Part 3 of Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
SEA, SEA RIDER
The man who owned the bookstore was not magic. He was not a
three-legged crow on the dandelion side of the mountain.
He was, of course, a Jew, a retired merchant seaman
who had been torpedoed in the North Atlantic and floated
there day after day until death did not want him. He had a
young wife, a heart attack, a Volkswagen and a home in
Marin County. He liked the works of George Orwell, Richard
Aldington and Edmund Wilson.
He learned about life at sixteen, first from Dostoevsky
and then from the whores of New Orleans.
The bookstore was a parking lot for used graveyards.
Thousands of graveyards were parked in rows like cars.
Most of the kooks were out of print, and no one wanted to
read them any more and the people who had read the books
had died or forgotten about them, but through the organic
process of music the books had become virgins again. They
wore their ancient copyrights like new maidenheads.
I went to the bookstore in the afternoons after I got off
work, during that terrible year of 1959.
He had a kitchen in the back of the store and he brewed
cups of thick Turkish coffee in a copper pan. I drank coffee
and read old books and waited for the year to end. He had a
small room above the kitchen.
It looked down on the bookstore and had Chinese screens
in front of it. The room contained a couch, a glass cabinet
with Chinese things in it and a table and three chairs. There
was a tiny bathroom fastened like a watch fob to the room.
I was sitting on a stool in the bookstore one afternoon
reading a book that was in the shape of a chalice. The book
had clear pages like gin, and the first page in the book read:
The owner of the bookstore came up to me, and put his
arm on my shoulder and said, "Would you like to get laid?"
His voice was very kind.
"No, " I said.
"You're wrong, " he said, and then without saying anything
else, he went out in front of the bookstore, and stopped a pair
of total strangers, a man and a woman. He talked to them for
a few moments. I couldn't hear what he was saying. He pointed
at me in the bookstore. The woman nodded her head and
then the man nodded his head.
They came into the bookstore.
I was embarrassed. I could not leave the bookstore because
they were entering by the only door, so I decided to go
upstairs and go to the toilet. I got up abruptly and walked
to the back of the bookstore and went upstairs to the bathroom,
and they followed after me. I could hear them on the stairs.
I waited for a long time in the bathroom and they waited
an equally long time in the other room. They never spoke.
When I came out of the bathroom, the woman was lying naked
on the couch, and the man was sitting in a chair with his
hat on his lap.
"Don't worry about him, " the girl said. "These things
make no difference to him. He's rich. He has 3, 859 Rolls
Royces." The girl was very pretty and her body was like a
clear mountain river of skin and muscle flowing over rocks
of bone and hidden nerves.
"Come to me, " she said. "And come inside me for we are
Aquarius and I love you."
I looked at the man sitting in the chair. He was not smiling
and he did not look sad.
I took off my shoes and all my clothes. The man did not
say a word.
The girl's body moved ever so slightly from side to side.
There was nothing else I could do for my body was like
birds sitting on a telephone wire strung out down the world,
clouds tossing the wires carefully.
I laid the girl.
It was like the eternal 59th second when it becomes a minute
and then looks kind of sheepish.
"Good, " the girl said, and kissed me on the face.
The man sat there without speaking or moving or sending
out any emotion into the room. I guess he was rich and owned
3, 859 Rolls Royces.
Afterwards the girl got dressed and she and the man left.
They walked down the stairs and on their way out, I heard
him say his first words.
"Would you like to go to Emie's for dinner?"
"I don't know, " the girl said. "It's a little early to think
about dinner. "
Then I heard the door close and they were gone. I got
dressed and went downstairs. The flesh about my body felt
soft and relaxed like an experiment in functional background
The owner of the bookstore was sitting at his desk behind
the counter. "I'11 tell you what happened up there, " he said,
in a beautiful anti-three-legged-crow voice, in an anti-dandelion
side of the mountain voice.
"You fought in the Spanish Civil War. You were a young
Communist from Cleveland, Ohio. She was a painter. A New
York Jew who was sightseeing in the Spanish Civil War as if
it were the Mardi Gras in New Orleans being acted out by
"She was drawing a picture of a dead anarchist when you
met her. She asked you to stand beside the anarchist and act
as if you had killed him. You slapped her across the face
and said something that would be embarrassing for me to
You both fell very much in love.
"Once while you were at the front she read Anatomy of
Melancholy and did 349 drawings of a lemon.
"Your love for each other was mostly spiritual.Neither
one of you performed like millionaires in bed.
"When Barcelona fell, you and she flew to England, and
then took a ship back to New York. Your love for each other
remained in Spain. It was only a war love. You loved only
yourselves, loving each other in Spain during the war. On
the Atlantic you were different toward each other and became
every day more and more like people lost from each other.
"Every wave on the Atlantic was like a dead seagull dragging
its driftwood artillery from horizon to horizon.
"When the ship bumped up against America, you departed
without saying anything and never saw each other again. The
last I heard of you, you were still living in Philadelphia. "
"That's what you think happened up there?" I said.
