22 February 2008

My big disappointment in Alaska

From late August to late September I watched the salmon spawning in Pullen Creek die off a few at a time - a sign that my time as a seasonal worker was also coming to an end. But watching the salmon was as passive as simply watching the big clock on the wall at work ticking steadily forward to 5 pm. A felt a sense of competition with the fish as if we were in some kind of race, or maybe it was a competition with Father Time himself, embodied in the fish. I'm not sure what I could have possibly gained from winning the race - I wasn't going to get paid overtime for it - but I wanted to last long enough to see Pullen Creek devoid of living salmon. Everyday as I hurried over the bridge to and from work I would quickly count up the remaining fish and feel ahead whenever the numbers had dropped, until finally there was just one fish left in the river. One silly salmon that swam in place hour after hour, day after day. After about four or five days I expected it to be dead and for me receive my reward, but alas it lived on. Some times I'd stand on the foot bridge and watch its tail stop moving and the current would push the fish back down towards the mouth of the creek, but then life would come back into the tail and the fish would regain its ground. I'd note its skin being stripped from its body a bit everyday and think "It hasn't got long. Maybe it'll be gone this afternoon." After a couple of weeks I began wondering if this was the same fish or if a new one had accepted the baton and took over the race. Weeks past. My time to leave Skagway arrived. I made one last trip to the bus yard to fill out my time card. And check on the salmon.

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