the freezing rain splashes outside. Rain, all the time.                                                                                                                                                                      Juneau was built on the wrong side of a mountain range.                                                                                                           Hard by the sea, 30 miles of roads connect Juneau. But they’re going nowhere. You need to take a ferry to the Alcan Highway to leave. When you’re ready to leave, that is.                                                                                                                                        Everyday I took my aimless hikes. By tumbledown shacks to the outskirts of town.                                                                          Alone, I passed by Indians. They nodded, or glared. No one here feels morose about rainfall. Because by late September, it’ll all be snowflakes. At times, hail in big pellets. It stays like that till May.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I buy beer and cigarettes in The Arctic. I’m known there by recognition if not by name. Bartender Gus wheels around the floor to his cashbox. Dime pinups and snapshots festoon his mirror.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          He asks daily if I’ve found work. I tell him no. I decided a while back not to tell him that I’m not looking.But I don’t mind talking. Sooner or later, I cut off his blue stream of words.                                                                                                                                                                      I’m not someone who says exactly what they think.                                                                                                                                And who is Gus? A haggard Swede in a T-shirt, combat veteran of the Marshall Islands. We spoke the first day I got here. He gave pointers, tips and advice. Ins and outs of Juneau Alaska.  I listened dully, but with due respect.                                                                                                                                                            What my intentions were- that probably crossed his mind. They have changed each day since leaving Seattle. I came here to bust out; make a break:escape.But I never meant to settle down. What I meant was to return to Monica if I could.  Or hope she’d come to me.                                                                         This one intention I didn't want to sell short.                                                                                                                                    When I first got here, the days were growing longer into perpetual night.. I had about 6 months pay in my pocket from a loading dock at the Pike Street Market. In Seattle, where I met Monica. At first glance, she seemed benevolent and wise. Possessed of wisdom that comes from world weary. But she has gaps, fissures you’ll soon discover. She claims to know what’s on your mind- since she has psychic power, and is linked to the supernatural. She claims to know the difference between the things you say and what you’re really thinking.                                                                                                                                                           As for myself, I am a creature of habit. I smoke, drink, and eat red meat. I wake up in the morning and drift to sleep each night.                                                                                                                                                                                                    It was too early to strike out for the Arctic. Last night, I took notice of a blue tattoo scripted on one of Gus’s forearms. Just one word: Sherry.  Never seen that before.                                                                            Tenants liked to socialize in the lobby at the Scandinavian Hotel.  They sipped booze while they played complex chess games.                                                                                                                      I got a room here when I first landed off a ship from Seattle. It was run by a large family of Tlinglit Indians, who really had no clue about English.The oldest daughter took the lead, walking back and forth through a blanket. She spoke broken English though broken teeth.  A voice both lilting and guttural. I learned not to ask this smooth faced girl too many questions. She didn’t know how to answer them. She would laugh and shrug, then wave me off with one arm.                                                                                                                                                                                  The blanket in the doorway was a mottled gray.. It separated the living quarters from the lobby. Every week, I tapped the bell at the bell desk(they did have a bell desk). Money exchanged hands; that’s about it..Smells from cooking. Smoke filled the lobby three times daily.                                                                                                              A portrait of George Washington(you know the one!)hangs on a far wall.
At that moment none of the crowd was in the lobby. I cracked open the quart top and fiddled around with the radio.                                                                                                                                                                                  Why'd I ever get mixed up with Monica? Like, even in the first place? I didn’t like to feel a waning desire. Hers, or mine.And what about all those halfasses back home. Whatever were they after?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Swiveling  around, I took a look at George Washington again. Just to make sure he was still in his frame.                                                                                                                                                                     A rust colored pickup pulled up across the street. Charles was here, one of the lobby regulars. A gimp-legged little guy with a bushy beard. He didn’t stay at the old hotel, but he knew one and all. He wasn’t an Alaskan, another out of state type like me. Charles was from Northern Cal, he wound up in Juneau after weed got legal.  He was a well established ton dealer. They said he had a lot of money. But he dressed like he was down and out.                                                                                    He sat across from me and started to set up his chessboard. Without looking up, he asked, “How’s it going?” I said, “ It’s going.” He finally narrowed his eyes with curiosity. “You know if the old lady catches you with that open bottle, this time she ‘s gonna evict you.”                                                                   I didn’t respond. One of his legs took a jump. He’d messed them up in a car crash.                                                                  
“Are you playing, or no?” He sighed and pushed out the queen’s pawn. After several moves he began bad mouthing Kimbro. An Indian guy upstairs.. One of his small-time customers. He’d seen Kimbro cuffed and whisked out from one of the bars by the State Police. The charge, said Chasrles, was grave robbery. Mutilation of a corpse.  This made sense to me. Kimbro always seemed despondent. He was from a Tlinglit village far in the interior.                                                                           Juneau must be The Big City.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Charles toyed with his white bishop. “Keep your distance from him. He’s no damn good.” “Thanks for the information”, I told him, and resigned from the chess game. I capped the bottle and went upstairs. Opening my room, I noticed the orange coil glow on the hotplate. I’d left it on again.  I lay down in the dark.                                                                                                                                                           I tried not to think about Monica. What a dangerous person. How much did I know about her anyway? If I knew more, I was sure I’d love her less. Drifting to sleep in the afternoon, I thought I heard her talking. “ Your misfit , pissant devils lay in wait. But soon mine will show up.” Then she asked me if I paid rent here, and how. I became confused and mumbled about the light bill.                          
 I woke up startled and knew for certain. I’d clear out of Juneau soon. This hokum about getting her to join me won’t work. I’d get my old job at the Pike Street Market.                                                              
 I didn't feel a thing. It was dark, but that meant nothing at all. Could be night or day. The gas lamps on the piers glittered.                                                                                                                                             I was not quite young in life and had done nothing to speak of. I thought about Kimbro down the hall, with his found collection of rings and neckties taken from coffins.                                                            I had a laugh and turned back to my sleep.

Bio: Michael Igoe, neurodiverse city boy, Chicago now Boston, recovery staff at Boston University Center For Psych Rehab. Many works appear in journals online and print. Recent: Spare Change News(Cambridge MA),, Avalanches In Poetry National Library Of Poetry Editor's Choice For 1997. Twitter: MichaelIgoe5. Urban Realism, Surrealism. I like the Night.

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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