"Enuk. Here." Abe slid a mug across the uneven boards to the middle of the table. He rubbed his sore knee and sat and rolled himself a cigarette with one hand. "Kids, don't worry about schoolwork tonight." He waved his match out. Two joints of his ring finger had been swallowed by a whaling winch in Barrow. His hands were thick and red, paint dried in the cracks. They carved faces on scraps of firewood and drew whole valleys lurking with animals on cardboard boxes.
"Ah, taikuu." Enuk slurped the scalding tea that would have seared a kid's mouth into mealy blisters. "My dowgs be funny tat night. Lotta growl."
Another night passed in his story.
"How old were you?" My words tumbled away like a fool's gloves bouncing downwind. Blood stung my cheeks. Interrupting seemed worse than pissing your pants in front of the village schoolhouse.
"Hush, Cutuk," Jerry said. Iris giggled and pretended to bite her nails, both hands at once. Abe had a piece of caribou-sinew string in his fingers, and he began pulling loops through loops. A lead dog formed. He turned the wick down on the lamp. Storytelling shadows stretched farther out from the moldy corners. The wind gusted. The door was half buried. I pictured those yellow metal nuggets. Wondered if they were in Enuk's pocket, and how young he'd been when he found the first one.
Excerpted from Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner, pages 7-13 of the hardcover edition. Copyright © 2004 by Seth Kantner. All rights reserved. Excerpted by permission of the publisher, Milkweed. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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