Excerpt from The Last Salmon

(Note: this is a quick excerpt from my story The Last Salmon (first published in Rattapallax). It’s also in my collection White Ravens–And More Stories (click the link to the right).–jrs)

He almost missed his turn. The flashing yellow light at the Trask River junction wasn’t working. Maybe the power was out. All the better.

There were no lights, either, at the old blimp hangars that rose, unbelievably huge, out of the murk by the roadside, frightening somehow in their looming blackness. A fleet of loaded log trucks could park in either one of them and the place would still seem empty. For the first time, he noticed the knots in his stomach. He was about to break the law. He didn’t care much about the state side of it. It was his own that troubled him.

Before he rounded what he knew was the last bend, he turned off the headlights and proceeded at a creep, tires crunching gravel on the road that followed the Trask up into the mountains. Driving more by feel that sight, he nosed off into a turnout he knew was there, nestled against the cliff that ran along the high side of the road. He turned the car around, so that it was facing back the way he’d come. The wind was subdued up here, a distant howl. After he shut off the motor, the river became the dominant sound, eclipsing the rain that spattered against the convertible top and the windshield that was already beginning to fog.

He sat running it through his mind. Chances were excellent that no one would happen along, but he was still nervous, his heart hammering and his palms damp. It was cold and he shivered, cursing himself for not having bought a winter coat when he’d had the money. And that was part of it. The money. Before he’d met her, it had never seemed like it was all that important. He got by, somehow, working here and there. Maybe carpentry one day, digging a ditch the next, helping out somewhere, always making the rent, almost always on time. But somehow it had escaped, that feeling of being ready for anything, of knowing that his hands and his mind could provide a living. He knew it wasn’t a living his father approved of, but it was his living. It was good enough until whatever it was that he was going to really do became apparent and led him off on another trail.

But then he’d met her. Now it was no longer good enough. He didn’t know why. He just knew that it wasn’t.

He got out of the car and the rain hit him. It was welcome. He was steady as he opened the trunk and got the club.

When he rounded the corner in the road, he saw a solitary light in the distance that marked where the people part of the hatchery was. No power outage here. Nothing stirred except the river, the rain, the high distant wind, and the beating of his heart. He stopped at the edge of the river where it pooled below the fish weir at the edge of the concrete where the hatchery began. The water was higher than he’d seen it before but that made sense because of the storm. Even in the dark he could sense them there, hundreds of them, rolling and jostling one another in the black water.

Without hesitation he stepped into the current and waded in up to his hips. The water was icy and pulled at him, turning his balls into a fist tight against him. He stood rock still and waited, letting himself calm and become part of the river. Rain pock-marked the sleek surface as he felt his legs grow numb. Soon he felt the first one brush against his legs, then another. When it was a constant bumping, he raised the spikes over his head and struck down with all of his strength.

Here’s an airplane flying through one of the Tillamook blimp hangars (courtesy of http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org):

Airplane flying through open hangar bay at Naval Air Station Til

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About Jim Stewart

Writer at Butt in Chair
This entry was posted in American history, Excerpt, Reprint, Short Story, story excerpt and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Excerpt from The Last Salmon

  1. Sounds like it’s a great story. Keep writing! I have a literary blog, so I appreciate great writing. Good work.

    • narble says:

      Thanks, very much. Decades ago, Leo Hamalian, a part of Paris Review history, was a gracious mentor during his brief time at Cal Arts (my time there was also brief). He wanted me to come to CCNY and I often wonder: “what if I had?” It was a great writing department in those days and probably still is, but I’ve lost touch with all of it.

  2. I actually got cold reading this, Jim. Good work.

    • narble says:

      Thank you, Andra. It’s one of my favorite short stories. A good writer friend of mine wrote a blurb for me and said that my characters are in various stages of disconnection. It surprised me, but after thinking about it, I decided he was right. So, cold is very much what I was trying to do.

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