Alaskans feel summer has just started hitting its stride in the middle of August, but know in just a matter of a few weeks the morning's dew will be frozen. It's a bittersweet time, and the starting topic of discussion at the most recent NoRSMen meeting held in Blizzard Bob's (B.B.) garage. (NoRSMen: North Road Supportive Men, a benevolent men's social group dedicated to fuller appreciation of the passing of seasons, bargain-brand beer and cigars made by folks who couldn't even find Cuba on a map.)
"It's August already," Knucks moaned while pausing between his unsuccessful attempts to get his cigar lit. "I was just getting into June. Didn't even catch a glimpse of July."
"Yeah, did anyone see where July went?" I asked. "You suppose we could get Matanuska Maid to put out some milk cartons with a July calendar on them, 'Have you seen this month?' Maybe we could find it and get a second chance at it."
My question went unanswered. B.B. was lost rooting around in his refrigerator, while Knucks was still struggling with his cigar.
Sal Monroe, our honorary member from Cooper Landing, was watching Knucks intently. "Boy, you ain't smokin' cigars," Sal observed, "you're smokin' matches."
It was true, there was a pile of spent matches smoldering at Knucks' feet. His cigar popped and sizzled, with an occasional feeble flame, as matches were held to it and Knucks puffed on it feverishly, but the ignition wouldn't take. He finally threw down yet another match and stared hard in our host's direction. "B.B., these maduro-wrapped cigars are awful! Not only will it not light, the darn thing tastes like some kind of toxic waste!"
"You say something, Knucks?" B.B. asked as he popped out of the fridge. His eyebrows shot up when he saw Knucks' cigar. "Oh, hey! I should've warned you: I spilled a little transmission fluid in the drawer where I keep the cigars the other day, so you probably don't want to smoke the ones with the dark wrappers."
Knucks immediately jettisoned his contaminated cigar onto the pile of spent matches and spit a couple of times for good measure. "You moron! Why didn't you throw out the ones that got soaked?"
"I did," B.B. shot back defensively, "but the stuff keeps seeping out from the corners of the drawer. Maybe I'll move the rest of them to another drawer."
"What were you doing with an open bottle of transmission fluid on your desk anyway?" Knucks asked.
"I was cleaning out the truck a little. It was a bottle with a cracked lid from my truck. I set it on the desk ... well, you know how it goes."
"You were cleaning your truck? Why?"
"Well, it's gotten a little funky lately."
"It's s'posed to," Sal said. "It's summer."
"Sal's got a point, B.B.," I added, "the amount of fishing poles, camping gear, rain gear, waders, bits of tackle, the odd bungee cord or a dozen, and collection of food wrappers piled high in a guy's vehicle are a direct indication of how good a summer he's having."
"Well, maybe," B.B. replied, "but clutter and a little flotsam is one thing, rancid smells are another."
"You weenie," Sal shot back, "a guy can't really lay claim to havin' a summer vehicle unless its smell gets to where you're goin' before you do. Why, I don't figure my rig's fully summerfied 'til I offer a hitchhiking cannery worker a ride and they decline after a quick sniff."
Since he lives in an old travel trailer on a small piece of property immediately adjacent to a respectable lodge, curiosity got the best of me, and I asked Sal where he parked his rust bucket during the summer.
"Well, me an' that highfalutin, lodge sissy neighbor of mine have had a discussion or two about that. He's a bit touchy 'bout the odor claims some of his clients have got what you'd call delicate stomachs so I took to stackin' it next to the Dumpster at the end of the drive. At least I did until the bear problems started."
"Oh yeah, bears love a good Dumpster," B.B. said. "Did it get tricky getting to your rig?"
"Naw, that weren't it at all," Sal replied, "the Dumpster wasn't near the draw my truck was. Shoot, once old lodge-boy saw them bears crawlin' all over my rig, he asked me to start parkin' it where his guests could see it ... long as the wind's right. Even pays me five bucks a night for it. I'll betcha my rig's gonna show up in photo albums 'round the world."
"Well, that's all fine for you, Sal," B.B. said, "but my truck stinks so bad, Donna won't let me park it in the garage anymore. Says the smell's so bad it seeps into her car."
"It still stinks? Even after you cleaned it out?" I asked.
"Yeah. Go figure. I've cleaned that thing out completely ... of course, the word 'clean' is kind of subjective. It's not like I wiped off or washed anything; just threw out the big chunks."
Knucks was rocking back in his chair, a smile spread across his face. "You check your glove box?"
"Well, no," B.B. replied, "didn't see any reason to. I don't use it for anything other than paperwork on the truck. Why?"
"Oh, just curious. You remember when we went king fishing on the Kasilof back in May? I put a bag of frozen roe in your glove box so it would thaw out on the way to the river. But since you already had some thawed ... ."
"Sorry. Say, you suppose there's any light-brown cigars left in that drawer?"
A.E. Poynor is a freelance writer who lives in Kenai.
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