Dead Souls on Giro Day
They called him the Lord of the Salmon, and the Lord of the Salmon was he.
A mighty man, a man of great stature, a fine moustache upon his brow, a man of wiry grey strength and not a few glorious conquests. A man of fish was he, the bane of all that swam in the rivers and lakes of his domain. Even now in the twilight of his working life, the Lord had much of the sexual willies about him.
He looked like a 1980’s porn star as he strutted across the fields and cowpats, mighty rod in hand, decked in tweeds and with a stride that was nothing short of purposeful. Fishing today, fishing tomorrow, the Lord did love his fishing. To fish and be fished, and then to bugger off home for a mug of horlicks and a quick wank to the Motor channel.
Life for the Lord was good, and on this fine Scottish morning there was little that could foul his temper. Here amongst the thistles and the cowpats and the reeds the Lord was master of all that could be seen, and with the dawn came new promise that all would continue as it was and would forever be.
Suddenly, the Lords haemorrhoids started acting up.
Damn! thought he, clawing at the fleshy boulders that hung deep within the caverns of his waders, damn and blast and old fucked fish! Agony seared through his y-fronts like a medieval hot poker up the behind. The Lord stopped in his stride, hopping around like a monkey with it’s feet on fire. Gradually the pain settled down to a low throb and the Lord bravely battled onwards through the rough, hell bent on reaching the river and dipping his rod.
Walking now with a gait normally reserved for post-prison showers, the Lord advanced. Weeds and jagged stems tore at his plastic waders as he passed. The river was not fifty yards hence, and the fauna was thick and bristling here.
There was much scuffling and a few choice curses that rather offended God, who was on his day off and was much inclined towards the idea of fucking around with mankind. And mankind at that moment was personified by the Lord of the Salmon.
Somewhere high, God cracked his knuckles. Thunder rolled above the Scottish moorlands.
Well, there is a queer thing, said the Lord as the sky above that had been so inoffensive and pleasant was now going red and hung pregnant with malice.
God chuckled, and let the show begin.
Ignoring the weather, as all good fishermen are wont to, the Lord struggled down the banking, minding his wounded backside against the treacherous slope. God bided his time for the moment, allowing the Lord his sense of false security. Down the slope went the Lord, the soft dirt of the bank rolling down in tiny avalanches disturbed by his wader-clad feet, rod planted firmly in the earth to assist in his decent.
And then he was there, arrived by the Bonny Banks of the river Styx.
His mood rose. Haemorrhoids or not, today would be a day of big fish. Perhaps the biggest. It was the season of salmon, and today many would die.
The souls of the Salmon swam in the ether behind the Lord, invisible to all but dogs and dodgy video recording equipment. They followed the Lord as do all creatures that have been killed by unjust hands, and even now they lurked unseen behind his piles, waiting for the Lord to join them.
One day the Lord would die. For fish that flowed behind, that would be the day of their revenge.
Lord waded out into the river, feeling the familiar tugs and undertows of the water gently pull at his legs. The waders, though insulated, could not keep out the full cold of the icy and rapid Scottish water. They chilled the Lord but did not freeze him, and the Lord waded yet still further out until the cooling waters submerged his piles and brought blessed balm to his butt cheeks.
Rod out, the Lord cast his lot for the first fish of the day. Automatically, his arms, legs, back and body began the patient and ancient practice of fishing, leaving Lord’s brain to wander away until the telltale twitch of rod reeled the Lord’s mind back to reality.
He day dreamed of past glories, of past failures and of what the future may hold whist up above, God schemed his downfall.
Lord’s mind roved through his memories, days long gone by and archived by his brain for future replay.
The ultimate chance, the proverbial Big Fish. The one that got away, the one that was as big as the mind could make it. Salmon River. The Lord, star of Grampian Television’s own fishing show. Fame and fortune, a lifetime of opulence, expensive tweeds and the collective envy of Scotland’s fishing fanatical. One show, one man, one boat and as many fishing groupies as the Lord could shake his rod at. A gaggle of film crew taping his every move, watching and recording his skill and prowess as man and fish matched wits on the open water. Curses were quietly edited, the ones that got away silently replaced by fresh stock from the fishmongers for the all important money-shot. The Lord, steel moustache combed and bristling, grinning on camera with yet another Bloody Big Whooper.
Lord remembered watching the show on Dennis Norton’s ITV Blooper reel, which was more primetime than he had expected. He had watched himself plunge headfirst into the icy waters of misfortune, watched his hand grab the camera man, watched the camera spin wildly as the man and equipment went for a swim. Then nothing but bubbles as the crewboat detonated above.
How the boat had exploded nobody knew, but on the last seconds of footage one can see static that might be a ghostly fish gloating over a leaking propane tank and the Lord’s dropped tobacco pipe.
