Okay– so in the excitement about Immortal (which I still love!) and the hustle about RT, and then, hello, the frickin’ plague, I haven’t mentioned this book in a while.
But it’s out in less than three weeks…
And it’s… uhm…
Well, everybody remember Nascha? And people couldn’t figure out what Nascha was doing in Lights, Camera, Cupid, the anthology from Bluewater Bay?
Well this book is the reason that story was in there.
And here we get to see Nascha from the perspective of Cal, his great-nephew, who really loves him. And he needs that adorkable kid on the cover like he needs his next breath–and another fish like he needs a hole in the head.
Here’s an excerpt from The Deep of the Sound:
going out today, Calladh?” Uncle Nascha sounded surprised. He’d slept in the
battered corduroy recliner the night before, and the corduroy wrinkles obscured
his face so much Cal hadn’t seen his eyes were open in the dark of the living room.
just come in from the boat dock to grab his forgotten lunch, and he didn’t
state the obvious: he was wearing his hip-waders and old slicker, and it was
five o’clock on a misty, freezing morning in February. There was nowhere to go but out.
Nascha—if I can catch enough freshwater cod, the chef at the Global’ll buy ’em
from me.” Nascha knew this. Cal worked two jobs—one was as a busboy at the
Global Restaurant and Casino and the other was his own independent fishing
business. Between the two of them, he could just barely afford the payments on Nascha’s ramshackle
beachfront house, and someone to come look after Nascha and Keir.
brother will miss you when you’re gone.”
closed his eyes. “I know, Nascha. But you need to make him take his pills
anyway.” Keir didn’t listen to Nascha quite like
he listened to Cal, but Cal couldn’t help that. Cal had set the meds out in the little weekly plastic thing,
the white for day and the black one for night. God, he hoped he’d got it right.
Adderall, risperdone, Cymbalta—ADHD, Aspergers, anxiety, OCD, possible bi-polar—it
was a powerful cocktail, and they’d gone through . . . hell, vehicles,
teachers, sheriffs, and half the kitchen to get it right. Keir was prone to
hitting things with rocks and fire when he was anxious or upset. Nascha used to
be able to deal with him, but Nascha had his own drug cocktail now, Exelon
ranking high on the list. Nascha didn’t always remember that Keir needed his medicine—morning
and evening cocktails—without Cal or
a caregiver around. He also didn’t remember to turn off the stove or take the
bread out of the toaster or to keep Keir inside the house.
he didn’t remember that Keir was no longer a little boy running down the street
screaming in a voice that would shatter glass. Keir was twenty now, with a
powerful body and a fondness for all of Cal’s fishing knives (which Cal kept
locked in the safe out by the boat), and a disturbing habit of tracking the girls
in their neighborhood.
dress, shows her ass when she bends over. Stop yelling, Cherry. Stop yelling,
it leads to hitting.”
fixation on girls wasn’t limited to the extremely young, but what was Cal
supposed to do? He’d told the doctor who dispensed the meds, but his only response had been to up Keir’s
knew—just knew—that his parents would
have been able to deal with Keir. His mother and father had been so capable, had such pure hearts and such
practical joy in dealing with their fractious, damaged son. But they’d gone for
a drive after heavy rains six years ago, and their battered pickup had been
washed off the side of a mountain in a mudslide.
dreams of college, of playing sports, of meeting a boy the way his mother had
met his father—all of that had gone washing down the mountain too. At barely
eighteen, he’d been left in charge of keeping things together, and part of that
was making sure Keir had his medication, and Uncle Nascha got his too. And living with that gnawing worry, every day,
from dawn until dusk, past dusk until he was just too tired to see anymore
said, snapping Cal back to the present through eyes gritty with lack of sleep. “I
mean go out tonight. It’s Valentine’s Day this week, Cal—don’t you have a
school dance to go to?”
So Cal was in high school now. He understood.
Nascha—no dances for Cal. Cal doesn’t go to dances, remember?” Cal doesn’t go
to dances because Cal doesn’t really like girls, he thought ironically. Yet one
more thing he hadn’t been able to talk to his parents about since their car had
gone tumbling down into the river.
was on the reservation,” Nascha said, his voice ironic too as they spoke of Cal
in the third person, “Cal could dance with the two-spirit children, and nobody
would think the less of him.”
sure, it always sounded like Mecca
when Nascha talked about the reservation, but Nascha had left when he’d been
not much older than Cal. Cal understood that Indian Gaming had improved things
somewhat on the reservation—but that didn’t mean he was a fan of all the
changes it brought about in the non-reservation
parts of the state.
just want to be left the fuck alone,” Cal snarled, feeling bad even as he did. Nascha
and Keir were his family—his only family. He couldn’t afford to piss them off, because they were
all stuck in this tiny house together, and they were all each other had.
lie in bed awake sometimes, exhausted and aching because he
you just need to go dance,” Nascha said calmly, not taking offense. Just like
when Cal had been a fractious kid, losing patience with Keir because he’d been
fixating on the same damned cartoon for weeks,
Nascha had never lost his keel.
that about him. It was why, in spite of his increasing anxiety over leaving
Nascha alone with Keir, he couldn’t bring himself to put Nascha in a home
I’ll let you know if a dance opens up for me,” he muttered, swallowing against
the tightness in his throat.
