The Salmon Were Killed by Global Warming
Pamela Benjamin (San Francisco State, US)
They swam viciously in my stomach. Tens of thousands of wily salmon fighting upstream, leaping over one another in the freezing chill. I watch the thin red sticks fly by the car window, poking sharply out of the ground dressed with dried berries left un-picked from the summer.
The trees are so green, but I’m surrounded by death and memory.
“We had so many salmon last year. You could fish for them. Usually they only let the Indians do that, but all the eggs were washed away by the rain. I’m telling you, Global Heating.”
“Warming, harming, heating, whatever.” My mother is trying conversation with me. I am pouting in the back seat of the car as we drive into the city to see my brother.
I’m tired of spending time with him. I’m not who I think I am. I’m a stupid, emotionally fragile little girl with no knowledge of world events or big words or how to debate without crying. I’ve been shoved into a small metal time machine and raced back to 1994.
I hide behind my bangs and try to focus on the trees as we speed over the floating bridge.
“This 300 foot crane toppled and killed a guy watching TV in his apartment, but the operator only came out with a few scrapes. That would have been a hell of a ride, falling 300 feet like that.” My dad motions to a crane outside his window. The car wiggles slightly; my mother screams.
“Timothy! Drive. Don’t tell stories. Just concentrate on the… Ahhh! Was that our exit?” My mother the nervous passenger. Her desperate inhalations when cars come too close. “God Damn it! I don’t want to die today!”
I enjoy listening to my parents bicker in the car. It brings back happy memories. My mother yells without knowing; it’s more of a voice raise and a tonal change, but it’s love.
“Water got into the structure and froze. It just cracked the metal and fell.”
“Marda, I’m telling a story.”
I imagine I’m falling 300 feet in a metal cage strapped to a scaffold atop a building. I feel the crash of the glass and wood and see some man’s impaled body on a metal rod. His open eyes glazed, still focused on Oprah as she rambles about Tom Cruise and African babies.
Trees litter the side of the road. They’ve been recently cleared from the massive wind storms. Power was out in the city.
“Firewood. Look at all the firewood. Once it dries, someone will be able to use that.”
Huge trees were ripped from their roots and toppled power lines. One woman awoke next to her dead boyfriend smashed by an angry branch. Their trailer was decimated.
The salmon are fighting tremendously now. The frigid water splashes the back of my throat as we find a parking place. I see him in the restaurant with his perfect wife and pristine children. I am naked at my high school reunion with a name tag that reads “I haven’t changed a bit”.
There is water in my pipes. It’s supposed to get below freezing tonight. I hope the salmon don’t die.
Pam Benjamin is a writer living in San Francisco who also likes to bake cookies and has an MA in fiction from SFSU. Because she likes framed paper, her MFA in poetry is coming soon.