The Streets of Ketchikan
by Danton Thorne

There was a dance at the Silver City Saloon every Saturday night and Mark wasn't about to miss it. After chopping the heads off salmon for three days with the giant galloper machine he was ready for some action...brews and babes... he loved Alaska in the summer time. He and Paul, his blond-haired buddy who worked the machine next to him walked along the waterfront across from the cruise ship Princess Orient. Towering above the city dock the big white Princess liner moved slowly into the waters of Tongass Narrows. Passengers lined the rails, old folk mostly who'd spent the day buying curios in the shops that catered to the trade in downtown Ketchikan.

The duo watched the liner churn down Tongass Narrows, back-dropped by the spruce and cedar forests of Pennock Island, headed for Glacier Bay and other points north. As the two young men strode past the tourist shops selling T-shirts with killer whales and Grizzly bearsemblazoned with the words Ketchikan and Alaska on them, they eyed the Teenage girls hanging out in the park under the carved totem of a wooden eagle. With a jangling of bells the horse trolley drawn by Kelly, a big bearded Irishman who made his living hauling tourists to the hatchery and back, interposed itself between them and the liner. Kelly gave them a wave and slowed the big Belgians to a slow walk.

"Hey Mark... going to the dance tonight?" Kelly yelled above the clopping hooves striking sparks of steel on the blue gray asphalt.

"You bet, but going to The Klondike Club first, to see Lara dance... gets me all fired up for the rest of the girls."

"Don't spend all your money all on one girl."

"I got some money cause I just got paid." Mark sang the refrain of a popular ballad.

"Be careful, you might get laid," Kelly yelled then clopped off down the street.

They walked in silence for a moment toward the big tunnel that divided Ketchikan in two parts, the Northern industrial and Southern residential.

"You might get laid," Paul said sullenly, "I haven't even got a kiss since I got up here."

"Follow me Paul. I'll set you up tonight. I know just the girl for you.  She's a dancer at The Klondike..."

"Awe, come on... all those girls care about is money."

"Don't be so sure... I know Danielle likes you."

"Danielle... come on... it's fifty bucks for a table dance with her. I don't have that kind of money."

"Come on," Mark smiled. "You never know."

The two young men walked swiftly past Anne's Saloon, inside sat the elite of Ketchikan on heavily varnished oak furniture staring at romanticized oil paintings of prostitutes, life size, haunting the red light district of the past and into the gray concrete tunnel where cars buzzed past them. Paul bounced his hand on the heavy iron pipe railing that separated them from the traffic.

"Danielle? You sure she likes me?"

"Hey, she told Lara she thought you were cute. She just wondered why you were so shy."

"I'm... I'm not shy."

"Sure... then how come you haven't got laid?"

"Nobody's asked me."

"Have you ever thought of asking Danielle?"

"Sure... but she's a top dancer... I see guys tip her fifty bucks all the time."

"Do you think money's all she's interested in."

"Sure. Isn't that why everybody comes to Alaska?"

"Is that why you came?

"Why no..."

"Question answered. Hey look, it's Dogfish... he should be out fishing on the Rose Anne. I saw her going out of Thomas Basin this afternoon.

Somethings wrong."

Weaving up the tunnel Dogfish Charley, a short powerful man in his mid-thirties dressed in a Harris Tweed topcoat neared them without noticing. His eyes seemed glued to the concrete. As he approached Mark coughed and Dogfish looked up and a big smiled crossed his dour visage.

"Hey Dogfish, I thought you'd be out fishing."

"Fuck that man... got fired... can't believe it. The captain said I was too drunk. He told us no drinking the day before going fishing. Fuck the mother-fucker, he's a control freak. There I was right on the dock, ready to go. The son-of-a-bitch tossed my sea-bag ashore and told me a check was waiting at the cannery. Shit man, I've been going fishing half fucked-up for twenty years. Fuck this town. I'm going back south... fuck Alaska."

"Shit man, don't make any rash decisions. There's other boats. We're going to The Klondike Bar to see Lara dance, and get Paul laid."

"Give me a break," Paul blushed.

"I'll give you a break... I'll break that hard Norwegian skull of yours if I can't pound some sense into it. Dogfish come along with us. I'll buy you a drink."

"A drink," Dogfish considered the proposition for a nanosecond.

"Sure, can't get out of this shit-hole 'til tomorrow anyway. I got a thousand buck draw and a ticket to Seattle. Why the fuck not? Might as well have one last night on the town."

