D o u g F o r t i e r & D e b r a B e c k L e n n o x
Toward the Light
A little before 6 A.M., my running lights twinkle in the water around me as I chug from Noyo Harbor toward dark clouds in the west. Until I make two months of back payments, engine maintenance on my salmon boat will wait. All I need today is luck.
Seven miles south, at the coordinates of my last big catch, I slump in the wheelhouse after three hours and no fish. I don’t want to burn diesel bought with my last sixty dollars, but move a couple miles closer to Point Cabrillo.
Rigged with the two rods I haven’t sold to pay bills, I drift along with lines in the water for an hour, then break out a PB&J with coffee for my lunch. Before it’s gone, I’m wrestling silver scaled salmon over the transom and take what each is worth from my outstanding bills: $120 here, $160 there. I bleed and gut each one before I pack them in ice. An hour later my muscles are warm despite the cool winds. A routine of feeling the tug on the line and pulling fish into the boat keeps pace for another hour, then I drift and mooch until the middle of the afternoon. I doze along, lulled by the motion of the ocean, when both reels sing as lines go out. $130, $150, I pull and crank salmon while the late afternoon light fades; I’m on a roll and I test my body’s limits.
The salmon stop feeding and the reels go silent. While stowing my gear, my wobbly legs fail me when a big wave drives me into the deck and I hit my head.
Mother’s voice wades into my dream, “It’s time for bed, Davey.” Too drowsy to make sense of what she said, my dreams jump to a scene where I’m swinging my arms, throwing salmon into the water, giving them life until salt water sprays my face and I wake to night on the unlit boat. My head has a lump and I smear blood into my eyes as I stumble backward to the wheelhouse where Point Cabrillo’s light scans me every ten seconds.
With my eyes on the darkness surrounding the brilliance, I find the starter key, but turn it the wrong way the first time. Everything is backward, yet my confusion becomes resolve as I throttle hard toward the welcoming beacon.