November

Miriam's fishing spot was sheltered by the highway that stretched over the Boulder River and continued west to the rolling hills of Livingston and the snow-capped mountains circling Bozeman. Here, on the ranch where she was born and raised, Miriam imagined herself inside a giant, irregularly beating heart. As trucks loaded with timber and steel rumbled over the bridge at uneven intervals, swoops of metallic sound echoed over the water.

Fishing had been her way of remaining active in the living world—a kind of solace—while her husband lost his private battle with cancer. At the river she’d felt free to entertain delusion. She’d imagined Leroy recovering and the two of them snapping out graceful casts as the sun rose over the cattle pastures on the western slope of the land where Miriam had lived first with her father, mother, and sister, Rhoda; then with her father; then with Leroy; and finally, alone. Now, three months after her husband’s death, instead of his calm and rugged presence she had arthritis as a constant companion, spreading in her hands each time she threw a cast.

Miriam stood waist deep in the river, awkwardly tying a pale evening dun dry fly with stiff fingers. The gentle wind, scented with damp earth and sagebrush, lifted her short gray hair and massaged her wrinkled face. She took some weight off the line and saw a trout rising upstream near the opposite bank. Steadying herself against the current, she sent a rolling cast to the other side of the river. In the distance the brown prairie rounded like a cat’s back, skimming the surface of the sky. She watched the fly disappear in a swirl of water.

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