The Sace Between Us

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Other stories in the set:
Termites | Beyond the Buck | Jody's Journal |
Dwarfo's Tale | Zonker's Death | Banana Jackpot

Smack Attack

In September of 1994, the surviving members of William Seaward the Third's family removed all valuables from his cabin. His Grandmother crated the portraits of their successful ancestors, his father packed the collectible guns into their velvet cases, his nephew drove off in the all-terrain-vehicle, and his sister put all of the Wedgewood plate into straw lined boxes.

I knew as did anyone else who had the patience to listen (William kept no secrets) that he had not only depleted his exchequer, but managed to go well beyond zero by collateralizing familial loans with insurance policies in which he no longer had any equity.

I assumed this informal seizure followed one of the many frustrating family meetings the subject of which was the imminent sale of their four thousand acre wilderness estate. Nobody in that family had made any money since World War I, and their big hope, Brilliant Willy, had problems.

After forty-three years of preparation which included a quarter of a million dollar education, the remaining members of the Seward family had lost what little faith remained in William after the spectacle two Thanksgivings ago.

When William overheard a distant cousin make an oblique inquiry from his stepmother as to exactly what it was Handsome Willy spent the bulk of his time doing, he didn't give his stepmother a chance to change the topic or catch his father's pleading glance, instead William did exactly what those who knew him best feared he would do. He started drinking. He'd poured about half a bottle of wine down his throat when the Anabuse kicked in. William looked as though he were going to tear his stomach out. He'd taken two pills before dinner to control his drinking, and what was happening was exactly what the doctor who'd prescribed them had said would happen if he mixed the Anabuse with alcohol: dry heaves, and spasms, but what the doctor hadn't envisioned was the daring of William's homespun pharmacology. Willy fought the spasms with a handful of muscle relaxants and curses hurled at the remaining guests. It was painful to watch; most of the family fled before he managed to vomit some yellow bile onto the carpet.

If Willy had had things his way, he'd have been a famous inventor, a regular at the Yale Club, a saved man. It wasn't as though he decided against it. William went in the direction he was most compelled and made no apologies for so doing. He did exactly what his mother had done.

When a mouse bored a hole through the seat cushion of William's favorite chair and took up residence, I figured he'd been turned over to professionals for detoxification, and I maintained that position until the telephone stopped ringing. Its silence made me think of death, and recall Sweet Willy's efforts to catch me. When William wasn't thinking about getting high or incapacitated from getting too high, he was thinking about my feeding habits.

William made the prettiest flies complete with the white tail hairs of a doe, and served them to me in dozens of different ways. I kept him on his toes.

I often teased Willy. If he came down to the pool with a new fly nestled on a few pieces of floating grass, I would do back flips over the lure, and he'd switch to high casts that barely dimpled the water.

I was, as I said, only thinking about death and reminiscing about Willy's evening fishing. It was the best part of my day, but I hadn't actually said to myself William is dead until, Hal, one of the bow hunters, sat down at Mr. Seward's desk, put on his bear skin slippers, and hammered open his stash box. Nobody dared touch Willy's catnip. He had a violent dimension.

William's blackouts were feared by every member of the Seward family, all the woman he knew intimately, and everyone he'd ever fished or hunted with. Since his early teens, Willy had the ability after drinking say a quart of whiskey to act aggressively without any consciousness of doing so.

In William's peculiar manual for good living, trout are always fished with flies, and the only acceptable deaths are either a cocaine induced seizure, a heroin overdose, or something unusual resulting not from a single drug but from mixing together many types of drugs. So anyone who was breaking into William's stash was stealing his death.

Family members and friends had explanations for Mr. Seward's problem. They had as many explanations for William's foibles as they did for the trout crisis. Bi-polar disease was one. His mother's genes another. The strain of familial expectations a third, and a simple lack of ideas a fourth. His last girlfriend had said, it was because nobody cared enough to rescue him. But what she meant was Willy couldn’t be rescued. His Grandfather wasn’t as interested as the woman in discussing potential causes for William’s problems. He considered Willy a flop.

But none of those explanations-not even mention of the word flop, which caused William enough shame to go on a forty-three day run, explained anything. They didn't explain William's persistence. His refusal to change although his life had become a series of uninspired repetitions. We had a few things in common.

William Seward the Third told everyone who took the time to listen that he wanted to die. He'd said it so many times that it came out like a fact. He could have been talking about the type of bug the trout were feeding on.

William had his speech down pat, but it didn't add up to an explanation because it ignored the question of change. Repetition is as hard to explain as the inevitable is to avoid.

