Originally, this story started off as a noir thriller, when I came across the perfect description of plot outline in Acres of Perhaps, by Will Ludwigsen, “What the fuck? Holy Shit! Oh my god.” And then this happened.
Mom, you probably won’t like this one, but it did get published in the Fly Fishing Journal
Everybody finds a body eventually. Stevie found this one. I don’t want to say he was exactly gibbering, but he was not happy about it. Honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done if it had been me who found it. Depending on the amount of work and the percentage which I was trusting to reality, I may have nudged it back into the current so as not to interrupt our already interrupted fishing trip. Or, I might’ve done the right thing. It’s always hard to say.
We’d found some psilocybin’s (Psilocybe cubensis, to be exact) yesterday and as the fishing being shit, had taken them with the last of our Jack. Like always the early conversation went “I’m not feeling it, should we take some more?” and ended with “Ohshitohshitoshit.” At one point Stevie leaned over to me and said the phrase that usually indicated what we were doing was too dangerous, stupid, or fun to share with a loved one such as his goddess-inspired wife: “Don’t tell Lucille.” I looked seriously at him for .3 milliseconds and then ended up rolling around in the pine needles for what seemed an hour. Every time one of use would stop and contemplate, say, taking a drink of beer or a piss, the other would say “Don’t tell Lucille,” and we would be off again.
Stevie wanted to do the right thing. Whatever that was, I can tell you you should not do it while tripping your ass off. This much, I knew. I was on my first, or second, or third dead cat bounce of my come down, where you think you are done tripping, but you are not. I had been lying on my back on a big rock near the river with my hands and feet in the air cloud-climbing, when Stevie jumped up, “Can’t you hear them?”
I paused for a moment and said, “The trout?”
“Yes!” he said, “The trout are talking to me!”
“I kind of wish they would shut up, they kept me up half the night talking smack. ‘Caddis pupae my ass.’ ‘You got shoes to go with that purple beadhead?’ ‘I’ve seen Camaros with better drifts than that.’ You know after a night like that, it can be hard to put them back. ”
“Ohmygod. The trout talk to you?”
I gave him a quizzical look. “Are you saying they don’t talk to you? Why the fuck do you fish if the trout don’t talk to you. That is the stupidest thing I ever heard.”
He was looking down at his hands, “This is some crazy shit man. The trout are talking to me.” Still looking at his hands, he stumbled down to the river and waded in up to his waist. “Here fishy-fishy. Heeeere fishy-fishy.”
I rolled over to watch. He bent over at the waist with his hands outstretched like a waiter carrying a tray. Suddenly he jacked straight up and there in his hands was the biggest brook trout I have ever seen. Monstrous. Like a toaster with a hot rod flame job. “S’umbitch!” I said. Then just started giggling, and Stevie started giggling, and then the freaking trout started giggling. Stevie’s face went stone cold sober and brought it up to his face and licked it. Then he looked at me. “I never noticed this line, it’s like a chain stretched across a forest. And there is a hole here in the side of the fish, one of those little blue dots. A tunnel.”
I’d been here before. “Don’t do it man!” (Editor’s note, now you can click on the image at the top of the story.)
But it was too late. First his head, then the rest of his body became elongated like Mister Fantastic and got sucked through the side of the fish, his hands going last. The fish hung in the air, then melted into lurid colors and dripped away, the orange and olive vivid against the bright blue sky. My first thought was, what am I going to tell Lucille? In an instant the whole thing played out in my mind, “And then, he rubberized and got sucked into another dimension through the side of the most beautiful brook trout you ever saw.” I could see myself holding my hands up, like so, and imploring her to believe me. Lucille was never a big fan of mine to start with, and while I rolled variations of that around in my mind, I always came to the same conclusion: this was not going to go well.
I was just wondering where it was that Stevie had got to and if maybe I could go there too when I heard his strangled cat scream and there he was bear-hugging a dead body. He’d been having some issues anyway and I just knew this was going to kick him over into a bad trip. Myself, I could just as easily continued my crawl in the sky and worried about this when I came down, but it looked like I didn’t have any choice in the matter. Corpses make bad trips. Clearly Stevie couldn’t handle it and I needed to. I was coming down. “Where the hell did you get him?”
