School of Minnows

by Howard Halverson



     He hadn't been fishing for a while but that wasn't the reason he thought of it now. It was more of a prop, an excuse to get her to some outer region of experience, some territory that could be charted anew beyond the containing paradigm of possibilities. Among these terms a fishing pole was an instrument to transform the current setting, to create a place where that unknown existence could be achieved between the two.

     Fishing was highly impractical, he thought. For the past decade wildlife authorities had been posting warnings about chemically contaminated species throughout the region. The traditional purpose of fishing was deemed as a hazardous risk and incompetent by any means. In another respect, fishing was just a cruel game, a self absorbed process leaning towards torture and sadistic compulsion. But when they had walked together along the estuary and found themselves gazing into a school of minnows, whose tiny silver bodies flecked the water's depth in sporadic dashes, he became hypnotized to the notion and in some dark recess of his thoughts this estuary was a sanctuary where he could take her, where the smooth water’s din would entrance them both into a sensuality that exceeded mundane limits.

     She had been frequenting him in his disposition. It became more and more obvious that she was drawn to him and it would only be a matter of time before they collided in such regards. His idea was to create that situation where they would be filled with ecstatic energy, something that would be more than, as he saw, her always stooping towards his sparse abode.

     There was a slender passage that bridged the parks segmentation by roads then a chain link fence, long since pierced by similar ambitions. He held back a frayed flap of the fencing for her as she ducked her head, crouched down, and pushed through the opening onto a worn dirt path flanked by waist-high weeds. This was trespassing, the sky above them was blocked out by criss-crosses of dull overpass concrete and an abandoned railroad weigh station’s rusty tracks interlaced paths through the weeds and trash. There the estuary wiggled through decomposing structures and dead engines, diligently meandering out to the bay.

     Though, other than the blight, the two were alone. That was what transgression amounted to, isolation and abandonment. A vague dread rose in his chest. He couldn’t understand the sense of urgency; it was harmless really, but he wanted to assert to himself that he didn’t want to get caught by the police or some city worker. Not wanting to acknowledge that being this alone with her she could eclipse his distance. And what would he become then? He disguised this apprehension and watched her with a slight smile as she maneuvered through patches of weeds, over rotten tracks, and around dilapidated walls.

     Now the two found a steel pier that extended over the estuary from a bridge of railway tracks. Over the rusty, waist-high railing they peered into the shifting water’s opaque glare. He dropped the line into the water and acted very seriously, trying to absorb himself in this illusion; a compounded illusion because he only wanted to absorb himself in her, an array of dissociation where he might have a chance of satiation.

     The water glistened erratically as he focused his attention on the monofilament that sloped down and occasionally swayed in the random breeze. She observed him closely, twisting up the corners of her mouth in bizarre inquisitiveness. She extended her hand forward now and then, a compulsion to test if the fishing pole was really there. And he would react with concern: Why is she disrupting the pole? he asked himself. He would push her hand away, which she reacted to, defensive at first, then happy he was touching her.

     Silver rays of sun peeled off the water and washed across their eyes incessantly, a hypnagogic glare whirled their senses. The concrete pillars of the overpasses wavered minutely and blades of grass rippled brilliantly, like a whole body that writhed along the edges of the estuary's banks.

     "Have you ever caught anything out here?" she asked.

     "No. Never. I've never done this before," he sulked, fixedly gazing at the line.

     "Well, the water is lovely."

     "Yeah. I like the way it kind of dances. Gravity. Light."

     He turned towards her. She leaned against the railing and met his gaze. A distant interval began to resonate from somewhere, seeming to come from the grass or the water, even the concrete, and with its increase in volume the periphery began to buzz and fragmented, tiny iridescent diffusions flared up from thin air and dashed against their bodies. The sky began to distort convexly and a vacuum siphoned away the feeling of their weight.

     Their eyes remained fixed on one another for quite an extensive moment now, and they hardly noticed that the pier they were standing on spiraled away into some void. They floated in the air. The convex arch increased as well as the presence of that tone. All matter seemed to diminish in their mutual fixation and those lucid flares multiplied and enlarged. As the known sensual world evaporated, more and more the two drifted towards each other.

     They said nothing, made no movements, until they were face to face. Totally enveloped in a convex sphere now, waves of volatile energy encircled them, swirling about them violently. Their mouths leaned towards each other, the world dissolving rapidly as they neared impact. Their lips flexed to touch, and that tone began to dissipate in a hyper screech. And as they kissed the crescendo exploded to infinity in a blossom of silver flashes like a million little minnows into the deep sea.

     There was just a void. Then a violent ripple and the scene re-materialized. The concrete pillars bounced back to unbending form. The water swirled in a jet, then settled and the sky popped open and the breeze flirted with the grass and weeds again. Now, on that steel pier, the couple was gone; only the fishing pole laying on its side, its line detached and floating in the wind.


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