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Tuesday
May102011

Fish and Ghosts

The first time I saw Alder Creek was in the Safeway parking lot when I was seven.
A fisherman walked out of the grocery store in the dead heat of summer carrying a full bag and the bag ripped and everything spilled out. Bottles broken and apples rolling under trucks and into oil puddles. The fisherman just shook his head. He shook his head and breathed way in and closed his eyes and didn't bend to pick anything up. He just stood there and he was done. He turned off his head. He sold his car. He quit his job. He left his wife. And he stood there doing those things and shaking his head and breathing. And as he did these things the water flowing from the broken bottles swelled and pooled and went around his feet and up over his boots. The trucks slumped into rocks and the cars into sand and those little rolling apples began to spin and shine and they popped out of their orbits and swam away fish. The Red Delicious turned into a brookie and the Pippin was a rainbow and the Pink Lady spun out into the first Piute trout I'd ever seen.
And there around this fisherman swelled Alder Creek and it was beautiful and it loved him. He stood there on the shore of it and took off all his clothes and put them in his ripped grocery bag and set it on the sand and then he waded into the stream. He walked all the way in up to his chest and it was cold and he smiled and took a deep breath and went face in and swam downstream and away. I saw him round the bend. Then he was gone. And as soon as he was gone the water went down the cracks in the asphalt and drained away. The trucks came back and cars and the sand disappeared and the parking lot was damp but Alder and the fisherman were gone. I saw the broken glass of the bottles and the bag and the apples sitting still except for that one Pink Lady. She was still spinning and I snatched her up quick. She pulsed in my hand and quivered and I folded her in my skirts and I took her. She was the first trout I ever caught.

- Excerpt from Dead Man's Lake written by Lexi Boeger