"Partly, " he said. "Yes, that's part of it. "
He took out his pipe and filled it with tobacco and lit it.
"Do you want me to tell you what else happened up there?"
"You crossed the border into Mexico, " he said. "You
rode your horse into a small town. The people knew who
you were and they were afraid of you. They knew you had
killed many men with that gun you wore at your side. The
town itself was so small that it didn't have a priest.
"When the rurales saw you, they left the town. Tough as
they were, they did not want to have anything to do with you.
The rurales left.
You became the most powerful man in town.
You were seduced by a thirteen-year-old girl, and you
and she lived together in an adobe hut, and practically all
you did was make love.
"She was slender and had long dark hair. You made love
standing, sitting, lying on the dirt floor with pigs and chickens
around you. The walls, the floor and even the roof of the
hut were coated with your sperm and her come.
"You slept on the floor at night and used your sperm for
a pillow and her come for a blanket.
"The people in the town were so afraid of you that they
could do nothing.
"After a while she started going around town without any
clothes on, and the people of the town said that it was not a
good thing, and when you started going around without any
clothes, and when both of you began making love on the back
of your horse in the middle of the zocalo, the people of the
town became so afraid that they abandoned the town. It's
been abandoned ever since. "People won't live there.
"Neither of you lived to be twenty-one. It was not neces-
"See, I do know what happened upstairs, " he said. He
smiled at me kindly. His eyes were like the shoelaces of a
I thought about what happened upstairs.
"You know what I say is the truth, " he said. "For you
saw it with your own eyes and traveled it with your own body.
Finish the book you were reading before you were interrupted.
I'm glad you got laid. "
Once resumed the pages of the book began to speed up
and turn faster and faster until they were spinning like wheels
in the sea.
THE LAST YEAR THE TROUT
CAME UP HAYMAN CREEK
Gone now the old fart. Hayman Creek was named for
Charles Hayman, a sort of half-assed pioneer in a country
that not many wanted to live in because it was poor and ugly
and horrible, He built a shack, this was in 1876, on a little
creek that drained a worthless hill. After a while the creek
was called Hayman Creek.
Mr. Hayman did not know how to read or write and considered
himself better for it. Mr. Hayman did odd jobs for years
and years and years and years.
Your mule's broke?
Get Mr. Hayman to fix it.
Your fences are on fire?
Get Mr. Hayman to put them out.
Mr.- Hayman lived on a diet of stone-ground wheat and
kale. He bought the wheat by the hundred-pound sack and
ground it himself with a mortar and pestle. He grew the kale
in front of his shack and tended the kale as if it were prize
During all the time that was his life, Mr. Hayman never
had a cup of coffee, a smoke, a drink or a woman and thought
he'd be a fool if he did.
In the winter a few trout would go up Hayman Creek, but
by early summer the creek was almost dry and there were
no fish in it.
Mr. Hayman used to catch a trout or two and eat raw
trout with his stone-ground wheat and his kale, and then one
day he was so old that he did not feel like working any more,
and he looked so old that the children thought he must be evil
to live by himself, and they were afraid to go up the creek
near his shack.
It didn't bother Mr. Hayman. The last thing in the world
he had any use for were children. Reading and writing and
children were all the same, Mr. Hayman thought, and
ground his wheat and tended his kale and caught a trout or
two when they were in the creek.
He looked ninety years old for thirty years and then he
got the notion that he would die, and did so. The year he died
the trout didn't come up Hayman Creek, and never went up
the creek again. With the old man dead, the trout figured it
was better to stay where they were.
The mortar and pestle fell off the shelf and broke.
The shack rotted away.
And the weeds grew into the kale.
Twenty years after Mr. Hayman's death, some fish and
game people were planting trout in the streams around there.
"Might as well put some here, " one of the men said.
"Sure, " the other one said.
They dumped a can full of trout in the creek and no sooner
had the trout touched the water, than they turned their white
bellies up and floated dead down the creek.
TROUT DEATH BY PORT WINE
It was not an outhouse resting upon the imagination.
It was reality.
An eleven-inch rainbow trout was killed. Its life taken
forever from the waters of the earth, by giving it a drink of
It is against the natural order of death for a trout to die
by having a drink of port wine.
It is all right for a trout to have its neck broken by a fisherman
and then to be tossed into the creel or for a trout to die from
a fungus that crawls like sugar-colored ants over its body
until the trout is in death's sugarbowl.
It is all right for a trout to be trapped in a pool that dries
up in the late summer or to be caught in the talons of a bird
or the claws of an animal.
Yes, it is even all right for a trout to be killed by pollution,
to die in a river of suffocating human excrement.
There are trout that die of old age and their white beards
flow to the sea.
All these things are in the natural order of death, but for
a trout to die from a drink of port wine, that is another thing.
No mention of it in "The treatyse of fysshynge wyth an
angle," in the Boke of St. Albans, published 1496. No mention
of it in Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, by H. C. Cutcliffe,
published in 1910. No mention of it in Truth Is Stranger than Fishin',
by Beatrice Cook, published in 1955. No mention of it in
Northern Memoirs, by Richard Franck, published in 1694.
