by Diana Adams
After a long walk you see the river. Your feet are tired and sore from carrying the weight of you, and the weight of the baby growing within. The river is shallow and shimmers in the sun beckoning and you want to cool your feet. As you take off your shoes you notice how fast the water is flowing. You bravely step onto the flattest stone you can find and brace yourself against the current.
Prickly Cedars line-up along the banks, the Alberta aspen tremble, but the tall pines just stand there and listen. The mountains are so close, their dishevelled shoulders push in all around. The river's icy grip intensifies, now your feet are getting numb. Then, just as you were told, the salmon come lumbering by. Large, luminous rust colored beasts at the end of their journey float in around you ; some are half dead, some sideways and others are valiant, muscular and strong. They struggle against the current. They still struggle even though their job is done. They have traveled 800 miles to get here. Caution, the sign beside says, This is a Chinook Salmon Spawning Ground.
Perhaps out of respect, but also a little out of fear, you step back out of the water onto the grassy bank. Immediately you miss the feeling of the cold water, and your feet tingle in anticipation. So you step back in. A huge dead salmon brushes your ankle, the corpse is slippery and pocked with rot. Panic strikes, then suddenly there is movement up ahead in the trees. You have to strain your eyes to see. A group of people move towards you; they seem both real and unreal at the same time. You shake your head, dumbstruck.
All your dead relatives come out of the trees dragging picnic tables and chairs with them. They immediately sit down, start talking, play Gin Rummy and drink wine out of tumblers just as they always did on family vacations. You first feel excited and then weak with the sadness of missing them. Maybe you could join them, you wouldn't have to play cards or drink. Maybe you could just sit there and listen.
Mesmerized, you watch them. But even more salmon swim past and now feel that you should really get out of the way of the fish. After all, their journey is so long and arduous and you are just an obstacle. But Grandmother has just seen you and beckons you over. Then your uncle, father and the sister that died at birth all come to the shore to wave you over. You can't hear what they are saying. All you can hear is the wind and the shushing sound of the aspen leaves shaking. Everything is so confusing. Because you've never dealt with the dead before, and they don't look dead at all; their eyes are clear, hair shiny, and the skin on their arms is plump and pink.
You look down to the river ... There are so many salmon now that it is hard to see bottom. You would love to meet your sister but somehow you know you can't go. Rubbing your swollen belly you feel the kick of response. In a few months this baby will enter this world; a world that even the dead don't want to leave. Turning your back on your family's furious entreaties, you step up on the grassy bank and slowly just walk away.
About the author:
Diana Adams is an Alberta based writer. Her work has appeared in Jones Av., Pagitica, the Del Sol Review, and in the current issue of Perihelion. Diana likes to traipse through the shady borderland between poetry and fiction. Her first book of poetry, Like Antlers, is currently making its way through the mail system. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.