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Why Can't We Have A Nice Igloo Like The Meekitjuks Next Door?

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Why Can't We Have A Nice Igloo Like The Meekitjuks Next Door?

This so-called "igloo" of ours, dear, is a complete embarrassment. Some days, I don't even want to be seen crawling out of the entrance. Now, the Meekitjuks next door, they've got a beautiful place—perfectly cut blocks of ice, a nice, wide entrance, and a two-sled snow rampart built into the back. Why can't we live in a decent igloo like them?

Just take a look at this poor excuse for an igloo: there are ice shavings all over the floor, the ceiling is filthy with smoke, and the wall that faces the rising sun is so uneven, it looks like it's ready to cave in at any second. I wouldn't be surprised if we came home one day to find the whole dome collapsed! Yes, we're the laughingstock of the whole neighborhood.

Yesterday, I had some of the gals from the neighborhood over for a bit of blood soup. I didn't even have a decent hammered-copper bowl to serve it in. On top of that, do you think they didn't notice the worn-out condition of our qipiik? It's more hole than caribou hide! And this old polar-bear-skin rug—it's an ancient hand-me-down from my grandmother, and we're still using it.

All the other women in the village enjoy the latest modern conveniences: blades made of metal, coffee cans to cure the blubber dip. Meanwhile, I don't have so much as an ulu knife to butcher the darn seals.

Not that I've had much to butcher lately. Yesterday, I was peeking out the front entrance and saw Pauloosie Meekitjuk come home after a day of hunting. He was dragging two seals home on his sled! When was the last time you brought two seals home? Last week, it was a few skinny little otters. You're always giving the same lame excuse, telling me it's a "hard winter." Well, we must have some real strange weather patterns around these parts, because it doesn't seem to be a hard winter 20 feet away over at Chez Meekitjuk.

You come home every night, complaining about how exhausted you are from standing over the ice all day with a harpoon, waiting for a seal to surface. And that's not even counting all the nights you come crawling in the front hole at 2 a.m., armed with some phony-baloney story about how you've been out all night following caribou tracks across the frozen tundra. Please. I'm not stupid. I know you're down at the kashgee listening to the shaman stories with the guys. And you know what? I'm really starting to get tired of it.

This coming Sunday, we're invited to the seal-sharing feast over at the Meekitjuks. You'll be happy to know that there will be a whole feast of sliced flipper and blubber and caribou-stomach contents. And I'm sure you'll enjoy it every bit as much as the Meekitjuks' last feast. But we're not going to be invited too many more times if you don't bring home a seal soon to return the favor. Then where will we be? We'll be shunned and have to move our igloo to the bad part of the village, out where the anthropologists live.

I know what you're thinking: "But Komangapik! We just got a new kayak this year! Doesn't that count for something?" Some kayak! The Meekitjuks have a 14-foot kayak, and ours is barely 10 feet long. And what about the caribou-skin interior you keep saying you'll put in it as soon as you get the time? You promised to do it 20 moons ago!

The only thing you care about is that stupid sled of yours. Did we really need another dog? I think Qallunaaq and Kitikmeot were more than adequate, but you insisted we needed Nujuattaittut and Nujuattaittuttuta, too.

My mother warned me about you. She said, "Komangapik, that man has the spirit of the mighty humpback whale in his soul, but nothing but dust in the pockets of his parka." What did I know? I was only 14. Now that I'm older, I understand all too well what she was saying.

Don't I deserve a decent igloo? Do you think I just sit around all day chewing dried salmon while you're away hunting? Yesterday, I spent all day repairing last year's sealskin boots with sinew thread and bone needles, just so I'd have something decent to wear to storytelling sessions around the group fire. If only I could have something besides the same old fox-fur coats.

You spare no expense when it comes to your precious harpoons and knives. You just had to have that toggle harpoon made out of ivory when the antler one would have done fine. But as soon as I want a few small things for around the igloo, we suddenly don't have the skins to trade for them.

Did you see the wooden mask Amik Meekitjuk has on her wall? I asked her where she got it. She said she bought it during an umiak trip to Baffin Island and that it cost only a pot of seal oil. Only! We barely have enough seal oil to keep our igloo lit through the winter, and they're trading away a whole pot of oil! The fact that she got it during a trip to Baffin Island only makes it worse. Every year, you promise that the whole family will migrate there for the summer to fish and capture birds. Then, when it's time to go, you take off with the other men and say there's not enough room in the umiak for me and the kids.

Do you think I enjoy sitting home, staring at the same one wall day after day? Of course not! Then, when I offer to accompany you on the hunt, you say I talk too much and prevent the seals from coming to the surface! Well, maybe if I had more otter to skin, I'd have less time to talk. Hmmph.

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