I was facing the wall of the cage, chewing on a bone I had stowed under the filthy rug, when the Chiwi across the aisle whispered through her bars, “Hey, Moot, you awake?”
Jesus, wherever you look, this pipsqeak has ta be there, waiting for ya. Stop busting my ass, kid. Now get some sleep while you still can.” I turned around and went back to my chewing. Damn that Chiwi and damn this joint. How I wished I was home. With Akna.
It seems just like yesterday. I was six months old when the Hulk put me in a barred crate and had it secured to four of the links that ran along the floor of that cavernous bird. He left some crackers and some milk in a jar in there. Soon there was this high-pitched whine and we were off, moving. I got thrown around a bit and after while when they finally came ta get me, I jumped into the Hulk’s arms.
There was a woman waiting when we reached the house. A plump little woman. Like the ones you saw around where I was from. I took to her the moment I set my eyes on her. And she already had a name for me. Qannik. The first few days just whizzed by.
“I miss my Momma, I want my Momma. I’m hungwy,” I cried one night to the woman but she didn’t speak Mootee. Still, she did have a cushiony lap, this Akna. I reckoned her name was Akna, least that’s what the white Hulk kept calling her. One night, while she was lying on her side, I looked for her titties. Found two biggish mounds. Just two. My momma had eight and even when there were 12 of us, if I was early, I could pick any. I planted my paw on one just ta check it out. Felt kinda bouncy. Anyways, I was feeling thirsty, so I clamped my mouth on it.
A Malamute can be very pushy, and given an inch he’ll maybe take a mile and then some. She woke and gently lifted me, gave me a squeeze and placed me on the woolly mat on the floor right next. Then she went and fetched a bottle of milk, her bangles jingling as she tried the milk out on her wrist and then gently put the rubber teat in my mouth.
When the hulk was gone, and that would be for weeks at a stretch, I’d get to sleep on the bed, right next to Akna. When he was around, it was the mat for me. I knew the hulk would be home by the evening if I saw Akna dust out the mat and unfurl it next to the bed. And I knew I won’t get no sleep that night, for sure. Christ, change the goddamn bed springs, will ya, I wanted ta scream at him. But he didn’t speak no Mootee either.
And there’s another guy in this house. Guy by the name of Roger. Never seen him though. When Akna said something to the Hulk, he immediately said ‘Roger that’. The same thing when he had that thingee to his ear. Like that Sunday, he said, “Oh700, Roger that, I’ll be there.” I caught him speakin’ into the thingee a couple more times that day. ‘Flight plan’, ‘Lakenheath’. Bimblyboo man talk. But I loved it when he was home.
Sunday, he played with me all day, tossed me around, slung me over his shoulder and walked to the supermarket, all the while jabbering away into that talk thingee of his. In the pet-food section, Hulk had me by my armpits, high above the ground, staring right at his face inches away, while he spoke ta me in his bimblyboo lang. He touched his nose to mine and planted a kiss on my snout. Yeechch! Take it easy, Don Juan. Maybe the bimblyboo he uttered meant that he wanted ta let me choose my own chow. So I jabbed one of those boxes that had a picture of a heap of bones on it and he placed it in the cart. Then he made a snout sized hole in the box and while he shopped, I munched. By the time we were at the cash, he was laughing at the empty box and tickling my tummy. That made me let out a good-sized burp, sending the girl at the cash into splits. What can I tell ya, I am a funny guy.
Hulk went away Monday and I took to squatting on the porch steps every evening, waiting to see the camouflage green half-track come to a halt and him clamber out of it, his gear slung over his shoulder.
He never came home. A man in an olive green jeep did. It was perhaps that Roger guy at last, nobody tells me nothing. Heard snatches of bimblyboo… ‘turbulence’, Lakenheath, outer marker beacon’. I saw the thin woman from the next house hurry in, the woman who had once brought that ugly little Chiwi with her one day to introduce ta me. I beat the pipsqeak up but he still said hello when we met by the fence sometimes. The lady went straight to Akna and pulled her into her arms and both sat down on the living room sofa. I wanted to jump into Akna’s lap but that Roger guy picked me up and locked me in the bedroom. Hey, watch it, Tarzan, I’m beginning ta dislike ya.
