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Frozen Shallows, Umatilla River


Jill Johnson

fisherman, the dream of every milkmaid, but if Izaak could get lucky, so could TR. He could see it clearly enough: right there, downstream a couple of hundred yards where he always waded fifty or so feet, knee-deep, to cross over and catch that big pool, as long as no kids from town or some campsite were splashing around in it, and there she’d be in a shimmering blue swimsuit, maybe a twopiece, emerging from the water to sun herself, or maybe sitting on that old cottonwood log that had been there for years sunning herself, and she looks up at him and smiles . . . Married thirty years now, the boys Keith and Kenny both through college, Keith in Seattle, good job with Boeing, nice place near Alki Beach, pretty wife teaching second grade, little Leslie in kindergarten this year. Kenny back in Ohio in grad school finishing an MBA, neither son suited to the realm of academe, wise lads to learn from their father’s disaffection. “So why did you stay here all these years?” people always asked sooner or later. “Inertia,” he liked to say, which usually ended the conversation. Whenever he allowed himself these sensual reveries, they tended to run like this—straight back to domestic realities. Florence was a good woman, good

wife and mother, and so on. Thirty years married without so much as a hiccup. He pulled into the gas station at Perbur, once a thriving mill town that was down to a small cedar post operation, and payed too much for a black-and-yellow Panther Martin, his favorite spinner. Two bars where there used to be three, a little restaurant called The Cedarpost, two of the nicer houses on Main up for sale, as they had been for at least the past two years. Between Perbur and Carnell, which locals say was named in the 1880s after the university in New York but misspelled, the wheat fields gave way to white pine and cedar, some hemlock here and there. Carnell was down to its last bar—used to boast a nice general store they called The Merc, where he bought a pocketknife once when he realized he didn’t have anything with him to clean the trout, a very dull pocketknife, he recalled. Then on to Meriwether, which maybe twenty years ago had two bars and a general store, now just a single store with a couple of gas pumps, and just beyond that, the small river he’d been fishing all these years, the Logjam. It was a month plus into the season and midweek, so he wouldn’t see a soul on the stream if things went as they usually did, and that was fine by him unless, of course, a milkmaid were to show up fortuitously. His fantasy of the blonde in the shimmering blue swimsuit had been trumped by the reality of Florence back home and the boys off in the wide world. Florence’s hair was quite ordinary brown shot through with gray of late, her eyes vaguely hazel. How was it Donne’s little poem went, John Donne’s fishing poem, playful takeoff on Marlowe’s passionate shepherd?

There will the river whispering run Warm’d by thy eyes, more than the sun; And there the ‘enamour’d fish will stray, Begging themselves they may betray.

Green eyes his fantasy-paramour would have, like those of honey-blonde Pauline who broke his sixteen year-old heart. Do all men remember so vividly their first broken heart, he asked himself, that is, the girl who broke it? Or was Pauline Jackson simply that memorable? And what about all women? Professor Wibbles could not say he had broken many hearts in his day. Professor Wibbles remembered using lines from that poem for a brief response problem on a test a few years back with disappointing results. He’d presented

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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