NaNoWriMo Word Count: 1,103
Most of the passengers on First Air’s Boeing 737 200C salivated at the first warm wafts of baking chocolate chip cookies. Most. Not Dagen. No matter how strong the aroma of baking grew, or how often he stuck his nose over his uncapped thermal coffee mug just to breathe in its dark roast fumes, he couldn’t escape the scent of Angel. Dagen decided that when he died and met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he would request eternity in Hell if angels really smelled like the obnoxious perfume that Vina wore. He couldn’t escape it.
“Would you like a fresh-baked cookie,” asked the flight attendant, a short woman with a bobbed haircut and soft French accent.
“Thanks,” said Dagen, wishing he could somehow block both nostrils with the gooey cookie. Dagen was on a flight with an iron mining construction crew. Like him, the passengers had gear beyond the typical carry-on. The 737 was configured into a combination passenger and cargo plane. In the rear of the plane was a kitchen galley and 24 passenger seats with comfortable leg room. In front of that, between passengers and pilots were five massive pallets. The plane had an overall payload of 31,000 pounds and could land on ice strips as well as gravel. The only downside was that this plane would continue from Iqaluit to the site of the Mary River Project which would be the world’s most remote iron ore mining site when complete. That meant he would have to see that his pallet was transferred to another flight to Clyde River which was on the opposite side of the western shore mining site.
All of Dagen’s scientific equipment had been carefully packed back at the Green Global Petroleum headquarters in Texas. While he was delayed in Ottawa for two days, he had gone over the master inventory lists and checked a few critical pieces to make sure he had everything he’d requested. Nothing was missing and he even felt a shiver of excitement at having all this equipment available to him. It was like getting every single Christmas gift you circled in the Sears Wishbook as a child. Dagen understood Ax’s qualms about him working for GGP, but at least he would get to collect scientific data unhindered by budgets and resources. He was going to Baffin.
“What’s Baffin Island like, Ax?” Dagen was just 14-years-old when he asked that question. At that time Ax was the biggest man he knew, both in size and fame. And Dagen was his summer dog yard helper, cleaning up after 60 huskies specifically bred for hauling large sled loads within the arctic circle. Everyone knew Ax. He was even on the cover of National Geographic.
Dagen still remembered the answer, “It’s like a black and white movie come to life and sometimes you get to see blue. And when you see blue often it’s a lot of blue. Other times you can’t see your hand in front of your face, the snow blows so hard. It’s cold, beyond any cold you’ve felt in Minnesota. But the people are warm.”
Three times Ax had set out from Baffin Island to achieve his dream of being the first arctic explorer to reach the North Pole by dog sled. And three times he had failed. Mostly people knew Ax because he was the American addition to an international expedition to the south pole, a world away but just as extreme. Ax tried to leverage his status to get sponsors for his dream, but the man who could curse at huskies in five different languages found he had little to say when getting to know possible backers. Occasionally an outerwear company would hire him as a spokesperson and Ax would use the money to haul sled, dogs and gear to Baffin Island where he would set out. On the fourth try he made it. By then Dagen was 18-years old and looking to go to college in Michigan. Ax was the one who encouraged him to go into science when Dagen would have skipped college and started his own dog yard with his sights on the Iditarod.
“Adventure is no good without knowledge,” Ax told Dagen. “Fill your head first, then go see the world.” Ever since then Dagen’s idea of seeing the world was above the Arctic Circle. But this would be his first time to Baffin Island to meet the 11,000 people Ax had grown to love. Not that Ax knew each one personally, but he saw the Inuit as the face of climate change when other people in western society only talked about melting ice and the economics of natural resources.
Dagen could smell her approach before he saw her. Vina held out her hands as she strode down the aisle clasping the back of each seat. How Hollywood had ever intervened upon his adventures he wasn’t sure. He felt like he had been clubbed across the head and swept away on a pirate ship with no way off but to jump and drown in the sea.
“Enjoy your cookie,” asked Dagen, knowing how she loathed sweets. He kept his jacket and day-pack on the seat next to him.
“Do you mind,” she asked motioning to the seat next to him. “Those cookies smell hideous. How can anyone eat that stuff?”
“Yes, I mind. I told you, I need time to prep for the interview,” Dagen said, referring to the radio interview that GGP’s people had set up for him upon arrival to Iqaluit. Not that he liked interviews, but he couldn’t wait to get this one completed so he could point Vina in the direction of California and be done with her. Two months of peace and quiet on the ice with no intruding nasal assaults by Angels.
“Well, I’m just headed to the restroom, anyhow. Remember to smile even for radio. Listeners can hear it in your voice,” she said walking away toward the galleys and closet-sized bathroom that he was pretty sure had just been vacated by a burly iron crewman who looked as if he’d been out late partying the night before.
From behind, Dagen could hear Vina ask a flight attendant, “Is there another bathroom on this plane?”
“Your pardon, Miss but it’s the only one,” came a reply in French accents.
“God, but it reeks,” said Vina, followed by the sound of a slamming airline bathroom door.
Dagen heard one man say, loudly for all to hear, “Man, Oscar, what did you eat last night?” The rest of the passengers, about 15 men all headed to Mary River, erupted into laughter.