Nascha spoke sharply, and the long ingrained habit of responding to his elders
with respect crackled through Cal’s bones, snapping his spine erect and
widening his eyes.
Great Uncle.” His hip boots were clean, thank God, so he could walk across the
worn brown carpet and into the living room. The old television—36”, but
pre-flat screen, so it took up about a third of the space in the small room—was
set low, but a parade of Viagra commercials and spoiled rich women reflected
off Nascha’s face, even as he turned his attention to Cal.
listen to me. I know sometimes I forget—sometimes your mother is still alive,
and your father, bless their hearts. Sometimes you and Keir are boys and your
family is staying with me and I am so happy. But when I remember, I see what
time has made of you, and you are old before your time.”
a child. The Uncle Nascha who had been young at heart, and kind, and who had
offered patience and peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches and native stories
about the gods who fought each other while the people watched, leaving behind
mountains in their wake. The Uncle Nascha who would wander away when his
parents were having money troubles, and come back in a few days, smelling of
cigars and whiskey, with more cash than should be legal in this world.
kneeled in front of his great uncle’s chair. “It’s not so bad,” he said
roughly, thinking that it wasn’t anything, any sacrifice at all, as long as
Nascha could be like this, be the elder and the confidant and the grown-up all
should sell this house, Cal,” Nascha said, and his voice warbled, became
fractious. “The reservation would pay money for it, set up a casino and a
marina—you could make enough money to put me in a home, to take care of your
brother. You could go out and live your life.”
a deep breath, and then another, willing his face to stay stoic, willing his
eyes not to burn. “But what is my life without my family?” he asked, trying
hard to smile.
sighed. “Is that what I say to you when I can’t remember?”
“It’s what I know to be true,” Cal said, finding his feet again, remembering
who really was the grownup. He bent and kissed his uncle’s forehead, hating
himself for the brief moment of hope. “Dottie will be here at eight. She’ll
feed you both. I’ll try to get her to remember the medicine.”
was in her sixties—which was good because it made her exempt from Keir’s
pathological hatred—but she was also apparently from a time when healthy men didn’t
rely on pills to keep them tethered to the earth. She was good at keeping them
fed, at reminding Uncle Nascha he needed to use the john, at getting him out to
walk around the neighborhood, and at not taking Keir’s shit—but she was just as
likely to “forget” the meds and pretend they had no use at all. Those were the
days Cal came home to find Keir banging his hand against the wall until it
bruised and Nascha in tears because he didn’t know who the crazy man in the
living room was.
really better for all involved if Nascha, when he was bright and alert in the
mornings, could remember the medication for
both of them.
Nascha called to his retreating back, and Cal couldn’t take it anymore.
his voice and his composure. “But make it quick, old man, because my fish today
are buying our groceries, and right now there’s only about enough spaghetti
left for lunch.”
look of hurt followed Cal out the garage door and into the dory rocking gently
on the waters inside.
people kept their cars in a garage—but Cal’s battered blue Ford F-150 was
parked in front of the mossy lawn of the house itself. His parents had been
driving the same kind of vehicle when they’d fallen down the mountain, but Cal
had long since gotten over his fear. The truck had been cheap, and it ran, and
it was one of three reliable things in Cal’s life since that rainy April when
half the mountain had slid away and carried most of Cal’s hopes with it.
of Cal’s hopes—and his father’s only dream—sat in the little docking bay
attached to the house. The covered bay protected much of the twenty-foot dory,
and Cal hopped in with the ease of someone who had been steering such a vessel for most of his
end of the dory was flattened, to make the outboard motor effective and keep it
going where Cal pointed it, and Cal handled the craft expertly—and with great wariness.
the quiet waters of the sound, the unexpected could turn deadly. Given that
Cal’s parents had been killed by a simple drive through the San Juans, Cal made
that truism his mantra.
