Jul/Aug 2021  •   Fiction

Yukon Sal's Made Some Terrible Mistakes

by V. Zenari

Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash

Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash

Yukon Sal lost her bus ticket sometime between the moment she stood up in the bleachers and yelled, "Fucking Muslim Terrorist!" at the politician in a turban and the moment the two security guards let go of her arms outside the convention centre entrance. Her arms freed, she thrust her hands into her jean pockets. No bus ticket. She turned and hollered, "You stole my ticket!" but the security guards had already gone inside. She rode the LRT home without one. Lucky for her, no train cops were riding in her car: the fines were steep.

In her apartment, she checked the Internet to see if what the fat woman next to her in the convention centre had said was true. She called her best friend Jaime to confirm.

"Sugar," Jaime said, "don't you know Sikhs and Muslims are different religions?"

Sal had gotten mixed messages about that from Reddit. "Isn't one just a spin-off of the other?"

"Uh-uh," he said. "But you know Christianity is a spin-off of Judaism, right?"

She wasn't convinced the word "spin-off" applied to Christianity. Her religion happened because Jesus had cleaned off all the crap and lies to reveal the truth, like when she would dig in the dirt where her ex-boyfriend Monty's metal detector went off and find a penny or a can. With the dirt off, she had something she could sell.

Later that morning, on her way to the laundry room in her building, Jaime texted her. Someone had taken a video of her at the convention centre. On Twitter she saw herself, her face darker and thicker than she liked, standing at the mic and yelling at the politician. Lots of tweets made fun of her for saying the politician was a Muslim terrorist. Maybe she had made a mistake. That didn't mean she was wrong. Because lots of people on Twitter had taken her side, too. Which meant she wasn't wrong.

Before she chucked her jeans in the wash, she checked the pockets and found the bus ticket. She had made a mistake about the ticket. But she wasn't wrong. She also found a toonie in another pair of jeans. That meant she was right. God was giving her a prize.

The next morning, she bussed it to her mother's house to visit her daughter Pandora before she had to go to work. Sal's car was parked in her mother's driveway. The Yukon license plate was gone, and a For Sale sign was in the back windshield.

She walked into the house and shouted, "Are you selling my car?"

Her mother was in the kitchen making Red River cereal. "I said I would if you left the car here for more than a month."

"We're using the money to go to Disneyland this summer," Pandora said. She did a little dance in front of the stove. "I'm going to be a princess."

"You can't sell my car," Sal said to her mother.

"It's not your car," her mother said.

"You gave it to me. Gift giving is a legal transaction." Monty had told her that.

"I didn't give it to you." Her mother put a bowl in front of Sal and another one on top of Pandora's Finding Nemo placemat. "I let you borrow it, and you took off with it to Whitehorse for five months."

"You didn't send the police after me, so that means you didn't defend your ownership rights, and that means I have common law possession." Monty had told her that, too.

"That's a load of baloney." Her mother poured hot cereal into the two bowls and told Pandora to sit down and eat.

Pandora said, "Gramma, aren't you having any?"

"I hate Red River cereal. I make it because your granddad used to like it."

"Is there Red River cereal in heaven?" Pandora asked.

On the bus on her way to work, Yukon Sal stewed over the license plate. Jaime's nickname for her had come from that plate. Two months ago she'd stopped her car in the middle of the street and was checking her phone for the address to the apartment she wanted to rent, and Jaime had been in a car behind her and honked. When he zipped around her car and drove off, she followed him to a red light, and she got out of her car and screamed at him through the open window of his car for being a jerk. Instead of getting mad at her, he said he would help her find the address she was looking for, but she had to get in her goddamn car and follow him to the gas station on the corner. At the gas station he found the place, and she followed him to the apartment. At the apartment, Jaime noticed her license plate and laughed. "Look at you, Yukon Sal." She'd laughed, too.

Turned out she'd been driving around in the wrong neighborhood. But she hadn't been wrong, not even with her road rage against Jaime. He'd helped her find the apartment, and later he got her a job with his telemarketing company. That meant she'd been right. Meeting Monty on Reddit and going up to Yukon last fall to live with him and leaving Pandora behind had been a terrible mistake, but she hadn't been wrong. She'd learned from the experience. Monty had ended up being a moocher and a shit, but he'd taught her how to set up a winter lean-to. Now she had a great nickname because of that experience. Yukon Sal. Her real name was Millicent.

As soon as she walked on the call centre floor at work, she noticed everyone staring at her. Jaime crept over to her from his cubicle and whispered, "Honey, I think you're in trouble with the bosses because of that tweet."

After her supervisor called her to the meeting room and fired her, Yukon Sal had to walk all the way from the meeting room and across the call centre floor to the locker room. All the telemarketers were staring at her, but Jaime stood up from his station and walked with her. She let Jaime escort her to the entrance, and he edged the security guard to one side so she could open the door herself and leave with dignity. He hugged her.

"Call me tonight, okay?" Jaime said. "We'll figure something out for you."

"I fucked up," Sal said. She sucked in a sob. "I'm a loser."

"Naw," he said. "You get mixed up sometimes, that's all. When you know better, you do better."

"When do I do better?"

"You visit your little girl now, right? You're off the booze now, right?" He squeezed her shoulder. "I'll call you tonight."

On the way to the bus stop, she passed the big brick church as always, but this time she kicked a rock in its direction. The rock skittered up two of the white cement steps of the church and stopped. "That's for Jaime," she growled at the church. It wasn't Jaime's old church, but still. Jaime had gotten her the job and the nickname. Maybe she had made a mistake in letting a Godless gay Latino man be her friend, but she hadn't been wrong.