David Lleyn received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from The University of California at Berkeley. After a business career, he is now circling back to his roots and trying his hand at writing. His work can be read in the print journal 580 Split and in the online magazine Subtle Fiction. David lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, dog, and cat. He used to have a Chinese Fighting fish until the cat ate it.
Where The Moon Makes A River On The Water
That night on the water there was no moon and we were making squid. That’s what they call it between fishermen—making squid. We were out at sea again, my dad and me. And us fishermen needed squid for bait to catch the Johnny Bass in the morning.￼
￼Our chartered party boat sat idling two hundred yards off California’s San Clemente Island. I can still hear the diesel engines gurgling through the dark and feel the generator vibrating up through the deck and smell the summer sea air mixed with fuel. And if I close my eyes, the boat is rocking gently, and there’s my dad explaining how the darkest nights are best for making squid. He’s on deck in his yellow windbreaker, sea legs straddling the wooden tackle box I gave him that one birthday, two days of beard stubble poking through a face ten years younger than I am now. He’s fiddling with his favorite two-speed lever- drag Shimano fishing reel. And he looks so young leaning against the starboard bow rail, a breeze off the island lifting his hair and the smell of the sea filling him—filling him in a way that my mom could never do. Or his work. Or his whisky. Or me. Or anything else, for that matter.
The deck hands rigged a searchlight from atop the pilothouse. They’re drawn to the moonlight, my dad said, so on moonless nights you create a false moon and fool them. You lay a light on the water and when they come to the surface, you scoop them up with a net! Just then my dad pointed to where the deck hand was raising his net. The surface churned frothy white and then came a writhing mass of tentacles and translucent tubes, spitting and spurting and cavitating in the air. You’d have thought Medusa herself emerged from the deep. Every scoop a few lucky squid spilled back into the sea. But we got loads anyway, that summer night, under that false moon.
My dad was a fisherman and a salesman and a drunk. Don’t ask me what he was first or second or third because I don’t know the order. On his desk at home there was a walnut and a hook mounted on a block of wood with a brass plate that said, “I’m a fishing nut.” He also had a gold plastic trophy: “World’s Greatest Salesman.” He didn’t have any tchotchke, though, that sang the praises of his drinking. I once thought of giving him a baseball cap that said “World’s Greatest Drunk.” But I never did.
We fished a lot and all year round. In the winter we’d go bottom fishing at the outer Channel Islands. We used lead weights to get to the bottom and tied up to ten hooks on the line. We caught the Red Snapper and Rock Cod that way.There really wasn’t any sport to catching them - just dead weight coming up. And they lived so deep that, when you brought them to the surface, the change in pressure exploded their stomachs out their mouths. They looked like they were sticking their tongues at you, sort of like a fuck you for catching them. My dad taught me how to head and gut them and throw the entrails up to the seagulls on the trip back in and make a pretty good fish stew and how to forget what he said to me the night before when he was stinking drunk. He was best at teaching me how to do that.