The man who owned the bookstore was not magic. He was not a

three-legged crow on the dandelion side of the mountain.

He was, of course, a Jew, a retired merchant seaman

who had been torpedoed in the North Atlantic and floated

there day after day until death did not want him. He had a

young wife, a heart attack, a Volkswagen and a home in

Marin County. He liked the works of George Orwell, Richard

Aldington and Edmund Wilson.

He learned about life at sixteen, first from Dostoevsky

and then from the whores of New Orleans.

The bookstore was a parking lot for used graveyards.

Thousands of graveyards were parked in rows like cars.

Most of the kooks were out of print, and no one wanted to

read them any more and the people who had read the books

had died or forgotten about them, but through the organic

process of music the books had become virgins again. They

wore their ancient copyrights like new maidenheads.

I went to the bookstore in the afternoons after I got off

work, during that terrible year of 1959.

He had a kitchen in the back of the store and he brewed

cups of thick Turkish coffee in a copper pan. I drank coffee

and read old books and waited for the year to end. He had a

small room above the kitchen.

It looked down on the bookstore and had Chinese screens

in front of it. The room contained a couch, a glass cabinet

with Chinese things in it and a table and three chairs. There

was a tiny bathroom fastened like a watch fob to the room.

I was sitting on a stool in the bookstore one afternoon

reading a book that was in the shape of a chalice. The book

had clear pages like gin, and the first page in the book read:


the Kid


November 23,



New York


The owner of the bookstore came up to me, and put his

arm on my shoulder and said, “Would you like to get laid?”

His voice was very kind.

“No, ” I said.

“You’re wrong, ” he said, and then without saying anything

else, he went out in front of the bookstore, and stopped a pair

of total strangers, a man and a woman. He talked to them for

a few moments. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He pointed

at me in the bookstore. The woman nodded her head and

then the man nodded his head.

They came into the bookstore.

I was embarrassed. I could not leave the bookstore because

they were entering by the only door, so I decided to go

upstairs and go to the toilet. I got up abruptly and walked

to the back of the bookstore and went upstairs to the bathroom,

and they followed after me. I could hear them on the stairs.

I waited for a long time in the bathroom and they waited

an equally long time in the other room. They never spoke.

When I came out of the bathroom, the woman was lying naked

on the couch, and the man was sitting in a chair with his

hat on his lap.

“Don’t worry about him, ” the girl said. “These things

make no difference to him. He’s rich. He has 3, 859 Rolls

Royces.” The girl was very pretty and her body was like a

clear mountain river of skin and muscle flowing over rocks

of bone and hidden nerves.

“Come to me, ” she said. “And come inside me for we are

Aquarius and I love you.”

I looked at the man sitting in the chair. He was not smiling

and he did not look sad.

I took off my shoes and all my clothes. The man did not

say a word.

The girl’s body moved ever so slightly from side to side.

There was nothing else I could do for my body was like

birds sitting on a telephone wire strung out down the world,

clouds tossing the wires carefully.

I laid the girl.

It was like the eternal 59th second when it becomes a minute

and then looks kind of sheepish.

“Good, ” the girl said, and kissed me on the face.

The man sat there without speaking or moving or sending

out any emotion into the room. I guess he was rich and owned

3, 859 Rolls Royces.

Afterwards the girl got dressed and she and the man left.

They walked down the stairs and on their way out, I heard

him say his first words.

“Would you like to go to Emie’s for dinner?”

“I don’t know, ” the girl said. “It’s a little early to think

about dinner. ”

Then I heard the door close and they were gone. I got

dressed and went downstairs. The flesh about my body felt

soft and relaxed like an experiment in functional background


The owner of the bookstore was sitting at his desk behind

the counter. “I’11 tell you what happened up there, ” he said,

in a beautiful anti-three-legged-crow voice, in an anti-dandelion

side of the mountain voice.

“What?”I said.

“You fought in the Spanish Civil War. You were a young

Communist from Cleveland, Ohio. She was a painter. A New

York Jew who was sightseeing in the Spanish Civil War as if

it were the Mardi Gras in New Orleans being acted out by

Greek statues.

“She was drawing a picture of a dead anarchist when you

met her. She asked you to stand beside the anarchist and act

as if you had killed him. You slapped her across the face

and said something that would be embarrassing for me to


You both fell very much in love.

“Once while you were at the front she read Anatomy of

Melancholy and did 349 drawings of a lemon.

“Your love for each other was mostly spiritual.Neither

one of you performed like millionaires in bed.

“When Barcelona fell, you and she flew to England, and

then took a ship back to New York. Your love for each other

remained in Spain. It was only a war love. You loved only

yourselves, loving each other in Spain during the war. On

the Atlantic you were different toward each other and became

every day more and more like people lost from each other.

“Every wave on the Atlantic was like a dead seagull dragging

its driftwood artillery from horizon to horizon.

“When the ship bumped up against America, you departed

without saying anything and never saw each other again. The

last I heard of you, you were still living in Philadelphia. ”

“That’s what you think happened up there?” I said.

