NaNoWriMo Word Count: 1,961
“If global warming is real then why is it so cold,” asked Vina as she breathed out great trails of vapors from within her fox-trimmed parka of camel-brown. She was trying to keep up with Dagen’s brisk strides and frustrated that her lips felt cold and dry. Yet, applying her perfectly pink gloss outside resulted in the product turning gummy. She hoped global warming were real and that it arrived in northern Canada soon. Tomorrow, even.
Vina wasn’t sure if Dagen answered her or not the way her parka muffled sound. She really didn’t care to hear the answer anyway. Global warming might flood Florida’s coasts or melt Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, but to a California girl who worshiped the sun on sandy beaches, a little more suntan oil and a few extra bikinis was all she’d need. Vina felt like she was walking in a tunnel, and the strands of fur blocked her view of most everything except Dagen directly in front of her.
“Really, Dagen. Would you just stop a minute,” she shouted. He paused, momentarily, but then turned left to cross a street. Everything was encrusted with snow and Vina had had to buy not only this monstrosity of a jacket, but also snow boots. Snow boots! What ridiculous looking, bulky, ugly boots. Of course, none of them came with any kind of heel or sleek cut. At least she found a black pair. Trying to coordinate her winter survival wardrobe was proving to be frustrating.
At last, Dagen walked into a building, out of the stabbing snow and searing cold. Immediately Vina’s owlish brown sunglasses fogged over. Thrusting back the tickling parka hood, she hastily pulled off the glasses, blinking her eyes to adjust to the temperature change. Outside the double-glass doors, a bus pulled up and two hooded youth got off and walked down the street.
“Did you see that,” said Vina, pointing a black-mittened hand at the departing bus. “A bus, Dagen. A bus. To this place. You said, there were no buses. I said, let’s take the limo. Oh, no. You had to march me four blocks down treacherously icy streets in a full-out blizzard when I could hardly see or hear a thing. And the bus came here. Dagen… Dagen, where are you going?”
Dagen approached a man in a gray vest who had just stepped out of the open office door to the left. The only hair on the man’s head was a black mustache. “Dr. Starkka, good to meet you,” he greeted, reaching for Dagen’s hand. “Ax speaks highly of you.”
“Good to meet you as well, Mr. MacDonald,” said Dagen, smiling. He was taller than most men, and always better looking. Vina new veteran actors who were jealous of how easy Dagen was to film or photograph. If he would only let her direct his career, Dagen could be a star, not just some History Channel celebrity where even trailer-park pawn store owners could gain such status.
“Angus,” he said, “You can call me Angus.”
“Good. And call me Dagen. And this is my agent, Vina Winslow,” Dagen said acknowledging Vina for the first time since stepping off the bus into a blasting storm of snow.
Vina extended a limp, ungloved hand, “Ms. Winslow, will do,” she said. Never get friendly with the locals or soon they’ll think you’re on equal status.
“Well, let me tell you briefly about Nunavut Sivuniksavut, and then we have a lunch and performance to share with you,” said Angus.
“And when does the press show up,” asked Vina.
“Ah, no press,” said Angus, looking to Dagen for confirmation.
Dagen shook his head, “No press,” he said, “My agent seems to think I’m seeking publicity outside my contractual boundaries.”
“Oh,” said Angus, “Just information, pizza and some fun with our current students.”
“Well, then perhaps I should call the Ottawa Sun, let them know…” Vina started to say before Dagen excused himself from Angus, grabbed her elbow and walked her over to the far corner of the lobby.
“Look,” he said to her in a whispered voice, “It’s one thing for you to follow me and see for yourself that I’m not doing any publicity on the side, but quite another to turn my work into some sort of three-ring media circus.”
“Dagen, darling, do calm down,” Vina said in a sweet voice, not pulling her arm away from his grasp. “No need to get physical. We can do that in private.”
Abruptly he dropped her arm as if he realized he were holding the paw of a polar bear. “It’s best that you go back to your hotel. As you can see there is no media here. I am not cheating on you.”
“Poor choice of words, Dagen,” she said, pushing away thoughts of some hometown harlot. No, she was the one here with him, no need to flush her own cheeks. “I’ll be a good little girl and watch daddy Dagen work.”
“Grow up, Vina,” was all he said as he walked back to Angus. How he had ever signed onto this nightmare of a woman was beyond him. “That’s settled,” he said to Angus. “Please, let’s look at the center.”
“Is there some place I can freshen up,” asked Vina.
“The restrooms are down that hall, to the right. We’ll be in the multipurpose room just past those doors,” said Angus.
Dagen nodded with a half-formed grin. “Good idea,” he said, “You’ve got…” he motioned at his own face as if miming the dreaded melt of make-up. Vina’s eyes were smudged a tad, but they grew large with alarm as she mouthed an unspoken “Oh,” and walked quickly to the restroom.
