The Fish Drop

I went up to Weaver Lake recently, the lake that inspired my short story "The Fish Drop" from my book, Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods. Below I've copied the story and a video of the lake. The lake is in the middle of Sequoia National Forest next to Sequoia National Park, famous for the giant Sequoia trees, but the trees aren't the only reason to go there. Every single inch of the park and forest is absolutely amazing. I hope you enjoy the story and the video. My dog is in there too!



The Fish Drop
Stanley is awake and up and out of the tent before Harrison can even move in his sleeping bag. Harrison slept outside last night, next to the fire with two sleeping bags zipped up to make one big bag, and he thought that he’d be up with the dawn, but the sun’s been rising for a while now. Luckily, Deena’s scrunched down a little in the bag, and Harrison can pull the edge up enough so that Stanley doesn’t notice her head as he passes by.

“Morning, Dad,” he says.

It’s funny how many things kids his age miss, but on the other hand, why should he even think to check on what his father is doing, has been doing. “Hey, Buddy,” Harrison says. “Would you mind checking on something in the tent for a moment?”

Stanley turns to him with that frustrated look that he gets every once in a while now. He seems to be growing into it. He narrows his eyes at the sleeping bag, and for a worried moment, Harrison thinks he’s going to figure out what his father has been doing all night, but he doesn’t ask about the extra lump in the bag. “Can I go to the bathroom first?” he asks.

Harrison exhales. “Sure, yeah, of course,” and he watches the boy walk out of the campsite, making his way away from the lake to relieve himself in privacy.

“I don’t know why you’re so paranoid about him finding out about us,” Deena says. She climbs out of the bag and pulls on her shorts and a t-shirt. “You’re going to tell him eventually, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” he says. “I just don’t want to confuse him too much. He’s been through a lot in the last couple of months, you know. He doesn’t need any more.”

“I didn’t realize that I could be such a burden on him.” But she pulls on her shoes quickly, knowing that Harrison wants her out of the camp. As far as Stanley will know, they spent the night alone, father and son out in the woods under the pines, sleeping in the dirt. Sure, there had been other people in camp, but this will have been their special private camping trip. Harrison has his jeans on, and is pulling on a flannel button down shirt to fight the chill of the morning in the mountains, but she’s already dressed and walking over to her own camp. “You know Carol doesn’t bother to hide her boyfriend, and he seems all right with that,” she says.

Deena’s right, of course. Carol, his ex-wife, is living with her new boyfriend, who would probably be her husband now if the divorce were final, but Carol isn’t exactly the model that he wants for his own behavior. He’s going to yell something funny to her as she walks away, but Stanley might hear. Instead, he zips apart the sleeping bags and rolls them up, putting his in his backpack and dropping hers behind a tree on the edge of the camp.
When Stanley comes back, he seems to have forgotten that he was supposed to do something for his father in the tent. Instead, he starts gathering wood to start a new fire. “Not this morning, Buddy,” Harrison says. “We’re going to have a cold breakfast this morning.”

“Oh,” Stanley says, and Harrison can see the boy’s heart breaking. Sometimes he thinks that making things burn is Stanley’s favorite part of camping. He’ll sit there watching the flames with the rapt attention of . . . well, of a ten year old boy.

“Remember when I told you there was going to be a surprise on this trip?”

“Yeah?”

“We’re going to see it this morning.”

As though she’s the surprise, Deena pops out of the woods and into their campsite. “Good morning,” she calls.

She’s waving and smiling, and Stanley waves back. “Deena,” he says. There’s excitement in his voice, and he goes over and hugs her.

“Did your Dad tell you what’s going to happen this morning?” she asks. She’s a short woman with a tiny body that Harrison loves and a blonde pony tail.

“No,” Stanley said. “He just said there’s going to be a surprise.”

“Well.” She looks at her watch. “If we want to be sure to see it, we’d better go now.”

They begin to circle the lake, and as they start, Harrison can see that a lot of people are going in the same direction. These are mostly people who, like him, work for the forestry service and know from looking at the schedule what’s going to happen today. It’s not so spectacular, but it’s really interesting, and a lot of people come year after year, each time with new people following along. “Maybe you ought to tell Stan what we’re going to see.”

