Small town Alaska is the setting for this collection of interconnected stories.
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Tom Bodett once said that Homer, Alaska was “the farthest place you could go without a passport.” The colorful cast of characters that inhabit this collection of interconnected stories live at the very end of the westernmost highway in North America, driven there by love and loneliness, God and greed. In the shadow of the snow capped peaks and ancient glaciers, they live out their lives-both comic and tragic-in hopes of getting through just one more day of salmon season.
I caught a break from case-up and was sent over to the slime-line where I stood on a platform and flipped giant halibut onto their dull green topsides, making sure the gaping, bloody triangular gouge that used to be the face was in front before I shot the bottom fish down a ramp and onto the conveyor belt that fed the slimers below. The slimers dragged the fish from the belt and dug and scraped out the bloodline with two-bladed knives that spit water from their handles onto the serrated edges. From my heightened position I surveyed the slimers: those men too small and fragile to handle the frozen fish weighing a hundred pounds and more in case-up; the older women who let the bigger fish pass them by to hog the smaller and easier ones; the Russian women in their long, printed skirts and blouses who never got dirty and never worked on Sundays, even though it usually paid overtime. All the slimers were somber, their ivory faces like day-old whipped cream, all but the Russians looking like bruised bananas in their piss yellow rain gear. All, that is, except one. This one had a touch of red in her cheeks, and her occasional throaty giggle ripped through the roaring of the forklifts and hacksaws, driving a wedge into the muffled chaos inside my headphones. She was taller than all the other women slimers, and she looked much younger. Her sleeves were streaked with coagulated blood, and her hair was tucked underneath a checkered red bandanna. She attacked each halibut with zeal, as if she were the one who was going to eat it, and when she came across a male with its balls still firmly implanted, she stuffed her arm into the hole and ripped out the white scrotum with a smile. She then placed it, like a trophy, on top of the housing covering the brushes designed to clean excess slime from the fish. Sometimes a fish got caught in there and with one hand she pulled it out and slid it through, and with the other hand she picked up a sac and winged it at a slimer across from her. She was exciting to watch; she was flamboyant, she was the Slime-Line Queen of Homer, Alaska.
I was in love.