Biibi dipped her head, hiding her eyes behind a long fringe of black hair. The wind teased at the curtain of thin strands covering her face, brushing it to one side to reveal those same wild brown eyes fixed on Gabin’s face. Biibi turned, pressing her nose into her father’s sweater, searching for his hand, gripping one of his fingers, and stealing glances at Gabin as Iisaaq passed the kitbag to Kuua.
“It’s heavy,” Iisaaq said, as Kuua’s knees buckled at the unexpected weight.
“Clay,” Gabin said, adding, “I’m a sculptor.”
Iisaaq raised his eyebrows but said nothing. He peeled Biibi from his waist and sent her on ahead, up the path towards the dusty and salt-speckled houses staggered in haphazard rows a stone’s throw from the beach. Kuua struggled after her, legs wobbling as he carried Gabin’s kitbag.
“He’s been sick,” Iisaaq said, by way of explanation. “Tuberculosis.” Iisaaq shrugged. “He’s good at school, good at English – like his ataata,” he said, with a flicker of his bushy black brows. “But weak. Not a fisherman. Not a hunter. A doctor, imaqa?”
“Maybe,” Iisaaq said. “You need to learn Greenlandic.”
“Yes,” Gabin said. He waited for Iisaaq to tie the dinghy’s painter through a thick iron ring bolted into a boulder on the beach, then followed him up the path to the houses.
The walls of the houses that had seemed so bright and colourful from the sea were blistered, sanded by grit on the summer wind. The wooden steps leading up to the small decks in front of the doors of each house were smooth and broad, dusty with sand stamped into the cracks. Empty plastic water containers, dirty white, hung from the decks with loops of assorted twine and cord, sides bumping in the wind, casting thin shadows on the sparse grass and dirt surrounding the houses. Snowmobiles sat where they were last parked at the end of the winter, rusting quietly, and suffering the needle-sharp teeth of sledge dog puppies as they chewed at the seats. Iisaaq clapped his hands, shooing small packs of feral puppies back to their mothers.
Gabin raised his hand as they passed close to one of the houses, shielding his eyes from the sun’s reflected rays as he studied plastic bags of water pinned to the walls close to the front door.
“For the flies,” Iisaaq said, with a nod to the water bags. “They don’t like the reflection.”
“Huh,” Gabin said, lowering his hand. He followed Iisaaq a little further to a yellow wooden house raised off the dusty ground on short stumpy stilts. Biibi hid behind one of them; her wild brown eyes followed Gabin to the door. Gabin presented her with a soft smile and was rewarded with a shy crease of Biibi’s lips before she ducked further beneath the house, scrabbling over planks of scrap lumber and fishing nets draped over the sides of plastic barrels.
“Come inside,” Iisaaq said, as he opened the front door. Then, leaning over the railing of the deck, Iisaaq shouted in Greenlandic, waving at his son before pointing at a smaller red house furthest from the beach.
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.