Mr. Seaward's relatives continued renting the cabin to wealthy sportsmen, and left the trophy wall intact as a reminder to any empty-handed hunters and fishermen that game was plentiful.

I hang between the stuffed head of a six hundred pound black bear Willy shot from his bedroom window the fourth time it climbed onto the porch and mauled the bird feeders, and the rack from a buck he shot in the heart from his outdoor tub because it had "remarkable" antlers, my name is Zeus. I am the largest Wild Brown Trout ever caught on Mr. Seaward's classic "gin clear free stone stream."

I'm mentioned in all the current fishing books. Zeus measuring thirty-six inches and weighing eleven and one half pounds caught by Mr. William Seaward the Third. Men and women toast me. They speak loudly of cold streams and big fish although Wild Brown Trout are as dead as the men who made fishing them famous.

We've been fished into extinction by well-read fisherman. What remains is an industry based on a legend that has taken so long to filter through the system that the event it describes no longer exists.

The only real survivors are the nocturnal feeders. Some weigh close to five pounds which is a lot of bug-weight.

The bookish fishermen had yet to learn about the Nocturnal Trout because Willy hadn't written about them, for he was too stoned to do anything but spend his nights spread out in his favorite chair fantasizing about a basement full of attractive slaves designing drugs that would take him out with rainbow sparklers bursting in his head.

William made me think. Sometimes I said to myself, "You really should go down to the reservoir with the next spring flood. You're getting too large for this stream," but I never did and I'll never know why. Neither William or I wanted to change. That was the chief thing we had in common. Perhaps, a lifetime is only long enough to learn one trick.

On July 30, 1992 William upgraded the trout problem to a crisis. He switched me from the exotic quarry classification to poacher.

My entire body shivered when I thought about what William would do to me if I consumed all the Brook Trout. I knew he depended on the income from the fishermen to purchase drugs.

I meant it when I said to myself, you should move, and for some brief period after saying this to myself, I felt as though I would swim down to the reservoir. I had not seen a Brookie for two days.

I suffered from inertia. For lack of motive and no other reason I remained in my rock cave near the bottom of Alicia's Pool. One by necessity gravitates in the direction in which they are tugged most persistently: stasis.

Mr. Seward rented his stream to some retired professionals who were content with paying him mid-size dollars to catch stocked fish, but summer of ninety-two was the first in anyone's memory, including Willy's eighty-five year old grandmother, that nobody, not even William had caught a single fish although the usual two hundred farm raised Brook Trout had been poured from plastic buckets into the stream a few months before the fishing season opened so they could start to feed on bugs (all they'd eaten prior to getting poured into the icy waters of our little stream was food pellets).

It was the lack of catch that precipitated the crisis. One of the old lawyer/fishermen had knowledge of a clause in the lease that said if no fish are caught by the end of July all that summer's rent would be refunded. Willy was in a tizzy. He didn't have a cent.

It had never been my intention to consume all of the stocked fish. In prior years, I ate plenty and the fishermen caught enough, but I was growing and had gotten to the point were I ate a few Brookies a day.

Stocking had started in my lifetime. I recall the first time William and his Grandfather dumped farm raised Trout into their stream. I had thought they were feeding me, acknowledging that I could not survive on bugs because it was impossible to tell fake bugs from real ones when your entire system is screaming feed me, eat now. This happens to us at sixty-four degrees. We feed reflexively. Willy knows that. It's written in books. Fisherfolk know what our eyes can see and what they cannot. They use invisible lines tied to invisible hooks.

Not a single farm raised bug-eating trout has survived long enough to grow large enough to be named.

The stocked fish are raised in large pools with thousands of others who are all pellet-feed at a precise hour. Their predator alarm is dormant. They've never imagined being consumed, and I've already torn their bellies open by the time their neural system makes a connection between my presence and their death. They all taste like Purina Fish Chow.

Until I realized eating farm trout was the only means I had of evading Willy, I was a twelve-inch Wild brown of average weight, but I began to grow and once I did I felt compelled to continue.

While other trout fishermen and interested parties entered complex discussions about the missing trout, that included Acid Rain, poachers, bears, the drought, and trout-eating-ducks, William kept his mouth shut. I was his private fish, the Cannibal Trout.

William knew he had done a few reprehensible things in addition to fishing me with live bait. The teak board to which I'm mounted is hollow. It contains his journals.

*

12/25/79

"I wish I never had you; you little shit; I wish I never had you." I awoke from a nightmare when I heard my mother shouting these words at me. She was in a drunken rage."

