You can feel them.
They’re churning the waters of the Pacific Northwest. The tide is spitting and frothing with expectation.
The cadence of hammers, grinders, engines and bellowing skippers becomes more frantic by the day.
“Mend the nets
drain the oil
paint the hull
the reds are coming
the chums are coming!”
Eighteen hours isn’t enough daylight.
The tension is mounting. The cannery isn’t ready to process.
“Sharpen the chink blades
test the belts
fire up the freezer
the humpies are coming
the money fish are coming!”
They’re a herd of tiny aquatic buffalo, and they’re stampeding north by the millions. Put your ear in the water and listen to them surging forward.
You can’t stop them – they’re driven and desperate:
Swim, swim, swim, spawn and die.
Splashing and thrashing – dodging nets, claws, teeth and talons. The only thing that matters is reaching that stream. Jump and leap; Make the tourists clap with delight. They don’t know your desperation. Leap and smack your side against the water over and over and over until your organs give up. Beat your belly until your skein loosens into individual eggs. Pound the surface until your sperm sac relents. Spawn until you die.
Watch out behind you, beside you. Watch out at the mouth of the creek you were born. Everywhere you go, the fishermen go – driven and desperate:
Fish, fish, fish, spawn and die.
In September, everyone will be in bad shape. The salmon will be rotting alive – still trying to swim farther up stream before all its flesh falls off. The fisherman, smelling of diesel and old fish, will be trying to pull in the last haul of barely-marketable protein. The newly-hatched fry will be cannibalizing its parents. The air will be thick with sun-warmed decay.
But for now it’s June. The pressure is mounting on the coil. Everyone is crouched and eager.
Millions of silver-scaled, single-minded salmon are screaming up the Inside Passage. Can you feel them in the tide? Are you ready for battle?