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Part 8 of Trout Fishing in America

Written by: Richard Brautigan | Biography
 | Quotes (1) |
 A RETURN TO THE COVER OF

 THIS BOOK



Dear Trout Fishing in America:



 I met your friend Fritz in Washington Square.
He told me to tell you that his case went to a jury and that he was acquit- ted by the jury.
He said that it was important for me to say that his case went to a jury and that he was acquitted by the jury, said it again.
He looked in good shape.
He was sitting in the sun.
There's an old San Francisco saying that goes: "It's better to rest in Washington Square than in the California Adult Authority.
" How are things in New York? Yours, "An Ardent Admirer" Dear Ardent Admirer: It's good to hear that Fritz isn't in jail.
He was very wor- ried about it.
The last time I was in San Francisco, he told me he thought the odds were 10-1 in favor of him going away.
I told him to get a good lawyer.
It appears that he followed my advice and also was very lucky.
That's always a good combination.
You asked about New York and New York is very hot.
I'm visiting some friends, a young burglar and his wife.
He's unemployed and his wife is working as a cocktail wait- ress.
He's been looking for work but I fear the worst.
It was so hot last night that I slept with a wet sheet wrapped around myself, trying to keep cool.
I felt like a mental patient.
I woke up in the middle of the night and the room was filled with steam rising off the sheet, and there was jungle stuff, abandoned equipment and tropical flowers, on the floor and on the furniture.
I took the sheet into the bathroom and plopped it into the tub and turned the cold water on it.
Their dog came in and started barking at me.
The dog barked so loud that the bathroom was soon filled with dead people.
One of them wanted to use my wet sheet for a shroud.
I said no, and we got into a big argument over it and woke up the Puerto Ricans in the next apartment, and they began pounding on the walls.
The dead people all left in a huff.
"We know when we're not wanted, " one of them said.
"You're damn tootin'," I said.
I've had enough.
I' m going to get out of New York.
Tomorrow I'm leaving for Alaska.
I'm going to find an ice-cold creek near the Arctic where that strange beautiful moss grows and spend a week with the grayling.
My address will be, Trout Fishing in Ameri- ca, c/o General Delivery, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Your friend, Trout Fishing in America THE LAKE JOSEPHUS DAYS We left Little Redfish for Lake Josephus, traveling along the good names--from Stanley to Capehorn to Seafoam to the Rapid River, up Float Creek, past the Greyhound Mine and then to Lake Josephus, and a few days after that up the trail to Hell-diver Lake with the baby on my shoulders and a good limit of trout waiting in Hell-diver.
Knowing the trout would wait there like airplane tickets for us to come, we stopped at Mushroom Springs and had a drink of cold shadowy water and some photographs taken of the baby and me sitting together on a log.
I hope someday we'll have enough money to get those pic- tures developed.
Sometimes I get curious about them, won- dering if they will turn out all right.
They are in suspension now like seeds in a package.
I'll be older when they are de- veloped and easier to please.
Look there's the baby ! Look there's Mushroom Springs ! Look there's me ! I caught the limit of trout within an hour of reaching Hell- diver, and my woman, in all the excitement of good fishing, let the baby fall asleep directly in the sun and when the baby woke up, she puked and I carried her back down the trail.
My woman trailed silently behind, carrying the rods and the fish.
The baby puked a couple more times, thimblefuls of gentle lavender vomit, but still it got on my clothes, and her face was hot and flushed.
We stopped at Mushroom Springs.
I gave her a small drink of water, not too much, and rinsed the vomit taste out of her mouth.
Then I wiped the puke off my clothes and for some strange reason suddenly it was a perfect time, there at Mushroom Springs, to wonder whatever happened to the Zoot suit.
Along with World War II and the Andrews Sisters, the Zoot suit had been very popular in the early 40s.
I guess they were all just passing fads.
A sick baby on the trail down from Hell-diver, July 1961, is probably a more important question.
It cannot be left to go on forever, a sick baby to take her place in the galaxy, among the comets, bound to pass close to the earth every 173 years.
She stopped puking after Mushroom Springs, and I carried her back down along the path in and out of the shadows and across other nameless springs, and by the time we got down to Lake Josephus, she was all right.
She was soon running around with a big cutthroat trout in her hands, carrying it like a harp on her way to a concert-- ten minutes late with no bus in sight and no taxi either TROUT FISHING ON THE STREET OF ETERNITY Calle de Eternidad: We walked up from Gelatao, birthplace of Benito Juarez.
Instead of taking the road we followed a path up along the creek.
Some boys from the school in Gela- tao told us that up along the creek was the shortcut.
The creek was clear but a little milky, and as 1 remem- ber the path was steep in places.
We met people coming dowr the path because it was really the shortcut.
They were all Indians carrying something.
Finally the path went away from the creek and we climbed a hill and arrived at the cemetery.
It was a very old ceme- tery and kind of run down with weeds and death growing there like partners in a dance.
There was a cobblestone street leading up from the ceme- tery to the town of Ixtlan, pronounced East-LON, on top of another hill.
