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Part 7 of Trout Fishing in America Analysis



Author: story of Richard Brautigan Type: story Views: 9

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          ROOM 208, HOTEL



          TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA








Half a block from Broadway and Columbus is Hotel Trout



Fishing in America, a cheap hotel. It is very old and run by



some Chinese. They are young and ambitious Chinese and



the lobby is filled with the smell of Lysol.



  The Lysol sits like another guest on the stuffed furniture



reading a copy of the Chronicle, the Sports Section. It is the



only furniture I have ever seen in my life that looks like baby



food.



  And the Lysol sits asleep next to an old Italian pensioner



who listens to the heavy ticking of the clock and dreams of



eternity's golden pasta, sweet basil and Jesus Christ.



  The Chinese are always doing something to the hotel. One



week they paint a lower banister and the next week they put



some new wallpaper on part of the third floor.



  No matter how many times you pass that part of the third



floor, you cannot remember the color of the wallpaper or



what the design is. All you know is that part of the wallpaper



is new. It is different from the old wallpaper. But you can-



not remember what that looks like either.



  One day the Chinese take a bed out of a room and lean it



up against the wall. It stays there for a month. You get used



to seeing it and then you go by one day and it is gone. You



wonder where it went.



  I remember the first time I went inside Hotel Trout Fish-



ing in America. It was with a friend to meet some people.



  "I'11 tell you what's happening, " he said. "She's an ex-



hustler who works for the telephone company. He went to



medical school for a while during the Great Depression and



then he went into show business. After that, he was an errand



boy for an abortion mill in Los Angeles. He took a fall and



did some time in San Quentin.



  "I think you'll like them. They're good people.



  "He met her a couple of years ago in North Beach. She



was hustling for a spade pimp. It's kind of weird. Most



women have the temperament to be a whore, but she's one



of these rare women who just don't have it--the whore tem-



perament. She's Negro, too.



  "She was a teenage girl living on a farm in Oklahoma. The



pimp drove by one afternoon and saw her playing in the front



yard. He stopped his car and got out and talked to her father



for a while.



"I guess he gave her father some money. He came up



with something good because her father told her to go and



get her things. So she went with the pimp. Simple as that.



"He took her to San Francisco and turned her out and she



hated it. He kept her in line by terrorizing her all the time.



He was a real sweetheart.



  "She had some brains, so he got her a job with the tele-



phone company during the day, and he had her hustling at



night.



  "When Art took her away from him, he got pretty mad. A



good thing and all that. He used to break into Art's hotel



room in the middle of the night and put a switchblade to Art's



throat and rant and rave. Art kept putting bigger and bigger



locks on the door, but the pimp just kept breaking in--a huge



fellow.



  "So Art went out and got a .32 pistol, and the next time



the pimp broke in, Art pulled the gun out from underneath



the covers and jammed it into the pimp's mouth and said,



'You'll be out of luck the next time you come through that



door, Jack.' This broke the pimp up. He never went back.



The pimp certainly lost a good thing.



  "He ran up a couple thousand dollars worth of bills in her



name, charge accounts and the like. They're still paying



them off.



  "The pistol's right there beside the bed, just in case the



pimp has an attack of amnesia and wants to have his shoes



shined in a funeral parlor.



  "When we go up there, he'll drink the wine. She won't.



She'Il'have a little bottle of brandy. She won't offer us any



of it. She drinks about four of them a day. Never buys a fifth.



She always keeps going out and getting another half-pint.



"That's the way she handles it. She doesn't talk very much,



and she doesn't make any bad scenes. A good-looking woman, r



   My friend knocked on the door and we could hear some-



body get up off the bed and come to the door.



   "Who's there?" said a man on the other side.



  "Me," my friend said, in a voice deep and recognizable



as any name.



  "I'11 open the door. " A simple declarative sentence. He



undid about a hundred locks, bolts and chains and anchors



and steel spikes and canes filled with acid, and then the



door opened like the classroom of a great university and



everything was in its proper place: the gun beside the bed



and a small bottle of brandy beside an attractive Negro woman,



  There were many flowers and plants growing in the room,



some of them were on the dresser, surrounded by old photo-



graphs. All of the photographs were of white people, includ-



ing Art when he was young and handsome and looked just like



the 1930s.