Grampian had quietly dropped the show afterwards.
Lord ruminated his misfortunes in the river, slowly returning to reality with a sense that all was not right with the world. Be it long lost instinct desperately telling the Lord that something was wrong, or be it the disaster of the crewboat intruding onto present time. Be what it may, the Lord of the Salmon was assailed with what could only be called a sense of foreboding.
Doom would come this day.
He shuddered in the river, hanging haemorrhoids quite forgotten, his noble head searching the skies and the riverbanks for anything that might explain the torrid feeling now assaulting his senses. Finally he looked down into the waters themselves and beheld his final fate.
There! Two meters hence through uncannily clear waters, there swam the biggest motherfucking eel the Lord had ever seen in his life.
What a monster, thought the Lord as the black beast lazily swam past, it’s six foot length rippling with strength and power.
God looked down from his heaven, and He saw that the eel was Good. He was proud of that one, was God. Definitely an eel of biblical proportions.
The Lord staggered back through the water away from the evil eel, mindful not to trip and flood his waders in the deep water. His mind buzzed with what he had just saw, for the Lord had no love for eels, giant or otherwise, and the one he had just seen inspired something primal within him to go ‘booga booga’.
Splashing now through the shallows, the Lord turned and beheld the river. All was peaceful again, the monster eel was no where to be seen.
A six foot eel.
Now that, thought the Lord, was bound to make the papers.
He pictured himself again, standing by the banks of the river, huge eel on the grass with one Lordy boot placed upon it’s flank. Full colour photo, arms crossed, ‘BIG FUCKING EEL WINS PRIZE’ in 42pt. Gothic print in the local paper. The Lord, returned to glory for one last time.
One big fish.
Quickly now the Lord scanned the river, calculated the speed of the eel, decided he could overtake it at the next meander and tempt the fish into taking his line. Lord took the bait and ran.
Over the grass he ran, through the thickets and the jaggies and the cowpats, vaulting fences and stone dyke walls will a speed and athleticism that would have taxed a man twenty years his junior. Over and under and around, leaping rabbit holes and swinging his rod before him, cutting straight across the moorland to where the river bent back upon itself once more.
A heart attack loomed up on the horizon as the Lord jogged across the fields.
Down the banking he tumbled in a blaze of screaming lungs and burning piles, into the river he staggered, even know attaching his prize bait to his hook and casting it into the swirling waters.
Satisfied and out of breath, he twiddled the bait in what he hoped would be an eel enticing way.
Lord played the waiting game, reeling in and out and twitching the bait like a mad man. Would the fish come? Would his reel take the strain? Would his rod snap and foul him of his prize?
Up above, God made His play.
The Lord chewed upon a lip and waggled his moustache. Perhaps he had missed it. Perhaps the fish had gone away.
Lord studied the waters around his waist, looking for any sign of the great beast in the cloudy waters. Far and away he cast his gaze, straining his poor eyesight in search of his quarry.
Something brushed against his wader leg, something that was not water.
Horror consumed the Lord as he looked down and saw the legendary Black Eel of Blair wrap it’s horrid length around his legs.
Lord managed one, desperate scream of “EEL!” as he tumbled over backwards and down, down into the waters. The cold shock of the river enveloped his head and tweeds, and he felt what all fishermen dread to feel.
The cold rush of water filling up his waders, dragging him down to drown him.
Through the bubbles and thrashing he saw his legs with the great black beast still entwined around them, holding them fast. Lord humped against the river bed, head submerged his rod lost to the river and desperately clawing his way towards the shore.
But he knew not way the shore was, and he knew then that he was Doomed.
Still he fought, tearing at his straps, lashing out against the evil creature that had him in it’s vice-like coils, dragging him down towards hell. The river grew darker as he struggled, his eyes dimming as he ran out of oxygen.
Above him, visible now that death was upon him, the Salmon swam. They were waiting for their master.
Lord lay down in the freezing river mud, back and piles towards the sky and legs captured by the black horror of the deep. With one, final effort the Lord gathered his final strength and pushed out with his arms, pushed out for life and one more breath.
His head broke the surface and he sucked in for all the world, the sweetest Scottish air filling his lungs, and Lord found himself no longer drowning in less than half a foot of water.
He dragged himself clear of the river, his waders still flooded and bound, turned and looked down at the beastly captor wrapped around his legs.
A black bin bag stared back at him.
Above, the disappointed salmon swam away and the air was filled with an inaudible laugher as God pissed his Holy Pants laughing.
The Lord collected his belongings, cast off his waders, raised his fist to the skies and cursed and set off back across the moors towards his car, dressed in naught but soaking tweeds and ruined y-fronts. And thus from the rivers parted the Lord of the Salmon, who would never again return for the rest of his long life.
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