Last year, we were pleased to publish Cameron Pierce’s story “Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon.” We’re pleased to have more of his fiction on the site today, via this excerpt from his novel The Incoming Tide, due out later this year on Broken River Books.
The Best is the Worst
They chose to spend Christmas in Japan. She had longed to revisit Tokyo ever since a childhood trip, but cities exacerbated his anxiety, so they’d compromised. Two nights in Tokyo, drinking sake in clubs and eating the best ramen of their life, before traveling north to the island of Hokkaido, where they fished for yamame trout using tenkara rods. On Christmas morning, they walked down to the clear and frigid creek by the lodge. Within the hour they landed two trout apiece and returned to the lodge and cooked the trout over an open fire. They ate the trout with miso soup and green tea, and spent the rest of the day reading. They’d experienced a difficult year, one in which a multitude of circumstances pushed their marriage to the brink. Each had at times threatened to walk away only to remain, as much out of fear as love. Somehow they persisted, and by Halloween they’d rediscovered parts of each other and themselves that had been lost – or at least inaccessible – for a decade. This vacation was well-earned then, and they’d both already proclaimed it the best time they’d had in all their dozen years together, maybe in their whole lives. It felt like growing old even though they were still young. So when he complained that evening of pains in his chest, they didn’t take it seriously. He took it easy on the plum wine and they called it an early night. Hokkaido was so quiet. Even the sound of the sea lapping at the shore seemed more peaceful, as if this side of the Pacific possessed some calming power that the Pacific off the coast of Oregon, where they lived, lacked. He awoke in the night unable to breathe. The constriction in his chest had swelled into his throat, like a large bird trapped inside his chest cavity thrashing about, attempting to peck its way up to freedom through his throat. He reached out for her in the dark. She seemed so far away even though she lay so close they almost touched. She stirred in her sleep. Her back felt warm as he brushed her with his fingers. Gasping for a breath, he shook her. She stirred in the starlight, turned sleepily and asked, “What’s wrong?” A more thorough darkness was compounding on the nighttime darkness of the room. And then the waves of the sea washed over their cabin, and if he was dying they’d never know, because they both drowned anyway.
Fishing and Beer
Frank Decker turned off the news. Some local yuppie couple was missing after another tsunami in Japan. Served them right, going over there to act like tourists. They lived right on the goddamn ocean. What did they need to see the other side of it for? Frank knew as well as goddamn anyone that the Pacific was the Pacific. He’d grown up on it, learned to drink and fuck and fight on it. Still spent sixty hours a week on or near it, taking those who could afford it out for salmon and tuna and halibut and sturgeon and lings. Hell, he’d once stabbed a great white in the head with a knife. That’s how well he knew the Pacific. Everywhere it was the same. Dark and merciless, but willing to give back to those who sacrificed, to those whose skin had turned to leather, to those with salt in their blood.
Those tourists had it coming, traveling halfway across the world to experience what was right before their eyes. Thinking of them pissed Frank off, so he went outside and pulled a beer from the icebox on the porch. The fridge had died a month before and he hadn’t bothered to fix it. The beer was lukewarm, but strong and dark. The grass in the yard was overgrown. Dandelions swayed amidst the green.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife had shut down the Buoy 10 springer season two weeks early and he’d only managed to convince one client to go on a catch-and-release trip. The rest canceled. He was forced to return their deposits. The bitch of it was, he’d spent it. Fifteen years of back child support finally caught up to him and rather than face potential jail time, he paid it and prayed to God for a strong springer season. And it’d been a hell of a season, all right. Limits for every client, every day. Unfortunately, everyone else experienced similar success, and the quota was met early. So now he found himself nearly ten grand in the hole, with several more weeks of nothing to do, at least nothing gainful. Aimless days of waste and wander. Drunk as fuck and restless. The least he could do was fix the refrigerator and mow the grass, maybe clean the place up, but the idea just pissed him off. Everything pissed him off these days. Everything except being out on the water. It didn’t even matter if he was on the Pacific Ocean or the Columbia River. He loved the treacherous nature of it all. There were times he considered buying a big enough boat to live on. The only thing keeping him anchored to land was Llewellyn Holloway. He hoped to someday make her Llewellyn Decker, even though she said the name didn’t have a good ring to it. Above all, he wanted to start a family with her. He was forty years old and felt the approach of his final chance to prove he was a good man.
The rain started up and he went back inside. He sat at the kitchen table, pushed aside the dirty dishes and opened up one of the pocket lunar charts he kept around. He stared at the moon’s cycle for the year, signified by dots shaded some amount of black and white. He closed his eyes and imagined the sea under a full moon in July, how much it differed from a full moon in December. He finished the beer and went for another. Then another. The rain pelted the tin roof so loud there wasn’t any use turning on the television or the radio. He wouldn’t be able to hear the damn thing anyway. “The moon don’t mean shit to me,” he said, after staring at the lunar chart for an hour more. He didn’t mean it. The moon was like a mother to him. Cold and distant, but ever-present in his life, always a force of influence.
He thought about calling up Llewellyn, but she was tending bar tonight at the Wet Dog. Besides, she could not cure the loneliness that ate at him presently. Only fishing could save him now. Fishing or beer. And what remained of the spring salmon season had been canceled.