By Dale L. Sproule
I was chillin’ solo at the club, three hours before opening, when I heard the brap of an iron dog on its last legs and went out to find Anyu Kigutaq just sittin’ there on his retro Ski-Doo in the middle of an ice storm. So I grabbed him by the hood of his parka and dragged him in the side door. “What the fuck you doin’ out there kid?”
Tell the truth, I knew Anyu was coming and had an idea why. Thanks to my bro, DJ Crispy Kay, we got taps and spy-cams at three separate police detachments. He got access while workin’ security for Baffin Hydro when they were runnin’ the power lines from Jaynes Inlet – he da power bear. Even designed and installed our “industrial perimeter harpoon” rig round the welcome mat at the old lab. Durin’ the long darkness, if somebody we didn’t like came snoopin’ – ‘presto,’ they were on an instant fucking ice cube floating into Hudson Straight. Smart motherfucker, my brother. But still, he’s a polar bear, so his employment options are limited.
After he stopped opening and closing his jaws to thaw out his facial muscles, Anyu said, “Nice to see you too, Tulok.”
I didn’t make a habit of consorting with humans, but Anyu’s old man, Karpok, and I went way back. When I was living with my sister on the fringes of Dorset City, he was yard supervisor on the nightshift at the dump. Turned a blind eye when Manny the Fox and I put some heat on a gang of lemmings to honeycomb under the bear fence, so we could run a big culvert, eh? That was some concession we had – movin’ upward of eighty kilos of meat scraps every day all summer long. Karpok even gave us the heads up when the Nunavut Sanitation Authority twigged to our scam and came to plug the hole.
So I liked to help out his family when I could. And Anyu was always kinda special. True that half the humans in Cape Dorset who can hold a hammer end up sculpting, but he’s one of the truly talented ones. Previous summer he came out on a mission, tellin’ me, “All the sculpture galleries want dancing bears these days, eh? Walking bears – dime a dozen – but dancing ones are the shit. Problem is, I’ve never seen a bear dance. I need live models, and I heard there were a couple sows out here who could boogaloo like nobody’s business.”
“Whoa, whoa, ‘round here you don’t call ‘em sows unless you wanna wear your nanooks as a necklace.”
“Sedna’s an equal partner in the club and she thinks the word “sow” is misogynist bullshit. ‘Bear-assed bigotry’ she calls it. And that don’t cut no ice with her, eh? As for the dancing, ask her to boogaloo she’ll tell you to watch the Jungle Book. But she’ll be happy to freestyle for ya. Maybe throw in a little lockin’ and poppin’.”
Turns out my warnings were unnecessary, ‘cause Anyu and Sedna got on like a house on fire. Wood frame house – not an igloo, eh. So anyway, last I heard he was makin’ a killin’ with his dancin’ bear sculptures.
“What brings you back here in the middle of winter?” I asked this time, in a considerably less friendly tone than I greeted him with in the summer. “Got some heavy duty ursine kink going on, kid?”
“Lemme lubricate you, Tulok. You drinking Canadian?”
“Blood,” I deadpanned.
He gave me a gap-toothed grin. “If it were blood, your muzzle would be covered with it, ‘steada just foam.”
I grabbed the front of his parka and pulled him up real close. “Polar bear foaming at the mouth ain’t no fucking joke, kid. We can smell you from three glaciers away.”
I licked my teeth for emphasis. “Come evening there will be twenty starvin’ bros in here. Think it’ll be a cakewalk keeping you off the menu? Winter’s no time for polaroids.”
“They’re not polaroids, I have a digital camera.”
“I know. Just a polar bear joke…never mind.” Embarrassed at my lameness I got straight to the point, “Nobody comes out here for a joyride in minus fuckin’ fifty.” I leaned forward menacingly. “I know for a fact you’re working for the Dorset Metro Police. I was told they caught you and Gilbert Etok with a kilo of sour diesel at the airport. That little cooler is crawlin’ with po-pos – what were you thinkin’?”
“Thought the jar was vacuum sealed. It’s Colorado hard goods, medical grade. One of your bear buddies musta sniffed it out.” I raised my eyebrows skeptically, but he didn’t miss a beat. “My uncle’s sitting in the territorial legislature, eh. He’s gonna introduce a Medical Marijuana bill. Maybe we can change the law before my conviction comes down.”
