"North" by Joseph Fick

Chapter 53 The Pole p563~569

The four men looked about them. To the left, to the
right. East, west, north and south. It was all the same,
there was nothing there. Peter with a shrug of his
shoulders walked back to one of the overturned sleds and
rolled a cigarette. They were where they wanted to be,
they just weren’t prepared for the disappointment.
“Is this all there is?” asked Hollister with
disappointment. “Are you sure this is it? This is the
North Pole?”
Dunn gave a sidelong glance to Mason who said quietly,
“This is the geographic north pole, Jack. We’re standing
on it. Isaac and I checked the position three times.”
“But the map!” said Hollister, his voice bordering
desperate, “the old map!”
“Jack!” said Dunn more harshly then wanted. He took
a deep breath. “There is no whale’s graveyard. Like the
Captain said, it’s just something men wanted to believe
in, nothing more.”
“God damn it!” shouted Hollister. All this work, all this
time… for nothing. All for naught, a big fuckin’ waste!
“We’re all tired,” said Mason his own voice barely
concealing the betrayal he felt. “I’m sorry men. It looks
like we embarked on a fool’s errand.”
“Maybe this isn’t the right place,” said Hollister,
“maybe the map is wrong…”
Mason shook his head, “No, Jack. We’re right where
we’re supposed to be. It wouldn’t matter if you went five,
ten, a hundred miles in any direction. What you see now
is all you would find. There is no whale’s graveyard.
There never has been.”
Dunn and Hollister looked around. There was nothing.
“We’ll camp here,” said Mason with a short bitter laugh.
“It’s as good as any other place and we are here after all.
We’ll rest up, eat something hot and…” the Captain
sighed, “in a few hours, we’ll start heading back.” The
others nodded. At least that was something to look
forward to, being back aboard the SHY LADY. Forget
this place, the whales, the North Pole, the cold, snarling
dogs, all of it, the whole damn thing.
Mason walked to where Peter was sitting. “We’ll set up
camp here, Peter, we won’t unpack everything. Just what
we need for a few hours.”
The Inuit nodded. “I’m sorry Captain.”
Mason gave him a sad smile. “Perhaps it’s just as well,
Peter.”
“You would be an important man if you found the place
whales go to die?”
Mason shook his head. “No, my friend. I would still be
the same man. And right now I’m a very tired one.”
Peter nodded, “I understand Captain but I don’t think
we should stay here too long. Those men from before
and…”
“…And the ice,” said Mason. “Yes, I know. Just a few
hours rest and then we’ll be on our way, I promise.
Besides, I don’t think you’ll get an argument with anyone
about staying any longer.”
“No, Captain, I don’t think you will.”
The men broke out the needed equipment and supplies.
Hollister took some photographs with a bulky camera he
had brought along. He hoped they came out, at least the
world see what they had seen with their own eyes, their
proof that the graveyard didn’t exist couldn’t be any
clearer to the men who sent them on this expedition.
Whether Roland, Hughes and Jones chose to believe
Mason and Hollister and the others was up to them, at
this point the newspaperman couldn’t have cared less.
The dogs were fed and Dunn made a small pot of soup on
a tripod with some chunks of dog meat they had kept
from Goodman and Wacha’s team. With difficulty,
because of the increased wind velocity, Mason and Peter
set up the small tent they would all share for a short
period of time. The sooner they were out of there, the
better as far as Mason was concerned.
In the cramped confines of the tent the men slurped
lukewarm soup and itched themselves. Damn if the trip
back wasn’t gonna be a long one. They were all tired and
disheartened. What they sought did not exist. They
wanted to go home.
“How long will it take to get back?” asked Hollister.
Mason shrugged his shoulders, “I dunno Jack. Took us
six weeks to get here, figure about the same, maybe a
little longer gettin’ back, I guess.”
Hollister was quiet for a few minutes and then with a
sniff said. “I miss baseball.”