As Angus showed Dagen around the youth center, he explained how Nunavut Sivuniksavut had gotten its start back in 1985 to prepare Nunavut youth for new education and job opportunities that came with the newly formed Nunavut government.
“Our courses center around land claims and Inuit history,” explained Angus, “They are small as we only have about 40 to 50 students. But it’s accredited.”
“How long is the program,” asked Dagen.
“Two years. It prepares young people from across the vast region of Nunavut to go onto college or work. Importantly, it gives them exposure to modern city life.”
“I see,” said Dagen.
“Also, it allows for them to share their culture with the modern city. You’ll see at the performance we have planned,” said Angus.
“Well, I hope it’s not too much of an inconvenience,” said Dagen, not remembering if Ax told him that they would perform.
“It’s part of what we do, sharing our heritage. The youth have pride in that. And we’ll get you prepared for visiting Baffin Island in case someone wants to throw a leg or pull a cheek,” said Angus with a grin beneath his mustache.
“Sounds intriguing,” said Dagen.
Angus approached the doors to the multipurpose room and already Dagen could smell hot pizza wafting from within. Vina was no where to be seen and Dagen hoped she would spend the next hour at least troweling make-up back onto her face. After getting over his appall at seeing her at the Ottawa Airport he had remained cool and distant. The only tie she had to him was publicity and that was the last thing he wanted. Although, after talking for 45 minutes on the phone to Laurel Henney of Green Global Petroleum, he realized that Vina had already raised a stink. First he’d collect the data, then he’d focus on whatever media outlets Vina and Laurel devised for him to share it.
Walking into the room that looked like a large classroom or small cafeteria, several tables and chairs were pushed aside. It seemed that every face was smiling at Dagen and each smile was genuine. Dagen smiled, one hand in his pocket with his blue Patagonia jacket hung in the crook of his arm, and he offered a quick wave with his other hand. “Hi,” he said.
The room reverberated with bigger smiles, return waves and greetings in what sounded like several languages. Two women approached and Angus introduced them as teachers. “We started with two and now we have six,” he told Dagen.
As Dagen was shoving his third slice of cheese-gooey pizza, greasy with pepperoni, Vina glided into the room, her parka discarded somewhere else. She was wearing a snug black pantsuit and black heels. Heels? Dagen wondered where her boots went. She was so blond and tan she nearly glowed among the students who seemed awestruck. Nothing in their studies had prepared them for her, Dagen was certain.
“Ms. Winslow, would you like some pizza,” offered Angus.
She looked at Dagen before responding, make-up all in place and her lips glittering pasty pink in the overhead lights. She smiled or pouted, which Dagen was never really clear. It was as if she didn’t have full control of her own lip muscles. Vina turned back to Angus, and asked, “Is there salad?”
“No, no salad,” he said.
“We got some arctic char in the freezer,” offered a young man with the faint wisps of a mustache and thick eyebrows above lively brown eyes.
“Char,” asked Vina, “Is that like Swiss Char?”
Dagen stifled a groan. “Chard is a plant, he said, “Char is like arctic sushi.”
“Sushi,” said Vina. “I like sushi, actually.”
The young man gave a big smile then hustled off to a kitchen in the behind a counter. Dagen leaned back against the table that held the remnants of pizza and waited to see how this was going to unfold. Maybe having Vina around would be entertaining after all. She was always so certain of her power to control a room, but this room was different.
With a small plate in hand, the young man returned with thin slices of dark red char. He handed it ti Vina with a smile.
“It’s not wrapped around anything,” said Vina. “Where is the rice?”
Angus answered, “This is how we eat arctic char.”
Delicately Vina picked up a thin slice between two fingers. “Do you have any wasabi,” she asked.
The young man shook his head and said, “I do not know this wasabi.”
“It’s green,” said Vina, “Like paste. Spicy.”
The young man shook his head again and Vina plunged the entire piece of semi-frozen fish into her mouth. With her other hand she kept her mouth covered as she chewed. Several of the young woman covered their mouths too, and laughed.
Vina walked away from the boy, past Dagen and said, “I have to wash my hands now.”
“Get them ready for cheek pulling,” said Dagen.
Vina stopped at the door and turned around. “What,” she said, looking at Dagen.
Angus who was now standing next to Dagen nodded and said, “Yes, cheek-pulling. Like this.” He then wrapped his arm around the back of Dagen’s head, spoke to Dagen to do the same and then each man grabbed the other with a crooked finger inside each other’s mouth and began tugging.
Vina stared at the spectacle. The young man still holding the arctic char on a plate walked over to her and said, “Want to try?” She pushed through the doors and spent the rest of the afternoon in the bathroom.
Dagen enjoyed the dances, leg wrestled with several young men and was in awe of the throat signing between pairs of girls. He even pounded a skin-drum and learned a few steps of a hunter’s dance. His cheeks were sore after several rounds of the game but if it chased Vina away he’d offer to cheek pull with every person he met.