I am sitting on the couch watching Kramer vs Kramer for the first time. I am fourteen. I’m drinking sleepy time tea and eating rice cakes with peanut butter as this is a new snack I have learned from my aunt. There is the scene about the french toast and I am watching Dustin Hoffman dip the bread into the mug and I’ve never seen anyone try to make french toast like that before. I can make french toast and I wonder what he thinks he is doing. We are up in the Queen Charlotte’s as they were called back then, my sister and I, as teenagers. Staying at our cousins’. The house is right by the ocean, feet away, and I have never stayed in a house where you have an ocean instead of a garden, and sometimes you can look out and see seals swimming by.
Some of the time I am here, I am watching movies I have not seen before. Other times at the table I am eating. I eat things like my Aunt’s halibut loaf which I decided was my favourite, and things like Queen Charlotte Beef, (there is no such thing) which was not my favourite as I guessed it was venison, even though I was lied to. Some of the time we are playing with the dog outside, and other times we are inside, watching my cousin do gymnastics or talking about a thing called gravity boots, that you wear and hang from the ceiling like a bat, and they make you grow taller.
Some of the time we go out with my uncle on excursions. One time we went hunting for deer. We drive off the main road, up the gravel road that goes up past the garbage dump where we see the bears crawling around looking for snacks. We go even further, the road getting dryer and narrower with bigger rocks to where we seem to be in a field of smaller trees, and we stop the truck, and my uncle gets out his gun and goes hunting. He spots a deer up on the hill, in the trees and fires and shoots it. He goes to where it has fallen and guts it, and we follow him, and help him drag the deer out of the bushes and put it in the back of the truck. When we get back to my cousins’, he hangs it from the tree in the front yard, the antler’s tips inches over the ground. So I look out the window in the house and see the hanging deer between the two big trees and then the background of ocean.
One day we go fishing at a river. We have to drive to a trail where again we park, and then walk for a couple of miles into the forest, and then more bears, only this time just one way off to the side in the woods watching me and my cousins as we walk along. This time my uncle is behind us, but the bear is only watching and so nothing happens. We arrive at a sunny river with a pool and an area to fish in the middle of the woods and there is nobody else there. I catch one trout and it accidentally almost goes in my sister’s hair as I am reeling it in, and I am apologetic about this. When I catch a fish I unhook it and then strike it against the rock we are sitting on to knock it out.
Early on, when I am sitting with my rod in the water, waiting, looking down into the deep depths of the pool, I see a big long silvery fish with a pinky red streak that seemed to slink through the water and looked as if it was a couple of feet long. “What is that! I want to catch it,” I say to my cousin. She says it is a Dolly Varden trout. We fished all day, taking breaks in between fishing, and I thought each time that I cast my rod I might catch it. I thought I saw it once more that day, but I never saw it again after that. And later, when it was time to leave, and we packed everything up, I had that feeling that my chance was over for a lifetime. I never caught the Dolly Varden and I was walking away from it through the woods. When I got home I cleaned the fish and we fried them and it turned out a lot better than that time back in California once when I had a fish to clean and I made it into a mess.
So, back on the couch I watch a couple more movies I haven’t seen before. The one about the killer bees, and another one called The Brood which was really gross. These are not movies I would have watched at home. Perhaps it was the beauty that I knew was outside the door there, that made it OK. The pines and the forests and the totem poles. After the movies I stood in the kitchen and looked out at the sea, scanning it for creatures surfacing, seeing all the way to the Alaska Panhandle.
This is a work of creative nonfiction; it contains no composite characters and no names have been changed. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them, but I have taken some storytelling liberties, due to my interpretation of events, fading memory, lack of time machine, and need to cherry-pick some memories over others in order to express my thoughts within the story.