It is the end of a time, of a generation, of a flowing feeling all across mainland America. But not all persons are touched. Not all people feel this widespread leap that might shake the shingles off this old man’s roof upon the new era’s landing.
Inside lives the thick scent of cold, cedar, fire, and fish. There is an icebox with hinges on the top rear of it and a sturdy wooden handle positioned in front for useful handling, or rather heavily satisfied tossing up by the old man so he will place his catch in it, cover with ice, and perhaps repeat for further layers.
This white rectangular box sits square with the front door, so every evening after a long relaxing day on the bay, the old man can charge his cabin door, throw it aside, and thump his shit-kickers straight to the box. The old man deposits his daily pay in an ice container to freeze and preserve it, like what he is doing for himself: preserving his sanity or rather freezing it. You see, the cold keeps him distracted and so does kicking the same stones and slapping the same bay with the same paddles the same way every day. This old man is stuck in 1979 on the northern coast of Washington. This old boy can’t get out of Cradle Bay.
Every day is December 31st 1979
Heading out early, he swings the front door closed. He swings his pole over his shoulder, grabs his tackle box, and hops down his wooden stair. The old grey boots thump the rickety two stairs as they do each morning in that same rhythm, with two floating stomps upon each and then landing on his beaten trail.
The two steps hit first, making a “Clump-Thump,” as the first stair creaks once.
The two steps hit again, “Clump-Thump,” as the lowest stair creaks twice.
The old boy slides along his gravel walkway, kicking grey rocks, barely lifting his feet. He’s walking east, away from the coastline, but alongside a steep cliff that falls into his hometown bay.
“This is where we’ll make it Sheran! This is where we’ll catch Gold! We’ll earn our way real quick! We’ll make it and learn about these old Wailers and their way. Don’t worry babe...”
The memory is played through his mind, rewound during the most impactful scenes, and played over for this old man’s enjoyment. My God, how he wishes his woman was still with him. So much so, that his life is preoccupied with memories of her. The so called “Gold” that was sought for, was there, right before the old boy, streaming from his companion’s top.
The old man doesn’t acknowledge that perhaps he made a mistake, bringing his treasured lover who he had uncovered in Southern California in his twenties, all the way up the Western Coast; all the way up to the coldest inlet in Washington, the most capturing bay (The fucking thief!).
“Oh honey!” Sheran exalted back when, “I love it! The brisk blowing wind, the sheik sheer cliff; it’s all so refreshing! I knew you’d rescue me from that material wasteland, that false livelihood. I can’t wait to untie myself,”-She started fumbling with her tight blue short shorts and the ties holding them on her-“and fall so hard for you! It’s so capturing!”-She was sitting on a sparkling white icebox and gripping and teasing the plastic handle.
The old man hinted a grin as he turned off his gravel pathway, past the one clinging tree. The one that the old man actually felt for...well, he didn’t know, or waste his time assessing, he just finds familiarity in it (Maybe it’s the crazed angle that it is falling off the cliff at, resembling, beside its weak trunk, two extremities, clawing at the top of the mount, attempting to dig its way in and, not right itself, but survive, even though this rotted thing is already petrified wood; dead. Why did it seem like it was holding in screams, just holding on until it lost grip and slipped into the dark bay to be cradled forever, under, unseen?)
The old man noticed his surroundings on a day to day basis. He noticed changes and unconsciously adapted, but he never recognized. Like how he passed through people on his trip, noticing and walking through, but never recognizing.
“Don’t you mean captivating, Sheran? Har de har har.”
“No I mean...”-The sexy twenty-six year old memory of Sheran Morne vindicated herself to the old man, as she unbuttoned her skimpy winter coat, which was all she had on in front of her fiancé-“You stole me from prison. You set me free, now take me to heaven!”-she said, emphasizing each word with an appropriately timed tug at her tiny white jacket.
The old man’s boots skidded along the cement walkway. He was coasting around the Bay. He had passed the stairway down to his rowboat, “Morne Oar Notta,” his usual trip for his usual day out. But today was not usual. Within the past twelve years, the old man had been down to the Bay Store only eleven times. Today would make twelve, understanding that the previous day he had cast out the last red hook of his. A fatty two and a half foot long salmon broke the sharp facet that secures the fish. Though, the old man dug his rugged hand deep into the fish’s head through the gills and ripped it out of the water and into his oar boat.