At The Klondike Club, a long smoke-stained cavern bereft of much lighting except on the stage, the boys settled at the bar. The front door was propped open with a small anchor and let a shaft of sunlight penetrate three bar-stools into the room. The smell of musk and beer lay heavy and hard in
the air. Dogfish inhaled the stale air deeply and grinned. Danielle, a six foot black girl dressed only in a g-string danced slowly hypnotically to the music... mimicking the sexual act. Harvey, the Bartender, a crew cut, white-haired six-foot-two barrel of a man came over.

"Help you gents."

"Three Rainiers," Larry said... and three shots of schnapps."

"Coming right up."

"Lara working?" Mark asked.

"She's up next."


"I'll buy," Dogfish said as he slapped a C-Note on the bar."

"Can't argue with that," Mark said.

"Good by me," said Paul.

"That'll be $11.75," the bartender said.

"Run me a tab on that hundred, just let me know when the money runs out."

"Don't worry," I'll let you know laughed the bartender.

As he sipped his beer Mark checked out the scene, a few dancers were talking to the customers at the bar cadging drinks. The Dancers at the Klondike were different than the bar girls he'd met in the Orient... the girls here drank real booze, not gimmicked up soda pop. Lara, liked to drink
white Russians, and at seven bucks a pop that could empty his wallet fast.  But, he laughed to himself, that's why he ran the gallopeter machine... he liked to whop the fishes heads off for $7.25 an hour plus over time at twenty hours a day six days a week. He had a couple hundred in his pocket and was feeling no pain.

The seine boats were out right now jockeying off the rocky points of Clarence Straits scooping up the Pink Salmon that ran in schools of millions in Southeast Alaska each year. When the fishermen went fishing he got a day off. Tomorrow, they'd be swamped with Chums and Pinks from the big wild runs that flooded the creeks of Southeastern Alaska. Tomorrow was another night as far as Mark was concerned. Tonight, he'd set Paul up with Danielle, she'd treat him right. It was funny how Paul was so shy... he was a good looking guy... Not in my league, Mark reflected, and laughed to himself as he glanced in the mirror. People told him he looked like a young Robert Redford. It worked for him. He could see Danielle looking at him in the mirror, he signaled her to come over and she smiled.

When the music ended Danielle bent over and started to pick up the cash scattered on the floor. As she bent over a wiry man dressed in blue jeans, red suspenders and flannel shirt slipped a fifty into the cleavage of her ass. She didn't even wiggle. She picked out the bill and smiled at the dude...time for a table dance. Mark watched as they retired to a corner and Danielle climbed on the table and started dancing for him... she was luring him on with smiles and hip grinds. Finally, she sat on the table and pressed her breasts up next to his face as he ran his hand up her thigh.

Mark's attention was drawn to the stage as whistles and applause filled the room, Lara came on the stage... strutting and laughing, wearing filmy yellow lingerie. Mark stood up and applauded. Paul was up too, he slammed his beer on the table and whooped, dollars rained on the stage... as a wild primeval song drifted out of the big Bose speakers over the bar... A hundred watts of power shuddering throughout the room. Lara, her curled blond hair drifting wisps about her shoulders started to dance... slowly at first...shifting weight from one hip to the other in hypnotic rhythm as the cheers slowly died down. Mark was transfixed by her sensuous grace, a grace that she'd refined from natural desire, her trademark dance she called the Right of Spring.

As Lara, slowly stripped her scanties off Danielle came over and sat next to Mark. The dude was with her and ordered a shot of schnapps and hammered it and then stood eyes glazed at Lara.

"Give me another!" he told the bartender.

"Buy me a drink?" Danielle asked the dude.

"Buy your own drink, bitch. You got money." he said...

"I'll buy you a drink, Danielle," Mark said throwing a twenty on the table.

"You're wasting your money" the stranger said, "Shit, I just spent fifty on her and all she did was wave her pussy and tits in my face."

"Cool it or you're cut off," the bartender told the dude. "No insulting the ladies. We don't run no whore house here. This is a club... See the sign."

He pointed to a sign on the wall that said "We don't serve women here. Bring your own."

"Coulda fooled me... gimme another shot." the stranger slammed a C-note on the table.

The bartender poured the drink and the stranger took it and walked up to were Lara was dancing... He watched her for a while as she danced for one man then another. He waved a fifty at her and she came up to him moving her hips and pussy toward his face. For a moment he seemed transfixed, but then slammed the drink, grabbed Lara by the pussy hair andshoved the shot glass up her cunt...