1/2/80

"I've finally gotten over being infatuated with Ann -- I think! Slept with Nancy on Thursday night, picked her up at the Alibi. Friday I ran into Tracy at a party and saw her again Saturday. I just hope she drops by! Otherwise, I can't get in touch with her till she works at Ozzie's on Saturday. Also while I'm not crazy about Erma, I've got a tentative date with her on Wed. So I hope I can keep real busy with other women so I won't have a chance to worry about Ann. I'm amazed how quickly I've recovered, but I still want to see her!"

3/24/80

"I just don't care about women here anymore. I'm about to leave for Asia, probably will never be back - so they can't touch me. Feel like I want to be sober and save beer money for NYC and Asia. Also cause I'm physically hitting. That pain in my chest, heart. See a doc? I feel strong and don't need anybody."

3/25/80

"Dreamed cops wanted to go into my Ma's apartment where I had dope stashed in a shoe tree just like the way she used to hide her downers."

3/26/80

"I can't understand why I've been rejected by so many women this year. I thought I could have a date with Kathy late Friday, but she forgot she had a dinner date cause she's absent-minded. Today I could have talked to her, but now that I've been hurt, led on, I don't think I'll be able, and finally why bother? I'll be gone in a month, just a month."

3/27/80

"I think I like Monica. She's got a quick and clever tongue. She's tall and cute. Only problem she's too straight and too young. Feeling good today."

3/28/80

"Met lots of girls at the bar, but didn't catch. Woke up hating everyone and everything."

3/30/80

"When I heard Reagan was shot by Hinkley, I was almost happy. Now after watching the news it freaks me out. Violence is everywhere and I am prone to it myself. Just this New Years I brutally kicked Lee Ann after having sex with her. I almost want to cry. How could I have done that to her? Shit this news hurts me now.

"Kathy a friend of Nancy's is blonde and cute and I hope to see more of her."

4/1/80

"I just realized that kicking Lee Ann at Christmas must have been some left over frustration boiling into violence from Terrie last May. I can't believe I'm still lying here thinking of beating the shit out of Terrie when its been ten months since I last saw her. What a fixation. It doesn't hurt me that much, but it does grip my consciousness in a frightening way and I'm afraid I could still get violent with a woman. Women I can remember hurting: Lorraine Williams- 1974; Sarah Weisman- 1977; Cheryl Wyer- 1977; Lee Ann McWeenie: 1980."

4/1/80

"I said some awful things to Monica like, "Oh you could finally spare some time." Being cruel to women verbally,this isn't the first time this year. First there was Debbie, than Suzanne. I was physically violent with Lee Ann, and now there's Monica. Plus there was Jane who I bawled out over the phone. All when I was very drunk. I'm frightened it will only get worse. The more depressed I get the more anti-social I become. The more I want the more desperate I am the more I'm apt to drive off the very woman who could save me and it always happens when I'm very very drunk- which I happen to be getting recently. Not happy drunks, but nasty drunks. Monica isn't that great, but she is nice. Maybe I should just forget her- God! This is terrible. I'm heading downhill fast."

4/6/80

"Had a great past couple days. Got laid Wed night by Barbara an artist into surface design. She's about thirty-five. Then Friday night after tripping at the Dylan concert which was pretty good I went and caught Kathy at Pizza Villa. She's very smart, has a nice slender body and an OK face. I'm hopeful things will work out really well between us. Maybe she'll even come to NYC to visit me after I get back from Asia and she from Mexico."

4/13/80

"Woke up today disgusted with myself for having drunk so much over the weekend. Had a good time with Kathy, though I was too high to screw due to drugs. I like Kathy. I think she's really smart and from the poems I've read she's got talent. Only thing is she is a little shy, but I don't mind that much cause so am I. I wish I could stop thinking so much. It really is stupid and I end up feeling guilty for having wasted my weekend."

4/19/80

"I bought some Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck sunglasses for Kathy. Spent a quiet, pleasant Saturday and Sunday with Kathy. Also, only smoked two cigarettes on each of the past three days. Hope to keep it up and quit eventually. Also, want not to drink for a couple of weeks. I feel good about Kathy. I'm not so crazy about her body but we do have a pretty good time in bed. How long could I go out with her? I don't know and it's stupid to worry about cause I won't be here much longer, off to NYC. "Tomorrow I'm twenty-eight and there isn't a hell of a lot of living left to do. God what a statement. Haven't I done a lot of living in the past ten years? I've fucked over a hundred women.

