"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 41 The Hardship of the Quest p474~479

The surroundings could hypnotize a man, enough to
make one believe that at times, they weren’t moving at
all. Other times, high pressure ridges blocked their path,
forcing them to strain every muscle in their bodies to get
their sleds and dogs over them. Christ, thought Hollister,
even marching with the British army in Africa wasn’t
this fucking difficult!
They had had a steady three hours of relatively smooth
travel and finally Mason in the lead sled called a halt so
the men and the dogs could rest, a period that Hollister
always looked forward to.
Sitting on his overturned sled with a small lantern lit,
he pulled out his collection of notes taken thus far. How
often can you describe white miserable snow, constant
darkness and cold air? What else could he interest his
readers in? Taking a piss at the top of the world?
Wouldn’t that make for polite parlor conversation?
“Excuse me, Mrs. Smith, might you be interested as to
why my prick didn’t fall off when I was at the North
Pole?” Great pick up line for the opposite sex. No, as it
was, his notes for the time being concerned the men in
the Polar Party and the newspaperman’s observations of
them.
JON MASON—–Ship’s Master, late thirties, medium
height and build. Quiet, commanding presence, inspires
confidence. Speaks little of his early life which makes one
wonder what skeletons are hidden in his closet. Word is,
he has a Chinese mistress, though gentlemen do not
speak of such things. Still, I believe him to be an
interesting man, perhaps because he so guarded about
himself and his past.
ISAAC DUNN—-Second Mate/ Ice Master. Mid-forties,
short. Is confident on the ice, knows his business. Former
Sailing Master in the Federal Navy and fur trapper who
lived with the Eskimos for a period of time. One of two
known survivors from the whaling ship SPIDER,
stranded in the ice in the 1870’s. Rebellious son of a
Lutheran pastor, I’m led to understand that the members
of his family consider him a disappointment, an older
sister being an exception to such thinking. He is a
capable leader and has confidence that we will achieve
our goal in this undertaking.
RICHARD GOODMAN—-Landsman, late twenties,
carried mail some years before. Appears to be capable
enough, though a bit opinionated and doesn’t get along
well with the Eskimos. I can see Mason and Dunn
watching him over the past two weeks. He has made a
point of questioning a majority of Mason’s decisions,
regardless if they turn out correct (most of which do). I
believe his presence is causing Mason and Dunn to
regret their choice as far as bringing him. He doesn’t talk
much to me. I believe he thinks I’m more trouble than
I’m worth. He and my editor should talk.
JOSEPH “MIKE” MICHAELS—-Landsman, midtwenties,
learned to drive dogs when he was younger. He
is a pleasant young man with an infectious smile (forgive
me, it’s the writer talking!!!), which helps to cope with
this “adventure” we find ourselves in. He has proved to
be a great help to me with the dogs and the sled for
which I am grateful.
PETER—-One of the two natives accompanying us to
the Pole. Chief of his tribe or as we might say his band,
he is quite resourceful and of course, capable. He is a
tough half-breed (not unusual in these latitudes), his
father, reputed to be a Canadian whaleman, which I
suppose might be the reason for his obvious intelligence
and leadership capabilities. He is an easy man to get
along and travel with and has an earthy sense of humor
so to speak which is often well met and often relives the
tension in our current undertaking.
WACHA—-The other native with us, older (though I
don’t know how old, nor apparently does he!) and quiet.
He does as he is told and does not shy away from anyone
needing assistance, though I have seen Goodman ignore
his offer of a helping hand on a number of occasions,
making it very clear he wants nothing to do with the
man. I fear that if Goodman does not change his ways,
there may be trouble. Wacha may be old but I have seen
that he is very capable with a knife.
Last but not least, HA! HA! Myself. JACK
HOLLISTER—-Age? (never you mind!) but perhaps a bit
long in the tooth for this undertaking. Newspaperman,
what sounded good in Chicago and New York has ceased
in any charm I might have thought this trip might have
had then. I suppose I feel like most in the party, that this
is the big one, the “brass ring” so to speak. No troubles
after this, if one can believe that. No, experience is a fine
teacher as I have found. Problems never go away they
are just exchanged for new ones.
Hollister stretched and moved his head back and forth
and after cracking his knuckles and blowing into his
hands, began to scribble again.
Being here, makes one long for the comfort of the SHY
LADY, its iced decks, confined spaces and creaking
timbers, its warm food and associated smells. I’m sure
I’m not alone with my thoughts of her and the crew,
especially five people who come to mind, those with
whom I had much contact with while I was aboard
AESOP MACDONALD—-First Mate aboard the SHY
LADY, Negro, mid-thirties, strong, capable, one of the
few men Mason trusts without question. He dislikes the
far north and with good reason, he’s the only other
survivor of the SPIDER incident. I don’t know who wants
to leave this place more, him or me.
DANIAL HIGGINS—-Third Mate, mid-twenties a very
cheerful young man, more than capable for the
responsibility that he holds. This is his first trip north. I
doubt this icy place will affect him as it does others
because of his manner.
EDWARD DANA—-Older man, known simply as Ed.
Serves as ship’s cook and father confessor to all aboard, a
man that anyone can confide in and receive simple
advice over a barrel of apples. A good cook on the whole,
there is one culinary art that the old man has yet to
master, that of making a simple pot of coffee. It is said
that Ed’s coffee can heal the lame, make a saint from a
sinner and grow hair on those that need it. After tasting
his brew, I can attest to that fact. It is by far the worst
coffee I have ever tasted.
AHNAH—-Is the next person on my list of characters,
she is in her late twenties, the sister of Peter. She
apparently has the ability to see things in dreams and
from what I’ve been able to gather, she knew we were
coming before we did. She has a scarred face from
another Eskimo called Keelut, with whom Peter and
Ahnah have had some sort of feud, the details of which, I
am not privy to. I have met this Keelut and though I do
my best to not judge my fellow man too harshly, I can
honestly say I could see no good in the man.
I don’t think I can end this particular set of notes
without mentioning the cookboy, Tim Reiner. He is 14
years old and appreciative of the adventure he is
partaking in. Such youthful exuberance makes me
recognize that the years are catching up with me and I
can damn well think of better places to be then where I
am right now. I do know one thing for certain, I will
never complain about another Illinois winter again. The
dark trees covered with snow, rolling hills and people,
such a contrast to this barren place. In the…
There was a call from Mason for them to start again.
Hollister quickly put away his pencil and papers. The
men pushed the sleds back on their runners and with
eyes ahead, continued their journey.

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