By Louis Cahill
I dream of waking in a forest.
Or where a forest had been, now sooty black. Smoke swirls, orange eyes peer from hunks of coal. Charred trees accuse the sky. White ashes whirl in the air, angels lifted to heaven. I’ve slept through some great conflagration.
I walk, leaving white footprints on blackened ground. Smoke, steals my vision. Trees turn from black to gray, to white. I stop at a river bank where ash becomes grass, high and yellow like autumn. Dark water churns, its surface oily in the soft light. Standing in the river, bare to the waist, my father, his eyes fixed on the water, his hair wet and tossed, his arms outstretched like a cormorant drying its wings. In the current, the dark shapes of fish.
I follow the sound of falling water to a large pool ringed with tall grass. At its center, a deep black pit. The pool flows in on itself, the water pouring over a rocky rim, angry, foaming white. The sound deafening. A gaping bottomless maw, ringed with white foaming teeth, swallows the river and roars at the sky.
I think of my father now and see him, not drawn and frail. Not balled and withered, eaten with cancer but a strong young man, shirtless with wild, wet hair. A man from a black and white photograph. The luxury of survival, to carve the past in a form more pleasing.
Standing in an Oregon river, in a run instantly familiar, I swing a fly for steelhead. It’s treacherous. Heavy, chest deep water pounds over slick boulders ending in a gnashing class-four rapid. My dream, borne upon the world.
I place my anchor, sweep and cast into turbid water. I feel the weight of the river as my fly swings close to the rapid. Every step, a dance as the water lifts me in its arms. I belong here.
At home I wander the house like a ghost. Yawning through my days and tossing through my nights. Here, in the river, my hands set to task, under threat of death, I am at peace. No future to fret over, no past to regret. Only the swing, the churning water and the promise of a tug at my line.
Just when I’m sure my fly will disappear over the edge of the maw, it comes. A pull, then a grab. My line cuts the water, my feet struggle. I dance into an eddy behind a boulder. I tail the fish and it’s done. I’ve traveled the continent and he the ocean. Drawn to this place, at this time for reasons neither understand. Each bent to task, each under threat of death.
Two rivers flowed together and now must part. His path upstream, mine down. My destination is certain. The steelhead’s is not. I will sleep in the burning forest. I will wake and join my father. When that time comes will the steelhead run in the river, or only in our dreams?Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!