Smoke – Finale


Clear skies, not a hint of fog, broken dawn. Soon the sun would be shining down on the picturesque little tourist village as it prepared for the evening salmon bake, an annual celebration of the areas heritage. It was a neighborhood that beamed. Homes in spotless condition, lawns and landscaping precisely manicured. Cars washed, boats and trailers stored out of sight. Children and their dogs could be heard playing nearby.

Red and black whale totem patch proudly displayed on the left shoulder of his uniform, Chief Rithy Jims of the Quinomish Tribal Police was first to arrive at the vehicle. Fifty yards or so from designated public parking, the car sat askew the rough scrub of the gravel shoulder, resting on its undercarriage, rear wheels hanging precariously over a drainage ditch, front wheels in the street angled severely to the left in complete disregard for the ‘No Parking’ sign.

“No one walks anymore,” mumbled Chief Jims.

Inspecting the vehicle it was always the same, empty beer cans, junk food wrappers strewn about, full tank of gas. Sad state, but in his mind Jims smiled thinking about the five hundred-dollar impound fee that would be added to the tribes coffers. He made the call to dispatch requesting a tow truck stating that he would wait with the vehicle. It was a clear, warm and sunny morning with a hint of breeze through the trees, he would be happy to wait. He did not notice the map resting on the car’s dashboard.

West-facing, looking across the hood of the car, Chief Jims could see the trail-head, marked with an authentic cedar canoe propped atop two stumps carved with the likeness of paddles etched with elaborate xylography designed in such a way that in the fog the effect would be that of a canoe floating downstream. Youth of all shapes and sizes had manned the canoe with everything from garish department store manikins to a full-grown bull moose (stuffed), an odd capriccio. Today it was a raccoon dressed as a pirate. This landmark lead to the trail that would reach the ancient village site, a popular attraction, a place of numerous ceremonies, rituals and festivities.

Taking a deep breath the scent of salty dampness laced with Western Hemlock, Sitka Spruce and fertile decay sweetened the breeze. And for a moment he imagined the smell of salmon pinned to cedar stakes cooking on an alderwood fire just beneath the sounds of dancing, singing and drums. Rumbling up from behind the tow truck snapped the Chief from his reverie.

Within moments the car was hitched and as the winch pulled the nose of the vehicle upward, gravity took control of the map and it slid from the dash, floating gently to the carpeted floor mat, slipping silently beneath the driver’s seat coming to rest atop several forgotten coins, the feather from a young gray owl and a gas station receipt from 1979.


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