by Claudia Heath
Do you remember, after it rained, the pale morning spinners at dusk? Their transparent, flat wings catching the last light on the water’s surface. And the trout—you spotted them first—noiselessly nosing up to drink the drowned female bodies, spent after laying their eggs. It was a matter of minutes that we fished, I think, before I could hear you, some thirty yards away, reeling in your line. “Just one more cast,” I said, aiming for a dark run bulging around the bulk of a boulder. And again, when it was beyond dark, “One more cast,” and again, when you pointed out the stars, “This is the last cast, I promise.” I fished by futile feel, not knowing what my fly looked like on the water but knowing that it didn’t feel the way it should—like a spinner falling, weightless, full of grace, having done what it was made to do. You sat on the bank for some time, clearing grit from your reel then rigging it for the morning. Then lying on your back, listening to me curse and splash my way to shore.
In any one of the mayfly eggs that settled in the sediment that evening, there existed the potential of a subsurface maturation period, taking up to two years. In the fall, when you went abroad, one had, theoretically, molted twice. And in the spring, when we ran into each other at a mutual friend’s wedding, it had molted four times and survived sub-zero days and nights. And by summer, it had fended off any number of encounters with reckless debris threatening to dislodge it from its holding place during peak runoff season.
A year after that summer evening, by which time I had finally read the book you gave me and thrown away your tee shirts, the nymph had molted six times, at least. And in October, when the rain never came, the nymph (no bigger than a parenthesis) scooted itself to safety on the sandy bed as the waterline gave chase. Then by your birthday in December, when I presume you received my groveling voice mail, it had finished molting, but it hadn’t yet begun the most crucial stage of its maturation. Regardless, this is all to say that within two years’ time, any mayfly egg laid on that night would have theoretically been ready to emerge in that final, most vulnerable stage of maturation. The stage when it builds up a remarkable pocket of air, a buoyant pocket of air, like a parachute. Like hope itself. And it lets go of the rocks it knows, a risky move, to emerge an adult—a pale morning dun, drying its wings for the day.
I wanted you to know I fished there tonight, more or less two years since we’d gone together, and I wanted you to know it wasn’t the same.
I wrote this story trying to depict a narrator who struggles with directness. It made sense to me that she would try and explain herself using the story of a mayfly: unremarkable to the untrained eye but almost heroic given what it undertakes prior to surfacing.
Claudia Heath is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia where she concentrated in Creative Writing. She now lives in Jackson Hole, WY.