I was never really the terrible one. I only wanted to be loved, but that never came. Instead, I only got a death wish. But that was then, and this is now, and now I’m flying a bush plane is Alaska.
I’ve got a little place made of wood and river stones that sits near the water on the other end of town from where I work. The road to it is dirt and gravel, often wet and muddy. I have a wood pile outside to feed into my wood-burning stove. It’s all a bit rustic and rough but I don’t mind. I’m surrounded by trees and tundra and a lake and big, beautiful emptiness that’s lonely yet fulfilling at the same time. I had a wife once, but she was only bitter trouble, and we went our separate ways.
My office is in a little unimpressive building near the shore. The place is called Good to Go Air Transport Company and it’s on a big plot of land with a small rustic airstrip. We can also fit a plane to land on water. That’s the best. Nothing like aiming for that crystal wet plate shimmering below, and then that gentle splash comes and the rolling that isn’t really rolling but instead gliding, like blades on ice. The passengers always sigh with relief when I yell out “Nailed it!”
I bring a hot Thermos of coffee with me every morning because I don’t like the office coffee. Some days there are donuts, some days there are kolaches, some days there are cinnamon rolls, some days there is nothing. That all depends on my boss, Kliff. Yes, Kliff with a K. We think he used to spell it Cliff, with a C. But then rumor has it he was once involved with the Klu Klux Klan, the KKK, and so he liked the letter K and changed the spelling of his name. I guess Kliff got caught up in some really bad stuff and high-tailed it to Alaska a bunch of years ago and started this flying company. I don’t know how much of that KKK stuff is true, but we like to think that way. It’s funny to us. When I say we and us, I’m referring to the people I work with.
There’s an older guy named Guster. He’s a mechanic and smokes like a chimney. He wears brown Carhartt coveralls all the time. He’s got unruly gray hair and a big gray beard, and a big bouncy belly and he looks like a washed-up Santa Claus. Kliff scolds him out loud if he takes more than one donut or one cinnamon roll in the morning. “Save some for the rest of us, fat ass!” he yells out from where he watches us through a big window in his corner office, his sea captain salty eyes burrowing like a cat getting under a spotted blanket. Guster just laughs and yells back, “Let me live my life for once!” Then he mumbles some other things under his breath and goes out to work on the planes in the small hangar we have. He’s not much for people, and I respect that.
There’s a younger guy named John and he’s from Minnesota or maybe North Dakota. He mostly talks about baseball, which is boring to me, but otherwise he’s all right. His emotions are flat, and he’s got a weird sense of humor and I think he’s an only child and was probably dropped on his head. He had me come over to his apartment one night because him and some friends were going to play Scrabble. That was a wild time. I was drinking while we were all playing and then I knocked the vodka bottle over on accident and it spilled on the game board. He didn’t even really get pissed about it, but he probably should have.
There’s also the obligatory office lady named Karol. That’s right, another god damn K name. I don’t know what it is with people and the letter K up here. I guess I shouldn’t talk though because my name is Ceith, that’s right, Keith with a C.
Ceith Cringle. What a dumb world it is sometimes, and so backward, too.
Anyways, you know the Karol type. She’s the momma bird and keeps things humming along because she’s the sharpest one out of all of us. She’s always bringing in casseroles and crock potted stuff for us to eat because she thinks just because we aren’t hooked up with a decent gal we’re going to starve or something. Bless her momma bird ways, but I’m pretty good at taking care of myself. I even know how to operate a crock pot. What a mystery that is. Karol’s husband recently died but she never acts shook up about it because I think he used to slam her around a good bit. She seems happier now. She whistles while she works, like a dwarf in a magical kingdom.
Like I said, most of the time Kliff is in a decent mood and brings in all those goodies which I appreciate because I’m really into sweets. When he isn’t in a good mood, he only brings darkness, and lately things haven’t been very bright. He’s having woman trouble, money trouble, emotional trouble. I’m not sure if he wants to go back to the KKK or what but he’s been real topsy-turvy lately. Those are the times I want to be up in the air, cutting through the blue sheets and the white pillows, and looking down at the blankets of dark green and the golden-gray glass lakes.
Like I mentioned, what we do is fly people all over Alaska. With a lot of places up here, it’s the only way to get in and out. Much of our business comes from hunters, campers, serious hikers, isolation enthusiasts, escapists, cult leaders, rich assholes, shamans, adventurous honeymooners… Serial killers.
The day Jeffrey Dahmer was on board my plane was a weird one for sure. The planes aren’t big and usually only hold a handful of people, if that. Dahmer was by himself, because you know, he was pretty much a loner. He made me uncomfortable because he just kind of sat there behind me and didn’t say much at first. He was wearing a bulky sage-green parka with the hood up over his head. His golden-brown eyes were magnified by his big glasses perched against his unruly face.
“So,” he began, and he had to lean forward and talk loud because of the engine noise. “Have you been watching any of that new mini-series about me?”
“The one on Netflix?”
“Yeah. It’s real popular.”
“I’m about halfway through,” I told him.
“Oh, yeah? What do you think about it so far?”
“To be honest with you… It’s all pretty messed up. Seriously messed up.”
“Hey. What can I say. I’m a messed-up guy… What’s your favorite part so far?”
“Hold on, Jeff. We might want to let the people who are reading this know that we’re going to talk about the show… We don’t want to spoil it for them if they’re really into it.”
“What should I say?”
“Tell them that if they don’t want to know what happens in the show, they should stop reading.”
That’s when Dahmer looked straight into the camera and in his usual dead-pan manner said, “Hey. If you don’t want to know what happens in the new Netflix series about me and my life, stop reading.” He paused. “Is that good enough?”
“I think so.”
“Okay… So, what is your favorite part so far?” Dahmer was again eager to know.
I knew my answer right away. “I like the part where you go off on your grandma when she threw out your mannequin. Damn man. Who the hell yells at their grandmother that way? That was brutal.”
He thought for a moment about what I said. “Oh, yeah. I guess I was pretty rough on her. But I did apologize later. Remember? When we were having our TV dinners on our TV trays in front of the TV while we were watching TV. Don’t forget about that. I always felt bad about the stuff I did, but always after. I never thought about stuff like consequences or other people or whatever before I did all those horrible things. I couldn’t control myself.”
“I had no idea about all the heinous things you did. I always just considered you as that guy from Milwaukee who killed a bunch of people. This show has really enlightened me. Why did you do all those horrible things?”
He got quiet, turned his head, and looked out the small window beside him. “Alaska sure is a beautiful place,” he said. “Maybe all this fresh air and nature would make me a better person. I think I need to be a better person.”
“Are you thinking of moving to Alaska?”
He kind of laughed which was weird because he was such a dark and brooding individual. “No. I’m more of a city boy you could say. And I don’t think they would go for all my gay stuff up here. Some people just can’t handle gay stuff.”
“Right… So, where I’m taking you is really isolated,” I reminded him. “You sure you’re going to be okay for a whole week? Doesn’t look like you brought much gear.”
Dahmer patted the suitcase that sat beside him. He had refused to stow it properly and I didn’t want to argue with him. “Oh, I’ll be just fine. I have plenty to eat… And there’s always wild animals. I have a thing about animals, you know. And there’s a lot of wild animals in Alaska, right?”
“There sure are,” I answered him. “And it gets cold at night. I mean, cold as hell.”
Dahmer smiled strangely. “Two entangled human bodies can generate enough heat to keep them alive through a long, cold night.”
“But you’ll be all alone,” I said.
He turned his head to look at the suitcase beside him. “Oh, yeah. I guess I forgot about that… Why don’t you come with?”
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