By Jim Latham
It’s her first night in Alaska. She tells me it’s 1 a.m. there, the sun’s still up. I ask how’s that possible and she says something about the Earth’s axis being titled toward the sun. I ask if she’s drunk and she says not so drunk she forgot how to tell time or what the sun is. I tell her drink water and be careful. She says Oh Dad and rolls her eyes. I can’t see this, of course, but I know my daughter, and she is a champion eye roller. She got that, her gray-green eyes, and her smarts from her mom. She tells me her job is surveying culverts, making sure the baby salmon can get to the ocean and the adult fish can get back home. She uses words like stadia rod and grade points and Bernoulli and I don’t understand all of it, but I remember cutting up cereal boxes to make flashcards when she was learning her times tables. Before she left she told me, Salmon live in the ocean for five years and then navigate thousands of miles back to the stream where they were born by smell. The oven timer goes off. She asks what I’m making, and I tell her brownies, the ones with dark chocolate and ancho chilies. She says she can smell them all the way up in Alaska. I tell her I’ll make them every day so she’ll always be able to find her way home. She clears her throat. Dad, she says. I hear young voices calling her name and tell her to have fun, get some rest. She tells me she loves me and hangs up. I put my mitts on, and when I open the oven door, I’m hoping I don’t have to wait five years.
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Jim Latham ditched the oilfields of Alaska in favor of central Mexico. He lives out of two zebra-print suitcases and divides his time between hiking volcanoes, teaching English as a second language, and writing. He publishes flash fiction every Wednesday on his Substack, Jim’s Shorts, and less frequently around the web.