Fact of Nature

You could think of it as an evolutionary advancement. Steelheads can spawn multiple times, whereas their salmon kin buck their way upstream only once. It’s a good thing: the average steelhead dad swims out to the big ocean for a couple of months, has a time of it, then comes back to his small hometown river to make a family. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Higher chance his DNA survives. Nobody holds it against him. Nobody gets cross. Nobody gets pissed at you for sticking up for him. He’s your dad, and it’s okay to like your dad even though he left. It’s not bad to have multiple families. It’s the whole point.

You could think of it as an act of optimism. A steelhead dad doesn’t need to stick around because he trusts his kids to handle themselves. A small-time river’s not so big that a young fry can’t figure things out. You hatch; you swim. That’s it. Somebody will be around to show you how to catch a baseball or fix the chain on a bike or mow a lawn. That’s what an ecosystem is for.

You could think of it as a simple fact of nature. Steelheads don’t know who their half-siblings are, so you never know when you might swim by each other. It must happen all the time. They might live near you or maybe one river over. They might look exactly like you with the same square jaw, the same hair so blond it’s silver. Somebody might say they saw you at the K-mart off M-39 even though you were at little league. Somebody else might swear they saw you at the Pizza Hut buffet because the kid used cottage cheese as a salad dressing, just like you do. You might go to the county youth fair with your mom and wander toward the carnival games. You might come across a booth with a giant trout marquee where a kid that looks like you stands next to a lady your dad used to work with, playing one of those fishing games where you try to catch wooden fish with a magnet, you grabbing your mom’s wrist, saying, Please don’t, she stopping cold, saying, That son of a bitch.

D.E. Hardy’s work has appeared in X-R-A-Y Magazine, Lost Balloon, Flashback Fiction, New World Writing, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and will be anthologized in Best Small Fictions 2022 and Best Microfictions 2023. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be followed on Twitter @dehardywriter and at www.dehardywriter.com.

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