Gabin Bouchard shared a smoke with the wrinkled Greenlander in the stern of the oily fibreglass dingy, pinching his cigarette between his lips and stuffing his hands into the pockets of his thin jeans. The wind, sharper than he expected, cut through the weave of Gabin’s wool sweater and flicked at the fringe of his long hair – jet black, like the Greenlander’s. The Greenlander – Gabin didn’t catch his name – twisted the dingy between the icebergs in Uummannaq fjord, brilliant white behemoths rising up out of deep blue waters. Briny smells drifted off the ancient ice, prickling the hairs inside Gabin’s generous nose with a blend of fish, weed, and the indefinable smell of salt twisting into the smoke of their cigarettes.
“Illorsuit,” the Greenlander said, raising his bushy black eyebrows as he nodded at the humped island with a steep face leading down to a wide bowl of grass and rock sloping into the sea. Small square houses painted in faded reds, greens, yellows, and whites dotted about the grass, connected with dusty paths between tall strands of thick Arctic grasses.
The Greenlander cut the outboard motor and tilted it out of the water, letting the dinghy drift towards the beach. The small boat dipped to starboard as the Greenland lay back against the gunwales, finishing his smoke and flicking the butt into the sea as the bow bumped the brash ice blistering and bubbling in front of the beach.
Gabin finished his cigarette seconds before the bow crunched into the beach. The Greenlander stood up and clambered over the thwart seat clamped in the centre of the dinghy and leaped over the bow. He waved to a lanky teenager ringed by smaller children with bright faces burned a deep nut-brown by the endless summer sun. The boy wriggled free of the children and grabbed the bow of the Greenlander’s boat. They waited for Gabin to join them on the beach, before all three men dragged the dinghy onto land.
“Illorsuit,” the teen said.
“Yes,” Gabin said.
The teen thrust his hand forward and took Gabin’s hand in a firm but brief grip. “Kuua,” he said.
The boy said something else in Greenlandic. Then pointed at his chest, at the cluster of houses in the settlement behind him, then at the whole fjord with a sweep of his thin arm. “Kuua Sanimuinnaq,” he said again. “From Greenland.”
Gabin laughed. “Well, Kuua from Greenland. I am Gabin from…” He paused licking salt from his top lip as he considered where he was from. His passport said Switzerland, but something about Kuua, the ice bobbing and bumping against the stern of the boat, and the thin breeze, slightly warmer now that he was on land, teased a new identity into Gabin’s mind. He smiled at the thought, and said, “From Canada.”
“Yes,” Gabin said. And then, “Oui.” Just for effect. “French Canadian. From Quebec.”
The Greenlandic man reached into the boat to grab Gabin’s kitbag. He slung it over one shoulder and then pressed his palm into Gabin’s hand. “Iisaaq,” he said. “From Illorsuit.” He pressed his hand against Kuua’s chest. “Kuua. My son.” He pointed at the children and waved a small girl over to his side, pulling her close as he wrapped his arm around her. “Biibi,” he said.
To be continued…
Copyright © Christoffer Petersen, 2021.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.