  There were pictures of animals cut out of magazines and



tacked to the wall, with crayola frames drawn around them



and crayola picture wires drawn holding them to the wall.



They were pictures of kittens and puppies. They looked just



fine .



  There was a bowl of goldfish next to the bed, next to the



gun. How religious and intimate the goldfish and the gun



looked together.



  They had a cat named 208. They covered the bathroom



floor with newspaper and the cat crapped on the newspaper.



My friend said that 208 thought he was the only cat left in the



world, not having seen another cat since he was a tiny kitten.



They never let him out of the room. He was a red cat and



very aggressive. When you played with that cat, he really



bit you. Stroke 208's fur and he'd try to disembowel your



hand as if it were a belly stuffed full of extra soft intestines.



  We sat there and drank and talked about books. Art had



owned a lot of books in Los Angeles, but they were all gone



now. He told us that he used to spend his spare time in sec-



ondhand bookstores buying old and unusual books when he



was in show business, traveling from city to city across



America. Some of them were very rare autographed books,



he told us, but he had bought them for very little and was



forced to sell them for very little.



They'd be worth a lot of money now, " he said.



  The Negro woman sat there very quietly studying her



brandy. A couple of times she said yes, in a sort of nice



way. She used the word yes to its best advantage, when sur-



rounded by no meaning and left alone from other words.



  They did their own cooking in the room and had a single



hot plate sitting on the floor, next to half a dozen plants, in-



cluding a peach tree growing in a coffee can. Their closet



was stuffed with food. Along with shirts, suits and dresses,



were canned goods, eggs and cooking oil.



  My friend told me that she was a very fine cook. That



she could really cook up a good meal, fancy dishes, too, on



that single hot plate, next to the peach tree.



They had a good world going for them. He had such a soft



voice and manner that he worked as a private nurse for rich



mental patients. He made good money when he worked, but



sometimes he was sick himself. He was kind of run down.



She was still working for the telephone company, but she



wasn't doing that night work any more.



  They were still paying off the bills that pimp had run up.



I mean, years had passed and they were still paying them



off: a Cadillac and a hi-fi set and expensive clothes and all



those things that Negro pimps do love to have.



Z went back there half a dozen times after that first meet-



ing. An interesting thing happened. I pretended that the cat,



208, was named after their room number, though I knew that



their number was in the three hundreds. The room was on



the third floor. It was that simple.



  I always went to their room following the geography of



Hotel Trout Fishing in America, rather than its numerical



layout. I never knew what the exact number of their room



was. I knew secretly it was in the three hundreds and that



was all.



Anyway, it was easier for me to establish order in my



mind by pretending that the cat was named after their room



number. It seemed like a good idea and the logical reason



for a cat to have the name 208. It, of course, was not true.



It was a fib. The cat's name was 208 and the room number



was in the three hundreds.



  Where did the name 208 come from? What did it mean? I



thought about it for a while, hiding it from the rest of my



mind. But I didn't ruin my birthday by secretly thinking about



it too hard.



  A year later I found out the true significance of 208's



name, purely by accident. My telephone rang one Saturday



morning when the sun was shining on the hills. It was a



close friend of mine and he said, "I'm in the slammer. Come



and get me out. They're burning black candles around the



drunk tank. "



  I went down to the Hall of Justice to bail my friend out,



and discovered that 208 is the room number of the bail office,



It was very simple. I paid ten dollars for my friend's life



and found the original meaning of 208, how it runs like melt-



ing snow all the way down the mountainside to a small cat



living and playing in Hotel Trout Fishing in America, believ-



ing itself to be the last cat in the world, not having seen



another cat in such a long time, totally unafraid, newspaper



spread out all over the bathroom floor, and something good



cooking on the hot plate.



















          THE SURGEON











I watched my day begin on Little Redfish Lake as clearly as



the first light of dawn or the first ray of the sunrise, though



the dawn and the sunrise had long since passed and it was



now late in the morning.



  The surgeon took a knife from the sheath at his belt and



cut the throat of the chub with a very gentle motion, showing



poetically how sharp the knife was, and then he heaved the



fish back out into the lake.



