The guy that walked in must have been about his age, with a native cast to his eyes and black hair that was standing up every which a way from the wind. He nodded to Oliver. "You the Basquo?"
Oliver nodded, and he walked over and introduced himself. "Jack Brown. I'm here with the Inuit team from University of BC. You're from Boise State?"
"Are you Inuit?"
Jack shook his head. "I had a Japanese grandmother. But I am the top graduate Inuit researcher in the entire department! When this placement came open for a researcher, my professors didn't even consider anyone else!"
"Hey, me too! I think I got this job because I read and write Euskara. That's the Basque language. What's your specialty?"
"The Inuit artifacts are below the Basque artifacts. You know what that means, right?"
Oliver frowned at him. "It's not any great news that the Inuit were here first."
"Here first and last, brother. You won't find many Basques in Red Bay today."
Oliver had been about to share a precious chorizo with this asshole! Well, he could go chew on some whale blubber. Oliver turned away, stretched out on his bed.
"You're not coming to the site?"
"I'm taking a nap," Oliver said. "Jet lag."
When Jack left, stomping harder than he needed to across the bare plank floor, Oliver sat up and studied the dorm. It looked to him like he and Jack were the sole cowboys. Jack had his bed on the bottom, and was using the top bunk to store his gear. Oliver took a quick look. It seemed Jack was an artist, carving whales out of pieces of wood. They looked like the animals you would see on totem poles. He had a couple hanging up on the walls around his bed.
Oliver looked closer. Each carving was a circle, and the whale was swimming inside the circle. The wood was carved and stained to show water, sun, air, and the details of the whales were so exact Oliver could name them: killer whales, right whales, bowheads and humpbacks, blues and fins and sperm whales. He knew the Basque whalers had driven the rights and the bowheads nearly to the brink of extinction in the waters off Labrador. He felt somehow these carvings of whales were a reproach. "They just came looking for cod," he said, and turned away from the beautiful carvings.
Oliver got out his Ikurrina, hung it from the top bunk so it fell down over his bed like a curtain. The room immediately looked brighter. He unpacked his gauntlets and his pelota ball, unpacked his Euskara grammar text, taped up a map of the beautiful homeland, Euskal Herria. Oliver sighed, lay back down. The place felt warmer, home-like. He could stand it, he thought, as long as Inuit-boy kept to his side of the dorm.