“I dunno, I was in this dark tunnel and he came flying the other way and crashed into me and then ‘poof!’ here we are.” The poor motherfucker was some banged up. Bruises and swelling covered any part of him you could see. I unzipped the waterproof pocket on his waders and extracted an out-of-state license.
“Is he dead?”
I looked up at him, I guess that was a natural reaction, but I’m sorry, it just seemed funny. Was he dead? As dead as Bill Clinton’s love life. I burst out laughing, he burst out laughing, and it took us a good ten minutes to get back to it.
“S’umbitch,” I said, sitting back, with the license in my hand. I don’t know what I expected from the license. I guess giving the corpse a name was just a start. Roland Renard. A Cannuck, over the border for the weekend. Should’ve stayed home, Frenchie. Also in his pocket was a smashed open plastic bottle with no lid on it. I pulled it out, “Moose Musk.” The fuck? I thought. I put my nose to it and even though it’d been in the river with him for a good long while, it was rank. Stevie took it from me. I wiped my hands on my flannel.
“Shall we string him up?” Honestly, that was probably the most logical question to ask right then. It being late, and us sitting next to a dozen stone of bear food. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it because as I imagined how we would do it I was first grossed out, then hilarious, then grossed out. It was like my trip was switching on an off, on and off, and I couldn’t really handle either state.
“That’s just not going to happen.”
“Yeah, I guess. I didn’t want to either, really, but I thought I should ask.”
It was, after all, the right thing to do.
We dragged him up onto the shore, splashing and falling over the bowling ball-sized and shaped rocks.
We finally got him ashore and Stevie looked at me. “I need a beer.”
“Good idea, get me one, too.” I opened a beer an hour ago, but every time I could focus enough to try to drink it, I would lose it again. Now the still full can was sun-warm and worked over from nervous energy like a rolled up tinfoil ball, on my rock.
He got up and walked back upstream toward camp while I kept Roland company, my looking at him, him looking at me. “The fuck you do Mr. Fox?” Amusing myself with my command of high school French, I started giggling. I couldn’t piece it all together and then I heard Stevie impersonating a seven-year old girl again. Then a mighty “Whump!” and some gurgling. I sprinted over the bank towards the camp just in time to see a bull moose the size of a Ford Exploder tossing our tent from his antlers. It looked like a pizza dough wrapped around a napkin holder and made a slumpy wet crunch when it hit first a big fir and then the ground. Meaning Stevie was in it with the beer. Of course, right after bemoaning the lost beer, the first thing I thought about was breaking this to Lucille, with my arms oustretched going “This big.” At least it was better than the Salvador Dali brookie story. “Hey!” I screamed with all of the unoriginality I could muster. “Hey!” If meese (my dad taught me that and laughed at me for half a decade while I defended it to friend, stranger, and teacher until my mom had to come get me after school for calling Mrs. Bennett “too stupid to speak the language, let alone teach it.” I still remember that fight, him laughing too hard to defend himself, until she started laughing too, but I’ll still knock your teeth in if you correct me ) had a mafia and moose enforcers with dead and crazy moose eyes all at the same time, well this guy was a fucking mob boss. Meese are the hippopotami of Maine. They kill more people than bears do. He spun on me, head down, forelegs splayed. Then, he lifted his head and sniffed. “Ohshitohshitohsit.” That cat was tumbling down a flight of stairs in a cardboard box now. Fucking meese are more dangerous than bears. Moose musk. Everywhere, and he’d already killed the last two people wearing it. I went “Ahhhhhhh!” and got all jazz hands next to my head like I had huge antlers. “Motherfucker!” (Said the moose, not me.) And then I started running. You would think meese aren’t fast. You would be wrong. You would think meese aren’t agile. You would be wrong again. I ducked behind the first fir, thinking I had him, but he spun like Pete Townsend’s picking h and and came at me like smokestack lighting. I’m telling you, I had the blues. You’d have the blues too if you were staring down the flared nostrils of 1500 pounds of horny, unbutchered chili meat. I lit out of there and was thinking of crossing the river until I remembered a researcher friend of mine telling me a wound up moose can basically walk on water, so I ran parallel to the bank over the boulders there. He was flanking me looking for an opening to take me out like a cow pusher in front of a train.
