There are some things that I would tell Denise Hall and Robert Christie about Nome, if they were still alive and kicking. Dogfights would be high on the list, but so would the boardwalk, the army jacket, the nuggets, the bear in a cage, the ice, the break-up, the huskies, the school, the jackets, the mucklucks, the kuspucks, the pilot bread, the drunk babysitter and the passed-out boyfriend, the blueberries (huckleberries, really), the cabin called Teetering on the Brink, the northern lights, the Alaska state flag, the drunks, the guitar, the hill, Chicken Hill, the Chungs, the 8-track player, the time grandma peed her pants from laughing, the theater, Elvis’s ’68 Comeback Special, Commander Cody, the Tundra, the Lutheran church, the Methodist church, the TV channel, the albums, the visitors (Kathleen Kennedy), the camping, the driftwood, the rivers, the fishing trips, the citizens of Nome, the wanderers.
People wandered about in Nome. Maybe because I was nine and reading Nancy Drew, I was most interested in the mysteries of these people — the mysteries never led anywhere but death. Clouds of mosquitoes wanted our bodies all summer long. One babysitter told me to breathe only through my nose during winter. Another wanted my parents to bail her out of jail because her class at school was going to take a field trip there. At the library, there was a gold nugget displayed next to the Nancy Drew books. It was called The Nome Nugget, and was big as a dog’s head. There was a restaurant in town with the same name.
A siren blew every day at noon. All the dogs howled to it. There was salmon to eat. There were cases and cases of canned food. One time, our dog, Shumagin, got into a vicious fight at a campout party with my parents. I saw his eye pulled out by another dog. I saw the optic nerve.
I would also tell Denise and Robert about Mango Man in Kailua, Hawaii. He is ghost-like because his body is halfway in this dimension and halfway out, with his mind tagging along. Most of Nome’s citizens were like Mango Man. They wandered about the town in winter and summer, minimally present, but always seemed to be on their way to somewhere else.