There were no houses along the street untilyou reached the town.
In the hair of the world, the street was very steep as you went up into Ixtlan.
There was a street sign that pointedback down toward the cemetery, following every cobblestone with loving care all the way.
We were still out of breath from the climb.
The sign said Calle de Eternidad.
Pointing.
I was not always a world traveler, visiting exotic places in Southern Mexico.
Once I was just a kid working for anold woman in the Pacific Northwest.
She was in her nineties and I worked for her on Saturdays and after school and duringthe summer.
Sometimes she would make me lunch, little egg sandwich- es with the crusts cut off as if by a surgeon, and she'd give me slices of banana dunked in mayonnaise.
The old woman lived by herself in a house that was like a twin sister to her.
The house was four stories high and had at least thirty rooms and the old lady was five feet high and weighed about eighty-two pounds.
She had a big radio from the 1920s in the living room and it was the only thing in the house that looked remotely as if it had come from this century, and then there was still a doubt in my mind.
A lot of cars, airplanes and vacuum cleaners and refrig- erators and things that come from the 1920s look as if they had come from the 1890s.
It's the beauty of our speed that has done it to them, causing them to age prematurely into the clothes and thoughts of people from another century.
The old woman had an old dog, but he hardly counted any more.
He was so old that he looked like a stuffed dog.
Once I took him for a walk down to the store.
It was just like tak- ing a stuffed dog for a walk.
I tied him up to a stuffed fire hydrant and he pissed on it, but it was only stuffed piss.
I went into the store and bought some stuffing for the old lady.
Maybe a,pound of coffee or a quart of mayonnaise.
I did things for her like chop the Canadian thistles.
Dur- ing the 1920s (or was it the 1890s) she was motoring in Cali- fornia, and her husband stopped the car at a filling station and told the attendant to fill it up.
"How about some wild flower seeds?" the attendant said.
"No, " her husband said.
"Gasoline.
" "I know that, sir, " the attendant said.
"But we're giving away wild flower seeds with the gasoline today.
" "All right, " her husband said.
"Give us some wild flower seeds, then.
But be sure and fill the car up with gasoline.
Gasoline's what I really want.
" "They'll brighten up your garden, sir.
" " The gasoline 7" "No, sir, the flowers.
" They returned to the Northwest, planted the seeds and they were Canadian thistles.
Every year I chopped themdown and they always grew back.
I poured chemicals on them and they always grew back.
Curses were music to their roots.
A blow on the back of the neck was like a harpsichord to them.
Those Canadian thistles were there for keeps.
Thank you, California, for Your beautiful wild flowers.
I chopped them down every year.
I did other things for her like mow the lawn with a grim Old lawnmower.
When I first went to work for her, she told me to be careful with that lawnmower.
Some itinerant had Stopped at her place a few weeks before, asked for some work so he could rent a hotel room and get something to eat, and she'd said, "You can mow the lawn.
" "Thanks, maram, " he'd said and went out and promptly cut three fingers off his right hand with that medieval mach- ine.
I was always very careful with that lawnmower, knowing that somewhere on that place, the ghosts of three fingers were living it up in the grand spook manner.
They needed no company from my fingers.
My fingers looked just great, rigl: there on my hands.
I cleaned out her rock garden and deported snakes when- ever I found them on her place.
She told me to kill them, but I couldn't see any percentage in wasting a gartersnake.
But I had to get rid of the things because she always promisedme she'd have a heart attack if she ever stepped on one of them.
So I'd catch them and deport them to a yard across the street, where nine old ladies probably had heart attacks and died from finding those snakes in their toothbrushes.
Fortu- n ately, I was never around when their bodies were taken awa! I'd clean the blackberry hushes out of the lilac hushes.
Once in a while she'd give me some lilacs to take home and they were always fine-looking lilacs, and I always felt good, Walking down the street, holding the lilacs high and proud like glasses of that famous children's drink: the good flower wine .
I'd chop wood for her stove.
She cooked on a woodstove and heated the place during the winter with a huge wood fur- nace that she manned like the captain of a submarine in a dark basement ocean during the winter.
In the summer I'd throw endless cords of wood into her basement until I was silly in the head and everything looked like wood, even clouds in the sky and cars parked on the street and cats.
There were dozens of little tiny things that I did for her.
Find a lost screwdriver, lost in 1911.
Pick her a pan full of pie cherries in the spring, and pick the rest of the cherries on the tree for myself.
Prune those goofy, at best half-assed trees in the backyard.
The ones that grew beside an old pile oflumber.
Weed.
One early autumn day she loaned me to the woman next door and I fixed a small leak in the roof of her woodshed.
The woman gave me a dollar tip, and I said thank you, and the next time it rained, all the newspapers she had been sav- ing for seventeen years to start fires with got soaking wet.
From then on out, I received a sour look every time I passed her house.
I was lucky I wasn't lynched.
I didn't work for the old lady in the winter.
