by Kellie Underhill
“Stay in the school, Son,” Papa said as he nudged Sammy with his tail. Sammy grumbled. “This is an important journey,” Papa continued. “I wish you would take it seriously.” Sammy’s family was leaving the Atlantic with hundreds of other salmon.
“But Papa, I’ve never met Samantha, what if I don’t like her?” Sammy asked. He knew Papa would have picked a nice girl, but last week he swam past another school and saw the girl of his dreams. Her skin sparkled. Her beautiful eyes bulged. She looked his way and Sammy’s stomach filled with jitterbugs. He couldn’t speak. The mysterious girl smiled and swam off. Sammy went by her school everyday trying to get another glimpse, with no luck. Now his family was leaving and he’d never see her again.
“We’re going home, Son,” Papa said. “I know you don’t remember much about the river, but once we get there, you’ll see.” If home was where the heart was, then Sammy was already there. His heart belonged with the beautiful girl and the familiar Atlantic Ocean.
“I don’t want to go!” he yelled. “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” And just like that, Sammy broke ranks, rushing toward his old house.
“Get back here,” Papa barked. “Sammy!”
“No! I’m not going.” Sammy swam faster.
“Get out of the way!” Sammy slowed. He glanced back and saw a terrified look on his father’s face.
“What?” he asked, as everyone yelled with alarm—“STORM SURGE!”
He turned and saw the swirling wave just as it sent him into a tailspin. “Papa! Help me!” But all he could see was water, weeds and sea critters swirling around him. Everything went black and Sammy felt like he was rising. His stomach leapt into his throat as the crush of waves loosened and he dropped. He fell for a long time before his head hit something hard.
A Fish Out of Water
When Sammy opened his eyes he was lying on his back and staring up into a blue sky peppered with cotton ball clouds. “Ow,” he mumbled as he rubbed his head.
“Glad to see you back amongst the living,” a male voice chuckled.
Sammy jumped and looked around. He was in a boat with a grey-haired man dressed in green work pants, a red plaid shirt and black rubber boots.
“Where am I?”
“You, my boy, are enjoying a ride through some of the most pristine freshwaters you’ll find anywhere—the Tabusintac River!” the man said.
“What happened?” Sammy asked. “How did I get here?”
The old man rubbed his chin. “Well, I don’t rightly know for sure, but I tell ya it’s not everyday a lad like you drops in!”
“Mighty strange. I put my boat in at the marina and was full throttle to get onto the river when all of a sudden you just fell out of the sky and into the boat. Swear to God! It was the darnedest thing I ever seen. Knocked you right out from the impact.”
Sammy pursed his lips. “I don’t remember any of that.”
“I suppose not, with the shock and jolt of it all. Name’s Frank, by the way, happy to meet your acquaintance,” the man nodded. “What’s your name young feller?”
Sammy opened his mouth, closed it again. He rolled his eyes. “Umm, my name is . . . that is . . . umm. Well, you see . . .”
“Cat got your tongue, eh,” Frank laughed. “Where you from then?”
Sammy squirmed. “Umm . . .” A sickening realization punched him in the gut. “I don’t know who I am! Or where I’m from!” he cried. “I can’t remember a single thing before I opened my eyes here with you!” Sammy couldn’t hold back his tears.
“There, there, boy. It’s probably just some of that there temporary amnesia stuff you always read about in the true crime magazines. It’ll be okay, you’ll remember eventually.” Frank pulled a crumpled blue hanky out of his pocket. “Here now, get hold of yourself. Give us a blow.” Sammy blew; then wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Better?” Frank asked. Sammy nodded. “Good. Ok my boy, fear not because old Frankie’s got a plan. It might help jog your memory if you went back to where you dropped in, back by the marina. We’ll do that tomorrow. But now I’ll set you up in one of the chalets, we’ll get some food in you, maybe even play some golf. You’ll be right as rain in no time, you’ll see.”
The Quest Begins in Tabusintac
Frank wished Sammy luck and dropped him at the wharf to begin his quest to get his memory back. As he strolled amongst the boats Sammy sensed something familiar about the fresh sea salt smell on the breeze, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
“G’day,” a man nodded from the deck of his boat where he was mending nets.
“Hello,” Sammy said.
“I’m Robert. Guess you’re here for Old Home Week,” the man grinned.
“Old Home Week?”
“Yep, it’s a big thing round here, families come back from all over the world.”
Sammy perked at the mention of family. Maybe that was why he was here. Maybe his family was here. Maybe he was coming home.
“Course you’re a good few years too early,” Robert continued. “Next one’s not till 2010!” He laughed and slapped his hand on his leg. “Oh, I’m just messing with you, no need to look so sad about it,” Robert sighed. “I knew who you were the whole time.”
Sammy’s eyes bulged. “You did?!”
“Well yeah,” Robert said. “Read all about you in the Tabby Tattler this morning whilst I took my breakfast down at the Farmer’s Market. You’re that there feller, who has amnesia, aren’t you?”
“Oh,” Sammy frowned. “Yeah, that’s me. I thought maybe you recognized me.”
“Sorry about that,” Robert said. “I didn’t mean nothing by it.” Sammy sighed. “Well, I’ll tell ya what then,” Robert said. “Maybe they’d have something about your people at the library. I’ll give you a ride over if you want.” Sammy nodded. Might as well try, he wasn’t learning anything sitting around the marina sulking.
… to be continued …