ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Literary Magazine - Issue One, Jan. 2013

Issue One, Published January 2013

Issue link: http://ardorlitmag.uberflip.com/i/101035

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THE WAY THE LIGHT WORKS Nonfiction by ANASTASIA SELBY The helispot was quiet except for the sound of chainsaws in the distance. Darren took a dirty map out of his pocket and spread it on the shore of the Kantishna river to show us where we were in relation to the fire. The air was dense with smoke, and flames climbed up trees on our side of the river. The Toklat fire had burned over 45,000 acres, and no one could get a handle on it. The clouds piled upon themselves, but no rain came. Cole and I had arrived a couple of hours earlier, our first Alaska helicopter ride. I'd stared down at the swaths of burned tundra, the water reflecting the sun to the sky. I was next to the helicopter door, and I kept imagining myself grabbing the handle, pushing the door open, and falling into the mirrored water, shattering the reflection. Cole was training me to be a helicopter crew member. He was a chubby guy whose moods were always changing. Before he became a firefighter he had been in the Ohio State marching band, and he often played the Ohio State song on his iPhone while reciting lines from movies I couldn't remember. "Since you're both going to be hanging out at this spot most of the time, and have good visibility, I want you to keep eyes on those smokes over there," Darren gestured, his fingers brown from the Skoal he'd just put in his lip, "and I want you to get me on the radio if you see any sort of activity directly across the river. If that happens, we're fucked." Cole nodded with him, and they gazed across the river, where the white Spruce trees stood silently. "Ana, why don't you take inventory? Cole, come with me -- we'll figure out the camp situation." Darren started walking up the embankment, and Cole huffed behind him, his leather boots slipping on the loose ground. I watched them leave. I knew who Darren was; one of my co-workers on the hotshots had worked with him in Idaho. The fire world was small. Whenever I was around ex-hotshots, I felt myself put my guard up. It had never been easy being one of the only women on a hotshot crew, and I had dealt with a lot of bullshit in seven years. But as I watched them walk away I sighed and looked down at the sandy ground. I didn't have the energy to be defensive. I'd just gotten back to Alaska three days ago. A little over a week before I was called to the fire, my mom had committed suicide. Everything was different, and I felt as if I were simply a human body, emptied of my core. I turned around and gazed at the river, the sun glinting off the brown water, then splintering as my eyes filled with tears. I thought of all the times I had cried with my mother, and how the last time I'd seen her, about a month ago, our cheeks touched as we said goodbye, and our tears combined. My mom and I spent our last night together boiling crab and clams from the Pike Place Market; she'd given me money and I'd bought the fish; bringing a new big bottle of wine for her as well. We melted the butter into drams and sat at her table, dipping our food and making blissful sounds as we ate. "This would be my last meal, if I ever had to choose one," my mom had said. I'd smiled at her, forgetting the two months I had spent caring for her, forgetting how I'd picked up my life from somewhere else and

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