SFR: She dumps a guy that doesn't fish

wadin' boot

Donny, you're out of your element...
WFF Supporter
(This story follows up some earlier ones, there's not a whole lot of fishing in it)

And the clouds are high in Spanish mountains
And the ford roars through the night full of rain.

The killer's blood flows
But he loads his gun again

Make a grown man cry like a girl
To see the guns dying at sunset

In vain lovers claim
that they never have met. (1)

On the back of a quartz-veined river rock, Jenna Ross set five bullets up like dominos ready to fall. She examines Augustus Tubbs’ pearl pistol, steadies the safety, on off, takes a bullet and loads it into the clip, and then hides the clip. She ejects it, loads all the bullets, unloads them, plays with it some more, looks the bullets over, tiny lions stamped on their base. In the background there’s the soft murmur of winds making their way down the mountains to the valley below, along with the dull rattle and bump of waters. Birds call, and a row of Merganser chicks moves behind their mama to a tiny gravel bar.

At first Jenna’s movements are awkward, but in quick order it becomes easy. The pistol clicks and shines and mesmerizes, the mother-of-pearl handle holds sparks and prisms of sunlight like an opalescent moon, a sea of tranquility. Tubbs has given her this pistol why? He says to protect her. From what? From bad men and fools. And a grieving mountain lion. She runs through her conversation with Tubbs, she’s comfortable with the implications. She now has an out. She puts the pistol away, stands, picks up her rod and fishes again, and her thoughts turn back to last night.

There are men in her world, both good and bad. Among the good, Will O’Brien, distant now, confined in Iraq, an imaginary friend. Someone she once knew and because of that, unreasonably or not, felt that she would always know. Then there is Nigus, her father. Although dead, he’s all shadow man. In Somali he whispers of the Blue Nile and Lake Turkana, unknown places where her history, and their family secrets begin. There is Mark Thompson, her half-sister’s boyfriend and Will O’Brien’s best friend. He’s a prankster, a half-man half-boy, a friend who you love because those around you do.

And then the bad men. The meth heads in the hills. The dealers and pimps, the tweakers she once ran with. The sick teachers that groped. At all times her world involves dumb men. Most pressing now it was Paul, her boyfriend, and Stevie his son. Paul, once her sponser, now her lover, if you can call it that.

How was it that she took all his goodness? It was only last night that Paul figured some of it out, and made that very accusation.

“You stole everything from me.”
“Oh god, stop with the drama. How could that possibly be, look at you, you’re drunk. you made me promise, but you never did the same. You changed. There’s nothing to steal from you. You did this to yourself”
“I gave you everything. I took you in, I got you well, I nursed you, I made you quit.”
“You gave me these.” Jenna held her hands in front of him, bruised and worn from where she’d been bound, humiliated, naked to the bed for hours.
“You deserved it. You still love that other guy.” She’s speechless for a second, he’s hit a mark in the worst way, 10% true, 90% wrong.
“No-one deserves this, ever.” She got the last word in, which made him more furious.

He lunged towards her, slipping when he hit Stevie’s long skateboard. He struck his head, hard against the bedpost and crumped. The board shot out toward the heat duct, banged a drywall hole and flipped. A bunch of flaming fish skulls stared back at her from the base of the board, one true wheel continued to spin. Paul’s outstretched hand relaxed and his eyes drew closed.

“Asshole” said as she kicked him hard in the ribs.

She grabbed her vest, rod case and keys, tucked her wallet in her top pocket and left. The dawn still two hours away.

How easy they had once been. Compliments, attraction, flirtation and shared ambition founded on recovery. But from what? Paul at 45 was older, a hard-core alcoholic who translated love to mean possession, Jenna, stumbling and a little late, was moving quickly from adolescent to adult, laying foundations apparent only in retrospect, things that would be strong and good. Things that should have been done a decade before, back when she was 18, she was resolving now. She was fast ascending life’s learning curve.

Background for you: When her career began to fly, Paul felt threatened. Guiding women to flyfish of all things. She walked into a man’s business, and insulted it further by bringing women into their world of waters and fish. That’s how he viewed it. Not that he fished anyways, he was all talk. He landscaped yards, pulled weeds, worked odd jobs and maintenance. Back in the early days he was kind enough to pull a can of nightcrawlers to give her for trips, no longer though. He never comprehended she wouldn’t use them, and she never filled him in. They never evolved their relationship in such a way. They might have had something more if they could build something new around fishing. But that was ground she never wished him to share.

