Cookies and Caribou

The cookie girls came by tonight. We have a weekly deal, now, which brightens up my Thursdays. This Thursday was a little different, though. When one of them had called me at school earlier, I’d expressed my regrets: I had a dinner to get to and couldn’t make cookies with them. She was sad, but we agreed tomorrow would be fine. She asked if I could bring home the schoolwork she’d missed today so that she could swing by to pick it up, and I agreed on the condition that she not stay long, since I had a lot to do.

At around six-thirty, there was a knock on the door. I was on my way out, ready to tuck my cabbage salad under my arm and run through the cold night to the school building for the potluck, but when I saw the girls’ big brown eyes peeking out through frosty tunnels of winter gear, I had to let them in. I gave the young lady her homework, and she held out her hand in its grubby glove and offered me a wadded-up paper towel.

“what’s this?”
“Fry meat! You said you wanted us to bring you some” It was indeed meat, brown and greasy in its questionable paper towel vehicle. I popped a cube into my mouth and chewed. Tender. Sweet. Unfamiliar.
“What kind of meat is it?”
“Caribou.” This was my first caribou. I spotted a long, pale hair on one of the other chunks, smiled, and popped it in my mouth.
“Really! I’ve never had caribou before. It’s good!” I said, chewing.
“I’ll tell my auntie you liked it. Let’s go.” (this last to her sister)
“Wait, let me give you something.” I went to the cupboard and pulled down a treat “You guys will have to share, and this has to be a secret because I don’t have enough to share with everybody, but this is something special my parents sent me from Maine. You can only get caribou here in Alaska, and you can only get these in Maine, so it seems like a fair trade. It’s called a whoopie pie.”
“what is it?”
“Chocolate cake with frosting sandwiched in the middle”
“Yum. Thank you.”
“you’re welcome, girls. Thank you so much for sharing with me”

I should have said mahsi’. It’s the only word I know in Gwich’in, so I should start putting it to work.

They left and I finished throwing my cabbage salad together and flew out the door, savoring my last chunk of fry meat. It really was delicious, but that wasn’t the biggest reason for the grin on my face.

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