A Kanuk, Alaska Story, part 2

By Voni Harris

(Part 1 here)

[Jennie relived her memories of  last year…watching helplessly as Salmon asked her father for her hand in marriage. She was only able to watch the train wreck from the window of her childhood bedroom, a train wreck from which Salmon walked away and never came back. Then she remembered: Salmon was downstairs waiting for her. Here and now!]

             Jennie grabbed her bear cub nightshirt out of a drawer and changed out of the tea-stained nightshirt. A corner of the quilt was wet, too, but not enough for her leave it behind. She needed the granny quilt for this conversation.

            Salmon had been to talk to her father?

            She went back down the stairs, the quilt around her shoulders, forcing her breaths back into a normal rhythm. He’d opened the curtains to allow the neighbors to see their reunion. Not that any of them were probably up at this hour.

            He rose to meet her, gesturing at the curtains, "I just figured maybe it was a little too intimate, alone here at two in the morning. Hope that’s all right." He looked awkwardly down at the coffee table. "Oh! I heated up your tea for you,” he said, handing Jennie the mug.
            That’s when she started laughing—couldn’t help herself. Spewing tea all over one’s self at two in the morning was just plain funny. The laughter kept coming, until he, too, was laughing. They stood there at the foot of the stairs, laughing. Like old times.

            “If we don’t stop this, you’re going to have to heat up my tea again,” Jennie finally said, and sat down. He took his place on the ugly couch.
            After a sip or two, she looked Salmon in the eyes. “I would’ve liked to have seen that conversation with you and Daddy.”

            “No…It was a good talk,” he said gently.

            Her eyebrows rose involuntarily. “Tell me.”

            He took a nervous breath, and another. She should’ve offered him some tea.
            “Do you want some tea?”

            “No, thanks, Sweet Potato.” His face turned beet-red. “Sorry. I guess I don’t have the right to call you that any more, do I?”

            “That’s okay." She shrugged, "Just tell me about you and Daddy.”

            “Your daddy was quiet at first, cleaned his gun right there on the porch with me nervous and hoping I was talking in coherent sentences.”

            Jennie giggled, and was surprised to find her heart racing at Salmon’s answering chuckle.

            “After a few minutes, he began to ask me questions until I could barely finish what I had to say. Then he shook my hand and told me to come to you. But I was so nervous that I waited until too late. Then I was…out in the car…until I saw your lights come on. Couldn’t you sleep?”

            She ignored Salmon’s question, trying to picture the scene on her dad’s porch. “Daddy told you to come talk to me?” 

            “What were you doing out there in the car?”


            She barely kept herself from spewing more tea.

            “Jennie, when your father told me he wouldn’t allow you to marry me, I thought it was because I wasn’t good enough for you. I thought you didn’t consider me good enough for you, and that hurt. Now I understand what he was saying that night. Since you were a Christian and I wasn’t, a marriage would never have worked.”

            “I told you he would say that, remember?”

            “I was a little too stubborn to listen.”

            “Gee, really?” Jennie teased.

            “Yep,” he chuckled. “But I was determined to prove I was good enough for you. That’s why I left.”

            She felt her cheeks turn red in anger. “Wait a minute there. Let me get this straight. You left town in order to prove you loved me?”

            “Sounds kinda silly, when you say it that way.”

            His trademark humor wasn’t getting him off that easily, and her voice got louder. “I can’t believe you had it in you to walk away, just walk away, instead of working it out. How on earth did you think we were going to be able to keep a marriage together that way? Even if you had been a Christian, we weren’t ready! Thank God Daddy saw that.”

            “I wasn’t just young back then, I was young and dumb.”

            “That’s for sure,” she sniped. Then she saw the chastised look on his face. “I’m sorry. Go on, Salmon.”

            “Well, I had to get away from waiting tables and the poor college life if I was going to be good enough for you…"
             "…It was never about waiting tables, you know," Jennie corrected. Her daddy was not that kind of man.
             "Well, I know that now," Salmon grinned. "I guess I’ve grown up a bunch in the last year.”

            “I guess we both have,” she returned. Salmon reached down and tweaked a neon-covered big toe that happened to be peeking out of her quilt.

            “Yep. I guess so,” he responded, his eyes dancing with fun. “Anyway, I called the school, put my MBA application on hold and began looking for a job. I think I tried every dinky town on the Kenai Peninsula. I was in Anchorage when my Jeep finally ran out of gas. It was running on fumes, and I was at a restaurant having coffee with my last $2 when this old guy slides into my booth. ‘Something tells me you’re down on your luck,’ he says. Then he proceeds to listen to my whole story. Don’t know why I felt the urge to pour my life story all over a total stranger, but he listened, truly listened.”

            “Unlike the way you listened to me about not speaking to my father?” she threw out.

            Salmon didn’t take the bait.

            “Exactly,” he said. “And when I got to the part about your father, the old man laughed, out loud. He practically rolled on the floor. ‘Good for him,’ he kept saying. I got offended and started to leave, but he put his hand on my arm, and…”

            He seemed not to know how to go on. “…And something just wouldn’t let you leave?”

            “Yeah, that’s it. Something just wouldn’t let me leave. So then, of all things, the guy pulls an apple out of his jacket pocket and says, ‘Look at it this way, Son. Say you’re the daddy of an apple. You don’t care what color of apple she marries, as long as he don’t have any worms and as long as he is an apple, right? An apple and a pear, an apple and an orange, they don’t fit together, see? They don’t see the world the same way. And that’s the makings of a poor marriage. My guess is that girl’s daddy don’t think you got any major worms, he just sees that you’re not an apple and his daughter is.’”

            His hand tweaked her big toe again, and Salmon gazed at Jennie with a softness she didn’t remember from before.

            “I don’t know,” he said after a moment. “It just made sense. Then the old man hands me the apple, and gestures for me to come with him. ‘I’ve gotta job for you, if you’re interested,’ he says. ‘But first: You don’t have any major worms, do you, Son?’” Salmon laughed at the memory. “Turns out he was the owner of a small chain of car repair places. Mr. Jensen is his name.”        

            Jennie smiled. “You always were good with your hands. I can see you as a mechanic, a good one.”

            “Thanks. Now he wants to help me get that MBA so that he can make me partner. I’m thinking about his offer.” Salmon’s voice trailed off. “But I am sorry I ever walked away.”

            “I’m sorry, too. I never should have let things get serious between us when I knew I couldn’t be serious about you.”

            His long, slow nod put the past behind them.

            “One more thing, Jennie.”

            “Tell me.”

            “Mr. Jensen showed me how to give my life to Christ. And I did. Jesus got rid of those old worms in my soul, so Mr. Jensen sent me back to your daddy.”

            That’s when Salmon tossed her an apple.

Next week: How the comfy chair that Jennie picked up got put outside on trash day. A new Kanuk, Alaska story!