The other men smiled with the exception of Peter who
asked, “What’s baseball?”
“It’s a game,” said Dunn. “There are two teams and
they hit a ball with a stick called a bat.”
“Why would they do that?” asked the Eskimo.
Dunn started laughing, “I don’t know Peter, they just
do, that’s all.”
“Seems silly to me,” said Peter.
“You are absolutely right my friend!” said the second
mate, still laughing.
“Christ, Isaac. We’re talking about America’s past time
here,” said Hollister. “Didn’t you ever watch a game,
Boston’s got a team ya know.”
Dunn shrugged his shoulders, “I watched the boys play
it at school, never really understood it myself.”
Hollister turned to Mason, “How bout you Captain?
You ever watch baseball?”
Mason shook his head, “Can’t really say I have Jack,
spent most of my time at sea.”
“Anyway,” said Hollister directing his attention to
Peter, “Don’t listen to these two, if ya really want to
watch an exciting sport, you’ll like baseball.”
Mason listened to the wind. “I wonder if Mai-Ling has
had the baby yet?” he said, thinking out loud. “Should be
about time, I imagine.”
“I’m sure everything is alright, Captain,” said Dunn.
“We get back and you’ll be bouncing that fat little baby
on your knee, you’ll see.”
Mason smiled, “Yeah, that will be nice, a little baby.”
Peter yawned and itched his face. “I like babies. I used
to roll Tah on bearskin when he was a baby.” The man
smiled at the memory. “He would giggle and laugh. I
miss that time.”
“I don’t remember the last baby I held,” said Hollister,
thinking back. “I think it was Joanna Berry’s little boy,
during the war. He’d be a man now, all grown up.”
Mason turned to the second mate wishing to change
the subject. “What about you Isaac, what do you miss?”
Dunn looked down and gave a sad smile. “Nothing,
Captain.” He raised his head and sighed. “Sadly, that is
the truth. I miss nothing in the world we left behind.”
“Surely there must be something,” prodded Hollister,
“your sister, perhaps?”
Dunn shook his head. “No, she is well taken care of and
content to involve herself with spiritualists. It makes her
happy, I needn’t worry about her.”
Peter adjusted his position. “What will happen when
you go back and say there is no place where the whales
die, what then?”
Mason shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know Peter. It’s
a fact that can’t be changed, it just is. The men that sent
us here will just have to accept it, that’s all.” “Will hunt
the big fish again?”
Mason shook his head. “No, I’m retired after this.
MacDonald will command the SHY LADY. He will hunt
the big fish.”
“And you Hollister?”
The newspaperman smiled. “Go back to Chicago. Settle
down with Nancy and take a sports writing job, I’ve been
offered.”
“And watch baseball?”
“Lots of baseball,” grinned Hollister.
“And you Peter,” asked Dunn. “What about you? Do you
have any plans?”
“My plan for tomorrow,” said Peter, “is the same as
yesterday and today, to live. To take care of my family
and my people. It is what a man does.”
The second mate smiled. “Well said my friend.”
“Everyone get a little rest,” said Mason. “We’ll move
out in four hours.”
“Somebody should take a watch,” said Dunn.
Mason nodded. “I’ll take the first two hours, Isaac, you
got it after me.”
Dunn nodded, “Aye, sir.”
It was quiet and Mason turned his attention to the
wind. He thought about what fools men are and the folly
they create. Nothing. All this time and money, people
dead, it was all for nothing. The fact that they were the
first men to be at the North Pole in the 19th century
meant nothing to him. He saw nothing special here,
nothing important enough for men to claim fame. This
place was barren, cold and desultory and he had no
desire to stay at this place any longer than necessary.
For him there were more important things in life then
wasting his time for the whims of the rich. Mason made
himself a little more comfortable. Two hours could be
long or short and he preferred the later. Soon, they would
be on their way and he could forget about this God damn
place.

コメントを残す


%d人のブロガーが「いいね」をつけました。