“Good luck with that,” I said.
Anyu held up the palms of his sealskin mittens. “Hey, you can’t lecture me about selling pot while you’re running a meth lab. Look, I don’t deny that the Mounties busted us. And told me they’d let me off if I helped bust your operation. But I’m not here for that, You’re my illamar – my buddy. So I actually came to warn ya.”
“Spill already!” I growled.
“When I was at the cop shop, there was another guy there, sittin’ in the captain’s office, eh. An elder with one arm. I asked about him, but nobody answered. Just traded these spooky stares like the guy was freakin’ them out. When they put me back in lockup, my buddy Gilbert’s there, eh, and he asks me, ‘Did you see him?’ ‘See who?’ I says. And buddy says, ‘Torngasuk.’ And I say, ‘Fuck you. Torngasuk’s not real.’”
As Anyu was telling me his story, we heard a voice from somewhere inside the club, “Oh, but I am.”
“Who’s there?” I shouted kickin’ my chair outta the way as I stood up. How could I have not smelled him?
“It’s me – Torngasuk,” and this feeble old one-armed man steps into the light.
“How’d you get in here?” I demanded.
“Rode here on the back of Anyu’s iron dog and followed you guys in. But I was invisible, so neither of you could see me. The Mounties didn’t know where your base was, but they figured Anyu here would come to warn you. And they were right.”
“So that’s why I ran outta gas!” exclaimed Anyu. “Carrying the extra weight.”
“No, you ran outta gas because you forgot to fill the tank, you blubber head,” says Torngasuk. “You’re always too stoned.”
I gave him my steeliest glare. “Okay, so you’re here. What now?”
“I’m supposed to bring you to justice, eh?”
The old shaman shrugged. “Breaking the taboos of course.”
“Whose taboos? The Mounties? Whose side you playin’ on?”
“A taboo’s a taboo! You’re cookin’ crystal meth and selling it to our children.”
I shook my head. “I just run a nightclub. Welcome to Sedna’s Dance Emporium. Feel free to look around, eh? You wanna drink?”
“Don’t usually drink. But I been livin’ up on Ellesmere Island by myself for so fuckin’ long….”
“Got Polar Ice Vodka,” I said.
He shivered visibly. “I’m thinkin’ a hot toddy. Or maybe a mai tai?”
“Our bartender comes in at two thirty. But I can get you a coconut rum.” I poured him a double and brought the bottle to the table.
Torngasuk sat down and we debated the word taboo and talked about the white man’s hypocrisy.
“If I was cookin’ meth,” I remember saying early in the conversation, “who could blame me? Seal hunting is all but impossible. They say in the old days, you could stack bowhead whales eight deep before one of those ice floes would crack. That true?”
Torngasuk shrugged. “I never stacked any bowheads.”
I rolled my eyes and carried on with my rant. “Anyway, ice like that is rarer than auk feathers these days. Try to get close to a breathing hole, guy my size would pop through the ice like a card slidin’ into a cash machine. Sneak up on a seal, my hairy ass! Might as well go krumpin’ on plate glass. And nobody can out-swim those fuckers in the open water.”
Torngasuk pushes his empty glass toward me, so I pour him some more and keep talkin’. “So there’s half our food supply gone, eh? What’s a bear supposed to eat these days? They shoot us if we go into the dumps, get all pissy if we compete with ‘em for the caribou. Woulda loved to get in the family business – kill seals and pretty much anything else I can sink my claws into. But it’s not viable, eh? So now I run this joint, and I make lotsa cash, so I don’t need to do anything ‘taboo.’” Don’t know that I was convincing him of anything, but it felt good to get that shit off my chest.
“The Mounties intercepted a package to your cousin,” said the old shaman.
“Which cousin?” I asked. With just 13 sub-populations in North America, I have more than a few cousins. So I can believably plead ignorance. It’s not like I put on a return address on Zed’s packages.
Zed used to be a popular attraction at the Chief Saunooke Bear Park in the Carolinas. A little undignified for sure; he couldn’t go for a shit without some little kid pointing and laughing. But to tell the truth he loves all those insecure townies marveling at the size of his dick. When they shut the place down, he put in for a transfer to that Danish zoo, figuring he’d be in line next time they decided to feed a giraffe to the predators. Never tasted giraffe, eh. But instead, they shipped him off to some little game farm in Two-Farts, Saskatchewan. He got depressed, and started hibernating with the brown bears – till he started hearing rumours that there was some Kill Bill “Pussy Wagon” action going down – that sticking their dicks into a live polar bear had become something of a coming of age ritual for the locals. He swore never to sleep again. When he asked me if got anything that can keep him alert, I sent him a freebie.
