Flin Flon splayed itself over the tundra like a comatose drunk. In another place, the buildings would never have been permanent structures. Whether it was a sheet metal wall patched with clapboard or a tarpaper roof held down by cement-filled tires nothing had been built to last and most of it looked like it hadn’t been touched in years. The airstrip and the dock were the only things that had seen regular use. In Flin Flon everything had been repaired.
A cloud of mosquitos thick enough to make into cakes was the first to greet Hercules Braeton. He was still numb from the engine vibration and sleep dep was setting in something fierce despite the handful of drugs George had given him. He tried to take a deep breath before running to shelter and got a mouthful of bugs.
The closest thing to the airstrip was the bar. It was named Bar. This far from civilization it was better not to pretend to own anything. Hercules knew Jordan, the owner, but he went in anyway.
“Betty still take overnighters?” he asked, first thing through the door.
Jordan looked up from his tv with slow eyes limned blue by the glow.
Hercules coughed up a few more bugs and held his hands out.
“Anybody here can help?”
“Betty rode her shotgun outta town last winter. She took all the good feelings anybody had for you, Herc.”
He sat down next to the door and squeezed his face. With his numb hands it felt like touching a stranger.
“I’ll pay you fifty bucks if you let me sleep in this chair, Jordan.”
“Hand it over.”
He reached around and unlatched his wallet from the chain and threw it over the bar. “Take it,” he said. “Take it all. I don’t care.”
“You gonna be gone in the morning?” he asked, taking a stack of bills out of the wallet.
“Yeah. I’ll be gone, you won’t have to worry about seein’ my ugly face ever again.”
The barkeep nodded and went back to watching his TV.
Hercules looked out the hazy yellow window at the Hudson Bay. From the ground everything was flat and iron gray. The few white buildings outside stood like gravestones. He closed his eyes hoping sleep would steal him away but when he opened them again Jordan was still watching his TV and the sky was still the color of dirty snow.
“They took it from me, Jordan. The fuckers took it.”
“You never cared about it. It was all down to me and Betty.”
“Pretty much,” the barkeep said without turning to look him in the eye. “She needed better’n you, Herc. Without her here no more, I don’t give a fig what happens to you and yours.”
“So you don’t care that I’m going back up there. Gotta see it one more time. Government’s called one of the oil companies to dig it up and take it outta here. Exxon or Shell. You don’t care about that?”
“They’re gonna dig it up? That’s crazier’n you!”
Jordan got up from his stool and poured out a glass of whiskey, tottering over to where Hercules was sitting.
“They took it, Jordan. Just took it.”
“I’m sorry,” he said handing over the glass. “Real sorry.”
The goal of this exercise was to describe a place purely from its name, without using any prior knowledge or research.