Sole Fisher of the Eighth Node
Dreamed 1986/9/25 by Chris Wayan
It's a chill day on the northern California coast. Midmorning, but so overcast it seems predawn. I'm biking down from the hills to the sea, where a famous pier goes straight out miles; the end is lost in haze. Every kilometer or so, it swells into a wide round landing, like a chakra on the pier's spine. And like chakras, they're numbered: Nodes 1-7.
I start biking out to sea. Paralleling the pier is a line of fishing boats moored together, forming a solid strip. It's a linear floating village--and the pier I'm biking on is its business street. Here the fishers sell seafood of all kinds; each node is known for deeper fish than the last. People from the City come for bargains. It's a rough life, but they fought to keep their village pier when the EPA wanted to remove it. But they appealed and won status as a living historical monument. They can go on selling sole to the cityfolk.
I pass through seven nodes, and to my surprise the pier goes on a bit, windy and deserted. I bike out to the very end--the Eighth Node. I feel a little scared out here; it's chill and damp and the sea is so huge and close. Behind me the sun slogs over the hill at last, still half cloud-hid and dim, though it's nearly 10 AM. The few fishers out here all hunt for sole; they're friendly, for few outsiders come this far. One says gently "You're shivering." I say "I'm too thin, I have no heat-reserves. I could never live out here. But I'm meeting someone. I... I came a long way."
At the deep end of the eighth node, one lone boat is moored. I walk out to her. A tall melancholy rawboned woman in her thirties greets me, and I climb on board. Down in the cabin, we sit and talk a long time. She tells me the history of the pier and the nature of the nodes, and the mists, and herself... and me.
She says the sea here turns green in the sun. Now it's black. Absolutely black.
She sighs "That reflects my mood, I guess. I'm... melancholy these days. I feel plain. I'm getting old. The sea ages you--it's clean out here, you can live forever, but you don't stay young too long on the sea."
I look at her, amid her nest of maps and books and radio and cooking, and say shyly "To me, you're... quite good-looking." She seems not to respond. I say "The sea doesn't change your bones, and your bones are good; it keeps you trim and athletic, and you look good; your face is quite attractive, and the sea doesn't change that. The only thing I can see the sea do is salt your skin, weather your skin... is that what you mean?" She lowers her eyes in silence. Perhaps I'm right, but she hasn't looked at it like that?
I say "If you protect your skin with lotion containing PABA, vitamin A, and vitamin D, your skin will become young-looking and stay so. I know what I'm talking about--this isn't well-meaning speculation. Mine looked old and it got younger!" She looks at me warily. "It's quite cheap; I know you don't earn much, trading in soles, but you can afford this!"
The tentative sun is gaining some silver confidence. The bottom is faintly visible far below: tawny ripples of sand in a current. And the sea is green as she said! As beautiful as her liquid eyes.
She showers and lets me too... a fraternal feeling, no sexual overtones, despite her hunger for a mate.
She says "I'll have to send you back soon" and I say "okay--I know I'm keeping you from your work."
She checks around and find someone already putting out the Noon Noose, a seine net that lassos whole fish-schools. But it has a second use: I hop down into a shark-cage of bright rainbow-painted balsa wood, and float along in the Lasso, towed by the fishers. Passed along, node by node, back to the waking shore.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
My family's prone to skin cancer on face & hands. I'm the only one left who's never had it. So far that dream-prescription looks pretty good.
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