Butte Story

The smog stifled Butte, it’s thickness hanging low and heavy over the mining town. There was no wind that day, just the shifting of hot air between alleyways, as Joyce walked through the Italian suburb of McQueen. A package of salami in one hand, she unwound a paper clip with the other, her small feet quiet on the deserted streets. The sun beat down in its midday heat through the haze, and the warmth of labor rose from the mines below as men reaped Butte’s wealth to ship away for harvest at the various smelters.
As she passed a decrepit stockroom, Joyce plucked a bough off of a tree that had grown through the rotting porch, its withering fibers snapping with little resistance. Dust scuffed up from under her feet and pebbles scattered in her growing haste. Trekking through the streets towards the western edge of town, she took a string from her pocket and tied it to the end of the branch. The housing became less dense the farther she went from the neighborhoods of McQueen, Meaderville, Dublin Gulch, Chinatown, Finn Town, East Side, Corktown, and East Butte. After a while, Joyce came to a open space at the brim of the cultural melting pot that was Butte, and looked out at a children’s fishing pond.
The sign that read its identity was faded, barely hanging from the wooden post that stuck out of the barren ground. The pond, like the rest of Butte, was covered with a layer of grit; moss reached up from the dim-lit water and small insects fed upon its filth. And there were fish. There were large, well-fed fish whose fins paddled drowsily through the murk and eyes bulged from lack of light. The pond essentially lacked mystique to the common eye, but to Joyce’s it achieved the highest merits of wonder. Through her young blue eyes, Joyce saw a utopia filled with glimmering specimen perfect for catching and frying up in her mother’s cast-iron pan. So she sat down on the damp shore and strung the string through the paperclip, a wad of salami gathered on its end. With an appropriate plop, the line was cast into the middle of the pond.
Joyce sat in silence and hopefulness the rest of the day. The sun sank closer towards the mountains each time she recast and by the fifth cast, all waved in good nature, their gates elongated by their eagerness to arrive home. Soon it was dusk, and it was on Joyce’s last cast that a sliver of moon had materialized on the horizon. Her joints stiff from waiting, she shifted in discomfort and impatience, counting the minutes in her head, tapping her toe for the seconds. More time elapsed with each pulsation, and then she felt a tug.
Veins filled with excitement, she wound the string around her wrist, tugging faster, with more effort, against the writhing creature at the end of her line. When finally the beast was drug ashore, Joyce took a nearby rock and brought it down on its large skull. Her arms could barely resist the fish’s weight as she drug it down the streets toward home. She ran all the way to her home, and was out of breath when she plopped the dirt coated fish on her doorstep. Proudly displaying her work to her mother, Joyce wielded the line and being above her head and requested its presence at the dinner table. Her mother, though slightly appalled by the fish’s bedraggled appearance and questionable origins, complied. Joyce fell asleep with the sizzling of its skin against the cast-iron pan still in her ears.





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