I was gasping and my heart was thumping in tune with that dead cat, must’ve tumbled 13 stories by now, when I came up on a huge tree had fallen across the river rising up at 30 degrees from this side to the next. I jumped on that tree like a spider monkey on acid, which an evolutionist might point out was pretty close to true, and tried to triumphantly scramble up it to safety. You would think meese can’t climb trees. You would be wrong. He turned ninety degrees and came up that tree like a, well, spider monkey on acid, closing on me the whole time. I was looking back just when a branch closelined me. My feet went out from under me and I swung entirely supported by my neck while he charged head down right under me, us back-to-back making the beast of two bellies. He tried to skid to a stop but his rack got caught in the branches at the top of the tree, his ass tried to catch up to his nose, went off the side and I heard a large “crack” that I still wake up at night hoping it was his neck as he fell limp into the water twenty feet below.
I came down flat on my back on the log, my neck bleeding from a dozen abrasions that left me a nice Frankenstein scar and story nobody will believe. The clouds in the sky no longer looked climbable. I just lay there for a minute figuring out how to turn over and not fall off and then crawled down the log to get Stevie’s body. I was going to have to talk to Lucille. Alone. This was not a good fishing trip.
On my way to the tent I passed Roland sitting up and looking at me out of his dead eyes. I’m sorry, you will think badly of me, I’m afraid, for what I am about to tell you. Not that you don’t already despite my obvious charms to meese. In my defense, I was scared. I was full of psylocibin and adrenaline. I was sad. I had to fucking tell Lucille that her husband was murdered by a moose. And not one part of this was any of my doing. I punched that stupid Cannuck right in the sternum. His eyes finally closed.
Then they opened back up, his cheeks puffed out and he puked all over me. Motherfucker. Moose-raped and Cannuck-puked. I liked this guy much better dead. I grabbed him by the shirt and was hauling off to hit him again, when a cold beer was put in my hand on my backswing. I dropped the once-and-future dead guy and looked at Stevie. “S’umbitch.”
He was bleeding in the head, and if I could focus my eyes I would’ve checked his for concussion, but he was standing and breathing, and that was much better than I anticipated, but I still leaned in for a close look. Then his eyes got big and I turned around, oh god, not the moose. As I turned everything started to go blue and look like something seen through a smashed piece of glass. Pierre was leveraging himself up to his feet, one Picassoesque bend at a time. He stood up, patting himself. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a flask smashed as flat as if it was already bailed for recycling. He shook it anyway, and I immediately like his spunk, even if he was blue and I could see him front, back, and sideways all at the same time.
“Fook!” he said, and then waved the flask at us. Stevie stood there with his beer in his hand and his jaw at his knees, so I took the beer and gave it to our reanimated friend. He finished it in a draught and I half expected it to come out his sides like a cartoon character. He crushed it and put it in his pocket like a gentleman should then did what I took to be a smile, his lips being so bruised and bloated and his teeth being so few, I took it to be in the abstract vein that I was currently appreciating the world in.
Stevie said, “Blue,” and I felt much, much better.
“Yup, and crooked.”
Roland looked around like a character in a time travel novel and said “I need a drink. You got truck?” And with that for introductions, he put his head down and marched out through camp and towards the road. What? You thought were were adventurers? Never camp farther than you are willing to carry a cooler. That’s my motto. In about 200 yards we reached the pullout by the road.
Roland spun around, “Where car?”
I started to spread my hands, as if to explain my truck being up on blocks since bell bottoms were cool and Lucille not trusting us with their single car, she had dropped us off not two long days before so she “would know where we are and could keep out of trouble,” when lights showed up coming northbound fast. Roland ran-staggered directly in front of the oncoming car. It honked, flashed it’s lights, swerved, and finally skidded to the kind of stop that you just knew was going to leave ruinous flat spots on the tires, if not on Roland. There in the middle of the road was an old Chevy van, the smoke of the skid rolling slowly forward under it’s own momentum. It started to hail, but hard, ball bearings of ice as big around as Glo-bugs, coming down fast enough to cover the ground.
Two guys jumped out of the van, “Are you crazy? I almost killed you!”
