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Hippocampus

By: washy
washy's Profile


Real Name: Kelly
Age: 60
Sex: male
Location: Isle of Mull and San Francisco

Other Passer Name(s):
not specified

Bio:
Born in Tobermoray, the son of a trawlerman. When my father realised I'd never make a fisherman he sent me to flight school and I joined the Coastguard. I was stationed in Oban. I write because I cannot do anything else, and don't do this particularly well but it's a muse thing.

Writing Style:
Romantic, biographical and fantasy

Prologue


 


 In the 1960's and early 70's three underground nuclear tests were detonated on the island of Amchitka. Cannikan, in 1971, was the largest underground nuclear blast in U.S. history. In 1995, a year after his wife had succumbed to long illness, Dr. Oliver Robinson, a marine scientist, was personally appointed by President Carter in 1991 to head the newly formed Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.                                      Katherine Robinson completed her PhD in photojournalism she had already made a name for herself. It seemed natural she would follow her father to Alaska. Pretty soon the place enchanted, and then it broke her heart. Yet despite all, and happening at the very same moment, she fell in love with the place.  


The days before her father’s disappearance she was breathing and smiling, charming all she knew, living within the enchantment of her success and all its ensuing comfort, but after that day something killed her brilliance, split her spirit, and ended all hope. Now, two years later and with a new identity, Paula Phillips, Katherine Robinson, continues to walk among people, smiling, eating and drinking, searching for clues about her father. 


As a child Katherine loved to listen to the stories her mother told; anything that would stretch her imagination. It wasn’t a religious upbringing, but proper. Her father, kindly, strict, but always with his head in books, was a humorous man, even though it was mostly unintentional. Not until her teens did she begin to wonder why her mother, a professional dancer, could have met, and then married a scientist. It was a question she never pursued, seeing and being brought up within their happiness with each other. Elizabeth Robinson carried herself with great dignity, something she never let go right to the end. Father was, to put it mildly, a genteel slob, wearing what was closet to hand, oblivious of coordination, or the weather.  


 Katherine inherited her mother’s genes regarding looks and integrity and her father’s fashion sense, making anything fit the occasion. They lived in a fashionable mansion, bought in decay, and restored over the years through her mother’s industriousness and imagination. Not a huge mansion, six bedrooms, one that became a laboratory, another a dance studio, where private dance lessons, be they ballet or modern, and later one became a photographic studio. She was brought up without the insult of poverty lurking over her shoulder, and she was pretty. Not pretty enough for some boys in high school, lacking their ideals in breast size, but far and away too bright, academically and wittily, to consider their preferences above what she wanted and needed to attain. She wasn’t a lonely person, but loved to be alone. There is a difference, she always said, choosing to be alone is not the same as lonely.


By the age of thirteen she was taking more interest in her father’s work than the younger notion that she, too, would be a dancer. Her mother listened, as always, and understood. “You are your father’s daughter, sweetheart. I’ve always known you’d want something different, something beyond the stage.”


Her father encouraged her to join him in his research, and of course she always thought she, too, would become a marine scientist…until she picked up her first good camera. Photography fascinated and then obsessed her. When she had attained the age of eighteen she knew she wanted to pursue a career in photojournalism…and entered the University of Leiden to earn a PhD. The outlook for Katherine could not be brighter till the day a cruel disease, called a cancer, came calling; came and bowed her mother’s head with pain; but could never bend her good spirits, or make them stoop, and as a family they stood upright because she desperately wanted her integrity kept intact. The great room downstairs became her bedroom, and she never again climbed the majestic staircase.  


Every day Katherine pushed her mother round the gardens, never speaking of illness, just the nectarines and peaches that hung on the walls. Katherine watched her mother weaken from being a tall, graceful person to one who could barely hold her head up. Her father took it unbearably badly, looking awkward, frightened, his eyebrows shot with pain every time he looked at his wife. Her death was timely, if not a little late. Katherine had missed her mother for many months, long before the illness took her from them physically. Oliver Robinson missed his wife all day long, crying, some nights till he slept, and during the day burying himself in research papers. At Elizabeth’s funeral, her father said: “In death some of us are only what we might have been. Elizabeth, well Elizabeth was everything she wanted to be, a good wife and a loving mother. She never put dancing before those two things.” He broke down.  


