Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds by Katherine Kirkpatrick

Book: Between Two Worlds by Katherine Kirkpatrick Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katherine Kirkpatrick
could ask him questions. Because of his dark skin, I felt he must be a distant relation. And Mauripaulak, it turned out, was living in New York during the time that my parents were there, while Peary was in distant Washington, DC.
    Without saying the names of the dead aloud, we talked of the people who’d traveled to New York with my parents. There was Aviaq; Qisuk, a hunter who’d worked for Peary; and Qisuk’s son, Minik, who was about eight. When the sailors made a stop to trade along their route, a hunter from South Greenland, Uisaakassak, joined the group. He’d met Aviaq, Mauripaulak explained. “He hoped to marry her. That’s why he wanted to go to America.”
    “My parents had several offers for her, but she was still too young to marry,” I said. How sad that this beautiful child with the blue-black hair had died.
    “Soon after we came to New York, your mother, father, the other hunter, and the girl became ill,” Mauripaulaksaid. “All of them were taken, except for Uisaakassak and the young boy.”
    So bad spirits had entered their bodies.
    “How long ago?” I asked.
    “At different times. In the winter and spring.”
    Qisuk had been the first in the group to die, in February, when there was snow on the street. My mother was next, in March. By then, Mauripaulak said, the trees had grown leaves. My father died in May. Ten days later Aviaq followed.
    Just after the last big snowfall here, my parents visited me in a dream. I might have known then that they’d died. Yet I’d convinced myself otherwise.
    Though dazed, I asked, “Where’s Minik?” Qisuk’s little son was a shaggy-haired troublemaker, Qaorlutoq’s friend.
    “Minik was adopted by the family of a man named William Wallace who worked at the museum. They took him to a new home far away from the city.” Brushing his foot over the sand and squinting as if in pain, Mauripaulak told how my parents’ group lived in a dark underground room in an enormous building where there were many beautiful rocks, carvings, and other things on display. The group had coughs, sore throats, and chills. They were taken to a hospital. Qisuk died there. The others were moved outside the city. The place where Aviaq and my parents passed away was a farm: a small white house, among other buildings, surrounded by fields and trees.Aviaq had enjoyed the animals there. My father had seen green leaves and colorful birds.
    “Have you come to give me their bones?” I asked.
    Mauripaulak hung his head. “No. I wanted to bring them back to you, but the folks at the museum buried your people outside the museum, in a spot with flowers and other plants.”
    “Was my mother’s
ulu
with her? Did my father have his gun?”
    Mauripaulak’s voice was low. “I think so, but I don’t know.”
    He told me how Uisaakassak recovered from his illness. Lieutenant Peary had brought him home just days earlier, on the way to Itta.
    I’ll never see my parents again
, I thought, and choked back tears. I thanked Mauripaulak for talking to me. Just over my shoulder, at the moment Mauripaulak walked away, I felt my father’s spirit. I spun around. In shadowy form, his presence appeared, then slipped away before I’d had a chance to get a good look at him or be frightened. He’d said:
“Build a grave for me, your mother, and Aviaq.”
    “I will do as you ask, Ataata.”
    That night, Angulluk, my sister, my brother, and I prepared the things that would go into the burial house near the other villagers’ graves: the rifle, the two women’s knives, lamps, harpoon, carving tools, furs, and other objects. These were mostly substitutes for the treasured belongings they’d left in America. Still, I felt that the goodswould give them comfort. My sister came up with an
ulu
that she’d planned to give to her own daughter. My brother found a hunting rifle that didn’t shoot straight, but it had once belonged to my father.
    The next morning, as I gathered rocks for the burial house, and the

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