Monday, May 21, 2018

Salmon Run by Hector Duarte Jr.

Salmon Run

They’re pointing guns at me. They think I’m strapped.

“Keep your clothes on, Trey. We’re just taking you in to get better. You know the drill.”

Samantha’s talking to the new guy. I don’t know him. They’re whispering, too far away. I can’t hear what they’re saying.

I don’t know why the new guy drew his gun. I haven’t had a gun pointed at me in I don’t know how long. 

I can’t go back to the ALF. Everyone there speaks Spanish. They look at me like I’m from Asia or some shit. I’m speaking English, motherfuckers. The only good thing about that place is how easy it is to get out of there. Just take my meds with a smile, tell them it’s working, and I’m out the door. If I want to go back home, I just jump in front of a car and fuck up an ankle. Soon enough, it’s bandaged up with a phone call to mom, who comes to scoop me up because I’m her son after all. Everyone knows blood is thicker than mental illness.

Mike takes a couple steps closer after the new guy’s done talking with Sam.

She’s only ten but, God bless her, can she read through the bull shit. That’s why they’re here. I just wanted to get out of the house, take a little walk. That Miami sun is such a beautiful thing to see some days, and it makes me want to walk, walk, and walk.

Jesus did that: walked and walked, picking up people who followed him, curing diseases, turning water into wine. I just want to walk like that and get in adventures.

Mom was screaming at me to take my pill before I left. I take that thing, in thirty minutes I won’t want to walk anymore and, fuck me, it’s too pretty a day not to walk under that bulbous sun. Just look at that thing.

“Trey, just get in the car and you’ll be back soon.”

Mike’s a good guy. Always has been, but today he seems angrier. I think he’s trying to set an example for the new guy.

The way the new guy points that gun at me with his hand shaking, I know it’s not true. This time, they’re taking me in for good. I see it in the way tears run down Mom’s cheeks and Sam hangs on to the side of her leg.

I just wanted to leave. Right out the door and into that bright day. Walk the shit out of Miami. Sam was trying to help Mom out when she got in front of the door. I get it, but I just had to leave.

Sam’s so small and light, it wasn’t hard getting her out of the way. Soon as I did, though, she started crying like crazy. Mom’s screams filled the house. I knew I’d done something wrong by the way Sam cried, so I waited for the cops. I took off all my clothes, so they’d see I wasn’t strapped, and sat on the lawn. Mike looked worried when he saw me. I said I just wanted to walk. 

Everyone’s really pissed off this time. It’s because I pushed Sam. I’ve never messed with her before. It’s usually a big screaming match with mom, maybe a light shove.

The new guy won’t put the gun down and I can’t stay here. The sun is so bright, I have to get walking. Imagine being at the beach right now. I have to go. When I come back, it’ll be better.

“Don’t fucking move, man,” the new guy yells when I bend over to pick up my clothes.
Why does he have to curse around my little sister?

“Don’t yell at my sister, sir,” I say, loud enough so he can hear me over the traffic on 117th.

The new guy doesn’t like that. He doesn’t hear an older brother protecting his little sister. He hears a naked black dude sitting on the front lawn of a residential neighborhood. You know, wanting to be respected now that he’s finally in uniform.

Maybe he’s scared, so I put my hands up and walk closer to him to try and shake his hand. I don’t like that he yelled at Sam, but if we talk it out maybe he can be like Mike. I might actually get through to him and he can get to know the drill, how things work around this house. How I’m a regular call on their squawk box. Everyone on the block knows me as the guy with problems, cops are an extended family in this house.

There’s this thing salmon do when they want to spawn. It’s called magnetoception. No matter how long they’ve been away, no matter how far out they’ve ventured in the ocean, they use Earth’s magnetic field to find their way back to the river they were born. Sometimes, they migrate back to the very spot. All to swim up to shore and die. Scooped up by birds and bears so the next generation of fish can make it. No matter what, I always hone in on Sam and mom.

“Don’t fucking move, man,” the new guy shouts. 

Sweat pocks Mike’s forehead as he tells me and the new guy to calm down.

The new guy shakes like Muhammad Ali.

He’s not cut out for this. But I’m not the guy to tell him, so I walk to the car and put my hands on the roof. I’ve done this so many times before. I turn around.

Mom’s still crying. Sam’s gone inside, but I see her staring through the window at my naked self leaning against the cop car. My little sister rubs her eyes hard.

“I’ll be back, Mom. Don’t worry. Go inside and wait. Just a couple of days.”

The new guy approaches with the gun still on me. I can’t leave things like this. It isn’t right. I run back to the front door to give Sam a hug and let her know I’m sorry. 

Mom’s eyes go wide the closer I get to the door. I know she’s happy I’m trying to make things better with my little sister. Mike is screaming at me, but I need Sam to know everything will be okay.

The new guy tells me to stop running. His voice is shaky but it’s louder than the traffic.

Mike yells at him to drop the gun.

Mom closes her eyes.

Sam might not like me right now but the one thing we have in common is home. Take me as far north as possible. Lock me deep inside the scariest mental health place you’ve got, with the biggest walls possible. Like a salmon to Earth’s magnetic pull, I’ll always find my way back home.


Bio Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer out of Miami, Florida and current co-editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. His work has appeared in Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Sliver of Stone, Foliate Oak, Shotgun Honey, Shadows and Light: An Anthology to Benefit Women’s Aid UK, The Whimsical Project, Spelk Fiction, HorrorSleazeTrash, Pulp Metal Magazine, and The Rumpus. He teaches English-Language Arts to high school students and listens to, (as some friends might argue), too much Phish.

He has lectured at The Crime Fiction Here and There and Again Conference in Gdansk, Poland; the second and third Captivating Criminality Conferences in Corsham, England, and Theorizing the Popular at Liverpool’s Hope University. He has also moderated panels at Miami Book Fair and the AWP Conference in Los Angeles.

He loves his cat, Felina, very much