This is before his wife rented an apartment and removed the piano from the
living room. Before she began waking in the night head full of fuchsia and
orange to drive across town and put together the window display for her
shop. It was before Mediterranean blue carpet and sunrooms. Before the baby
canines of the grandchildren and the knitted sweater sets.

This is when he stood in the river in those slacks, a husk of khaki. He had
tied flies and read from a book about how to organize his pack, what knives
to take, what color clothing to wear. Somewhere he ached, and it was a real
ache. His knee was a swollen valentine pulsing beneath black waders.

I think of him in that moment, when someone snapped a lucky picture, under
hemlocks, under clearing skies. His foot anchored in a ring of quartz.
Waters rushing to other waters. Somewhere in the trees, he heard uncatchable
caws and thought of red throats opening for summer parents. The bill of his
hat pointed across the river to islands and blackened hollows where once
there were campfires, and then further to the highway that led back to his
town. To his home. Empty now, except for all the vases of sweet and sour
plants my brother and I left in the kitchen.

Lydia Copeland's stories have appeared in Quick Fiction, Pindeldyboz, Dogzplot, Glimmer Train and others.  Her
chapbook, Haircut Stories is available from the Achilles Chapbook Series, as well as in the chapbook collective
Fox Force 5 from Paper Hero Press.  She works in Manhattan and lives in New Jersey with her husband and son.


I presented this to my Zoetrope workshop and a couple of people had a problem with the phrasing of the original ending, which read:  "Empty now, except for all the sweet and sour plants my brother and I carried in."  I messed around with that line a lot until it said what I wanted it to say. Also, I went back and forth with the line about long-forgotten campfires.  No one else in my workshop mentioned it, but I wasn't sure if I liked it.

The inspiration for this story comes from a photograph my father took of my grandfather on a fishing trip.  In the photograph my grandfather is fly fishing in the middle of the Obed River in Tennessee. The photograph looks like a landscape painting with enormous trees and rocks and this dot of a man in the center.  My father made copies and gave it as a Christmas gift, and now most of the members of my family have it hanging on their walls.



Copyright 2009