  The chub made an awkward dead splash and obeyed allthe



traffic laws of this world SCHOOL ZONE SPEED 25 MILES



and sank to the cold bottom of the lake. It lay there white



belly up like a school bus covered with snow. A trout swam



over and took a look, just putting in time, and swam away.



  The surgeon and I were talking about the AMA. I don't



know how in the hell we got on the thing, but we were on it.



Then he wiped the knife off and put it back in the sheath. I



actually don't know how we got on the AMA.



  The surgeon said that he had spent twenty-five years be-



coming a doctor. His studies had been interrupted by the



Depression and two wars. He told me that he would give up



the practice of medicine if it became socialized in America.



  "I've never turned away a patient in my life, and I've



never known another doctor who has. Last year I wrote off



six thousand dollars worth of bad debts, " he said.



I was going to say that a sick person should never under



any conditions be abad debt, but I decided to forget it. Noth-



ing was going to be proved or changed on the shores of Little



Redfish Lake, and as that chub had discovered, it was not a



good place to have cosmetic surgery done.



  "I worked three years ago for a union in Southern Utah



that had a health plan, " the surgeon said. "I would not care



to practice medicine under such conditions. The patients



think they own you and your time. They think you're their



own personal garbage can.



  "I'd be home eating dinner and the telephone would ring,



'Help ! Doctor ! I'm dying! It's my stomach ! I've got horrible



pains !' I would get up from my dinner and rush over there.



  "The guy would meet me at the door with a can of beer in



his hand. 'Hi, dec, come on in. I'11 get you a beer. I'm



watching TV. The pain is all gone. Great, huh? I feel like a



million. Sit down. I'11 get you a beer, dec. The Ed Sullivan



Show's on.'



  "No thank you, " the surgeon said. "I wouldn't care to



practice medicine under such conditions. No thank you. No



thanks .



  "I like to hunt and I like to fish, " he said. "That's why I



moved to Twin Falls. I'd heard so much about Idaho hunting



and fishing. I've been very disappointed. I've given up my



practice, sold my home in Twin, and now I'm looking for a



new place to settle down.



  "I've written to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexi-



co, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington for



their hunting and fishing regulations, and I'm studying them



all, " he said.



  "I've got enough money to travel around for six months,



looking for a place to settle down where the hunting and fish-



ing is good. I'11 get twelve hundred dollars back in income



tax returns by not working any more this year. That's two



hundred a month for not working. I don't understand this



country, " he said.



  The surgeon's wife and children were in a trailer nearby.



The trailer had come in the night before, pulled by a brand-



new Rambler station wagon. He had two children, a boy two-



and-a-half years old and the other, an infant born premature-



ly, but now almost up to normal weight.



The surgeon told me that they'd come over from camping



on Big Lost River where he had caught a fourteen-inch brook



trout. He was young looking, though he did not have much



hair on his head.



I talked to the surgeon for a little while longer and said



good-bye. We were leaving in the afternoon for Lake Josephus



located at the edge of the Idaho Wilderness, and he was leav-



ing for America, often only a place in the mind.



















        A NOTE ON THE CAMPING







      CRAZE THAT IS CURRENTLY







            SWEEPING AMERICA








As much as anything else, the Coleman lantern is the sym-



bol of the camping craze that is currently sweeping America,



with its unholy white light burning in the forests of America.



  Last summer, a Mr. Norris was drinking at a bar in San



Francisco. It was Sunday night and he'd had six or seven.



Turning to the guy on the next stool, he said, "What are you



up to?"



  "Just having a few, " the guy said.



  "That's what I'm doing, " Mr. Norris said. "I like it. "



  "I know what you mean, " the guy said. "I had to lay off



for a couple years. I'm just starting up again. "



  "What was wrong?" Mr. Norris said.



  "I had a hole in my liver, " the guy said.



  "In your liver?"



"Yeah, the doctor said it was big enough to wave a flag



in. It's better now. I can have a couple once in a while. I'm



not supposed to, but it won't kill me. "



  "Well, I'm thirty-two years old, " Mr. Norris said. "I've



had three wives and I can't remember the names of my child-



ren. "



  The guy on the next stool, like a bird on the next island,



took a sip from his Scotch and soda. The guy liked the sound



of the alcohol in his drink. He put the glass back on the bar.