“Hmm?” Harrison says. They’ve come to a part of the bank where boulders have been piled up by avalanches possibly thousands of years ago. They have to pick their way across them in a dance where they hop from one to the next, never quite pausing, and never able to look up for long enough to know exactly where they are.

“I said that we should probably tell him what’s going on today so he understands what he’s seeing.” In her voice, there is significance as though she’s made some kind of profound point that he’s supposed to understand on multiple levels.

He wants to roll his eyes or make a gagging motion to her, but instead, he just stops hopping forward. “This is as good a place as any. Why don’t you tell him about it?”

They all stop their dance at once and sit down on their own boulders. Deena points to the eastern sky. “I want you to watch there,” she says. “In a little while, a plane is going to come over that ridge you see in the distance and fly down really low over this lake.”

“Why is it going to do that?”

“They’re going to stock the lake. Do you know what that means?” Stanley shakes his head. She brings up her knees to her chest, and Harrison gets the feeling by the way she’s sitting close to the boy that she’s always wanted children. He wonders if she thought she was getting too old and that Harrison is her last shot. 

“There are too many fishermen around. Every year, people come up to these lakes and fish so much that there isn’t enough fish for anyone else or the bears or anything. They used to bring them by mules up here, but now they dump them out of the back of the plane.”

“Wait,” Stanley says. His eyes are wide in disbelief. “They’re going to drop fish out of that plane.”

“Yeah,” she says. “Baby fish. I mean, you’re not going to be able to see the fish exactly, but they’ve got a tank of water, and you’ll be able to see the water and maybe some little objects in the water. Those will be little baby fish.”

Harrison is happy to see that the boy is curious, and he and Deena talk about the fish and why they do it for a while, and as she predicted, the plane, a twin engine propeller deal, comes out of the east. Harrison chose this spot on the west side of the lake because he wanted to be able to see the whole approach, but he realizes now that if the pilot or bombardier over shoot the lake, they’re going to be covered in little baby fish, to use Deena’s phrase.

He could tell them to move, but he doesn’t. He’d rather take the chance to be sure that they can all see the whole thing.The plane dips, heading right towards them, and Stanley shifts nervously, but when the plane just seems to be skimming the treetops, it levels off, and while it’s over the lake, a spray of water is released from its steel belly. He sees in the mist, or thinks he sees, little flecks of something, and imagines that they’re fingerlings, wriggling up there for a moment, knocking into each other, and for a moment, free in the air, in full sunshine for the first and last times of their lives.

From every side of the lake come hoots from those who had come up here and assembled for this moment specifically, and the sound works its way into Stanley, who picks it up and screams, “Woooooo!” Harrison and Deena cheer too, and without realizing he’s doing it, he hugs Deena in front of Stanley and breathes in the rich scent of woman.

Back at the camp a half hour later, Stanley says, “You know, we forgot to have breakfast.”

“Oh yeah,” Harrison says. “I guess we did.”

“Can we have a hot breakfast?”

Harrison knows he’s just angling for a fire. “Sure,” Harrison says. Fish falling from the sky and now fire. This might be the best day in the boy’s short life.

The three of them head out in separate directions to gather wood, but Stanley comes up behind Harrison in a minute. “Dad,” he says. “Are you going to ask Deena out?”

“You mean on a date?”

“Yeah,” he says. “I think she wants you to. I mean, I think she likes you.”

“Would that bother you?”

“No,” he says. “Mom goes out with Joey.”

He should be happy hearing that Stanley would be all right with him dating, but Harrison feels himself collapse a bit, and he knows what it is. Stanley had been the easy way out up to now. With Stanley, he could put Deena off and still look like the good guy. He’s going to have to be honest now. Either that or he’s going to have to date the woman, and she’d be a good woman to date, but God, when he thinks of those last years with Carol, he has absolutely no desire to date anyone seriously ever again.

They go back to the camp, and Stanley has his fire. The three of them are going to stay here today, and Harrison isn’t sure what he’s going to tell Deena tonight as they lie together under the stars. Maybe he’ll put her off and maybe he’ll make a decision one way or the other. What he wants though is just to sit with her on the edge of the lake silently and watch the stars reflected in that lake all night and not have to say a word.



Check out the book! Order Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods here!