The Kettle on the Boat
In this short story, Qissunguaq, a six-year-old Inuit girl, is going out with her family.
It is morning. Papa is loading some bags onto our little boat.
I ask him where we are going. He says we are going to the other side of the lake.
“Why are we going to the other side of the lake, Papa?” He doesn’t answer me.
“Little girls ask too many questions,” he says. Mama is taking down the curtains. There are two cracks in the window. I ask again. “Mama? Why are we going to the other side of the lake?” Mama hides her face in the curtains. Something inside me knows something……They often don’t take girls out in boats.
It is cold, I am bundled up. My cheeks are frozen. The motor is going put-put-put… We are going somewhere. It is a special day. This should be fun, but it does not feel like fun in my belly. I want to ask Mama now where we are going. I want to ask Mama now where we are going but I don’t because Papa is cross. Mama is busy keeping the boxes straight against the rocking of the boat.. The curtains are in a bag… Now I can see the shore a long way away, and I can see three houses, they are wood. There are no people. I look at the shore because Mama is looking at the shore. Then I look back at Mama. She is holding her kettle on her knee, holding it tight with her mittens… She is holding it, hunched over, and her lips are moving…The boat comes to the jetty, Papa throws a rope to a man…We go up the ladder. Papa and I, we go up the ladder. There is weed on the lower steps. It slips my feet and he holds my hand. He has a bag round his shoulders. At the top I look back into the boat. I wait for Mama, but she does not come. She is not looking at me. She is holding the kettle, looking back over the water. There is the woman from across the lake. I look up at Papa. I cannot see him properly even though he is close and I can smell his Papa smell. He gives my hand to the woman. I have mittens on, but her hand is hard, cold. Papa gives the bag to the man. I say, “Papa…?“. “These people will look after you,” he says.