The Taste of Fish in the Fog

I remember this one day in particular. The three of us were at the driving range. Melanie stayed in the car and read one of her books. She never went anywhere without a book to read. Wendy went over behind the maintenance shed and tried to score a joint off of one of the scruffy grounds keepers. She had a knack for scoring dope off of scruffy guys. She was always on the lookout for scruffy guys off of whom to score a little dope when she had a minute or two to spare.

When I was through trying to knock down San Bruno Mountain by hitting golf balls into it, Melanie and Wendy and I stopped off at a fancy cemetery in Colma to feed the ducks. If you’ve never been to Colma, it’s all cemeteries, wall-to-wall cemeteries. The one we went to was the biggest, the fanciest, the most exclusive. All sorts of famous San Francisco rich people were buried there — Crockers, Fleishackers, you name it — the place was so fancy it had its own private duck pond. Wendy and Melanie were over feeding the ducks. They were cute together. They’re still cute together, only now it’s all six of them — Melanie and Wendy and Melissa and Amber and Caitlyn and…that other one, the other new one. Fuck. I forget her name. It’ll come to me.

I ought to get them all up here at my mother’s house one of these days, Melanie and Wendy and my four darling grandchildren. I could take them out to the golf course. They could feed the five families of Canadian Geese. I could introduce them to my golfing buddies. Johnny Pelosi would like that — Felix, Knapp, Bergeron, Wallace, Ford — they’d all like it. They all have families of their own.

Anyway, Melanie and Wendy were over feeding the ducks. I was tired. My neck was sore. I sat down in the grass and leaned against the side of one of the headstones. There were cherubs on the headstone — curly-headed, angelic-looking kids with their cheeks puffed out. Below the cherubs, the headstone said:

“In Loving Memory”

Leaning against the grainy gray granite felt good. It was cool and soothing against the back of my aching neck. The harder I leaned against it the better it felt. I closed my eyes and could feel wisps of fog coming from the ocean. The fog wasn’t cold. It tasted like fish, some bony, bottom-dwelling scavenger fish, like the fish Elliot used to catch after his father shot himself. That was probably how Ginny and Elliot came into my mind — from the taste of fish in the fog.

The way they came into my mind was like a dream, but better; like a fantasy, like a vision. They were both in new bodies. They had been reincarnated into fairy bodies; tiny little Tinkerbell bodies, with greenish-white lights inside them, like Ginny’s body and my body had been down inside the cavern under that burnt out old tree stump in La Honda. But this time it was Ginny and Elliot. Naked. Cavorting. They weren’t in a redwood forest, though. They were in a jungle, a warm, steamy rain forest somewhere.

They were swinging on vines, landing on shaky branches, losing their balance, catching it again, singing Yma Sumac songs to each other across the lush valleys, thin and white as newborn children among the dark branches. And they were beckoning to me, beckoning to me with their arms, like we were kids and they wanted me to come out and play. They were happy. Elliot was flat-out laughing — there wasn’t anything twitchy about it. He couldn’t talk he was laughing so hard. Ginny was laughing too, but she could still talk. She yelled at me, in fact. She called across the gulf between us with her hand cupped around her mouth and her cheeks puffed out like one of the cherubs on the headstone, like she was Little Boy Blue, like she was blowing her horn.

“Come on, dodo, don’t be scared. You can fly! See! Watch!” She grabbed a long vine and swung like Tarzan from one tree to another, righted herself like a small gymnast on a balance beam, and called over to me again. “Did you see? It’s easy. You can do it. You can!”

I felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice — like that scene in King Lear where Edgar leads Gloucester to the extreme verge of one the cliffs of Dover. I got vertigo. I could feel myself falling. They weren’t that far away. If I jumped, it would be okay. It would be like that ant jumping off my arm in La Honda. My arms felt like they would turn into wings if I jumped. I could glide down and land next to them on one of the branches and — poof — I’d be in a little green and white Tinkerbell body of my own.