Last Night In Twisted River

FROM Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving

While it lasted, the work during a river drive was from dawn till dark. It was the protocol in a logging operation to feed the men four times a day. In the past, when the wanigans couldn?t get close to a river site, the two midday meals had been trekked to the drivers. The first and last meal were served in the base camp nowadays, in the dining lodge. But out of their affection for Angel, tonight many of the loggers had missed their last meal in the cookhouse. They’d spent the evening following the log drive, until the darkness had driven them away—not only the darkness, but also the men’s growing awareness that none of them knew if Dead Woman Dam was open. From the basin below the town of Twisted River, the logs—probably with Angel among them—might already have flowed into the Pontook Reservoir, but not if Dead Woman Dam was closed. And if the Pontook Dam and Dead Woman were open, the body of the young Canadian would be headed pell-mell down the Androscoggin. No one knew better than Ketchum that there would likely be no finding Angel there.

The cook could tell when the river drivers had stopped searching; from the kitchen’s screen door, he could hear them leaning their pike poles against the cookhouse. A few of the tired searchers found their way to the dining lodge after dark; the cook didn’t have the heart to turn them away. The hired help had all gone home, everyone but the Indian dishwasher, who stayed late most nights. The cook, whose difficult name was Dominic Baciagalupo, or “Cookie,” as the lumberjacks routinely called him, made the men a late supper, which his twelve-year-old son served.

“Where’s Ketchum?” the boy asked his dad.

“He’s probably getting his arm fixed,” the cook replied.

“I’ll bet he’s hungry,” the twelve-year-old said, “but Ketchum is wicked tough.”

“He’s impressively tough for a drinking man,” Dominic agreed, but he was thinking that maybe Ketchum wasn?t tough enough forthis. Losing Angel Pope might be hardest on Ketchum, the cook thought, because the veteran logger had taken the young Canadian under his wing. He’d looked after the boy, or he had tried to.

Ketchum had the blackest hair and beard, the charred-black color of charcoal, blacker than a black bear’s fur. He’d been married young, and more than once. He was estranged from his children, who had grown up and gone their own ways. Ketchum lived year-round in one of the bunk houses, or in any of several run-down hostelries, if not in a wanigan of his own devising, namely, in the back of his pickup truck, where he had come close to freezing to death on those winter nights when he’d passed out, dead drunk. Yet Ketchum had kept Angel away from alcohol, and he’d kept not a few of the older women at the so-called dance hall away from the young Canadian, too.

“You’re too young, Angel,” the cook had heard Ketchum tell the youth. “Besides, you can catch things from those ladies.”

Ketchum would know, the cook had thought. Dominic knew that Ketchum had done more damage to himself than breaking his wrist in a river drive.

~~~~~~~~~~~❖❖❖❖~~~~~~~~~~~


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Published in: on January 8, 2010 at 10:35 AM  Leave a Comment  
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