by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 90||Table of Contents||Chapter 92|
Second Tour, August 30, 2060
The second tour was supposed to be primarily photographic. No stopping for samples meant it would be shorter as well, only four or five weeks.
I met my pilot in Churchill again. This time it was a taciturn fellow named Louis Lasseur. He flew the plane and kept his mouth shut. After listening to JJ go on and on about nothing for hours, I didn’t mind in the least. I can live with no nonsense.
We encountered the anomaly on the 13th day. It stood out like a sore thumb as we flew towards it. The ground was green, not the blue-grey of EF1. Something had killed the lichen in a large area.
“We’d better take a closer look. If you see a lake, would you land?”
I noticed Louis checking our location and fuel level. It was early afternoon. We had fuel and time. Louis assented with a nod.
Ten minutes later, Louis said, “There.” He pointed to a thin strip of silver on the horizon. Below the ground was still green.
We swung down over the lake, a long thin runnel in a glaciated groove, scaring some ducks and geese with the engine’s roar.
Louis was worried about floating debris. “You never know what you might run into in those lakes. I’ve seen all kinds of things in the water — boats, bodies, lumber.”
In spite of his worries, we landed without incident. Louis taxied over to the shore.
I took off my boots and socks and rolled up my pantlegs to wade. The water was startlingly cold. My feet cramped immediately. I didn’t waste any time getting to shore. As I sat on a big rock massaging my calf and foot. I noticed Louis laughing, no doubt at the silly, city professor.
I wandered in circles looking for evidence of EF1. There were bits and pieces of the distinctive blue-grey material, but it was dead, being ovegrown by plants. The plants were low lying — saxifrage, sphagnum and hardy grasses, with the odd dwarf spruce wrapped around rock outcroppings. I took samples here and there in a semicircle ranging half a kilometer from the lake. There were field mice, which meant there would be a predator ecology above them, likely foxes or wolves, perhaps raptors.
I couldn’t see any immediate reason why the EF1 would have died. I took soil and water samples as well because I really didn’t have a clue what had happened.
Removing my boots and socks again, I hurried through the water and climbed up on the pontoon and into the plane.
I got a big grin out of Louis. “I wish you could have seen your face when you jumped in that water,” he laughed.
I dried my legs with an old cloth and kept my mouth shut.
Twenty five kilometers ahead, the blue-grey of EF1 resumed. The rest of the tour unfolded as planned. I spent four weeks monitoring the video equipment in a cramped and uncomfortable space before we returned to Churchill.
Edie was big as a house. She put up a brave front. She was strong and independent, but the way she hung on to me told a different story. It wasn’t until Anna came down the hallway and ran to add her hugs that Edie let go. Her eyes were wet.
“I’m so glad to see you,” babbled Anna. “See my brother now.” She was beaming. “And I have a new dollhouse, want to see?”
I raised my eyebrows to Edie about that and she said, “Well, orders were light this month and I thought it would keep her distracted.”
I gave her a big kiss. “How are you? How are things? What does doc Mynarski say?”
Edie laughed. “Oh, she thinks I’m pregnant.”
We sat in the front room talking until late afternoon. Anna had to tell me all about Gaian summer school and all the friends she made. Then she got into her dolls and her baby brother. Edie sat back with a grin a mile wide and just let her babble. I made supper and throughout the evening we just luxuriated in each other’s company, punctuated by Edie’s many trips to the bathroom.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified May 6, 2014