4/23/80

"A week from today I leave. Off to Asia and hopefully Fleet Street. Five months where all drugs are legal, the rock candy mountain, and I'm just beginning to like Kathy. It takes so long to like a place and just as you're leaving you start to love it. Just like life, hating it till you're about dead. I don't know whether to shit or go blind."

5/7/80

"Just got done planting. Hope the seeds come up good."

5/11/80

"Its been nice seeing Sarah off and on this past week in NYC. She's definitely good looking and a good fuck. Also, screwed Julie on Saturday. That was fun. Came twice. And now I'm off to Asia.

"What bugs me was that Friday night I got a little bummed out when I went to the Warehouse with Sarah. Took a little acid and complained about how half my life was over-- the best half. She didn't want to sleep with me that night."

12/25/80

"I wish I never had you; you little shit. I wish I never had you."

*

On the last day of my life, William awoke at 6:30 A.M., as usual. He was seated in the same spot as he'd been seated when he injected himself thirteen hours ago with all his remaining heroin, three bags of Mortal Combat.

Willy increased his dosage with each injection. He wanted surprises, not competence. A shot that did not have enough heroin to be a potential overdose didn't interest Willy. He meant it when he said he wanted to die.

He didn't write that in his journal. He never explained how fascinated he was with that which could not be undone, the irreversible moment. The puff on his cigarette that would give him cancer.

I understood William. I twitch each time I consider the implications of eating the last fish. I was sure he'd use dynamite to kill me. And that was where it stopped. It stopped with a ping in my head and some anxiety.

I don't have much else to say. Whenever I press myself for explanations, my thoughts turn away. The same way people did when William told them he wanted to die. Nobody ever asked for explanations or tried to talk him out of it.

William was not in a good mood when he reached for his stash box and realized that he was down to his last half gram of coke. That little shot didn't even cause his heart to rattle, the beer didn't give him a buzz, and the opium tea was so weak that he had to use twenty-seven plants just to get straight.

When William parked his all-terrain vehicle beside the banks of Alicia's Pool, he was reminiscing about last night's big shot. It had come on like an over dose. Breathing seemed like too much fuss, a disturbance of an otherwise tranquil moment. William had no interest in the revelatory dimension of drugs.

His favorite activities had lost their shine. William made an important distinction between good sex and great sex. What he meant was after screwing over one hundred women and consuming a trailer load of drugs, a toot of coke or another girl stepping out her panties wasn't as thrilling as it had been.

Willy's passions had become a chore. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Eating the hundredth Brook Trout had nothing in common with my discovery that I could eat them.

When I began repeating myself I became mired in time. Taking the bait is a hard thing to explain, impossible to justify.

*

8/10/94

"Dr. De Lancey flew in this morning from Boston to get a look Zeus.

"My capture of the big fish has touched the trout world the way a crying icon does the devout. A single glance at so much as a photo of Zeus inspires men to fish. Dr. Delancy offered me a thousand per weekend.

"I swiped a few blank prescriptions from his pad when he went to visit Alicia's Pool. Things are looking up."

8/11/94

"The drought continues. Leaves are turning brown in August (it hasn't rained since early June), my spring dried up, and I'm hauling two fifty-gallon drums of water a day on my all-terrain-vehicle to slack my poppies thirst. The sun is relentless and my precious babies are wilting."

8/12/94

"I put DeLancy's check into the bank, dialed up the Beeper Connection, and put in an order for three bundles of Mortal Combat, thirty bags of the best dope this junkie has ever shot. Still a little wobbly after my last run."

8/12/94

"I dreamt about sex slaves making me megadoses of a lethal drug, a derivative of Zylkon B. It started with a roller coaster trip, and ended in a mind rattling death seizure.

"Scared off some poachers with my twelve gauge. They had no fish. Could Zeus have eaten every fish between the Flats and the Fork?"

8/13/94

"On the day of Zeus's murder, I arrived at Alicia's Pool at dawn. I hooked the live Brook Trout through the tail, tossed it into the stream. Zeus hit the smaller fish with enough force to snap my composite pole in half. Then he swam downstream fast as though he knew the only way to free the bait was to run out all the line and tear the hook from its body. I wedged my broken pole between two rocks and followed on foot. When Zeus reached the final knot, he tore the Brookie free without much effort, and started to devour him. I removed my waders and jumped off of Flat Rock and had my shotgun in his midsection before he had time to burp. I almost want to cry. How could I have done that to such a magnificent fish? Shit this news hurts me now. "I, William Seaward the Third shot Zeus point blank with a Mossberg twelve gauge shotgun. The shot made an exit hole large enough for a Brookie to swim through."