“Partly, ” he said. “Yes, that’s part of it. ”

He took out his pipe and filled it with tobacco and lit it.

“Do you want me to tell you what else happened up there?”

he said.

“Go ahead.”

“You crossed the border into Mexico, ” he said. “You

rode your horse into a small town. The people knew who

you were and they were afraid of you. They knew you had

killed many men with that gun you wore at your side. The

town itself was so small that it didn’t have a priest.

“When the rurales saw you, they left the town. Tough as

they were, they did not want to have anything to do with you.

The rurales left.

You became the most powerful man in town.

You were seduced by a thirteen-year-old girl, and you

and she lived together in an adobe hut, and practically all

you did was make love.

“She was slender and had long dark hair. You made love

standing, sitting, lying on the dirt floor with pigs and chickens

around you. The walls, the floor and even the roof of the

hut were coated with your sperm and her come.

“You slept on the floor at night and used your sperm for

a pillow and her come for a blanket.

“The people in the town were so afraid of you that they

could do nothing.

“After a while she started going around town without any

clothes on, and the people of the town said that it was not a

good thing, and when you started going around without any

clothes, and when both of you began making love on the back

of your horse in the middle of the zocalo, the people of the

town became so afraid that they abandoned the town. It’s

been abandoned ever since. “People won’t live there.

“Neither of you lived to be twenty-one. It was not neces-


“See, I do know what happened upstairs, ” he said. He

smiled at me kindly. His eyes were like the shoelaces of a


I thought about what happened upstairs.

“You know what I say is the truth, ” he said. “For you

saw it with your own eyes and traveled it with your own body.

Finish the book you were reading before you were interrupted.

I’m glad you got laid. ”

Once resumed the pages of the book began to speed up

and turn faster and faster until they were spinning like wheels

in the sea.



Gone now the old fart. Hayman Creek was named for

Charles Hayman, a sort of half-assed pioneer in a country

that not many wanted to live in because it was poor and ugly

and horrible, He built a shack, this was in 1876, on a little

creek that drained a worthless hill. After a while the creek

was called Hayman Creek.

Mr. Hayman did not know how to read or write and considered

himself better for it. Mr. Hayman did odd jobs for years

and years and years and years.

Your mule’s broke?

Get Mr. Hayman to fix it.

Your fences are on fire?

Get Mr. Hayman to put them out.

Mr.- Hayman lived on a diet of stone-ground wheat and

kale. He bought the wheat by the hundred-pound sack and

ground it himself with a mortar and pestle. He grew the kale

in front of his shack and tended the kale as if it were prize

winning orchids.

During all the time that was his life, Mr. Hayman never

had a cup of coffee, a smoke, a drink or a woman and thought

he’d be a fool if he did.

In the winter a few trout would go up Hayman Creek, but

by early summer the creek was almost dry and there were

no fish in it.

Mr. Hayman used to catch a trout or two and eat raw

trout with his stone-ground wheat and his kale, and then one

day he was so old that he did not feel like working any more,

and he looked so old that the children thought he must be evil

to live by himself, and they were afraid to go up the creek

near his shack.

It didn’t bother Mr. Hayman. The last thing in the world

he had any use for were children. Reading and writing and

children were all the same, Mr. Hayman thought, and

ground his wheat and tended his kale and caught a trout or

two when they were in the creek.

He looked ninety years old for thirty years and then he

got the notion that he would die, and did so. The year he died

the trout didn’t come up Hayman Creek, and never went up

the creek again. With the old man dead, the trout figured it

was better to stay where they were.

The mortar and pestle fell off the shelf and broke.

The shack rotted away.

And the weeds grew into the kale.

Twenty years after Mr. Hayman’s death, some fish and

game people were planting trout in the streams around there.

“Might as well put some here, ” one of the men said.

“Sure, ” the other one said.

They dumped a can full of trout in the creek and no sooner

had the trout touched the water, than they turned their white

bellies up and floated dead down the creek.


It was not an outhouse resting upon the imagination.

It was reality.

An eleven-inch rainbow trout was killed. Its life taken

forever from the waters of the earth, by giving it a drink of

port wine.

It is against the natural order of death for a trout to die

by having a drink of port wine.

It is all right for a trout to have its neck broken by a fisherman

and then to be tossed into the creel or for a trout to die from

a fungus that crawls like sugar-colored ants over its body

until the trout is in death’s sugarbowl.

It is all right for a trout to be trapped in a pool that dries

up in the late summer or to be caught in the talons of a bird

or the claws of an animal.

Yes, it is even all right for a trout to be killed by pollution,

to die in a river of suffocating human excrement.

There are trout that die of old age and their white beards

flow to the sea.

All these things are in the natural order of death, but for

a trout to die from a drink of port wine, that is another thing.

No mention of it in “The treatyse of fysshynge wyth an

angle,” in the Boke of St. Albans, published 1496. No mention

of it in Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream, by H. C. Cutcliffe,

published in 1910. No mention of it in Truth Is Stranger than Fishin’,

by Beatrice Cook, published in 1955. No mention of it in

Northern Memoirs, by Richard Franck, published in 1694.