Her clients were smart. Women with insight- they joked, horsed around and gave her a sense of belonging. They were ambitious and certain, women with backbone and success. And they made her laugh and gave her pointers about men. As she taught how to rig and cast and read waters, in return she learned assertiveness. They tipped her well, and word of mouth her business grew she had contacts now who helped her with her money, strategy, marketing. She had filled all the paperwork for loans and had plans of expanding. There was this boat and a truck to tow it she was eyeing…

Last night, before the fight, Paul was downstairs, drunk, belting out his version of Atlantic City. He’d murdered the lyrics, left key lines out. She knew them well. It used to be one of their favorites. She listened to him slur and miss, she lay awake wondering when he would come upstairs and try and push himself on her. She was not looking forward to it, there would be a confrontation:

Now our luck may have died and our love may be cold
But with you forever Ill stay
Were going out west sands turning gold
Put on your stockings babe nights getting cold
Maybe everything dies, baby that’s a fact
everything that dies someday comes back (2)

Her own version came back to her. She sang it out, made it sound like a love song, all the while walking and looking over a new pool. A tangle of fallen and still upright basalt columns, one she has to straddle to get into the water. It angles into the river and almost blocks her way. Stonefly skins, dried and split right down the middle of the back are lined up on the flattop like a child’s finger puppets. They’re left from where the flies emerged days before. Inside those splits there’s an empty head, an empty carapace, nothingness and absence. She flicks one with her finger into the water, floating away on tiny dimples, hollow legs and tail, water seeping in like quicksilver to the jackknifed part where her middle finger crushed what was once thorax. There’s a tiny rush of disturbed gravel as a sculpin swims up to investigate.

What the hell did Springsteen mean by they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night? She had to laugh, a kickoff line with death, Philadelphia and chickens. She thought about that and fish for the better part of an hour, drawing three fine fat rainbows to hand. And then she moved back to packing up, picking up, moving downstream and fishing again. The pistol tucked into her jean pocket. She would give this some more thought. Not Philadelphia, that gritty, graceless, city of brotherly love, but rather chickens, men and fishing.

Two hours later Jenna Ross is just about on one of the last holes she will fish. She’s rounded the corner slowly, tired now from her night without sleep, minimal food and the excitement of a good day on the water. The last hole is a place thick with fir, alder and cottonwood, stubborn with cliff and solid rapid at the head. Down through the darkness and gloom a cool wind blows, springs seep from the cliff wall, dripping down a thick mat of slick green algae.

In front of her, on a small beach and in one of the few patches of dappled light she can see the stretched out body of a mountain lion, head on paws staring directly at a kit, in the background two larger cubs roll and play.

The sight arrests all of Jenna’s movements, her instincts were on. She watched the cougar paw her cub, but in effect she just batted it, it never rose. She was the one Tubbs told her about. And then she saw something beautiful.

The lioness picked her, gentle just as it still might be alive, by the nape, and walked deep into the water, up to her neck, swam a little further, and in the middle of the slow flow, she let her cub go. It sank quickly under the waters. She turned and swam back and paced a bit in the shallows, looked out towards the rapids, towards her, and held Jenna’s gaze. She then tilted her head back and barked a little, paced, turned, shook water from her pelt, and barked again, and then let out a howl so sad and deep and long that it seemed like everything stopped- the river, the birds, the winds, her kits. She paced some more towards and back from the river, and then turned and vanished, her two cubs following her.

The desert Aboriginals have something called a sorry camp. It's one of two places where men's and women's business intersects. Sex is the other. Sorry camps are places of devils and misery, places where someone died, where bad luck begins and plagues those who trespass. You're not supposed to visit them. This was the lioness’ sorry camp. The lioness would not return, Jenna sensed as much. She didn't know about the bad luck part.

Jenna let some time pass, tried to rub the goosebumps out of her. Of all that had happened today this struck her as the most primitive and raw. She made her way to the pool, half curious to see where the kitten had sunk too. She scrambled up some headwater rocks. She found it, with her polaroids tilted just so, its tiny brown body down in the deepest part, a phalanx of sentinel trout had surrounded it, hovered over it, you could see its big eyes looking up from the body, and with the water ruffled by current and breeze it looked like she moved some. She watched a while, the trout accepting her attentions. She wouldn’t fish here. She decided to return.

Seattle is a three-hour drive from the river. On her way back she listens to radio. A talk host is spewing vitriol and staccato one liners that are neither funny nor provocative. In between his lilting radio-voice banter and canned-laugh tracks, and his equally idiotic crew, there are ads. Commercials for footcream, for car insurance, for other radio shows, and for lawyers and bail bondsmen. Jenna turns the dial left, and stumbles onto a blues show, five straight different versions of Stagger Lee.

