on the docks

Although he may well have been pleased, Jeffrey Pigeon stopped showing his face at the docks. Eddie figured he had nothing more to say about fish….”


by j.r. salling


His skin as white as a slug’s underbelly, Jeffrey Pigeon was always observing from under his broad-brimmed straw hat as the crew cut and weighed the catch. He commented on each fish. Most days he carried a snow cone and nibbled on the ice between remarks, but not this day.

“Well, that’s a sockdolager,” Jeffrey said blinking, referring to a sizeable halibut. Troubled by the salt air and the bright twinkling of the waves, he often blinked, a rat-a-tat-tat of the eyelids that worked against his efforts to be confident and authoritative.

His comment quickened the convection currents within the cerebral tissue of one of the fishermen, a large, sun-bloated fellow who wore an open baseball shirt with the name “Eddie” on the back. For weeks Eddie had listened to the inane commentary from the man who looked as if he wouldn’t know one end of a rod from the other. He could take no more. With two hands he grasped the fish by the tail, stepped up, and planted it against Jeffrey’s square head. The impact sent a current of pleasure through the air that traveled through every witness of the incident. It also sent the hat flying.

“No, buddy. There’s your sockdolager,” Eddie said, pushing out his barrel of a chest.

Staggering, blinking to excess, Jeffrey Pigeon retrieved his hat, made some small repairs, and returned it to his cubical dome. He rubbed the area of impact for a moment, then walked over to the edge of the dock and found his reflection in the water. Apparently pleased with the shiny scales the fish had left behind, he smiled and thanked the now puzzled fisherman, who nodded with caution and returned to work.

Although he may well have been pleased, Jeffrey Pigeon stopped showing his face at the docks. Eddie figured he had nothing more to say about fish.

Several months later members of the crew arrived before dawn and began to prepare the boat for the day’s effort. Eddie was late. The captain waited, allowing the engine to rumble for a few minutes more than his routine. He hated to be a man short. The last task for the crew when he began to pull away was to secure the dock bumpers.

“Shit, man. Look at this,” one of them shouted. The other end of the nylon rope in his hands was tied around the ankles of a man. “I think it’s Eddie.”

The captain cut the engine. He knew right away that they would not be leaving the dock for the near future. “Let’s get him out of the water.”

They managed to do so without using the grappling hooks when they heard a familiar voice.

“Now there’s a keeper – a real scale buster that one.”

The slack-jawed crew watched Jeffrey Pigeon tip his hat and stroll away, melting into the palms. They would always think of him as the one who got away.

Originally published:
Issue Forty-Seven
February 2007


(photo: john richen)

J.R. Salling is a teacher of mathematics, which should not imply any special ability in the discipline. His stories, for example, don’t always add up in the end. Publication credits include Pindeldyboz, Opium Magazine, Yankee Pot Roast, Facsimilation, Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k), Insolent Rudder, The Dead Mule, uber, Ten Thousand Monkeys, Copperfield Review, Rumble, Skive, Subterranean Quarterly, Defenestration & Thieves Jargon.

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