No mention of it in I Go A-Fishing, by W. C. Prime, published

in 1873. No mention of it in Trout Fishing and Trout Flies, by Jim

Quick, published in 1957. No mention of it in Certaine Experiments

Concerning Fish and Fruite, by John Taverner, published in 1600.

No mention of it in A River Never Sleeps, by Roderick L. Haig Brown,

published in 1946. No mention of it in Till Fish US Do Part, by Beatrice

Cook published in 1949. No mention of it in The Flyfisher & the

Trout’s Point of View by Col. E.W.Harding, published

in 1931. No mention of it in Chalk Stream Studies, by Charles

Kingsley, published in 1859 No mention of it in Trout Madness

by Robert Traver, published in 1960.

No mention of it in Sunshine and the Dry Fly, by J. W.

Dunne, published in 1924. No mention of it in Just Fishing,

by Ray Bergman, published in 1932. No mention of it in Matching

the Hatch by Ernest G. Schwiebert, Jr,, published in 1955. No mention

of it in The Art of Trout Fishing on Rapid Streams by H. C. Cutcliffe,

published in 1863. No mention of it in Old Flies in New Dresses by

C.E. Walker, published in 1898 No mention of it in Fisherman’s

Spring, by Roderick L, Haig-Brown, published in 1951.

No mention of it in The Determined angler and the Brook Trout,

by Charles Bradford, published in 1916. No mention of it in Women

Can Fish by Chisie Farrington, published in 1951. No mention

of it in Tales of the Angler’s El Dorado New new Zeland

by Zane Grey, published in 1926. No mention of it in The Flyfisher’s

Guide, by G.C. Bainbridge, published in 1816.

There’s no mention of a trout dying by having a drink of

port wine anywhere.

To describe the Supreme Executioner: We woke up in the

morning and it was dark outside. He came kind of smiling

into the kitchen and we ate breakfast.

Fried potatoes and eggs and coffee.

“Well, you old bastard, ” he said. “Pass the salt. ”

The tackle was already in the car, so we just got in and

drove away. Beginning at the first light of dawn we hit the

road at the bottom of the mountains, and drove up into the


The light behind the trees was like going into a gradual

and strange department store.

“That was a good-looking girl last night, ” he said.

“Yeah, “I said. “You did all right. ”

“If the shoe fits…..” he said.

Owl Snuff Creek was just a small creek, only a few miles

long, but there were some nice trout in it. We got out of the

car and walked a quarter of a mile down the mountainside to

the creek I put my tackle together. He pulled a pint of port

wine out of his pocket and said wouldn’t you know.”

“No thanks,” I said.

He took a good snort and then shook his head, side to side,

and said, “Do you know what this creek reminds me of?”

“No,” I said, tying a gray and yellow fly onto my leader.

“It reminds me of Evageline’s vagina, a constant dream

of my childhood and promoter of my youth.”

“That’s nice,” I said.

“Longfellow was the Henry Miller of my childhood,” he


“Good,” I said.

I cast into a little pool that had a swirl of fir needles going

around the edge of it. The fir needles went around and around.

It made no sense that they should come from trees. They looked

perfectly contented and natural in the pool as if the pool had

grown them on watery branches.

I had a good hit on my third cast, but missed it.

“Oh, boy, ” he said. “I think I’11 watch you fish. The stolen

painting is in the house next door. ”

I fished upstream coming ever closer and closer to the

narrow staircase of the canyon. Then I went up into it as if

I were entering a department store. I caught three trout in

the lost and found department. He didn’t even put his tackle

together. He just followed after me, drinking port wine and

poking a stick at the world.

“This is a beautiful creek, ” he said. “It reminds me of

Evangeline’s hearing aid. ”

We ended up at a large pool that was formed by the creek

crashing through the children’s toy section. At the beginning

of the pool the water was like cream, then it mirrored out

and reflected the shadow of a large tree. By this time the

sun was up. You could see it coming down the mountain.

I cast into the cream and let my fly drift down onto along

branch of the tree, next to a bird.

Go-wham !

I set the hook and the trout started jumping.

“Giraffe races at Kilimanjaro!” he shouted, and every

time the trout jumped, he jumped.

“Bee races at Mount Everest !” he shouted.

I didn’t have a net with me so I fought the trout over to

the edge of the creek and swung it up onto the shore.

The trout had a big red stripe down its side.

It was a good rainbow.

“What a beauty, ” he said.

He picked it up and it was squirming in his hands.

“Break its neck, ” I said.

“I have a better idea, ” he said. “Before I kill it, let me

at least soothe its approach into death. This trout needs a

drink. ” He took the bottle of port out of his pocket, unscrewed

the cap and poured a good slug into the trout’s mouth.

The trout went into a spasm.

Its body shook very rapidly like a telescope during an

earthquake. The mouth was wide open and chattering almost

as if it had human teeth.

He laid the trout on a white rock, head down, and some

of the wine trickled out of its mouth and made a stain on the


The trout was lying very still now.

“It died happy, ” he said.

“This is my ode to Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Look here !”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Richard Brautigan's poem Part 3 of Trout Fishing in America

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