Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gone Fishing

Shae Sveniker, June 2009

"After my car got jacked in the city, I didn't know what to do," Rachel said, "I'm so glad I ran into you!"

"They stole the whole thing, huh?" Jake kicked a small stone into the river.

"The whole thing, Jakey, the whole thing!" Rachel set her bag down on a big stone. The water was still and slow-moving, the green of northern California reflected in the water.

Jake happened to be filling his tank at a gas station off 16th and Mission, headed up through the city on a whim before the long weekend, when he noticed Rachel sitting on the curb with the look of a lost kitten. They'd known each other in high school, and both had matured quite a bit. She almost didn't recognize him when he asked if she needed help.

Jake had been kind of a chubby kid with poor social skills and bad acne, but now, after living on his own in the big city and working hard at a manufacturing job, he'd lost a lot of weight and his face had cleared up. She could feel herself blush a little when she looked at him, now. They were a long way from Utah, but serendipity knows no rationality anyway. She had been a weird girl, strangely popular despite her originality, she had dreadlocks back then, but now her blonde hair was short in a bob with curls. Jake had always liked her as a friend, but never had any other intentions, she seemed out of his league.

He invited her up to the mountains to camp for the weekend, while the police looked for the car in the city. Just north of Arcada, where the redwoods began to grow, there was a stream they followed from the beach and spent three or four hours hiking upstream, and as they got further upstream, tributaries joined with the water until it was a river about twenty meters across.

Jake and Rachel began clearing an area close to the river for the small tent Jake had brought. It was warm for the northwestern day, and by the time they were done setting up the tent, both were sweating. They laughed about high-school and that time those kids put mannequinns on the roof of the gym before the homecoming game. They had dressed the mannequinns up like hookers in the schools's colors, and wrapped them up with ribbons and a banner that said "game trophy." Nobody ever figured out who did that.

Rachel walked over to the river and put her hand in the water, Jake felt like he shouldn't watch, but couldn't help it, the way the sunset made her skin pink, and light flowed from her shoulders down her toned sides. She sat on a big rock and began to take her shoes off. "The water's warm here, there must be a spring nearby," she said "come on in!"

Jake crept slowly forward, unsure of what to do, she wasn't even watching him though, instead, her back to him, sitting on that big, white rock, surrounded by the green of the forest, she began to remove clothing. Jake felt himself blushing and waited until she had jumped into the water before taking off his own clothing.

It seemed there had already been people here, because there were boulders piled up around one side of the shore, and as the dusk crept over the valley, it was apparent those boulders surrounded a hot spring, there was steam rising and less mosquitos there, so the two friends eventually both ended up there, naked in the wilderness, nostalgic, and laughing on opposite sides of the pool.

"You've changed a lot since high school," She said.

"So have you," He said.

"In a good way?" She asked.

"Most definitely," He said. "Where have you been?"

"That's a long story," she said, and dunked her head under water. When she came back up, she was right next to him. He reached out the same time she did and they pulled each other close and kissed with eyes closed. When Jake opened hhis eyes again, he stared into her beaming face, but right behind her, a dark shape began to rise to the surface of the water, and then another.

"Oh my god," he said as he looked around. "It's spawning season."

"Yeah, it is," she said, and laughed as she groped him "Spawn with me, Jacob!" not realizing when what happening yet.

"No, really, turn around! Look!" And as she did, she gasped.

On the surface of the water from shore to shore, giant Chinook salmon began rising to the surface of the water, gasping, some writhing, mostly though, they were all dead already, and Jake and Rachel were in the middle of the river surrounded by deformed, dead, and dying fish, with battle scars from courtship rituals, mutated by the fresh water and lust.

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