“Murder ballads! Excellent!” She turns it up. Will O’Brien had given her a mix tape once along similar lines, they resonated with her. She’d long since lost the tape, graduating from American Pie to something darker, and simpler. From the radio comes the warbling voice of Missippi John Hurt, delta blues:

"What'd I care about your two little babes and darling, loving wife?
You done stole my Stetson hat, I'm bound to take your life."
That bad man, oh cruel Stack O’lee
Boom boom, boom boom,
Went the forty-four.
Well when I spied Billy DeLyon
He's lyin' down on the floor.
That bad man, oh cruel Stack OLee (3)​

She’s watching the back of the custom pickup in front of her. There’s a traffic jam, and she inches along behind this thing. He, for it could only be a he, has it customized, two paired rear wheels, raised truck bed, and a small cartoon of a kid pissing on the back of his tinted window and a brassy G-Loomis decal.

What imbecile would drive such a thing? She bet the guy fished bait, all talk and boast. It reminded her of the posters Paul’s son Stevie hung in his room. On those posters, women with impossible breasts would lie naked over a tricked-out truck. She made a mental note, if she had the energy, she would bait Stevie into explaining why the kid pissing was truck-window funny. Poor Stevie, a hard puberty was turning his skin sallow and fat pimples busted up on it like bubbles in milfoil water. He saw no merit to bathing. Stevie was a mindless drone, all videogames and nonsense. He would know the party line.

In his early childhood photos he was beautiful. Jenna never knew that Stevie.

She resolved then she would leave. She would enter the house, gather her things, and leave. She’d do it all in the space of five minutes. If there was trouble she’d back away, and if the trouble ran hard, she’d use Tubb’s pistol, by god she would. The radio played on, a common theme of death and misery.

One dark night he came home from the sea
And put a hole in her body where no hole should be
It hurt her more to see him walking out the door
And though they stitched her back together they left her heart in pieces on the
Floor (4)​

As she made her way through the I90 tunnel she read the letters set in the concrete “Seattle-Portal to the Pacific” she loved that sign, it made possibilities seem so infinite. She rode the clutch some, her tank was running close to empty. She pulled her soot-stained 240D, intro the gas station just as Jimi Hendrix started playing. She was now all adrenaline and fumes, maybe a little like her Mercedes. Built in 1978, 400,000 miles and a sloppy clutch and springs that needed replacing, though it had never failed her when her clients were around (“Oh how quaint, does it work?” they would say when they saw it.)

Yeah, she was getting in the mood. The diesel smelled good as she pumped and it lifted her up a notch. She took the squeegee and sponged some of the soot and dirt off the back window. It was good to see clearly, she was emerging.

Hey Joe, where you gonna go with that gun in your hand
Hey joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?
Im gonna shoot my baby, I caught her messin’ round with another man (5)

As she drove up Broadway the last of the music would play, a tune so fitting, so apt, that by the time Jenna Ross slipped her key into the door and pushed her way inside, she was all ready, high, better than meth, heart pumping, she would not be stopped:

Black girl, black girl, don't lie to me
Where did you stay last night?
I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines
And shivered when the cold wind blows (6)

At first look, there was Stevie on the couch, playing a video game along with Paul. Empty Coors cans lay beside them, silver bullets. Paul wasn’t playing though, his head was tilted back and he was out. At least he had moved downstairs, he wasn’t dead yet. A purpling bruise was egged-up on his forehead where he’d struck the bedpost last night and a ziplock bag of water lay in condensation on the carpet.

“Bout time you got back, what’s for dinner?”
Jenna said nothing, and Stevie launched again: “I said what’s for dinner?” He didn’t break his gaze, staring at his game, his fat thumbs tricking up and down like he needed St. Vitus and holy waters. And a good kick in the ass for being rude. He was shooting up homeless guys, street people, bums, immigrants. What kind of game was this?

“Stevie.” She was about to launch.
“Yep?” He turned to look at her, big saucer-child eyes. His other hand prospected a mini volcano of a zit on his neck. That dead kitten, that crying momma cat- she held her tongue.

“Chinese…Chinese is for dinner.”
“Cool…I just shot up some Chinese guys.” He says, to no-one in particular, returning to the game. Stevie’s world is one of internal stimuli, masturbation, and conversations with himself. He will inherit his father’s alcoholism, he will remain emotionally stunted, he will lust after things he will never understand, he will see things as he’s told, in black and white. No sweet apple’s fallen from the sour apple tree. (7)

Paul’s wallet lies open on the kitchen counter. She takes his card, dials the takeout, and orders numbers, 1 through 30.
“Yes that’s correct, all of them.”
“It’s a really big group.”

