Saddle Mountain from a distance is a few uneven bumps. The jetties appear as pencil marks, drawn outwards towards the sea. The river wants to keep going, to stretch beyond the haze.
A few old growths dot the forest, challenging the wind. They’re loners in a crowd of confused youngsters, hanging onto tales, their bark scoured by rain and salt. I lay a hand upon their exposed skin, smooth, cracked.
A tattooed girl asks if it’s okay, to break coast guard rules, to continue on, past where the trail is closed, to have a look at Deadman’s Hollow. I smile. No dead men there, just ghosts of ships, who have no souls until their names have been wrecked.
I tell her of swimming the Columbia, dog paddling into sand drifts, frightened, thinking I’ve bumped into a river creature. Then, after feeling the silt move cool between my fingers, calm down. The current plays with this muck, flying apart, then glues it back together. Deadly for ships. I’ve stood upon many, walking, shin deep, in the middle of the watercourse like a river rat Jesus.
Until large ships make their way through the dredged parts of the channel, carrying cars, toys, particle board furniture, and microfiber pants. Their wakes knock me off my river dance. Fallen, I swim with the current, sideways, grasping the mud of the soft shore.
I think of ship skeletons and the tattooed girl who looks for all the things she will know.