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Behind the Scenes of "The Fish"

Patrick Somerville

bonus features:
Some of the things that Jo-Jo grunts (an incomplete glossary) by B. C. Edwards

Appendix 3B, "The Instructive Incident of the Lawn and its Necessary Lessons" by Steve Himmer

Alternate Ending to Shya Scanlon's "Portrait of the Oughtist" by Paula Bomer (with two collages by James J. Williams III)

Joan Enright's pie recipe (as featured in Eliza Tudor's "Person, Place, or Thing"

A Behind-theScenes essay for "Cold Travel" by Gabriel Urza

Camp Conversation: Lydia Conklin and Gabe Durham discuss summer camp

Hello Clone, I Will Say by Gabe Durham (featuring illustration by Lydia Conklin)

excerpt (chapter 1) from Steven Rinella's American Buffalo

Champaign-Urbana Gymnopédie by Scott Garson

visit Patrick Somerville's website

Behind the Scenes of "The Fish" by Patrick Somerville

I’ve twice gone out to Montana to fish the Big Horn with my father.  The fishing there is amazing, and it’s unusual in that you spend your days fly-fishing out of a three-man boat, which tends to make things more exciting.  I’ve never fallen out in the choppier water, but it’s definitely possible.  For tourists like me and my dad, one fisherman rides in the front (standing), another in the back (standing), and in the middle, your guide takes care of the oars and the steering—not particularly easy in the Big Horn’s fast waters. 

These guides on the Big Horn are pretty interesting, idiosyncratic people—I imagine it might be self-selecting, but then again, sometimes I think everyone who lives in Montana might be a little crazy.  (I say that fondly, Montana.  Don’t kill me.)  So I wrote a draft of this story a couple years ago, then, before giving it to Aaron at Hobart, went back last summer and told the guides about it. 

Hands down, they thought the whole idea was ridiculous.  They told me the chances were low—very, very low—that anything like what happened to Mr. Ishikawa in the story would ever actually happen on the Big Horn.  Grizzly Bears just don’t hang around that area.

I spent awhile wondering if I should just abandon the story; I wondered if this crucial fact didn’t undermine everything.  I’m not one to care much about realism, or fiction’s fidelity to “the real world,” whatever that may be, but this particular story, on the other hand, seemed premised on getting the details right.  I wanted the fishing to not just sound right but be right.  I wanted the geography to be right.  I wanted it all to feel very real.

What I ended up deciding, though, is that there’s a certain harmony between the possible apocrypha of the grizzly bear story and the possible apocrypha of Ben’s past.  Ben’s accepted family narrative is not correct, and his afternoon with Carl is enough to nudge him, a little, out of his sourness. 

Because of that, I felt like it was okay that the bear story was probably bullshit, too.

The Singing Fish: Revisited by Peter Markus

Three Different Apocalypses by Lucy Corin

My Eagle Scout Project: A Sidewalk: A List, an extra short by Adam Peterson

Deer Summer Sausage recipe (and illustration) by Mike Alber

The Lake Monster Is Curious: An Alternate Ending in the Monster’s Point of View, by Becky Hagenston