Seeking Refuge
Seeking Refuge
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William Hamilton is fed up with religion, politics, society, and his marriage. After learning about his wife's affair and watching the film Nanook of the North: A Story of Life and Love in the Actual Arctic, he decides to abandon his life in Los Angeles. As he embarks on a journey to live simply among an Inuit tribe in the land of the midnight sun, he learns a new way of living, including adapting to strange customs and traditions practiced by the indigenous people. William also rediscovers love. But sometimes life is greener on the other side, and in the unforgiving Yukon, he realizes that the snow is just a little deeper as he finds himself facing the cold, harsh consequences of manslaughter in a land where the custom is an eye for an eye.
"William, please don't do this to me. I love you so dearly." The words stung and he had a hard time believing them. "But you love Dr. Albertson more." "That's not true." She was really bawling now. "Where are you anyway?" William looked around outside the phone booth. "I'm in a little Eskimo town called Inuvik." "Inuvik?" Diana said, raising her voice. "Bill, you need to see a doctor. I think you've had a breakdown." "No, I haven't," William said. "I'm already starting to feel at peace with myself." He looked down the quiet street of Inuvik. "Around here, there are no freeways, no people packed into condos, no line-ups at the super markets, no robberies, and no beggars on the sidewalk looking for a handout." "Bill, please, please, come back. I can't live without you. I love you so much. Please don't do this to me." "I'm sorry. I've got to go now. Take care and goodbye." As William hung up the phone, his gold wedding ring caught the light. He took it off and slipped it into his trouser pocket. CHAPTER FOUR A little bell tinkled as William walked into the diner. He set his backpack and a bedroll – everything he'd brought with him -- on a chair at the counter. He then took off his jacket that he'd purchased from the Bass Pro Shop and took a seat. Installed at the counter were a couple of native men in jeans, ball caps and Pendleton shirts. They were drinking beer as they watched the news from a monitor hanging on a wall in front of them. Behind the counter, a friendly-looking young Inuit woman handed William a menu. She had a round face, and lively almond-shaped, obsidian eyes that were framed with straight, dark hair. Her nametag read ‘Peggy.' "Welcome to Sunny Skies," she said with a smile that lit up her friendly eyes. "Can I start you out with something to drink?" "Thank you, Peggy," William said, beaming. The combination of the waitress's grin and the simple name of the diner had a happy effect on his mood. "I'd love a cup of coffee." William looked around the diner. There was an ice cream machine and a giant espresso machine on the counter. There was also a daiquiri/margarita dispenser and a full bar. "This place seems to have all of the modern conveniences." "This diner?" "The whole town," William said. "Well, what did you expect? 'Nanook of the North?'" she asked, setting down a cup of coffee. "Why, yes," William said, enthusiastically. "I loved that film." The waitress examined him closely as she scratched her head. "But this is the twenty-first century. That film was done almost a hundred years ago." William felt his hopes dash like snowballs across an icy road. Everything he'd read had led him here. Perhaps, he should have learned how to use a computer and figure out how to ‘Google' his research like Diana often recommended. But, William didn't like change so much and was even slower at making adjustments. And yet, when he finally got around to making up his mind about something, he could be a stubborn man. "I'd like to meet some real Eskimos." "First of all, Mister, don't call us Eskimos," Peggy said. "We're Inuit. Eskimo is a derogatory term used by non-Inuit people. It means 'eaters of raw meat.'" "I'm sorry. I guess I don't know any better. Let me rephrase. I would like to meet the natives who still practice the old tradition. I read a magazine --" Peggy peered at him. "Are you for real?" William nodded, pinching his hand. "I think so." She stood straight, hands-on-hips. "Well, there is a small group about fifty miles north of here. After not being able to assimilate to the ways of the western world, they returned to their land where they still try to maintain the culture and tradition." William listened intently. "It's like a whole other world out there," she said, topping off his cup. "Another time." "How do I get there?" William leaned in closer. "Do I need some sort of time machine?" he asked with a chuckle. Peggy did not return the smile. "There are no roads in or out, so the only way to travel is by foot or dogsled in the winter. They do not allow any type of motor vehicle on their territory." "Well, it's still summer and good weather. After that bus ride, the exercise will do me good." CHAPTER FIVE William made his way north on foot across the Land of the Midnight Sun. He'd packed some water and sandwiches purchased from the diner. Along the way, he could hear the sound of crickets, flies, mosquitoes and other insects buzzing around. He was surrounded by God's creatures and His country. With every step he took, he reflected on his days in the monastery and how he'd loved walking out into nature. "Heyschi," it was called -- the sweet repose experienced in contemplation of God. Inner quiet was the "crown" of a monk's life and a foretaste of heaven. William, like most monks, preferred his prayer to be hidden from other people and known only by God and this part of the world was the perfect place. He tried to clear his head, but the nagging thoughts kept racing across the tracks of his mind. He thought about Diana and divorce and how, even though the Church didn't recognize divorce, he'd made up his mind that he was getting one, although he hadn't planned on returning. Maybe I could do it by mail, he wondered. But then I'd have to walk all the way back into town. Soon the river had grown so loud that everything else was drowned out. All thoughts, all worries, all anxiety, hate and fear had left him for the time.
John Stark is a writer, producer and director. Over the past forty years, he's staged many plays in Los Angeles, London and New York. His award-winning feature film Chekhov and Maria aired on PBS TV, Russian TV and Super Channel Canada. His feature film A Play On Words will soon be aired on PBS TV. His most recent play, The Devil's Salt by Jovanka Bach premiered in December at the Odyssey Theater in Santa Monica and received very positive reviews. Ruthie Marlenée is a published novelist, an award-winning screenwriter, ghostwriter and poet. She's earned her Writer's Certificate "With Distinction" from UCLA and is a 2015 nominee for the James Kirkwood Literary Award. Some of her work can be found in Silver Birch Press, Long Story Short and Los Angeles Poet Laureate's Coiled Serpent Anthology. Her novels Curse of the Ninth and Agave Blues are coming out soon.

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