Page 57 - WTP VOl. IX #1
P. 57

 “They won’t find out. How are they going to find out? There’ll be a fuss up here for awhile, but it will blow over. Especially with people like that man. Things blow over with a man like that.”
Jack frowned, studied her face. “What do mean, a man like that? What does that mean, Marcia?”
“Oh come on, Jack. He was a bum. Did you read the description?”
“He was a man, Marcia.”
could see the waitress approach the table.
“Pancakes,” she said. She placed a Styrofoam contain- er down in front of Jack. “A short stack. And hashed browns.” She placed the tab down next to it, and gazed out toward the dead fish floating up onto the banks of the river. She shook her head. “I wonder what they think about, floating there knowing they’re dying. God, maybe. You suppose they’ve got a god?”
He yanked the tab out of Marcia’s hand, pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket, and threw them down on the table. The waitress stepped back, startled.
Jack stormed from the diner. Marcia trailed after him, crying, “Jack?”
“You’ve got change coming,” the waitress called.
He strode past the car where his son slept and on across the road to the riverbank. There were more fish than he’d realized. The surface of the river was littered with them, a few lay along the banks. Some were long dead, some still writhing in their last dumb struggle. Just where the water touched the bank, a large male trout lay, opening and closing its mouth, its one eye pressed into the rough dirt, the other star- ing up through the alien element. Jack reached down and picked the creature up. It rested in his palms.
He thought about Shaid, about the years he’d turned away from his bawling, about the times he’d yielded to Marcia’s pleas, her temper. He thought about what would have made his father proud. The fish was heavy and slick in his hands.
What kind of god would be the god of trout? Perfect in its symmetry. Shining, omnipresent, transparent, and immanent as water. He turned to look back at the car. Shaid was up, standing in the shadow, watching him. Jack could see only his silhouette, and from some dark space he felt the tug of love that he’d thought he’d never feel again. He watched the trout as it opened and closed its mouth. He felt the cold, silver weight in his hands. There was time, he thought. He could still do the difficult work of a father.
Jepson is the author of two books, Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose (Ten Speed Press) and Women’s Concerns:Twelve Women Entrepreneurs of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Peter Lang), and 65 essays, articles, and short stories. Her work has appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Porter House Review, Easy Street, Across the Margin, Dark Fire Fic- tion, The Writing Disorder, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Aloha Magazine, among other publications. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a PhD in Linguistics from
the University of Chicago, and teaches writing and linguistics at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
thing. Leaving work, coming on vacation with his family, trying to make friends with a son he no longer knew.”
“He was homeless. It’s not like he had a family who’s going to miss him. The world is probably better off without him, anyway.” She started to add something then stopped. Suddenly, she took a sharp breath. She stared at him across the table. “Oh God, Jack, you’re not thinking of going to the authorities.”
He met her eyes.
“Do you know what they’ll do? It was hit and run. That’s a felony. Shaid’s old enough to go to prison. Prison. God, imagine. Oh, God.” She put a hand to her forehead. Her fingers were trembling. “Please tell me you aren’t saying the life of that man is worth more than our son’s? Please tell me you don’t mean that.”
Jack turned to watch the fish gleaming at the edge of the Mist River. In the reflection of the window, he
e stared at the dark.
He regretted every-

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