For that reason, the old man was more conscious than he had been in years. He thought of what kinds of hooks were red, and why the hell Sheran would get red hooks and how many there were, and how long they had lasted him, and how many fish...
The sound of the Bay weaving between large rocks on the shoreline, grabbing hold of them, and dragging them under, was a lousy sound; an avoided sound, a sound that made the old man mad. It’s a sound heard on the southern side of the bay, near the store.
Sheran’s cold dead face flashed through the filter of the old man’s mind.
“No,” whispered the man through his grey moustache as he turned the knob and stepped into the wide-variety fishing, and extraordinarily limited grocery store.
“Guess what?” asked the cutest pet a guy could wish for. The man was running his hand along bags of hooks, looking for his. “I got my fisherman a present. You can use it too! Haha, like forever! Or until you’d rather have fishing deemed illegal, than have it as your profession, but even more likely, until you catch every fish in this whole Bay!”
“Don’t you know Sweetie, fish migrate, and there’s different fishing seasons and...”
“Shut up, I’m joking. Well here ya go. Red, ‘cause it suits ya! And ‘cause you caught my heart with every one of ’em. I love you, man. I’ll be with you as long as these last and then longer...forever! I promise.”
The old man held a giant golden fishing hook in his hand, but he was not right, because he saw the giant bag of red hooks Sheran gave him twelve years ago. He was replenishing his supply for all the fishing he would have to do for his loving wife. There must be hundreds! No way, more than that! Probably like two thousand! It was sharply startling, and very funny; the old man remembered his one and only placing the hard plastic bag in his hands. He loved the present. He loved the woman.
There again in the Bay Store, the man felt like he was going to collapse. But he felt like he was floating as well. The man was high, wishy-washy like the shoreline...like the bay that took his Sheran. He walked out of the store with the large gold hook in his hand, already unwrapped from the casing so the old store clerk didn’t know what to think, say, or do. The old man did.
The old boy found himself standing where he found himself standing twelve years ago, with the same feeling; cradled in a warm dulling fuzz. He’s confused about why he has had his Sheran wait for him these twelve years. Why has he been so selfish and treated himself to taste and enjoy all those fish each day? Why did he preoccupy himself with leisurely fishing and sweet dreams of what had-been?
The old man, standing upon a raised flat rock within the shoreline, fastened the giant hook to his line and held it before him. It glimmered in the full peach-apple sunset that was halfway sliced by the horizon. The man looked down at the thief waters. The thief-who had tumbled over her after her tragic drop, and who pulled his love underwater, dragging her by the ankle. The golden red gleam was final. It was final in the blood red sunset twelve years ago; the old boy remembered his eyes being filled with shimmering beams, reflected off Sheran’s beautiful, soaked blonde hair, as he held the cold body of his broken love. The gleam triggered him, his eyes filled with gold, to let her go; he let her sink. The gleam was triggering still, twelve years passed, bouncing off the hook and off the old man’s eye and back into Cradle Bay. The old man saw his lover swimming in the dark icy waters. He knew she was waiting for him.
It happened all in one instant; all in one motion. The old man removed his right hand from his bowed face and gripped the dangling hook, rod already cocked back behind his shoulder in his stronger left hand, and ready to whip out in his final cast. He jabbed the thick golden hook far into his neck, underneath his chin and punctured his wind pipe. The line dripped down onto his right shoulder and ran back around his neck to the red top of the tool of his trade. His aim was for the sunset and when he let out a wispy hollow sound, he threw his cast, as fluid as ever, over his left shoulder and far, out of the Bay. The old man did not release his reel, so as the line would have been allowed to soar out across the Bay. No, the reel was locked when the strong fisherman jerked his old red rod. For a moment the hook did not budge. It was lodged in deep, and the pole bent back and vibrated with the unpredictable strength of a violent seizure. But after that split second of pressure, the hold gave and the hook was tugged 360 degrees, ripping through muscle, veins, and ligaments, swishing out blood like from an overflowing, circularly shaken cooking pot, and with the final flick of his wrist, the vertebrae snapped. The man’s head was detached from his shoulders with the rip of the cast, and was launched. It rainbowed right over the body’s perception (had it a head) of its cabin up upon the cliffs-the violently sheer cliffs which Sheran had run alongside each morning. But they had both blinked for an instant, and then realized they were soaring over the Bay hearing a body drop behind them...his then 12 years previous, and now. He splashed through the taught surface of the cold water, and landed in Sheran’s skeleton embrace.
It is finally 1991