No mention of it in I Go A-Fishing, by W. C. Prime, published
in 1873. No mention of it in Trout Fishing and Trout Flies, by Jim
Quick, published in 1957. No mention of it in Certaine Experiments
Concerning Fish and Fruite, by John Taverner, published in 1600.
No mention of it in A River Never Sleeps, by Roderick L. Haig Brown,
published in 1946. No mention of it in Till Fish US Do Part, by Beatrice
Cook published in 1949. No mention of it in The Flyfisher & the
Trout's Point of View by Col. E.W.Harding, published
in 1931. No mention of it in Chalk Stream Studies, by Charles
Kingsley, published in 1859 No mention of it in Trout Madness
by Robert Traver, published in 1960.
No mention of it in Sunshine and the Dry Fly, by J. W.
Dunne, published in 1924. No mention of it in Just Fishing,
by Ray Bergman, published in 1932. No mention of it in Matching
the Hatch by Ernest G. Schwiebert, Jr,, published in 1955. No mention
of it in The Art of Trout Fishing on Rapid Streams by H. C. Cutcliffe,
published in 1863. No mention of it in Old Flies in New Dresses by
C.E. Walker, published in 1898 No mention of it in Fisherman's
Spring, by Roderick L, Haig-Brown, published in 1951.
No mention of it in The Determined angler and the Brook Trout,
by Charles Bradford, published in 1916. No mention of it in Women
Can Fish by Chisie Farrington, published in 1951. No mention
of it in Tales of the Angler's El Dorado New new Zeland
by Zane Grey, published in 1926. No mention of it in The Flyfisher's
Guide, by G.C. Bainbridge, published in 1816.
There's no mention of a trout dying by having a drink of
port wine anywhere.
To describe the Supreme Executioner: We woke up in the
morning and it was dark outside. He came kind of smiling
into the kitchen and we ate breakfast.
Fried potatoes and eggs and coffee.
"Well, you old bastard, " he said. "Pass the salt. "
The tackle was already in the car, so we just got in and
drove away. Beginning at the first light of dawn we hit the
road at the bottom of the mountains, and drove up into the
The light behind the trees was like going into a gradual
and strange department store.
"That was a good-looking girl last night, " he said.
"Yeah, "I said. "You did all right. "
"If the shoe fits....." he said.
Owl Snuff Creek was just a small creek, only a few miles
long, but there were some nice trout in it. We got out of the
car and walked a quarter of a mile down the mountainside to
the creek I put my tackle together. He pulled a pint of port
wine out of his pocket and said wouldn't you know."
"No thanks," I said.
He took a good snort and then shook his head, side to side,
and said, "Do you know what this creek reminds me of?"
"No," I said, tying a gray and yellow fly onto my leader.
"It reminds me of Evageline's vagina, a constant dream
of my childhood and promoter of my youth."
"That's nice," I said.
"Longfellow was the Henry Miller of my childhood," he
"Good," I said.
I cast into a little pool that had a swirl of fir needles going
around the edge of it. The fir needles went around and around.
It made no sense that they should come from trees. They looked
perfectly contented and natural in the pool as if the pool had
grown them on watery branches.
I had a good hit on my third cast, but missed it.
"Oh, boy, " he said. "I think I'11 watch you fish. The stolen
painting is in the house next door. "
I fished upstream coming ever closer and closer to the
narrow staircase of the canyon. Then I went up into it as if
I were entering a department store. I caught three trout in
the lost and found department. He didn't even put his tackle
together. He just followed after me, drinking port wine and
poking a stick at the world.
"This is a beautiful creek, " he said. "It reminds me of
Evangeline's hearing aid. "
We ended up at a large pool that was formed by the creek
crashing through the children's toy section. At the beginning
of the pool the water was like cream, then it mirrored out
and reflected the shadow of a large tree. By this time the
sun was up. You could see it coming down the mountain.
I cast into the cream and let my fly drift down onto along
branch of the tree, next to a bird.
I set the hook and the trout started jumping.
"Giraffe races at Kilimanjaro!" he shouted, and every
time the trout jumped, he jumped.
"Bee races at Mount Everest !" he shouted.
I didn't have a net with me so I fought the trout over to
the edge of the creek and swung it up onto the shore.
The trout had a big red stripe down its side.
It was a good rainbow.
"What a beauty, " he said.
He picked it up and it was squirming in his hands.
"Break its neck, " I said.
"I have a better idea, " he said. "Before I kill it, let me
at least soothe its approach into death. This trout needs a
drink. " He took the bottle of port out of his pocket, unscrewed
the cap and poured a good slug into the trout's mouth.
The trout went into a spasm.
Its body shook very rapidly like a telescope during an
earthquake. The mouth was wide open and chattering almost
as if it had human teeth.
He laid the trout on a white rock, head down, and some
of the wine trickled out of its mouth and made a stain on the
The trout was lying very still now.
"It died happy, " he said.
"This is my ode to Alcoholics Anonymous.
"Look here !"