On the deck of Nerka John and Angela run the gurdies. Their gaffe hooks swoop through the air and the hydraulic lines pulse like arteries clean of plaque; they have a rhythm that deckhands, that husbands and wives get with years of practice. They are “in them,” gliding the boat and their hooks through a large school of salmon, and that is all they can ask for.
John is captain and Angela is first mate and at sea that makes sense. At sea there is a plan. We will fish here. We will eat then. We will work until dark. We will love each other in this way. At sea there are problems, yes, obstacles, yes, but not confusion; at home there is much confusion. There are the usual problems: John drinks too much and Angela feels herself getting too old. Fishing does not make them much money and Angela is thirty-five with a feeling like glass shards in the tendon of her left index finger from shaking fish from lines (she’s done this since her dad first put her to work on his boat at eight years old after he failed to have a son) and she has sharp lines around her eyes from too much time outside and too much work and too little sleep and too much worrying about buyers and by-catch and frayed timing belts, and and and…paperwork? No one told her when she bought the boat with John there would be so much damn paperwork. Why didn’t her dad ever tell her this? That fishing was really only ten percent about catching fish and the rest of it filled in all the corners of your life like silt. How can she even think of having a child when half the year she is on the boat and the other half she is fixing and recovering and filing papers promising the federal government she will clean all salmon on only kosher surfaces (kosher surfaces, really?) and mark all boxes containing salmon with the word “salmon” (being sure to also include the species) so in case someone breaks into the wet locks and starts eating the fish they will be aware that what they are doing is eating raw coho and that that might not necessarily be a good thing. She tires of this. She tires not of life itself, just of all the tasks in it, the way they stack up, the way they repeat themselves in a way that makes the meaning so hard to find.