Mark was on him in an instant, the man broke away, but Mark followed him and caught him by the door. The stranger swung a roundhouse right but Mark countered with a left jab, then another, then started to throw a right, suddenly the bartender was there with a pool cue stick slamming it hard against the table... Mark froze for a second and the stranger, bloodied and angry, ran through the door and disappeared... Lara was on her knees holding her cunt, blood was running down her leg... Transfixed Mark
hesitated then started toward Lara, before he realized the stranger was escaping.

As Danielle dialed the ambulance from the bar phone Mark ran into the street looking for the stranger. Nothing, just boats and bars... The stranger was gone, disappeared among the shanty's and canneries of Tongass Way. The sun was laying low on the horizon, almost as red as the blasting lights of the Medic-mobile came screaming down the street. Mark ran over to the alleyway and looked down the boardwalk which stretched above the tidal flats below... No sign. The bastard was gone. When he got back to the Klondike he found Lara, on her feet being helped by Danielle and the bartender into the van. Paul came up and took Mark by the elbow as the van pulled away.

"You see where the son-of-a-bitch went?" Paul asked.

"Fuck no. He could be anywhere. He might have slipped down on the tide flats. He can run but he can't hide. Ketchikan's a small town. I'll find him, or somebody else will find him. Lara's got lots of friends... lot's of friends... he got out lucky. But his luck ain't gonna hold out."

They went back in the bar. Music was playing... a red head was on the stage swinging on the brass bar. Dogfish Charlie was sipping on a double scotch and water. He hadn't moved a muscle. Mark sat down next to Dogfish.

"Jesus Christ," Dogfish Charlie said. "You're good with your fists. Let me buy you a drink."

"Sure, a double black Russian..."

"Gotcha," the bartender said.

"Sure... and let me buy one for Danielle," Mark said as she smiled and came closer. "Danielle, I want you to meet my friend Paul. Paul's been up in Alaska for two months and hasn't got laid."

"Jesus," Paul said. "Embarrass me."

"Can't say the same about you, can we?" Danielle said patting Mark's thigh.

"No, sure can't. But I gotta go up to the hospital to see how Lara's doing... this is fucked. Take care of Paul for me, will you. He's a good guy, just shy."

"I'll go to the hospital with you." Paul said.

"Bullshit... this little fracas isn't going to ruin my evening. We'll be elbow deep in fish heads tomorrow. You have fun... anyway, I want to talk to Lara alone. I bought her a present... look at these."

He produced a pair of walrus teeth, carved halibut ear-rings...

"They're beautiful. You in love with Lara, or just in lust?" Danielle asked.

"He's always in lust," Dogfish Charlie cut in as he passed out on the bar.

"Better call a cab." Danielle told the Bartender.

Dogfish jerked upright and looked around.

"Nah... no cab... I'm going up to the Silver City Saloon, to dance up there. I'm gonna dance. I'm fine. Just getting my second wind."

By some miracle of constitution, Dogfish Charlie got up, stretched, and said..."Let Paul and Mark drink on my tab... and any ladies they like. He threw a ten on the table and staggered out of the door. The bartender came
over and picked up the ten and put it in his tip jar and said, shaking his head, "Dogfish... yah gotta love him."

"Think somebody should watch him?" Danielle asked.

"He can take care of himself," Mark said. "Hell, he'll probably have a deck job by tomorrow morning... he's just starting to get rolling. He's just gotta get over getting fired. The captain of the Rose Anne is an uptight ass-hole. Shit, Dogfish's been crewing around here for ten years. He's got his moments but once he's at sea, he's as good as any."

"And you," Danielle said to Paul, "Now just why haven't you got laid?"

"Well, I..." Paul, blushed violently as her knee pressed into his thigh.

"Well, I..."

"Buy a table dance, you got nearly ninety bucks left on the tab," Mark said with a wink. "I gotta go up to the hospital and check on Lara. If that ass-hole hurt her bad, he's gonna get more than fucked up."

The hospital wasn't far from the bar, so Mark decided to walk it. It was still early, the sun was just starting to set, and cannery workers were walking the embarcadero along Tongass Narrows. There was only one way
to go, through the tunnel, so off he went. As he walked in the early evening dusk he could hear his own footsteps echo in the darkness, then suddenly the hair stood on end. The dude who'd fucked Lara up slipped out of the shadows. Mark squared off. The dude reached behind him and pulled out a large hunting knife. Mark froze, his eyes transfixed by the blade gleaming in the low lights of the tunnel.

