NaNoWriMo Word Count: 1,114
“Miriam, is that you,” asked the caller on the other end of the line. Miriam had to stepped around a haphazard maze of filing boxes in Ax’s small office above the coffee roaster to answer the phone on his desk. She hadn’t expected to hear Dagen’s voice.
“Yes, Dagen, it’s me,” she said hold the phone close as if she could touch him.
“Ax must have offered you a job, then,” said Dagen.
“We worked it out. I’m going to set up his office, dig through files to set up a database, teach the old dog a few tricks called processes and file for foundation status,” said Miriam as she sat down in Ax’s chair.
“Is that all,” asked Dagen.
“No,” answered Miriam, “I’m also going to find him an office chair that doesn’t feel like sitting on an unyielding rock.”
“Ah, well, unyielding rocks are going to be my furniture soon,” said Dagen. “Is Ax there?”
“No, he’s meeting with a potential sponsor,” said Miriam.
“Really? He hates that,” said Dagen.
“Yes, and I told him he’d just have to get over it or he can pack up his not-so-tidy office and go back to Brimson and avoid all the potential sponsors he would like.”
“Ouch. You’re putting the whip to him.”
“I believe in what he wants to do, but it means going where he’s not comfortable. He agreed to being uncomfortable and I agreed to set up office and foundation. If it works out, he’ll offer me a more permanent position,” explained Miriam.
“Well, Miriam, I’m not sure I agree,” said Dagen.
“What do you mean,” she asked, sitting up straighter in the chair.
“Coming out of retirement. What’s he trying to prove? That the elderly can can go on expeditions, too,” said Dagen.
“If you were here right now I think I’d kick you,” said Miriam. How could Dagen be so insensitive? Ax spoke of Dagen like a son, yet Dagen acted as if he hardly knew Ax at all. “Are you so out of touch with Ax that you don’t know his purpose for coming out of retirement,” asked Miriam.
For a moment, there was static silence. Then Dagen said, “I didn’t even ask him why. I…don’t…know where I’ve been. Just off doing my own thing. Yet, I can’t say I have enjoyed it the way I know he loved his expeditions.”
Miriam wasn’t sure what to say. She told him, “Ax will be back in an hour or so. Are you someplace where he can reach you?”
“Yeah, give him this number. It’s to a pay phone at the Iqaluit airport. My pallet of gear and supplies take up most of the lobby, but my duffel bags make a fine bed,” said Dagen with a laugh that sounded forced.
“Are you okay,” asked Miriam.
“Fine, fine,” said Dagen, “You know, it’s typical logistics for traveling in the arctic. It’s a minor miracle to get transportation and weather to cooperate. I’ll wait,” he said.
“Did your agent go back to California,” asked Miriam. “Ax said something about her going to Ottawa.”
“No,” he said, his voice tight.
“Look, if you have something between the two of you, just say so,” said Miriam. “I’d prefer honesty.”
“There is nothing. For pete’s sake, the last thing I need is another jealous blond on my hands,” said Dagen.
“Excuse me,” said Miriam, “I’m just having an open conversation here. One, I am not jealous and two don’t ever refer to me as a blond. I am more than the color of my hair.”
“I know,” said Dagen, “I know, you are much, much more than anything I’ve ever let myself know. I’m sorry. Miriam. Maybe one day I’ll tell you how I got wrapped up in all this celebrity stupidity, but right now, I’m just waiting it out. Waiting out the storm.”
“This is new for me,” said Miriam, “I’m just not sure where I stand and yet we just met, so it’s not like I’m trying to put demands on you. Ax is worried, and I suppose he has me worried, too.”
“Ax has seen me crash and burn. Tell him I’m all right. I’m coming back through Minnesota,” Dagen said. “I want to see you again. If you want to see me, that is.”
“Well,” said Miriam, “Your celebrity status is blinding and all, but, yeah I’d like to see you again.”
Dagen laughed, “You know really, on the scale of fame and such, I don’t think I even hold B-list status. Okay. I’d say keep in touch, but unless you have satellite communications…”
“We might,” said Miriam, quickly, remembering that Ax had said if all went well at the meeting, the company would supply all the communications technical support, including a link to current research already established on Baffin Island. That meant they could get Dagen hooked up at his research site.
“How’s that,” asked Dagen.
“A possible sponsorship with tech support for live communication,” said Miriam. “Dagen, what Ax wants to do is put a face to climate change. Scientists are calling what’s happening on Baffin Island the canary in the cage, but Ax wants people to know that the canary is a community of people, and his future expeditions are to introduce the people of Baffin to the rest of the world. Satellite communications is key.”
“You know, Ax always talked about his Inuit guides and their families and towns. I guess all I paid attention to were the stories about adventure and dogs,” said Dagen.
“Well, now is your chance to meet those people,” said Miriam, “And just so you know, Ax said he hasn’t heard back from the guide he arranged for you, but when you get to Clyde River, go to his house as planned.”
“He isn’t missing, is he,” asked Dagen.
“Not that I know of. I think Ax said he goes seal hunting this time of year. It takes something like 150 seals just to feed a sled team of dogs over the year,” said Miriam.
“That’s a lot of seal meat, but having fed many huskies over many years, I understand,” said Dagen. “I ask because the plane that was scheduled to take my gear left early to search for a couple of missing Inuit hunters.”
“Oh,” said Miriam, “I’ll mention it to Ax, but I don’t think that would be his guide friend.”
“Good, then. Well, I smell angels not of heaven and I’m going to hide. Tell Ax I’ll call again. And congrats on the new temporary job,” said Dagen.
Miriam was not sure about the comment on angels or hiding. “Okay, then, take care.”
“You, too. Bye.” He good-bye seemed abrupt, but Miriam tried not to think on it too much.