him I’ve already hoisted the damned flag!” Mike groused
over the top of yesterday’s Post-Intelligencer, only halfway
through the headline article about the Cuban missile crisis. Geraldine
stretched the black phone’s kinky cord. He didn’t
want to fight this early in the morning on the eleventh sober day, so
he reached a trembling hand for the receiver, spoke to his
brother-in-law. “Hello. George?”
saw the sky first thing this morning, George,” Mike
reported. “Went up and raised the red flag. There was no one
on your little lake, and there won’t be now, for sure. Between
the warning flag and the chops gettin’ higher every minute, no
one will risk it. Don’t worry. That’s what you pay me
for out here, isn’t it?”
other brother, Joshua, continued empire-building
by constructing the freeways that scarred the verdant hillsides
surrounding Seattle. The Boeing company’s move to become the
world’s primo builder of jet aircraft after its impressive WWII
B-29 bomber success was causing worker exodus to Western Washington
State. Those workers earned top dollars and George was making a
killing creating ticky-tacky bedroom communities near the new
on-ramps. Geraldine martyred herself into contentment with the
crumbs thrown by her brothers to her nearly-12-year, childless union.
Her Korean War era marriage to the striking Native American guy in
uniform had brought her to this end, she often bemoaned, caretaking
beside a troubled husband who still shivered and groaned in his
dreams of the frozen Chosin Reservoir.
Geraldine called from the tiny kitchen in the modular they called
home. “I’m cooking - do you want breakfast?” He
had been off his feed for most of these eleven days, but the shakes
were gone and his belly felt empty. It was a good empty, too, he
decided, and his response was nearly cheerful.
“Yup, honey. Just some toast and an egg, though. Gonna
take it easy.” The large lakeside window in the modular
revealed a darkening sky in the southeast. “Gerrie, I’m
going to go topside and get a good look at the sky. Be down in a
The tower, a stick-built addition, small and sturdy, was
accessible from the modular’s storage room. Its pleasant,
cedar odor permeated the stairwell as he climbed to the workroom
where a CB radio, mounted telescope and field glasses riding a
logbook greeted him. With the glasses, he scanned the tiny lake
which hadn’t existed until late spring.
had personally cleared the site and supervised the damming of
the creek and creation of the quiet lagoon. The ticky-tacky appeared
as if by magic to the south, as did his caretaker’s home on the
opposite side of the soon-to-be “water paradise” in the
brochures. Working mostly alone, of course, George’s
concession to his drunken brother-in-law.
leaves from autumn maples were the only movement on the
turbulent water, besides the rowboats tied to the north and south
docks. He was about to take his eyes from the glasses when he saw
motion, large red and silver motion, on the far east side by the dam. A
kid? It submerged and then flashed again. Yes, it was there. Could be a
little kid. He flew down the cedar stairs, some of the
third and fourth days’ shakes returning.
Geraldine’s excited queries, he shook off his carpet slippers,
slung his field boots over his shoulder and raced barefoot down to
the dock and into the boat. Should
have a motor for emergencies,
he thought as he pulled eastward against the choppy water. Soon at
the east bank, nothing was to be seen on or in the 15-foot depths,
but a flash of movement entered his peripheral vision. Yes, there
was something at the dam’s corner.
something was two large fish, Coho salmon, called “Silver”
locally. A male and a female, the male already changing from his
ocean-going silver to the red and toothy of a spawning male. Flopping
wildly, the pair seemed to be heading further up the bank. They
came up the creek to the lake,
he thought, and
then got lost looking to go further to their spawning grounds.
help you with that, Brother Coho, Sister
Silver. But, here, let me save your lives.” He had to get out
of the boat to return them to the lake, but suffered no mishap and
enjoyed a long-lost feeling of being one with his grandfathers as he
returned to his breakfast.
spooned at his back that night for the first time in years, a vague
dream was warm an pleasant, and he awakened with JFK’s “new
vigor” on the twelth
day. The blockade had stopped the Russian missile ships, last
night’s storm did not materialize, and he salivated at the
smell of frying bacon. Maybe ‘God IS in his heaven,’ he
mumbled as he climbed to the tower.
recognized the undulating flash of color on the southeast bank
immediately, and called to Gerrie to hold breakfast. The female he
buried was small and dull on a bed of brown leaves. “Brother
Coho,” he told the ugly-faced male that attempted to bite his
arm as he slid its 12-pound body into the lake, “I can’t
keep coming out here to save your life.” Before Mike could
even unlock the oars, the salmon leaped feebly onto the bank once
again, instinctively thrusting his battered body in the direction of
the waterway that should be there, the one to take him to his
stoic, Mike reached into the boat’s tool box.
was thrilled with the large salmon, and promised a meal
fit for a king that evening, but Michael Moses didn’t go in to
dinner. He had escaped to the narrow garage below his tower
workplace, wiped the late-season ants from the wine bottle, and did
not see Day Thirteen.