Geedad says there was big towers right up the river a ways. Just above the bend. You can see where they was from the top of the bluff. Geedad can’t though, he’s blind now. He said he seen ‘em when he was a little boy and they was somethin’ else. But then, they got blowed up. Now, they’s just a rottin’ pile of rubble.
The leaves is coming out and the river is fillin’ up. Geedad says the snow up in the hills is meltin’ and that makes the river come up. I don’t really understand how that goes, but if Geedad says it, it’s good enough for me. Dad give me the mornin’ off to go fishin’ with Geedad.
Fount a book once while I was out gatherin’ with Dad. It had lots of pictures in it. Ma called it a story book. She said the pictures was called drawin’s. Below the pictures was what she called words, ‘cept they weren’t spoke words, but they was drawed words. She’s teachin’ me to read them drawed words, at least them she knows. There was this picture that showed a big ol’ house with these round lookin’ rooms that come up out of the roof into the sky. Ma said it was called a ‘cassal’. I asked her if the towers Geedad talked about was a ‘cassal’. She said she didn’t think so.
Where we lives is called Nomenslan. Other folks don’t come up this way hardly ever. Dad says that’s good, cause it means they ain’t nobody else gatherin’ round here and that means more for us. I been helpin’ Dad gather ever since he fount out I could see things far away so good. We goes out and I’ll climb up a tree or run to the top of a hill and look for some good gatherins.
Old buildings and houses is the best for gatherin’. Next is cars and trucks. Dad says to keep an eye out for ‘lectrics and such cause they’s good barter down river. Metal is good too, if it’s the right kind. Copper and ‘lumanum’ is what he says to look for. He said there is this stuff called ‘goad’ but it’s very hard to find. He said they had some a long time ago, but it went to barter. I asked Dad if I could go with him to barter. He said it was best for me to stay home to take care of Ma and Geedad instead.
Ma don’t never go to barter. She stays around home and tends to the garden and cooks. She is sad most of the time. The only time she smiles is when I ask her to teach me about them drawed words. I tell her it’ll come in handy when I’m big enough to go to barter. But she’ll say that ain’t no place for me, then put her arms around me and start to cry.
Geedad asks me to go in and find him a fish. I slip off my clothes and wade out into the water. Don’t make sense to get my clothes wet and then have to wear them while they dry out. The ice has melted. The water is sure ‘nuff cold, but I don’t mind. Geedad needs me to find a fish, and I figger somethin’ other than varmint and taters would taste purdy good.
Geedad drives a stake in the river bank and ties one end of the heavy line to it. The other is tied to my gig. He calls it my harpoon. Said that’s the way old time ‘saylers’ used to catch these big ol’ fish called ‘wales’. He said they was so big, if they was in the river, their backs would stick out of the water. I asked him how they swam around and he said they didn’t live in the river but some place called the ‘see’.
Geedad said he was just a little boy when some powerful bad folks called ‘terrerists’ blowed up the towers. He said it weren’t just the ones in Nomenslan, but they done ever one in the whole world. I asked him why they’d do something like that. He said they was just plain crazy. After they done that, there was a war that lasted just one day and most everything else got blowed up. He said things got real bad after that. They was lots of fightin’ and killin’. He said there come a new clear winter, but most places were too hot to live in. I don’t understand how it could be hot in winter, but if Geedad says it, it’s good enough for me. He said that’s when his eyes got ruint.
So in the water I goes. Got to make sure I don’t get tangled up in the line. The water is purdy clear. Most fish in the river are awful small, so I keep lookin’. You find the catfish out in the middle where it’s deepest. That’s what I’m after. I’ll stay under as long as it takes. I keep swimmin’ till I come up on one restin’ in the mud. Good thing, cause I’m almost out of line. It ain’t no wale, but it’s bigger’n me. It’s got two tails, split almost up to his head. Geedad says they’s hard to skin when they got two tails, but the way I sees it, there’s twice as much meat. I stick the gig right in behind its head and it begins to twist all around somethin’ fierce. I wait until I’m sure the gig is gonna hold before I come up and swim back to shore. We’ll let it go on fightin’ till it’s all wore out before we haul it in.
I crawl up on the shore. The air hisses through my gills as I take a gulp of air. It’s awful cold sitting naked on the rocks waitin’ to dry off. Anyway we won’t be eatin’ no varmint tonight.
Paul Stansbury is a life long native of Kentucky. He is the author of “Inversion -You’re your Ordinary Stories” and “Down By the Creek – Ripples and Reflections” as well as a novelette: “Little Green Men?” His speculative fiction stories have appeared in a number of print anthologies as well as a variety of online publications. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky.
Check out his website: paulstansbury.com
See him on the Book of Faces: Paul Stansbury