steadily through the mist, grateful for his tightly woven wool sweater. It had been his father’s,
purchased from one of the reservations in Alaska, and something about the small-gauged knitting of
the high-loft wool made the zip-up sweater almost waterproof—and blessedly,
things old school—he wasn’t a fan of the casinos or the tourists or the television
show, no matter how good those things were for the town. He really didn’t like all of the strange
people mucking about in the
pure vistas he’d grown up in. The way he fished reflected that. He didn’t have
a fish-finder or sonar—just himself, and his nets and his little boat.
fishing territory his father had unerringly staked out, year after year. Just
his. Cal knew the landmarks, the distance from his home shore, the line of
sight to the Canadian shore, the dimensions of the rugged slopes of Mt. Olympus
in the distance—Call knew the relation of all these things to the waters his
father fished, and he knew that within these boundaries, there would,
murmured a prayer to whatever gods his uncle prayed to—Musp the transformer,
Bluejay the trickster, and whoever else might be listening—and cast his net. Count,
breathe, putter through the black water and the mist until the cinch at the top
began to close, and stop, allowing the boat to drift while he stood, minding
the way the dory would feel like it was tipping over before it recovered.
using a smaller net, he culled the fish, throwing out the salmon, because it
wasn’t their season, and the hake because they were threatened, and hoping for
cod or rockfish in the seine net.
haul he pulled in a couple of four or five pounders, and these he dumped in the
center of the boat, knowing the dory was made to hold nearly a ton, and that
odds were good he’d never fill it with that much fish in a day.
was making a good haul, sorting carefully, his fingers and arms aching with the
work. It was good work, a part of him thought. Honest work. Somehow, when he
was out on the sound, he never found himself wondering about the scholarships
he hadn’t taken or the places he’d never seen. Somehow, on the bay, it was
cull, haul, dump–back breaking and soothing, his day continued, until he
thought he had time for two, maybe three more tries. He was just pulling the net tight, the better to cull the purse
seine, when he felt it. A force—a terrific, muscular pull, lunging from the side of the boat. The net distorted and the
dory leaned dangerously to the port side, and Cal cast about with the culling net, trying to fight
off whatever had the seine.
in the sound, something that should have been in the open ocean—thrashed underneath his net,
knocking it out of his hand. Oh fuck—he floundered, draped half over the side of the dory,
trying not to lose a piece of equipment he couldn’t afford to replace.
hung up on the purse seine, and he snagged it, pulling the seine close to him
and ignoring the perilous tip of the boat. The waters out here were freezing,
deep, and unforgiving. If he went so far as to tip over the dory, the odds of
getting it upright with him in it before he froze to death were sad and thin.
set free whatever leviathan he’d accidentally caught, and found that it had cinched too
tight to open, and the weight on the transom was making the bolts creak
with the strain.
fucking fish or it would kill him.
grasped the seine net in both hands, braced his feet against the side of the
dory, and hauled.
popped with the strain, and still that thing fought trying desperately to
escape, trying desperately to live.
the other until most of the net was in the boat and the monster’s struggles
echoed against the outside of the dory, banging a hollow, pounding tattoo
across the rolling waters of the sound.
and Cal screamed, grabbing the fishing gaff, bunching his body to spear this
fucker, still it, make it just fucking
for stability and leaned over the side of the boat.
primal vertebrate, a ridge of bone on either side of its body, and a sharp, pronglike
snout—it must have been seven feet long, and oh, fuck.
no. Not one of those. I can’t sell that!
grab the knife and cut the thing free, but it gave a seismic convulsion,
dragging him up and almost over the side of the boat. For a moment he dangled,
watching the fish submerge again, and behind him, he heard a bolt popping as
the transom threatened to burst.
and hurled the gaff at the thrashing sturgeon, stunning it. The gaff stayed
stuck in the creature’s skull, and he was reaching into his pocket for his
knife, thinking it was best just to cut his net and cut his losses, when the
fish gave another titanic heave.
both hands again. The damned thing could still pull him over, even with a gaff
in its head.
own tortured breathing and the echoes of the giant green sturgeon pounding against
the boat. With a groan, deep from his stomach, clenching every formidable
muscle in his body, Cal hauled the fish over the side.
itself around some more, the rough scales on the top of its body ripping
through Cal’s waders and through a sizeable bit of flesh on his shin as well.
head had less to do with survival and more to do with anger and pain, but it
wouldn’t have mattered. There was no way—not for one man—to free the fish from
the net and keep the boat from capsizing. As it was, Cal finally had a chance
to reach for the six-inch serrated fishing knife in his pocket. He unfolded the
knife and hurled it with deadly accuracy, splitting the fish between the eyes
and cleaving its prehistoric brain in two.
over it, panting, until it finally played itself out.