Ship Creek is a stubborn, Alaskan creek if you could ever really say that about a creek. Its source is high in the Chugach Mountains east of Anchorage, where it plunges down clean, and carves a deep cut in the green, yielding earth, exposing water-worn rock scattered like bones left behind by long-dead glaciers. Reaching the valley floor, it flows under a highway, trespasses through an air base then back out again, between leaf-littered banks that turn into dreary warehouses lining the Post Road. From there, it continues on through a wasteland of scrap yard rust, freight yards, and rail yards, around a dam, under a brooding steel bridge, beneath floating flocks of deadbeat mallards, before it curves suddenly through an oozing black estuary and converges with the tidal waters of the upper Cook Inlet; a frigid silty sea renamed in honor of a frustrated English mariner who came up looking for the Northwest Passage but only found two dead ends before turning back around and sailing away in disgust.
Above the estuary, the dam sits like an insult to the wild little creek, made worse by recently added decorative iron railings, flower stem light poles, and signs for tourists outlining the mating habits of various species of salmon.
On this early morning in late July, the stark light of the midnight sun colors the concrete and lightens the dark sucking low tide riverbank mud yawning below rails running away toward the station. Native grasses, covered with city grime, rise beneath elegant fireweed blooming scarlet-pink. A few cars pass in early morning haste and disappear.
To the east, on the wild side of the dam where the creek meets concrete and is channeled around it, an eddy forms, trapping in its swirling clockwise flow objects carried downstream by the force of the water. It’s a gloomy tangled vortex of dark branches, beer cans, glass, and fast food Styrofoam abraded by the power and patience of this determined stream.
In this eddy, a dark-haired woman lies just below the surface. She is on her back, her right leg caught on a log that holds her in place above the edge of the dam. The creek has not been graceful in carrying her to this place and what’s left of her face is bloated in defeat. She is wearing blue-jeans, sneakers, and a gray T-shirt with faded blue letters that spell Hawaii. In the current, her hair sways out from her head like kelp, and her right arm is moving from side to side as if she were waving, although the fingers are unnaturally curled and locked into a claw. Her last expression is the death grin, a hideous leering rictus mocking whatever beauty she may have had in life.
A middle-aged male tourist hurries across the dam now, his eyes pass back and forth across the water, searching for the bright, elusive trace of salmon.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish