Issue 54, Summer 1972
The first time Avram went over the bar everywhere he looked emerald Pacific Ocean was working, except for the sky-firm above all that motion and the cast of blue he imagined one would see on a television set just before its tubes shattered. Hundreds of feet below the raft on which he squatted with Biggest Ron, lay the continental shelf, another solidness where incredible things scuttled. Avram had already queried the local science center: cabezon and ling, hake, Irish lords, moray, wolf eel, great flat halibut the size of Volkswagens, variations of teeth and stomach enveloped in muscle and fin, all outrageously pigmented. In the middle waters cruised the commoner designs the fish markets consumed: salmon and sole and snappers. But from time to time through the Oregon coast waters the true monsters surfaced: great whales and basking sharks, dolphin and sunfish and sea lions, all passing in their season, rare to landsmen, but respected by each generation of fishermen. On hands and knees Avram followed the sunlight downwards through zillions of plank- ton where jellyfish wafted and miniscule lives glistened. He was at his very edge, having eaten one of Biggest Ron’s smallest orange pills just before they lost control of the raft. Yet looking deep within the surge he felt himself drawn through terror and awe towards the peaceful understanding he could drop himself into that soup and after the initial pain of his bursting chest, sink on forever, disintegrating.
“Trouble with most those town people, they aint got no sense of humor.” Ron leaned over, offering sweet ripple wine, the fifth dwarfed in his hand while his tendons bulged against the ocean chop. “Sorry about this rotgut, Av. I shouldn’t have packed it along. But now we got it out here...” He showed large white teeth in a wide mouth under a straight nose between two extremely large brown eyes. Biggest Ron's eyes were much like a deer’s with swept eyelashes that often tangled in his shingle of blond hair. He had large, thin ears and tied his hair with tuna line in a queue hanging to the small of his back.
Avram was about to sip just to be polite, then realized he did not have to be polite, ever again, to Ron. If indeed they ever came down off of this trip, why for a long time they’d have things very straight between them. Terror gurgled up through his center, blossoming over his face, itching. Ron distorted, limbs lengthening like cudgels, blondness radiating chestnut energy lines in which his wide brown eyes bulged, a Spanish Monk gazing through a Viking mask. Avram felt his teeth exposed to the salty air as his flesh cramped upwards in an acidic grin. Of course, he realized, Ron was slightly mad, the fishermen in town also, all fishermen always had been somewhat mad. Snug little boats-lines all shipeyshape and coppery bottoms drum tight for sailing the salty sea-seldom existed; such were landmen’s tales, the sort of treacle mothers ted into the porches of their sons’ ears to insure their sons thought all the possible worlds dull space, and so went dutifully to fill the place behind fathers’ dentist chairs. Of course -Avram understood, looking into Ron’s wild wet eyes-Ron probably felt They and Us all his life. Walls shifted in his mind while distances yawned, distances on which thoughts spread faint as butter under time horizons raddled with galaxies of possibilities. The mystery of danger-the palpable danger in so much of man’s work-glowed on Avram’s landscape and his muscles stiffened to it. I must, he knew. I must break my mold.