Course I didn’t tell any of this to our friend, Torngasuk. But I did keep refilling his glass. He was still there when the customers started coming in and it was nearly midnight before he passed out.
We sat around the table looking at the shaman flopped unconscious across the table. Sedna had joined us by that point and she wasn’t impressed. “Why don’t we just eat him?” She suggested.
I gave a skeptical, “Hmmmm. He is a god. So it could backfire.”
“So what are you saying? He’d give us gas or diarrhea?”
“At the very least,” I nodded. “He might even repeat on us in other ways. Ya know, come back to possess us or smite us somehow.”
“He doesn’t look that powerful to me. Couldn’t even grow back that arm,” said Sedna.
“And he has been marinating in coconut rum,” I observed.
“Oh come on, guys. That’s gross,” said Anyu. “And not a good idea. Might even be a trap. That may be exactly what he wants you to do.”
“You got a better suggestion?” I asked, stomach rumbling. With all this talk about a late night snack, Anyu was looking pretty tasty.
“Might be better to just imprison him somehow. Build a tomb out of ice and set him adrift.”
“What with global warming, he could be melted by April.”
“By which time he’ll be a long swim from anywhere.”
I gave Sedna a side-eye and saw her nodding. “Okay fine. Let’s get ‘er done before he sobers up, eh.”
The igloo we built was like a bank vault. Took six bears to push it out into the open water. We watched until the current picked it up and it started moving faster. We were just about to go back inside when Anyu nudged me. “What’s that? Got any binoculars?”
“No,” I said, “But your camera has a zoom lens.”
“Oh yeah!” After a minute, he says, “Holy shit” and starts snapping pictures like crazy.
“What’s going on? Let me look,” Sedna and I are both bugging him.
“Oh man,” says Anyu. “He’s working some old time transformation mojo! He just turned into a narwhal, and he’s using the tusk like a jigsaw. Cutting a hole in the top of the vault.”
At which point, Sedna grabbed the camera from him. “Sonofabitch! Now he’s turning into a bird!”
“Press the button. Take some pictures!” cried Anyu.
She scowled at him, but I could hear the click, click, click.
“I think it’s a snowy owl,” Sedna said. “No, wait. It’s w-a-a-ay bigger than that. Some kind of white thunderbird or something.”
“Whoa,” I said, suddenly able to see it with the naked eye as it flew our direction. “We could be screwed now.”
But then I noticed something else. I said to Anyu, “Do you know Gilbert Etok’s brother?”
I nodded. “Didja hear about the trouble he got in when he was a kid? Animal cruelty. He soaked bread in booze and fed it to the gulls and terns down at the harbor.”
“What’s so cruel about that?” asked Sedna.
“Well birds and booze don’t go well together, eh,” I said, as we watched the big white thunderbird swerve erratically over the water. “They kept flying into the rocks…”
As I explained, Torngusuk swung abruptly toward the ice cliffs. Unable to slow down or stop, he smacked headfirst to a wall of ice, splatting like a bloodfilled mosquito on a windshield.
“Ewww,” said Anyu.
“Told ya we shoulda ate him,” said Sedna. “What a waste.”
The blood poured down the jagged cliff face, forming an asymmetrical Rorschach blot – an arrow pointing straight down at the entrance to our lab.
I shook my head. “We’d better get that place cleaned out before the Mounties show up or we could lose the whole batch.”
“I can hook you up with my pot dealer, eh. They got a new strain called ‘Nunavut Thunderfuck.’ If ya swim down to pick it up, we can avoid the airport altogether.”
And that’s how Anyu and I became partners. We’ve been doin’ pretty good. If ya wanna see his transformation sculpture ‘Torngasuk Intersecting with the 21st Century,’ it’s on permanent display in our new ice hotel up at Iqaluit. I’m the one who came up with the inscription on the base. “The old Gods ain’t nothing to be afraid of. It’s the new ones you gotta look out for.”