"Danger Knocks"

A Short Story Adventure by Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson
Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson painting on location
Palmer, Alaska

The sun sparkled on the turquoise water while silver splashes flew in the air as the big bear grabbed at the slippery
panicking fish.  My brush flew over the canvas as I tried to capture the frantic clawing by the hungry bear through the flying
streaks of water made by the fish struggling for its life.  No time to mix subtle values, I attacked the canvas with the
adrenaline rush of my hunger to create, to record this struggle in paint.  It was as if the adrenaline rush from the bear
leaped over the water to me empowered my brush, as I franticly fought to finish painting the action before the bear got
enough of the fish and spotted a bigger meal.  

It was midnight in June, and I was camped out on one of the many lakes near Denali,
Alaska.  I had left Fairbanks a week
ago, driving south in search of a secluded spot where I could  paint without attracting the usual crowd of critics, would be
artist, and concerned grandmothers that inhabit campsites.  Not that I dislike them, in fact I have been all three at different
times in my life.   It is just they break my concentration, and in this case would probably shoot my model.  

I continued to paint as long as the action and light lasted.  About 2 am the bear walked off in the opposite direction across
to the far edge of the lake.  I suppose, to where he could be alone.  After gazing at my masterpiece, (at this point it always
is), I came back to the real world in time to realize the potential threat from the impending, if brief, darkness.  Tossing the
tubes of paint aside, I found my Smith and Wesson .44.  I put the gun in my holster and strapped it to my chest.  Finally, I
sat on an old log and savored a hot cup of chocolate while watching the orange streaks of fire fade into the gray dusk that
transcends the summer days in Alaska.  I passed up my tent that night and slept in my jeep.

It was time to give up my precious solitude.  My creative soul was full and my empty stomach and dirty body were in need of
attention, so I reluctantly left in search of city luxuries.  Anchorage seemed the best choice for selling my paintings.

I love to drive the two lane roads in Alaska, the windows down, my hair blowing in the wind, the radio blasting with seventies
rock bands, and a magnificent view of the great land.  You can’t get that from the billboard-cluttered, pollution-clogged,
testosterone-controlled expressways down south.  Singing with the radio, a smile as big as the sun light on my face I
approached Anchorage on the Glenn Hwy.  Anchorage was beautiful, surrounded by mountains interrupted only by spans
of water.  I was ready for some city life and what better place to stop than Mountain View.  True to its name, there was a
spectacular view of the mountains.  I spotted a small motel that fitted my needs and my purse.  It looked safe with the
parking lot full of Winnebago trailers.  

After a hot bath, I found the laundry room.  Cleaning took all day.  My poor jeep was covered in mud, and filled with trash, (I
don’t like to litter).  Even Otis, the jumbo stuffed gorilla looked dirty with his Harrison Ford hat, Jackie Kennedy sun glasses,
and big map in his hands.   I left the door to my room open as I ran back and forth with the soap and water.   My nerves
began to feel tense, you know that doomsday feeling.          

Sometimes singing drives that feeling away, so I sang and worked.  Just as I was forgetting the bad feelings, I shut up and
put a coke in my mouth.  That’s when I felt eyes on me, danger!  Without turning my body, I glanced to the side and saw a
young man sitting on the porch a few rooms down.  His eyes were dark and body tense, but he was smiling.  His muscles
strained his sleeveless t-shirt with the power of a trained fighter.  He whistled, trying to get my attention.  Well let me tell
you, this grandmother is no dummy; attracting one of the balding but muscled owners of a Winnebago might be a delight
now, but this young man had bad news written all over him.  You might even say he shined like a neon sign with
spelled out in red.

As he got up and moved toward me, his young companion darted out from the open door and grabbed his arm.  Long black
hair fell on her shoulders, almost but not quite covering the lewd tattoos disappearing between her exposed breasts.  
Muscle man angrily pushed her aside, hissing at her to go away.  I didn’t hear her reply, but I heard his laughter.  At his
return comment, she also laughed, and then went away.

