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  • Writer's pictureWriters In The Mountains

Catch and Release by Ben Umayam

“Her husband, he is just so weird. I know he is a writer and everything.”


Jenny is telling her bro how July 4 barbeque went at her mother’s house, with her aunt and her hubby, Oscar, visiting from New York.


“The fireworks show the Macy’s one on tv, not so entertaining. All these hip-hop people. I guess Macy’s has some sort of connection with the opening of the Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx. All these stars who were big ten years ago. And of course, Grandma was not enjoying all this hip-hop. She had this permanent expression on her face that said, ‘What the hell is this!’”


Jenny and her brother Harry laugh.


“So, as they leave, Oscar says, ‘I just want to address the elephant in the room.’ ‘What elephant?’ I am looking at him. ‘Where is there an elephant in this room?’ He says he has a favorite spot, a café down by the river. Near the two bridges. The river is usually so clear. When they arrived a few days ago, Oscar and wife, it was muddy.  He plays this game, on the river, how many trout can you spot. He said last year as many as four in a five-minute span. This year not so many. And he says, it is a shame, there’s all sorts of trash in the river. Lots of 7-Eleven garbage. There are two 7-Elevens along the highway that hug the river. People sit on the rocks on the banks with their Big Gulps and dollar pizzas. Then leave the trash. And it makes it into the river.


“He tells me he was looking into the river and instead of trout all this garbage stares back at him. The other day he sees something shiny, with a glare he did not recognize; he puts on his sunglasses and sees it is a metal fork. Now where could have that come from; no metal at 7-Elevens. Anyway, it occurs to him that I am at this point, a fork in the river. What? And that he wishes me luck on this journey up another ‘fork’ of the river.”


“Weird, but not that weird,” Harry says.


“As if.” She inhales deeply and exhales just as deeply. “As if I chose this crap, what has happened to me. A husband—I find out his bipolar is really bad, so bad that he says he wants to commit suicide in our bed on our wedding night. And we have the baby, and he goes on and off the meds so I leave him. I just could not handle it.”


“I know.” Harry passes the joint; they are smoking on his condo terrace.


They continue at the breakfast nook the next morning. “And Angie, child of divorce, overweight because us parents give her anything she wants during the joint custody. Ice cream, junk food, all the toys she wants.”


“Remind me when he got married again.”


“When Angie was five. The new wife, her parents were rich, they had two kids together. Angie felt left out, spends more time with me. But she hates my boyfriend. She saw through him better than me. Angie’s father goes on and off his meds, commits suicide. And now Angie blames me and opts to live with her father’s parents.”


Harry rises to clear the table and do the dishes, “Can’t blame her; the grandpa takes her to Spain every summer. I would go with the people who take me on vacation to Europe every year.”


“I know, so would I.”


Three months ago, his sister posts on Facebook she is selling all her furniture, leaving her abusive relationship, going to live in the mountains with her brother. Not by her choice, she claims.  “But it is her choice,” Harry says to anyone listening.


After she moves to the mountains, she starts going to the river a lot, plays that same game her aunt’s husband plays. She stares into the river to see how many trout she can find.


These days no forks, just the river, they had a Clean-Up Summit County weekend the beginning of the month. All the residents cleared the river of human garbage.


There is one happy trout she sees almost every day.


The trout looks up at her one morning and says, “No fork in this river, just this, the river. Why don’t you come on in and join us. It is catch and release up here. All those fly fisherman up and down stream, they must throw us back in after they catch us.” It is an invitation to consider. Harry takes a picture, one sunny morning, her sitting on the fence of the bridge as if she was going to jump in.


Harry posts the pic on FB.


The comments under the picture are from her friends in the city:

Jane Weiden: “I hear she jumped into the river and disappeared.”

Amanda Jones: “That river is more like a creek. If she jumped in, all she would do is break her legs, no deeper than 2 feet.”

Pete Summers: “She is just like her brother; she has become a hermit up there in the mountains.”

Tammy Trout: “She is happy now, catch and release, she just hangs out with us trout in this pristine river.”

Her brother smiles. She is early-morning trout for the fly fishers. No worries; they catch and release; they have to or else.


From Fiction Writing class with Thaddeus Rutkowski


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