She gives the expiration date. And then hangs up. She moves upstairs, fills two duffels with her favorite clothes, her shoes, some photos, stuffs her fly kits and boxes in, undoes her vice from the table, grabs her four other rods, safe in their tubes, and makes no effort to hide anything as she moves through the living room and out to her car. She comes back for three more loads, and during all of it Stevie plays on, he’s shot Chinese, Hispanic, Jew, white trash, prostitutes, dogs, police, EMT’s, librarians and children. While Paul snores on. Fifteen minutes passes, the takeout would be there in another fifteen.

She’s left her diary, and when she returns for it she can’t find it. She tears their room up, rifles through the desk, shouts and curses, she’s making a racket. There is thumping downstairs, someone’s coming up, It’s Paul, she knows his bow-legged thump anywhere. She turns to face him. Reaches back and pulls Tubbs’ Pistol from her pocket, flicks off the safety and holds it there, behind her back.

He stares at her. Nothing is said. He knows she is leaving.
“You’ve got some mail.”
“Oh yeah?”
He’s between her and the door.

“Where’s my diary?”
Paul looks half amused, half psychotic.
“Your diary?”
“Ledger book, black, maroon binding….a little bit of gold trim, fish sticker on it?” Paul says.
“Well it’s right there, on the end of the bed, right before your eyes.” He points.

“Did you?”
“Read it?” He nods.
“You’re an asshole.”
“Yeah, maybe, but I’m no liar.”

Jenna looks stung. She grabs it, moves slow around him, and he turns slow too, like a wrestling movie, he makes a fake lunge, and she bolts around him. He’s laughing now.
“Jenna, I don’t care anymore.”
She’s down the stairs. There’s an envelope on the table, it’s in her hand, return to sender stamped on it. Someone’s opened it, and she takes it. Months ago she’d sent it to Will O’Brien, to Iraq. She’s out the door. No-one follows her.

The delivery boy is making his way up the stairs to the front door, hands full and his car door open with more bags to come. He sees a frightened woman moving down the stairs tucking a pistol into her shorts, a paper and book in her other hand. He lets her pass, wondering about this big party and his own safety.

The letter’s returned. What does that mean? Is he dead? She’d written sentiment and tenderness, things she never thought would boomerang back.. And now Paul had read it. She could understand how he might be hurt, but what’s the rule of letters and diaries? This was her stuff he had violated. He was a bad man. She took her place in her car, turned the key and felt the car sputter to life. She watched as the delivery man brings the last of $300 dollars worth of food and smiled, this would be good.

He’s arguing with him on the porch, throwing his one hand up repeatedly, aggressively. One hand holds a beer. And then that can is thrown, hard. Jenna watches it arc towards her car, streams spinning out of the can, it strikes her window sharply, the shock of it. She rolls down the window and holds out her middle finger, lets her foot up off the clutch, and pulls out to the unknown.

(1) The Clash, Death is a Star, Combat Rock, 1982 Epic Records
(2) Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City, Nebraska, 1982 Columbia Records
(3) Mississippi John Hurt, Stack O’Lee blues 1922, Okeh records
(4) Billy Bragg, Levi Stubbs Tears, Talking with the taxman about poetry, 1986 Go! Discs,
(5) Hey Joe, Billy Roberts, Third Palm Lyrics
(6) Anon
(7) Anon and Uncle Tupelo, I wish my baby was born, March 16-20, 1992 Columbia records

Copyright 2007 Wading boot




126 views and no replies?? :confused: Come on guys and gals. This is GREAT stuff coming from a very talented fellow fly fisher!
Keep it up, Boot. I'm enjoying it. :cool:

Ron Olsen

WFF Supporter
Good stuff. Like absorbing a great book on the bus accross 520 on the way to work. Mesmerized, then its time to get off, and look forward to a drift away read on the next trip from this place to that.


Tim Garton

126 views and no replies?? :confused: Come on guys and gals. This is GREAT stuff coming from a very talented fellow fly fisher!
Keep it up, Boot. I'm enjoying it. :cool:

You want replies? OK... some people must like them. I don't. To quote a line from Wadin' Boot's own stories... they are "a common theme of death and misery". It becomes tedious, much like E. Annie Proulx writings (i.e Wyoming Stories, The Shipping News.) Didn't like those. Don't like these. My opinion.

Itchy Dog

Some call me Kirk Werner
I look forward to Boot's writing, but my feedback would just get redundant so I don't respond to each chapter.

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info