Too Remote

Jay Moskowitz’s contract with the Canadian military was quietly nearing its end. He was stationed at the northernmost human habitation in the world, just to the west of the top of Greenland in Canadian territory, at a base called CFS Alert. For decades, the base served as a weather station and listening post against the Soviets, and the personnel there were still spying on the Russians and communicating with nuclear submarines.

For many, a tour of duty at CFS Alert equaled career purgatory, but to Jay, working in this remote location spelled freedom and opportunity. He had jumped at the chance to do atmospheric research there through a private contractor, and his presence reflected his impressive expertise in the field. He was being paid extremely well to unriddle a few key mysteries relating to climate change near the polar caps. The job reflected his desire to live in a world that made sense based on the clear laws of science, where theory and application coexisted in a quantifiable relationship. Jay took solace in knowing that he could live in such a predictable world, at least to a certain degree.

On a Monday that was frigid even by that region’s standards, his wife Kiki didn’t make her daily call, which wasn’t like her. Throughout the course of their marriage, she had never failed to call Jay when they were apart. In fact, she had always been somewhat overbearing in this regard, usually expressing concern for Jay’s well-being and telling him how much she missed him. That night as he lay in bed, he thought about how Kiki’s protestations of concern and affection had grown increasingly strained over the past few months. He drifted off to sleep, and in the middle of the night, he dreamed of a man and woman making love in their bed as their baby girl Jessica wailed for attention from her nearby crib.

The next morning after breakfast, Jay called Kiki but got no answer. His multiple texts received no response. Just after lunch, he walked into his supervisor’s office, and the two men had a frank and lengthy conversation, punctuated by Jay filling out some paperwork. That evening, Kiki finally called and said, “Jay, we need to talk when you get home. We have to do something about this.”

“How’s Jessica?” Jay asked.

After a long pause, Kiki said, “She’s fine. I think she misses you.”

“I’ll be coming home for a few days on emergency leave within the next two weeks,” Jay said. “We’re going to have to make some alternate plans. My boss is going to need me up here for at least another six months, as it turns out. It means a lot to my career and Jessica’s future.”

“Jessica’s future will be just fine,” Kiki replied, “but whatever. I was expecting that.”

“Expecting what?” Jay asked.

“You never should have cheated on me, Jay,” Kiki said in a trembling voice. “You left us the moment you did. You ruined everything for no good reason at all.”

Then she hung up. Jay stared out the window at the tundra and listened to the wind whistle around the building and the wolves howl in the distance.