ghosts on the ice

Posted on February 15, 2009

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well, did you know that i am the grandchild of an inuit shaman?

we lived in newfoundland then, close to the edge of the ice. there were any number of ghosts there. no, not just stories, the real thing. there were shiny spectres, spiritual bums, ancient heroes, and also some ancestors with unfinished ends hanging out of their pants. as my granny used to say, they made our lives more colourful. granny had lived with a polar bear for a partner for a while, and ’tis true that my halfbrother jed is pale and very, very hairy. but most families have some animal connection and there are worse fates anyway (i mean, imagine if you’re a female and your mother was a rodent).

once my grandfather brought a siberian tigress to our hut who had swum over from russia and crossed the ice all by herself. she was so starved, she ate out of our hand, and when she had finished, she even wiped her mouth since she had seen us do it. we sat for two nights around the fireplace while the beast told us her entire
life. there is the same amount of routine in the days of a predator as in, say, the life of a construction worker, or of an investment banker. naturally, it’s bloodier, at least when compared with the former. all “look for food and drink – kill – eat” etc. but there were surprises, too. like when the tiger found a mammoth and they became friends (just like in the movies! don’t tell me the movies don’t tell it how it is!) and walked around for a while until the mammoth was shot down. this happens all the time, the big cat said, siberia is full of mammoths, and they’d love it if their existence was acknowledged, but science holds such strong prejudices against the existence of a live mammoth that this is unlikely to change any time soon.

when the tigress whose name in humanspeak was something like “katherine-who-is-a-mighty-mistress” had become stronger, and when all stories were told, we parted as friends and swore to name our offspring after one another. my younger sister however prefers the simpler “jane”.
© 2009 finnegan flawnt

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