Monday, October 23, 2006

WAL-MART OF THE GREAT WHITE NORTH

By Sir Richard Shelbourne Thistlebottom

Spring was dawning across the Arctic, and with it, timeless rhythms of nature began to beat anew. The ice that had covered the bay in a thick sheet now heaved and groaned as it broke into floes. At the water’s edge, snowy owls frolicked with their fuzzy hatchlings while an adorable polar bear cub looked on. Nearby, a herd of caribou was starting the long migration north along the coast to the calving grounds, and the promise of food for the summer.

It was with a heavy heart that Nasamiituuq began loosening the sinew that held together the seal-skin walls of the Wal-Mart. She didn't want to leave, but the elders had said it was time to move on, like the caribou. The wind howled along the shore, and she called to Amaguq and Oogrooq for help. When they had finished folding the skins into tight bundles, they started dragging the vending machines into the sleds. It had been a good winter, Nasamiituuq thought. So many items had been sold for unbeatably low prices; surely this winter would live forever in songs and stories!

Inside the partially dismantled store, the ice floor was littered with pallets and empty cardboard boxes and, here and there, a few walrus tusks and whale vertebrae. Makittuq and Biisaiyowaq had nearly finished packing away all the merchandise. Now they took a short break from their work to share a piece of blubber and talk excitedly about the new shipment of hot summer fashions that would await them at the end of their trek.

Outside, Old Oomailiq the Greeter took a long look across the fractured ice, which glinted in the late morning sun. He had seen many seasons came and go; soon, they would be on their way once again. He glanced up and saw Nasamiituuq, and the old man knew she was sad to leave this place. He would talk with the young girl. In time, she would come to understand the ways of her people.

The air was warming quickly. Oomailiq took off his heavy jacket of musk-ox hide and folded it neatly along with his hunting knife and a pouch of dried ptarmigan meat. Soon he would slip on his familiar blue vest and begin walking with the other Wal-Mart associates ― across the parking lot, out onto the endless expanse of tundra.

(As he lay dying in the splintered remains of his sailing vessel, famed Arctic explorer Sir Richard Shelbourne Thistlebottom filled the last pages of his weather-beaten journal with this short but profound work of fiction. When the journal recently surfaced at a yard sale in the town of Taloyoak, Thistlebottom scholars were delighted to find the story accompanied by several whimsical sketches of copulating seals.)

2 comments:

Hugh Jorgan said...

If we sent all of OUR Wal*Marts to be set up in the areas in which the story takes place, there would be enough that the migrants could move from store to store without having to move the actual brick-and-mortar (or, in this case, skin-and-sinew) establishments. It would be good for Nasamiituuq and her people, and would be good for my people to get all the f@^%ing Wal*Marts out of here!

Just an idea....
Your pal,
--Hugh

Lathrop Pennyfinger Thistlebottom said...

Dear Hugh,

I believe my grandfather would have agreed with you, given his ceaseless complaints about the lack of inexpensive tube socks for sale whilst in the northerly climes.