The Floatplane

From Salamander, Issue #44, June 2017

*Nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

Cover Photograph by Mark Wyatt

There were all sorts of holes in Moriko’s story, but for $4,000, it wasn’t my place to point them out. She claimed to be an art dealer with works that she wanted to return to their rightful owners—an indigenous tribe of the Pacific Northwest—at a reasonable cost. However, in the process of transporting the artifacts from Seattle to British Columbia, questions of origination and taxation (here she dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper) would inevitably cause her delays or worse. She wanted to travel straight to the village of Opitsaht just off Vancouver Island, where she could meet her contact and conduct her business. Since it was First Nations sovereign land, she figured she could avoid the whole customs mess altogether. That’s where my floatplane and I fit in.

“Opitsaht,” I said. “Someone would need explicit permission from the Hereditary Chiefs just to set foot on that island.”

“That’s why my liaison recommended you by name,” Moriko said. “You are uniquely qualified for this job.”

“Who’s your contact?” I asked, though I was sure I already knew the answer.

“Marvin Tom.”

“Of course it is.” Marvin was an old friend, though becoming one of the long-lost variety. I had grown up in Ucluelet, on the shipwreck-littered west coast of Vancouver Island where most of the kids from Opitsaht went to high school. On those inlets, Marvin and I cut classes to surf, argued over girls, filched beers from the Co-op, and fished every channel in the Clayoquot Sound. He was the reason I had a standing invitation welcoming me to Opitsaht and the rest of the Tla-o-qui-aht lands on Meares Island. It was a rare privilege for an outsider, but the Toms were like a second family to me. It had been so long since I’d gone back that I eagerly suppressed whatever suspicions I had about Moriko and accepted the job. Marvin had been the next best thing to a brother before I left Canada. Even though we had drifted apart, I still knew at least one thing about Marvin: he didn’t give a good goddamn about art.

Read the rest of the story in Issue #44 of Salamander.