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Gone fishing

My phone rings Sunday morning, another body found in the Columbia river. A quick shower and then I’m on the highway. Black coffee, staticy classical music on the radio. It’s raining, and there’s mud on the roads.

I arrive at the scene. I inch carefully down the embankment to the shore and step over yellow tape that flutters in the wind. The river reflects the morning light like living glass, and across it is a sea of pine trees like undulating waves.

The photographers and other police stand aside and look to me. “I assume it’s another young woman,” I say. There is agreement, then someone starts to rattle off the details. I’ve heard it all a million times, the bruising, the fingernails and the defensive wounds, the insect larvae, not just at work but every day at home on the news, on tv shows, in books, in idle conversation, everywhere, sewn like a rotting strand of sinew through the tapestry of our culture.

“…think it could be the same perpetrator?”

“Yeah, sure, could be,” I say. But it never is. We’d love for it to be one man, but it’s everyone, every day, all the time. Body after body dumped into water–rivers, oceans, lakes, wells, reservoirs, sewers–plopping off the conveyor belt of murder one after the other with the hollow splash of heavy stones. I’m staring at the river, at the sun glinting on its windripples, and the trees, dark and quiet trees on the other side. How far is it across? I wonder. Six or seven hundred feet?

“… to talk to her family. I’ll contact the boyfriend, and we should talk to her ex as well.”

“Yeah, have Collins do that,” I say. It’s always the boyfriend, or the father, or the ex, or the uncle, or the friend, almost never a stranger. Always someone who was meant to be loving and protecting. I see a splash out in the water, probably a fish leaping, free to dance back and forth across the imaginary line between Oregon and Washington. I think of that fish slipping through the cold darkness, zipping off to God knows where. I imagine the delicious chill of the water on its scales, on my skin, the burbling of water in my ears and the murky light down there, the fog of mud kicked up and hiding everything, hiding me.

“…you going to talk to the family? Boss?” They’re all looking at me. The sun is above the trees now, and it’s getting warm. I take off my jacket and hand it to someone. Undo the top button of my shirt. “Yeah,” I say, “Yeah, I’ll head there now.” Pebbles crunch under my boots, then water soaks my ankles, my knees. Footsteps behind me, they’re calling my name, then finally silence, and cold water chills my blood and slows my heart, for once a cool heart. Something silvery brushes against my arm, and dances away into the muddy dark.

Jonas David is a writer and editor at Lucent Dreaming magazine and lives in the Seattle area with his wife and two cats.

Read more from Jonas here and here .

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