That evening I write "he got his work done" on a sticky note and put it up above my neglected writing desk. This appeals immensely to my Midwestern sensibilities, my ingrained Lutheran work ethic and guilt complex. It's an epitaph to aspire to. But for now, it will have to wait. I have to guide again tomorrow and most of the days after that until mid-October. Tonight, still, I have to clean out my boat, deodorize the interior of my truck, arrange for lunches, and confirm meeting times.
I stop at the Murray Bar for a quick one. Everyone is there. I'm feeling a rare tinge of the magnanimous, and I buy a round. The nights are starting to get cooler. In a few days you will be able to see your breath in the morning. There has been a shift; the end is in sight and spirits are high. I stay later than I had planned, talking about fishing. Then the band starts and the girls show up and we are dancing. Eventually a few sports straggle back in after their dinners. They sit off to the side and watch us, the locals – the fishing guides and the waitresses, the construction workers and the massage therapists – swinging around the sweaty, packed dance floor. We are off duty now, and they know it; they keep their distance. These men are CEOs of large companies, lawyers, judges, doctors, bankers. Everyone is a local somewhere, I suppose, but in moments like these, you can see it in their eyes, a wistfulness, feel them wondering what it would be like to be a local here. They are thinking, "If I had done things a little differently, what would my life look like?"
Later, half-drunk and dead tired, falling into bed, I check my phone, hoping, I won't lie, for a message from my errant woman. Instead, there is a voice mail from Harrison.
Yeah, this is Jim Harrison. I just woke up from my nap. I'm going to be writing for a few days, but I'd like to fish again next Sunday. You're probably at the bar. Be careful with those girls you hang out with; they can do evil to your art. Okay, bye-bye.