Roxanne gazed away pensively at a pair of bald eagles high up, flapping their wings towards the gray waters of Prince Frederick Sound and the land of “The Strangest Story ever Told.”
Maeve asked, “Do we know any atheists?”
“I don’t think so, but in college I knew a man with five spleens.” Green eyes still gazing into the blue sky overhead Roxanne continued, “Wasn’t the pilot on the corporate jet an atheist? Mitch?”
“Oh that’s right. Totally didn’t believe in anything he couldn’t see. I remember one time, he’d just called “Sukoi, inbound.” We were making our approach from the mouth of the Narrows still over the white–caps on Prince Frederick Sound. He asks, if the engine went out, would I prefer to be high in the sky or low to the water.” Roxanne gasped and prepared to comment. A raised immaculate hand from her sister accompanied by the nod of her ivory brow stopped the red head from speaking. “I said high in the sky, so we’d have time to discuss him accepting Christ as his personal savior.”
Roxanne laughed to Heaven. Maeve burst into a grin of delight in response. As Roxanne’s laughter faded, she gave Maeve a mischievous glance. “Remember that time at the company party when I asked to be introduced to the handsome young man you were talking with?”
Maeve’s ivory brow now crunched in confusion as her dark eyes squinted in concentration.
“You said, “Roxanne! It’s Mitch!” “Mitch, who?” “Mitch, our pilot!” I’d only ever seen the back of his head!”
Their laughter erupted again. A passing trawler left ripples on the otherwise placid jade green waters of Wrangell Narrows. The river like body of water rises from Sumner Strait to the south, flows between Mitkof and Wowodeski northward to Beecher Pass and the tidal flats and muskegs of Blind Slough then beyond northwards some more between Mitkof and the long peninsula of Kupreanof in a sluggish, winding course to the gray waters of windswept Prince Frederick Sound. Alaska’s Little Norway, otherwise known as Petersburg stands at the head of the Narrows. Opposite lay the ice fields and fjords that reminded its founder Peters Buschmann of his home in Norway far across the gray Atlantic.
The afternoon sun still high over Kupreanof Island laughed upon the summer scene. Maeve and Roxanne sat, like the locals, on the deck overlooking the water at The Beachcomber. It was too cold for the tourists, who sat inside. Maeve and Roxanne’s husbands went to the bar to fetch a round of margarita with a touch of cilantro in them. Roxanne knew without mentioning it that the boys would down a couple of shots of Jose Cuervo Gold while awaiting the blending of their drinks.
“Dearie, Mrs. Green’s husband was an atheist.” She remembered.
“Oh that’s right! Poor man!” Maeve said without explaining whether she meant; how unfortunate that he went to his grave unsaved or how unfortunate he ever married Mrs. Green. “And he was the saddest kind of atheist.” She noted with a shake of her head and rolling of her black eyes to the right.
“Whatever do you mean dearie?”
“Well, it wasn’t that Mr. Green didn’t believe; I think he just resented God. You know the usual, “How could God let such awful things happen?” blamed Him for a rotten childhood and unloving, certifiable mother.” Maeve ended by shaking her head sadly, eyes slightly downcast, the beginning of a frown upon her fair features. “Let’s talk about your friend with the five spleens.”
“What?” came their husbands’ deep voices almost in unison.
They landed the margarita glasses on the table and straddling the restaurant’s low backed chair joined their wives.
“Well, actually…” Roxanne confided, leaning closer to the center of the small table. “She was a friend of my friend Kathy Blair. Kathy was one of those big blonde smiling girls that should have been named “Sunshine”.
“Was she the one that came up here during the pipeline and had five job offers in one day?”
“Yes, dearie. There was a man involved of course, but who wouldn’t want a full-figured friendly blonde-haired woman greeting their customers. Anyway this is years before. I think she was a freshman. We were at party with a bunch of forestry majors and we met him; Joseph Einer. He looked like a Viking; sky blue eyes and blonde curls. He had a ready grin and deep lingering laugh. “ Her men folk made no effort to hide the glance they exchanged. “Of course, sort of a skinny Viking.” She commented with a lift of her shoulders. “He was a foreign exchange student. That’s sort of a leap of faith isn’t it? Coming across the gray waters far from home. He was from Schleswig-Holstein.”
Blank looks from Maeve and their husbands.
“Yeah, I know. I was never sure whether it is Denmark or Germany. But, he made it clear he was German. He had that sort of idealized Aryan v-shaped torso; broad in the shoulders tapering to a skinny waist. Anyway, Kathy was smitten. She didn’t speak too much German and his English wasn’t very good. However, they had something in common, they both loved Tuborg; The Beer of Danish Kings. It was very popular then!” Roxanne said with a wave of her hands. “Ends up that drunken English is very much like drunken German. They got along famously. A couple of weeks later the three of us were headed out for the weekend. As we were leaving campus, we hit a speed bump and Joseph groaned. He assured us he’d be fine, but Kathy and I were not too assured. On the next speed bump, he buckled over. He wanted to go to the health clinic on campus, we took him straight to the emergency room. After we checked him in, all we could do was pray. We went to a nearby Catholic church and lit candles for him.”
Several eyebrows raised around the table.
“Yeah, yeah I know! About then is when his swollen spleen actually ruptured. Teach me to go to a catholic church! Anyway, we go to see him the next day. He’s on the phone to his mother. Kathy’s sober of course, so she doesn’t understand a word, but the nurse tells us, he has four more spleens. He’ll be fine.
“I’m guessing he wasn’t an atheist.” Maeve mumbled.
“No, Lutheran like us.”