The Music At Bash Bish Falls

Let me finish this story. You never have before.

No, I don’t want the pills. I don’t want the nurse. Just listen—

— And then we drove down narrow dirt roads, your dad and I, in a car older than me with no air-conditioning and a nasty dent in the side. We drove through shade and sun with a bottle of birch beer in between us.

“My father took me here once,” said your dad. I asked him where ‘here’ was. He shrugged and smiled at me. I forgot what I’d been asking.

Then we found Bash Bish Falls. I didn’t know it was a waterfall at first; looked like a mountain. We parked at the top and walked to the edge, then scrambled down using a scrawny metal fence along one side—just a few wires meant to stop people from falling.

We put our feet on one wire and clutched the other and slid down. By the end we were sweaty and breathing hard, grinning as though we’d actually touched each other.

And we reached the bottom of the mountainside, and walked a few feet down a rocky path to our left, and there were the falls. Ten times as high as me and bright blue as your dad’s eyes.

We sat on a rock and drank the rest of the birch beer, and when it was empty he puckered up his lips and blew across the top until it played for him—a deep sad-sounding note. It echoed, dipped and split, became several notes playing tag with each other. I’d swear the waterfall was the one making those notes. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else.

Can’t describe that music now, but I felt it in my bones and the rock I sat on. It was about not having beginnings and endings and always being on a great big adventure. Always having something new.

Your dad smiled, closed his eyes, took my hand, squeezed it tight. Didn’t want him to let go of my hand, but he did. We sat there for a minute longer, then climbed back up the mountain. I guess he had to let go of me so we could climb.

We started driving back those narrow mountain roads. Your dad hummed that tune from the waterfall under his breath. Then—ha! Slammed the brakes, stopped the car. Nothing there to stop for— just a dirt path leading off into the piney woods. Moss lined the edge. “This is my stop,” your dad said. He got out of the car and walked down along the path.

I thought I heard music in the distance, and the sound of water falling-beating against rocks. Never saw him again. No one else seemed to mind that he’d gone.

Always wondered if I should’ve gone with him.

Know what’s funny? Your dad never touched me except for holding my hand for a minute at Bash Bish Falls. Never kissed me, never—you know. But it had to have been him. You look just like him.

When I die—it’ll be soon now, hon, don’t kid yourself—you oughta take my old junker of a car and drive out to the mountains. Get yourself good and lost until you find Bash Bish, and keep being lost until you find your dad. You hold on tight to him, you understand me? A boy’s got to have at least one of his parents.

I’m tired. That’s the end of the story. I’m sorry.

Ω

Sarah K. Miller  Sarah K. Miller's website recently escaped from college and is now trying to figure out the real world, or determine if such a place exists. She does know that Kelly Link stories are real, because her Clarion session took place in one. This is her first publication.

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