For many months he busied himself strolling among the melancholy-looking yew trees, or the firs, and picking up red berries, and the fir apples, which were good for nothing but looking at. Katherine, convinced her mother watched her every move, photographed the garden, every flower, calling them ‘children of the wood’.  


Oliver Robinson was well respected in the marine scientific research area. He’d been the child of a garage mechanic, with little or nothing to help him through school. Katherine’s grandfather was a man who talked only of beer and bread and hard times. What her father had going for him were brains…brains and character. No money; no influence; not much education. Due to the amount of times his father kept him off school to help in the workshop, and not much luck. But brains, studying in his bedroom, and a character far more powerful than adverse odds; and her father won. He was not a multimillionaire when he married Elizabeth, or even a millionaire, just a man interested in animals, marine animals, and became scientifically interested enough to learn more and then to teach. Katherine learned so much from her father, being a man never to boast, complain, or deal out unearned advantages. If Katherine was going to be successful she had to emulate her father’s tenacity, not use his influence, and keep in mind her mother’s kind heartedness; a woman who could look at a man born with two left facing feet, absolutely no physical co-ordination, and ask him to dance. Then love him.


 


 


Chapter One


 


Alaska


 


   Katherine looks down at her passport thinking maybe she doesn’t look so bad as a redhead, and still amazed she’d found the nerve to go through with it. Still, the idea of passing through San Francisco’s immigration formalities tomorrow, even though not requiring a passport, awakens a mess of butterflies deep down in her stomach. She’ll be there to collect a photographic award from the Guttman Fellowship before heading back to the east coast. Her assignment, the one she’d requested, the one Alex Ferguson, Editor in Chief of the National Geographic resisted giving her, started out from Point Hope, on the shores of the Chukchi Sea, continuing the length of Brookes Range to Prudhoe Bay, a community of less than fifty people, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and from there flying to Amchitka, in the Aleutian Islands 


Outside the dinner tent, snow falls heavily, inside she is doing her best to conceal her irritation with the men; or one man to be specific, Jake Bryant; another, Dan Slocum, is no more than your typical tourist trekker heading back to Anchorage and a flight home. The third man, a rare character, is Sam Duncan, older, smart, teasing with a gentle heart and a will of granite; a man reverent about his surroundings. Sam Duncan writes about ‘his’ Alaska; and he writes for those who will never tread that way. It’s impossible to describe the generosity and sympathy for Alaska in his writings.  


It’s the main talker, the bush pilot who is turning out to be a real bummer. The way he looks at her, the way he talks, complacent, self assured and oh so certain he is the star of a movie. She hates that manner with a fine passion. She’s become so sick of the stink of bad testosterone that even the slightest whiff of it makes her want to heave. He’s just spent the last hour chewing on salmon jerky, attempting to impress her with his wilderness adventure credentials. All so much crap and all because of the way she looks. If she were short and plain and unobtrusive, the weight of his attention would be far less, enabling her to see more of him. As it is, his egotistical bright lights have diluted her pupils to the point he’s no more than a blur; and one with a distinct odour. Alaska, with all its impressive beauty, is full of men with robust-hormones, much like Jake Bryant, the kind of kind of guy who can’t divert his eyes from a pair of breasts; the guy who refers to winds as ‘skirt-lifters’. Not that she’s had the opportunity to wear such a feminine garment in three months.  


Katherine’s good looks have brought her attention all her life; before as a blond and now as a redhead. She does not like attention. It’s been hard enough to ‘disappear’ into the world without having to deal with attentive men, and anyway, when it comes right down to it, she isn’t that good looking at all, and after three months sledding across Alaska there isn’t much that reminds her she is in fact a woman.  


When Katherine arrives in Anchorage from Amchitka she wants a room, a hot shower, and a wide comfortable bed. Tomorrow she will be in San Francisco to collect her award. But not a night passes, not another day looms when she doesn't tell herself that her motive is to discover the whereabouts or the situation in which her father disappeared.


 


 

washy (Rate Passer) added to this story on Thu, Jul 30 2009 11:13:05 EST
Print Hippocampus
Genre: Drama
Created: 07-30-2009
Word Count: 1718

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