That day passed in a haze. Akna appeared after the sun had set, with a bowl of munchies and milk. I don’t need the bottle no more. As I wolfed it down, she held me tight and cried and rocked me back and forth, unmindful of stuff spilling all over. What’s the big deal? Hey, relax, lady, you’ll find yourself another hulk and we’ll all move on, OK? Now cut it out, you’re choking me. A Moot disappears, we mope around for just a few hours, do our ‘he was a jolly good fella’ bit and that’s it. I mean you gotta go, you gotta go, right?
Hulk’s disappearance reminded me of the day Ataneq didn’t return. He had Akiak, Kavik, Timber, Wolf, Dakota, Desna and six others with him. With him, Ataneq, in the lead. I tell ya, pulling a sled isn’t for the fainthearted. And Ataneq was the best there ever was. We never did come ta know what really happened that day on the far side of the Kavuh peak. By sundown we had let it go and we had moved on. Yukon had put himself in charge from that day on. Not that Ataneq and the others had left our consciousness for good. It’s just that, like the Inuit, we’d grown fatalistic too.
In our original environment, we Malamutes know not to rely on our owners for direction or guidance. In order to survive, we learn very quickly and draw from our own experience, to make independent decisions. We also sometimes forcefully refuse to do as our owner asks, when the situation requires. There are many tales of Malamutes saving themselves and their owners from tragic accidents because they adamantly refused ta venture out onto thin ice or into areas that had hidden crevasses. Maybe Ataneq had listened to the man for once. Who knows?
I think of Ataneq often. Like that day he showed me how to look for seals under the ice. I was just a pup then. And he treated me like a grownup, nudging me toward the hole that the seals make in the ice, to come up ta catch their breath once in a while. Seals aren’t like the dumb salmon, y’know. They gotta breathe. On sunny summer days, the stupid sods flopped out of the holes and lazed around, sunning themselves. Yummy dishes all. That’s when we crept up from behind, in a pack. They never had a chance. Oh, I break up when I think of those good old days.
The day before he left with the others, I found Ataneq sitting by the water and gazin’ out at the setting sun over the pines. I found it strange. He was always with the pack, never alone. From behind he looked magnificent. Thick white fur, with evenly spaced streaks of black. Ears erect. Keen eyes searching in the horizon.
“What you lookin’ at, Ataneq?” I snuggled up to him.
“See those hills over there? Not that little hump, those hills across the waters? Something tells me you’ll one day make it there, Pukiq. Maybe even beyond.” He liked ta call me Pukiq. I know he liked me. “I haven’t been able ta. And I probably won’t ever. But you will. And through you, I will. You’ll see. Maybe they’ll get you to hunt caribou. Now that’s real yummy stuff.”
“We’ll hunt caribou together, Ataneq,” I said fiercely, nuzzling up to him.
I must have been dreaming that I said that, but when I woke from my little reverie, I realized I was alone. A replenished bowl of cereal in milk lay a few feet away, with another bowl of water close by. It was pitch dark outside and there was silence in the house. Where was that woman? I stood up on all fours, stretched and went lookin’ for Akna. I entered the living room and something made me look up.
There she was, up there. I tried my best ta leap up but couldn’t quite touch her toes. I called out desperately, but like I said she don’t understand no Mootee. She was still, and the rope above stretched taut.
Long story short, they took me away to this joint where I am now, in a cage, with a filthy rag for a mat. There’s a Chiwi in the cage right across, like the one I’d beaten up back home. Home? Funny word, that, I said ta myself. Didn’t see no Moot in this dump. Good thing the Chiwi spoke Mootee.
“Hey, heard they’re closing down this joint. They’ll maybe put us all ta sleep soon, before they do.” Chiwi whispered across one mawnin’.
“So, what’s the big deal?” I shot back, “ Now shut up, kid, you’re annoying me.”
Yeah. What’s the big deal? At least I’ll get ta meet Ataneq, Akna and the Hulk on the other side. Maybe we’ll all hunt caribou together.
Read Part-1 here….