I hurried and finished my cleaning, ignoring his attempts to draw me into conversation.  An evening out was what I needed,
some fun and happy faces.  I headed downtown.  Unless you are always looking at your watch, the sunny nights can trick
your mind into thinking any hour is near noon.  Not being one to wear a watch, I was tricked easily.  The first restaurant I
tried was closed.  Even in the summer, packed with tourist, Anchorage goes to bed as early as any mid-size town in the
south.  The few places open after midnight I found to be not for me.  Until I spotted a restaurant on C Street.  It had good
food, and service happy enough to please a picky person.  The waitress was still smiling, after my instructions of no white
buns, no salt, double salad, I brought my own salad dressing, and give me plenty of napkins.  After driving around, I found
a comedy club on Tudor just in time to catch the last show.

I went back to my room relaxed. I closed the curtains tight, locked the door, and even locked the windows.  Remembering
the danger signals from earlier that evening, I lay my gun on the night table.  No sooner had I closed my eyes than the
telephone rang.  I looked at the clock, it was 3 am.  Who would be calling me at this hour?  I didn’t know anyone in Alaska,
and hadn’t said more than a howdy to anyone here.  Must be a wrong number, but I picked up the phone mainly to silence
it.  A deep commanding voice told me I had a family emergency.   A call had come in while I was out that someone in my
family died and a note with the detail was being sent over to me.  I shuttered, the shock making me accept the news.  Ok
was all I could say.  

I was trembling, who was it?  My mom, or my daughter, were they dead?  No, No, I started screaming, no one knows I am
here.  It is impossible.  The last time I called home, I was on the road from Fairbanks.  I told my family I was going to camp
out for a week or two and I would call them when I got to Anchorage.  I hadn’t called. I needed to refresh myself first, I was
going to call in the morning and give them this number.  No one knows where I am.  My mind couldn’t accept the safety of
that, it kept arguing with me that maybe the disaster was so bad, that my family had called all over Anchorage until they
found me.  Then there was a knock on my door.

I froze; no one knows I am here.  Impatiently the knocking got louder.  I couldn’t move. I seemed to be in a trance.  I couldn’t
make a decision; open the door, don’t open the door?

A man’s voice said, “It is an emergency, please open the door, your family is trying to reach you.   Someone has died.”

I got up from the bed and walked to the door.  As I reached for the door knob, a sharp stab like an electric bolt racked my
body.  I drew back and reached for my gun.  No one knows I am here, no one could possibly know where I am.  Feeling his
defeat, the man began to kick the door, and then he rammed it.  I raised the gun and pointed it at the door, but kept silent.  
Think God my gun was loaded, I would have never been able to load it shaking as bad as I was.  The door was strong and
held through the attempts to break it down.  I stood still ready to shoot if he entered.  He tried opening the windows.  Not
wanting to risk attention from any more noise, he left.   It was silent for a long while before I was sure he was gone and I
could move.  I called the office; the telephone rang for a long time, before a sleepy voice answered.  You must be mistaken,
he said.  He hadn’t heard anything.  Maybe somebody got the wrong room, happens all the time.  

The down from this was a long time coming.  Most people would have answered that door on the first knock, never even
considering any threat.  Me, I have all this danger radar, accumulated from years of traveling the world alone.  I tried to
relax, knowing I had to wait until people were moving around outside to leave.  I got my stuff and piled it all beside the door,
dressed and waited.  The phone rang.  I expected the office to phone and inquire more about my stressful call, so I picked it
up quickly.  I heard laughter, loud and tense, insane laughter.  

Then he spoke, “You one smart lady.”  More laughter, I hung up.  

Soon there was activity outside.  I paid my bill in silence, knowing anything I said would be useless, or dangerous.  I headed
south to Homer,
Alaska, me, my jeep, my equalizer, and Otis.  I would give Anchorage another chance, she was too
beautiful not to, but it would take a while.  I had traveled too long not to know that there is good and bad in all places, and a
woman traveling alone attracts the bad.  We are an easy mark, or so they think.

Dianne Roberson is a free-lance artist, writer, and photographer who works from her art studio in Palmer, Alaska and in her
digital art gallery on line at:
 http://www.artworldplus.com where you can view her prints and on her online art gallery.
Dianne's Jeep
Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson
Alaska Pipeline
Copyright  1995       ©   Dianne Roberson    All rights reserved.