A Short Story

I’ll preface by saying the idea to write short, 500-word stories every morning came from a place of terror. The world, day by day because of Coronavirus, is locking itself down like a poked Sea Anemone. It is the best thing to do right now, but it is also unprecedented. What does one do when they know nothing but to be paranoid and afraid? Naturally, fear and greed will start to trickle in. Gun sales are up, grifters are hawking its own community fake cures and the civic discourse the nation would hope for in such times remains shaky.

Wanting to confront that fear, for myself I needed to build a structure. I am not a housebuilder, a social worker, or a banker. I am not a firefighter, a grocery store clerk, or a nurse. I am, somewhat selfishly, a writer. In an effort to remain as true to the commitment of the action as possible, and I suppose remind myself of my role as an artist in these trying times, I will do what I’ve always done — write as if my life depended on it.

If anything has made meaning of my life — besides my parents and my friends — it is creating. Emerson once wrote Man’s obedience to his own genius is the ultimate definition of faith. Whatever form that takes for you, dear reader, know that you can, that you will, that you must, if for no one but yourself.

_

Apolo River was as wide as a few extra-large trailer trucks welded together, deep as Roy Palmer’s heart of around 300 feet, and smelled of burnt honeycomb over vanilla ice cream.

The morning was up and so were Roy and his son Barret. Roy was a stalky, gentile man, with a wide gait. He tossed their fishing gear in the back of the truck. Barret, around 14, still had sleep in his eyes. His body was droopy as he puttered out of their bungalow and struggled to get in.

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Up and up boy, Roy ordered slapping the cold metal of the truck. Bites to be had.

Summer vacation meant every day Barret was ready at 4:30 to learn the ways of the river, to learn the ways of the fishing rod.

First, they pulled the worms from the earth, careful not to rip them in half.

I tell fools they wriggle out because of the moonlight, Roy told Barrett. But really it’s this ground-up grass mixed with rabbit feet and sugar I sprinkle on top of the soil.

Roy pointed at their pink dancing bodies, dressed in silver and satin white.

One day you’ll have a woman dance for you like that you Bear.

As they gathered the feed, the moon collided with the dawn. The stars dissolved as the air grew crisp and wet. Everything warmed. In the far off distance, a coyote howled. Barrett hid his fear by quickly sending out a cast.

Don’t grip it so tight now, Roy coached. Fingers light. These are the good day’s son. You remember them by being taught. Only way to look around, smell everything, see what you can. Rub the cold into your skin, feel the tension of the line. Make memories. Don’t let them pass.

There was a hard tug on Barrett’s line. His young hands had never felt such resistance from nature before. Barrett stepped back, his small potato sack frame shaking. As Barrett felt the fish give a little, pride filled within him; his ego stepped in.

This fish is yours to take, a voice whispered.

Barrett yanked back hard. His hands burned as Roy’s screams rose until they dissipated into a silence that expanded into the nature that surrounded them, watching.

The line snapped. There was the splashing of water, followed by the trickling of the river.

Barrett began to cry but stopped when he felt Roy’s gaze on him.

Stupid rod! Barrett shouted. He brought it up and over his knee to break it. Roy snatched it out of his hands.

Let me use yours, Barrett demanded. Let me cast out again.

You can’t let your failures keep you in one place, Roy told Barrett. Keep moving.

As they began to walk towards the bend of the river southward, Barrett started to ask, Should have I done…

Be here now, Roy said stopping. He looked up at the peeking sun. Maybe you’ll get it out here. Maybe not. Keep moving.

Keep moving, Barrett said.

Keep moving.

*

Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer. He earned a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2019. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com

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