  "That's no problem, " he said to Mr. Norris. "The best



thing I know for remembering the names of children from



previous marriages, is to go out camping, try a little trout



fishing. Trout fishing is one of the best things in the world



for remembering children's names."



  "Is that right?" Mr. Norris said.



  "Yeah, " the guy said.



  "That sounds like an idea, " Mr. Norris said. "I've got to



do something. Sometimes I think one of them is named Carl,



but that's impossible. My third-ex hated the name Carl. "



   "You try some camping and that trout fishing, " the guy



on the next stool said. "And you'll remember the names of



Your unborn children. "



   "Carl! Carl! Your mother wants you!" Mr. Norris yelled



as a kind of joke, then he realized that it wasn't very funny.



He was getting there.



   He'd have a couple more and then his head would always



fall forward and hit the bar like a gunshot. He'd always miss



his glass, so he wouldn't cut his face. His head would always



jump up and look startled around the bar, people staring at



it. He'd get up then, and take it home.



   The next morning Mr. Norris went down to a sporting



goods store and charged his equipment. He charged a 9 x 9



foot dry finish tent with an aluminum center pole. Then he



charged an Arctic sleeping bag filled with eiderdown and an



air mattress and an air pillow to go with the sleeping bag.



He also charged an air alarm clock to go along with the idea



of night and waking in the morning.



   He charged a two-burner Coleman stove and a Coleman



lantern and a folding aluminum table and a big set of inter-



locking aluminum cookware and a portable ice box.



  The last things he charged were his fishing tackle and a



bottle of insect repellent.



  He left the next day for the mountains.



   Hours later, when he arrived in the mountains, the first



sixteen campgrounds he stopped at were filled with people.



He was a little surprised. He had no idea the mountains



would be so crowded.



   At the seventeenth campground, a man had just died of a



heart attack and the ambulance attendants were taking down



his tent. They lowered the center pole and then pulled up the



corner stakes. They folded the tent neatly and put it in the



back of the ambulance, right beside the man's body.



   They drove off down the road, leaving behind them in the



air, a cloud of brilliant white dust. The dust looked like the



light from a Coleman lantern.



   Mr. Norris pitched his tent right there and set up all his



equipment and soon had it all going at once. After he finished



eating a dehydrated beef Stroganoff dinner, he turned off all



his equipment with the master air switch and went to sleep,



for it was now dark.



   It was about midnight when they brought the body and



placed it beside the tent, less than a foot away from where



Mr. Norris was sleeping in his Arctic sleeping bag.



  He was awakened when they brought the body. They weren't



exactly the quietest body bringers in the world. Mr. Norris



could see the bulge of the body against the side of the tent.



The only thing that separated him from the dead body was a



thin layer of 6 oz. water resistant and mildew resistant DRY



FINISH green AMERIFLEX poplin.



  Mr. Norris un-zipped his sleeping bag and went outside



with a gigantic hound-like flashlight. He saw the body bring-



ers walking down the path toward the creek.



"Hey, you guys !" Mr. Norris shouted. "Come back here.



You forgot something. "



  "What do you mean?" one of them said. They both looked



very sheepish, caught in the teeth of the flashlight.



  "You know what I mean," Mr. Norris said. "Right now!"



  The body bringers shrugged their shoulders, looked at



each other and then reluctantly went back, dragging their



feet like children all the way. They picked up the body. It



was heavy and one of them had trouble getting hold of the feet.



  That one said, kind of hopelessly to Mr. Norris, "You



won't change your mind?"



  "Goodnight and good-bye, " Mr. Norris said.



  They went off down the path toward the creek, carrying



the body between them. Mr. Norris turned his flashlight off



and he could hear them, stumbling over the rocks along the



bank of the creek. He could hear them swearing at each other.



He heard one of them say, "Hold your end up.'' Then he



couldn't hear anything.



  About ten minutes later he saw all sorts of lights go on at



another campsite down along the creek. He heard a distant



voice shouting, "The answer is no ! You already woke up the



kids. They have to have their rest. We're going on a four-



mile hike tomorrow up to Fish Konk Lake. Try someplace



else. "
























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