Stamps: Skip Horack27/12/2009
By Skip Horack
A map of the panhandle coastline was spread out across the table, and Landon confirmed that four of his tags had surfaced in the Apalachicola – two just beneath the big dam near the Florida-Georgia line, another two within a few miles of where he was now sitting.
But the fifth tag confounded him. That fifth tag contradicted everything he knew about predicting the tendencies of Gulf sturgeon. Those last coordinates fell far off the chart. Landon consulted another map and realized that Bertha had strayed three hundred miles west of her home stream. In fact, as of midnight, she was just north of New Orleans and traveling up the Mississippi River.
A week later, on the last day of spring, Landon took his john-boat north of Tallahassee and fished a far, empty corner of Lake Jackson. Push-poling through the water hyacinth at dusk, he bumped a pair of wood ducks that flew off squealing to roost in a distant cypress swamp. They were local birds – ducks somehow born without the instinct to migrate north – but in a few months the teal would return to join them in the lake, and soon the widgeon and other big ducks would follow.
A ridge of hardwoods ran along the north shore of the lake, solid save for a wide fairway of lawn that plunged like a scar from the foot of an eggshell mansion on the hilltop. Black men in white jackets floated through a linen crowd scattered across the great lawn. A slight shift in the evening breeze carried piano music across the water, and to Landon it sounded like glass breaking gently.
He worked his boat closer to the party as he cast his spinner bait. Tucked among the cypress knees was a boathouse where he and Cassie had once trespassed and made love. She was a fool for that kind of thing. He supposed they both were.
Skip Horack’s story collection, The Southern Cross, won the 2009 Bakeless Prize in Fiction from the Bread Loaf Writers’ conference. A native of Louisiana, he works as a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University.
This excerpt from “The Gulf Sturgeon Project” is part of the Stamps projects, click here to read more >>