‘Piano Tide’ excerpt: August 24
Category : Alaska
Long antennae reach toward the dying and the dead. A hermit crab reaches tentatively for torn flesh. When the banquet is finished, there is no flesh, only skeletons and strips of white skin, swaying. He vomits salmon tails and trailing intestines that sink through the currents. It’s the flood tide of the dog-salmon moon, the highest tide of the month. Skeletons with silver skirts ride the ghost net, hissing. EXCERPT
Just before midnight, a bulge of sea rolls smoothly past Good River Harbor. The ghost net floats past the town on great tidal currents, gathering bones. The net snags her gill plates. More salmon nudge into the net, flashing silver as they struggle to escape. Spot-shrimp stalk in on spidery legs, following their orange prows. Salmon and salmon and salmon nose into the net that seizes them more tightly the more they flail. Her head slides through the mesh, but her body is too wide to pass. But then he veers and noses into the net. Dungeness crab move in, scuttling sideways. Hear the tick of small teeth, the click of small claws. Tasting blood, a salmon shark sways close to the net, singing his rough flank against the fibers. Silver tails swirl. He snatches off a thrashing tail, snatches another. Listen now. She backs away. Heavy now with the dead, the net slowly sinks until it settles, swaying on the floor of the sea. A dog salmon nudges into the net. Without the heavy flesh, the net rises again on its floats. On its dark currents, it carries a lost gill net, drifting unmoored. Strips of skin swirl. Plated heads grin. The fibers dig into the feathery red tissue, deeper as the salmon tugs to get away. A school of salmon weaves through the kelp forest, approaching the net, wary in the night. The water is cloudy with sea-fleas and shrimp eating the soft meat under the silver skin, nibbling around the bones, a cloud of eating. A gray cod snaps up the falling pieces and pushes into the net, where she finds her own death. The shark whips his head from side to side, savaging the net, driving the falling scales into silver swirls. A small sculpin thrusts its spiked head into the red tissues and spins, tearing off flesh. The nets bulge and recoil. Bubbles pop from shrimps’ mouths and stream toward the moon. She curls her body and snaps it straight, yanking at the net until her blood pinkens the sea. These are the dangerous nets, detached from human intention. He catches first a tooth, then pushing forward, catches another. There she hangs by her head, caught by gill plates bright and round as the moon, cratered with the moon’s shadowed seas.