I'd finish the year by the last of October, raking up leaves or somethin or transporting the last muttering gartersnake to winter quarters in the old ladies' toothbrush Valhalla across the street.
Then she'd call me on the telephone in the spring.
I would always be surprised to hear her little voice, surprised that she was still alive.
I'd get on my horse and go out to her place and the whole thing would begin again and I'd make a few bucks and stroke the sun-warmed fur of her stuffed dog.
One spring day she had me ascend to the attic and clean up some boxes of stuff and throw out some stuff and put some stuff back intd its imaginary proper place.
I was up there all alone for three hours.
It was my first time up there and my last, thank God.
The attic was stuffed to the gills with stuff.
Everything that's old in this world was up there.
I spent most of my time just looking around.
An old trunk caught my eye.
I unstrapped the straps, un- clicked the various clickers and opened the God-damn thing.
It was stuffed with old fishing tackle.
There were old rods and reels and lines and boots and creels and there was a metal box full of flies and lures and hooks.
Some of the hooks still had worms on them.
The worms were years and decades old and petrified to the hooks.
The worms were now as much a part of the hooks as the metal it- self.
There was some old Trout Fishing in America armor in the trunk and beside a weather-beaten fishing helmet, I saw an old diary.
I opened the diary to the first page and it said: The Trout Fishing Diary of Alonso Hagen It seemed to me that was the name of the old lady's brother who had died of a strange ailment in his youth, a thing I found out by keeping my ears open and looking at a large photograph prominently displayed in her front room.
I turned to the next page in the old diary and it had in col- umns: The Trips and The Trout Lost April 7, 1891 Trout Lost 8 April 15, 1891 Trout Lost 6 April 23, 1891 Trout Lost 12 May 13, 1891 Trout Lost 9 May 23, 1891 Trout Lost 15 May 24, 1891 Trout Lost 10 May 25, 1891 Trout Lost 12 June 2, 1891 Trout Lost 18 June 6, 1891 Trout Lost 15 June 17, 1891 Trout Lost 7 June 19, 1891 Trout Lost 10 June 23, 1891 Trout Lost 14 July 4, 1891 Trout Lost 13 July 23, 1891 Trout Lost 11 August 10, 1891 Trout Lost 13 August 17, 1891 Trout Lost 8 August 20, 1891 Trout Lost 12 August 29, 1891 Trout Lost 21 September 3, 1891 Trout Lost 10 September 11, 1891 Trout Lost 7 September 19, 1891 Trout Lost 5 September 23, 1891 Trout Lost 3 Total Trips 22 Total Trout Lost 239 Average Number of Trout Lost Each Trip 10.
8 I turned to the third page and it was just like the preced- ing page except the year was 1892 and Alonso Hagen went on 24 trips and lost 317 trout for an average of 13.
2 trout lost each trip.
The next page was 1893 and the totals were 33 trips and 480 trout lost for an average of 14.
5 trout lost each trip.
The next page was 1894.
He went on 27 trips, lost 349 trout for an average of 12.
9 trout lost each trip.
The next page was 1895.
He went on 41 trips, lost 730 trout for an average of 17.
8 trout lost each trip.
The next page was 1896.
Alonso Hagen only went out 12 times and lost 115 trout for an average of 9.
5 trout lost each trip.
The next page was 1897.
He went on one trip and lost one trout for an average of one trout lost for one trip.
The last page of the diary was the grand totals for the years running from 1891-1897.
Alonso Hagen went fishing 160 times and lost 2, 231 trout for a seven-year average of 13.
9 trout lost every time he went fishing.
Under the grand totals, there was a little Trout Fishing in America epitaph by Alonso Hagen.
It said something like: "I've had it.
I've gone fishing now for seven years and I haven't caught a single trout.
I've lost every trout I ever hooked.
They either jump off or twist off.
or squirm off or break my leader or flop off or fuck off.
I have never even gotten my hands on a trout.
For all its frustration, I believe it was an interesting experiment in total loss but next year somebody else will have to go trout fishing.
Somebody else will have to go out there.
" THE TOWEL We came down the road from Lake Josephus and down the road from Seafoam.
We stopped along the way to get a drink of water.
There was a small monument in the forest.
I walked over to the monument to see what was happening.
The glass door of the lookout was partly open and a towel was hanging on the other side.
At the center of the monument was a photograph.
It was the classic forest lookout photograph Ihave seen before, from that America that existed during the 1920s and 30s.
There was a man in the photograph who looked a lot like Charles A.
Lindbergh.
He had that same Spirit of St.
Louis nobility and purpose of expression, except that his North At- lantic was the forests of Idaho.
There was a woman cuddled up close to him.
She was one of those great cuddly women of the past, wearing those pants they used to wear and those hightop, laced boots.
They were standing on the porch of the lookout.
The sky was behind them, no more than afewfeet away.
People in those days liked to take that photograph and they liked to be in it.
There were words on the monument.
They said: "In memory of Charley J.
Langer, District Forest Ranger, Challis NationalForest, Pilot Captain Bill Kelly and Co-Pilot Arthur A.
Crofts, of the U.
S.
Army killed in an Airplane Crash April 5, 1943, near this point while searching for survivors of an Army Bomber Crew.
" 0 it's far away now in the mountains that a photograph guards the memory of a man.
The photograph is all alone out there.
The snow is falling eighteen years after his death.
It covers up the door.
It covers up the towel.



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