Roland ran up and grabbed the side door to open it, “You too! My best friend, he try kill me with fooking moose. Now, I kill him.”
He pulled the cargo door open and got in. The two guys looked at me and Stevie, we looked at them, they ran to get back in the van, and we jumped in before Roland could close the door. I know, right? It doesn’t make sense, we could let them all just drive away, problem solved. Except we were soaked, drunk, tripping, our camp is trashed, we smell like meese in heat, it’s a dark and stormy night, and by the way that hail fucking hurt. Got it? Now what would you do smarty pants, call Lucille? The driver floored it and and we spun back on to the road. The cargo light was on and there was an old red velvet sofa back there separated from the front by an industrial wire cage. We piled on to it, more out of self defense than comfort as it wasn’t attached to anything and was soon bouncing around the back of the van with a loose case of beer like sneakers in a dryer, and this kid was driving like he stole it.
When the passenger turned to offer a bottle through the window I could see he really was a kid, 15 tops. “You guys look like shit, and smell worse.” Roland took the bottle like a relay baton as we careened by on our magic carpet ride.
“Like skanky ball sweat,” added the driver.
“I kill that fooking Pierre! I sleep with wife, so what? We best friends, he try kill me, now we go kill him!” The passenger kid raised his eyebrows and the kid driving looked in the mirror, which I wish he wouldn’t do because we started sliding almost immediately. I shrugged. “Cannucks.”
I looked out the window and all I could see was the lights reflecting off of the hail. The engine sounded like its own NASCAR race there under the hump. Like he could read my mind kid thumped it. “Yup, a completely built 350. This thing is a screamer!” I reached down and grabbed a beer, opened it to a shower of success. Stevie had handfuls of upholstery in his hands and all four limbs stuck out rigid as if he was a starfish in a full body cast. It think his trip may have gone bad again and was afraid mine was about to. I didn’t offer him a beer.
The van was swerving madly through the hail, and when I looked forward after taking a huge gulp, I could see a cop’s red and blue gumball lights coming the other way. We passed each other and the driver hunched over the wheel so he could look in the mirror; the passenger swiveled in his seat to look out the back windows. “Should got some snow tires to go with that engine,” I said to no one in particular, as we spun around like one of those tea cup saucer rides.
“Good thing they got us for weight in the back,” said Stevie through clenched teeth, and when I looked at him, he gave me a mad grimace. A partial bad trip is always better than a full on bad trip, I thought, and smiled back. Then I laughed, finished the little beer that hadn’t exploded out of the can, tossed the empty over my shoulder and caught two more on the bounce, handing one of them to him.
“They’re turning around,” said the passenger.
“No shit,” said the driver going off and then back onto the road. It was coming down so hard the road looked like molten pewter, you couldn’t even see our tracks. The sofa bucked like a foul-hooked humpie and we all took a minute to get combobulated. I braced a hand on the roof and said “You ever drive before!”
They looked at each other and laughed, “Nope!”
“Wooooohooooohoooo!” said Roland, waving the bottle around. “Wooooohooooohoooo!” He looked like he was having so much fun, he may just have forgot about murder.
The van slewed across the road into the other lane, the kid fought it back from the shoulder, but then it came back worse to the right side of the road. One more correction, we went into the soft shoulder on the other side of the road, hooked up real good, came back to the right and would’ve shot straight off the bank if he hadn’t put it into a skid which flipped us into a roll. Suddenly, we were all having a bad trip. Things seemed to rotate in slow motion, I remember Stevie, the beers, the cushions, Roland, the sofa, and me, all chasing each other around like soap bubbles in a drain. After three good crunches the light went out and we came to a stop upside down. Yup. Definitely. That was my last dead cat bounce. I was done tripping, although I knew the colors at the edges of the eyes when I swung my head would keep up for a couple more hours.
It was dark in there. I took mental stock in myself and decided that I was most likely alive, and mostly intact. “Stevie?” I called out.
“Do not tell Lucille,” he snickered. Which was, all things considered, still pretty fucking funny.
“Omgonnakillm’fooker!” That guy was definitely goal-driven. Probably owned his own business. Stone cold Type A personality you got right there. He started kicking at whatever landed on him, which unfortunately was me. I got out of the way.