"Okay, mother-fucker... I'm going to cut that pretty face of yours into shreds," the stranger uttered in a strangled, ugly cry as he lunged at Mark.  Mark dodged the thrust easily, casually bounding on the balls of his feet.  Adrenaline surged hard in him, he had to take the dude out fast... that
fucking knife was dangerous. The man made another clumsy swipe, then Mark stepped in and caught him with a hard right, the man straightened out backed against the rail. Mark tried to uppercut him in the nuts but the dude twisted sideways, suddenly quick. Mark hit the two inch steel rail as hard as he could. CRACK, he broke a bone in his hand. Stunned by the pain he stepped back and grabbed his hand and the stranger struck, snaking the knife between Mark's ribs and into his heart. Sirens started screaming up the cavern, police lights were flashing a red and green staccato on the concrete tomb... He tried to staunch the wound with his hands... but the lights were fading quickly... his blood was running into the gutter. The stranger moved in and knifed him in the gut again, and again...

Paul awoke the next morning wrapped in the arms and legs of the black dancer... she slept smoothly, snoring lightly. He ran his fingers along her soft body, then her eyes fluttered open and she kissed him.

"You all right?" she asked.

"Sure..." I was just having this dream.

"Last night was dreamy," she said.

"You liked it?"

"You were wonderful."

After they'd made love again, he pulled his blue jeans on again and walked over to the window overlooking the street... Broad northern light was filling the street, the water was sparkling blue.. He smiled softly to himself, and silently thanked Mark for setting him up with Danielle. She knew how to treat a man. He wondered what he'd been scared of, and then laughed. There was nothing to be scared of. Hell, if Mark had taught him anything, he'd taught him that. The windup clock on the bedstead was ticking... ticking... then there was a pounding on the door.

Paul answered the door... it was Lara, crying... Dogfish Charlie was with her, his face pale. His hand supporting Lara's elbow.

"What's up?" Paul asked.

"Mark's dead... that dude at the bar killed him. Knifed him to death in the tunnel," Charlie said. "Can we come in?"

"Uh, of course."

Dogfish and Lara entered the room... Danielle got out of bed and slipped a dress on.

"This is no bullshit?" Danielle asked.

"No bullshit. It happened last night, after he left the bar."

"Jesus... just as we were coming up here? I shoulda been with him."

"Don't blame yourself," Danielle said. "Mark would have done the same as you did."

"The police catch the bastard?"

"Yeah, he's in jail... he ran off behind Mxie's Bar... they found him there with blood all over him... with the knife."

"Jesus," Danielle said, "Why'd the mother-fucker do that? He had to be crazy... he gave me the creeps... the mother-fucker. They should cut his balls off and let him bleed to death.."

"That's how it should be," Dogfish Charlie said. "Save the public the expense of a trial. But fuck no. The trial will drag on for years... you know...this is the kind of thing where the guy gets seven years and is let out after five for good behavior. Fuck, I'd like to fillet him... muscle by muscle, bone by bone."

"Jesus... he's dead... my best friend. You know this was his dream coming to Alaska... he's got a three year old boy in Sacramento," Paul said sitting down on the bed.

Dogfish Charlie looked out at the seine boats, nets piled high on the stern with the big aluminum skiffs perched on top of the net. The boats were laden deep with salmon. It was the height of the season.

"You know, maybe I won't go south. I gotta hit the docks and get ajob, there's gotta be a job out there. I'm gonna cash this ticket to Seattle in.."

"That's all you can think of with Mark dead?" Danielle said. "Your a cold-hearted bastard."


At the Klondike, Lara came out at noon to dance, her face was puffy and she moved soberly... she stripped her clothes off and threw them into the crowd and said, "This one's for Mark," and started to dance to a slow soft song, a sad English Ballad.

Dogfish Charlie watched her for a moment, then ordered beers for all three of them.

"She's tougher than I am," Danielle said... "I don't think I can dance today. I can't finish this beer."

"I'll drink it for you," Paul said. "Mark's dead... save your tears for the living."

"Jesus, how can you guys be so fucking hard."

"If I'd been the one knifed... it's what Mark'd do for me."

"Shit if it'd been you, Mark'd be working up sympathy with the know, he'd get laid half a dozen times off this."  Dogfish said.

"Half a dozen," Danielle suddenly laughed, "More like half a
hundred. That bastard, he was the best."

Lara's dance continued but Paul couldn't take it anymore. He needed some air... to walk... to be alone. As he stood in the doorway he turned back for one last look at Lara moving trance-like transfigured by the orange light into a surreal feline figure, mascara running from the tears that came from her heart.

Copyright 2003 by Skylite Communications Co.


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