“Juvenille delinquents?” I asked for wont of a better description. All I got back were groans. The sofa was in front of the door, and while we were clamboring and swearing and sweating to get it on one side and us on the other, the police cruised by, lights still on which we saw through the open back doors. Those boys were obviously not up for detective any time soon, but we didn’t have long before they figured it out. I got out and got to the front. The kids were some jammed in there, but being young and drunk and mostly lucky we got them out and checked them over while they came around.
“Sorry about your van, man,” I said, although I could really give a shit now that I got out alive.
“Ah, shit, I stole the van. But I paid for the booze.” He was looking me straight in the eye and I knew he was going to turn out already tonight, although after that, I wasn’t so sure.
“Yeah, well that stuff will kill you.”
“We all dyin’ man,” said his buddy. And I got no answer for that.
“We ought to maybe get out of here before Barney comes back and figures out we are sitting ducks.”
The driver rummaged around in his Carhart jacket and pulled out a phone. “We’re okay man. You guys go do your murder.” He was still looking straight at me and smiling. Fucking wiseass punk.
We had landed by a set of railroad tracks and Roland was disappearing down them before we even missed him. “Where the fuck you going, Frenchie?”
He stopped and turned around, big grin on his face. “Pierre, he invite me hunting, he get me drunk, he drop me by moose, he go back to drinking.” He hitched a thumb over his shoulder. “Ol’ Iron Horse.”
I reached over and punched Stevie, “We’re here because this asshole got laid!” Now, that was funny. With the whole pinball rally ride and all, I hadn’t really realized where we were. The Ironhorse was our stomping grounds. If me and Stevie could get there, we could make a plan. Maybe get to my place, come back and get our shit tomorrow, all without telling Lucille a thing. I was kind of warming up to the idea, even if it kinda sorta made me an accomplice to murder.
The hail was dying down, and it was hard work to keep up with Roland. This was one tough motherfucker. We came at the Ironhorse from the back, which I recognized by exiting this way on more than on occasion. The Ironhorse is one of those places been there so long, it must’ve grown there. All worn dark planks, and shit stuck to the walls in every corner and shadow been there since before I was born. The screen door was banging shut when we got there. We ran to catch up to Roland, just as he came on Pierre sitting at a table in the back. When we marched in, he pulled a revolver out from his wool pants and set it on the table, pointed in our direction. I could see it in my head, “Lucille, the gun was this big…” I think the fish was smaller. The barrel looked just like the moose’s nostrils. If one of them turned into a rabbit hole, I was gone through it in an instant. I was here to save his Pierre’s ass and now I wasn’t so sure about ours.
Roland walked up like he didn’t notice or didn’t care. He leaned on his knuckled fists on the table, nose-to-nose with Pierre.
“You fooking try kill me.”
“You fook my wife. You fook my wife; you fook me. You fook me; I fook you with moose.”
Roland looked at him a long, long time – I watched a spider spin a web and was trying to decipher the message in it- and finally laughed. “That was moose? I thought wife left you and came for me! I would’ve fooked moose.” Then he reached over, picked up Pierre’s brandy and drained it just like I’d seen him drain any alcohol that was ever in his hand.
Pierre looked at him, eyes moose-cold. He wiped his hand over his mouth, then said. “Yeah, she big girl, ain’t she!” And they both laughed. Then they punched each other. Then they laughed some more, and Roland came around and sat down with one arm around Roland and the other signaling the waitress.
I smelled urine, I’m not sure whose. Stevie looked at me. “Don’t not tell Lucille.”
Like she would believe it, any of it. “Not as long as you are buying,” I said, and turned to the bar.
“The trout were talking to me man, did you see that? I just walked right in and they came to me. It was too easy man. Like holy.”
I blew him off. Colors were flashing at the edges of my eyes like the chromatic aberrations of a cheap lens. The trout had already been back, jabbering at me, since we hit the road. I needed some Jack to shut them the fuck up.
Jon is an incurable insomniac. Water sings to him in infrequent dreams which he tries to capture in inadequate prose as he rages through the night. All of his stories are completely true; some parts of them just haven’t happened yet.