Editor's note: This is one of San Anselmo resident Susanna Solomon's many Marin Sheriff's log-inspired short stories. Solomon has had 13 stories printed in the Point Reyes Light Newspaper and Harper Davis Publishers will publish a collection of her short stories next year. including how she started writing the stories and that she studied engineering for seven years to earn a degree and job so she could leave her husband.
From the Point Reyes Light, March 8, 2012
San Geronimo: At 5:31 pm a resident reported two teenage girls who were in the creek, muddying the water and “killing off the salmon”.
“There’s somebody out there,” Alice said, peering through her thick glasses at a figure staring at them through the woods. She pushed another wad of gum into her mouth. Her parents wouldn’t let her chew gum at home – but what the heck – she wasn’t at home. She was at Beth Ann’s for the weekend.
“My Grandma says Mrs. Willis lives out here. Bet that was her,” Beth Ann said. “Nosy old bat,” she added, and dropped branches back in place.
Alice crouched down in the water a sec. They would have been able to see the fish, but they’d been jumping in the water and now it was brown and her legs were peppered with mud. “So, you think your parents will wonder where we are?” she asked.
“Nah,” Beth Ann cried, throwing a rock into the river. It made a nice splash. She needed a bigger one and stepped to shore.
Alice watched the sediment drift over her toes. A frog – a tiny little frog – a little green guy, no bigger than a quarter, was all tucked inside a leaf. It was the cutest thing she’d ever seen. She bent down, reached for her iPhone. Still good enough light for a photo. Grandma Mildred would be delighted.
“Hey you! Get out of there!” screamed a voice above her.
Alice’s hand jerked in surprise. The phone fell onto the leaf. She reached for it, but the leaf wouldn’t hold the weight and the phone disappeared into the creek with a plop.
“Damn you!” Alice cried, “you’ve ruined my phone!” She came charging out of the creek towards the old lady. And that would have been all right if deputy Linda Kent wasn’t already standing right there, holding onto the lady’s arm.
“I’m going to report you to SPAWN*,” Mrs. Willis cried. “You’re killing all the fish!”
“I’ll take care of this, Mrs. Wallis,” Linda said. “Please calm down.”
Alice screeched to a halt once she’d seen the uniform. “It’s ruined – it’s completely ruined. I spent all last summer cleaning houses for that phone.” She choked back tears.
“I told you they were trespassing, officer,” Mrs. Willis said. “I told you.”
“Now, Alice, you know you were trespassing,” Deputy Linda Kent said.
“I was not,” Alice cried.
“She doesn’t know much, does she, Officer?” Mrs. Willis said.
“Just come out of the creek, and we’ll figure this all out,” Linda said, reaching for Alice’s hand.
Alice knew better. “Beth Ann!” She shouted. “Beth Ann!”
”Trespassing and killing salmon,” Mrs. Willis stated. “There’s a hefty fine for that.”
“And there’s a hefty fine for making me drop my phone!” Alice cried, wanting to go after Mrs. Willis. The old lady was holding an alligator bag on her arm, just like her Grandma Mildred always did. “You startled me - I almost peed my pants.”
“We don’t have to use that kind of language here,” Linda said, trying to figure out what to do with the two of them. “Mrs. Willis, please.”
Mrs. Willis scowled.
“They’re wet through,” Alice complained, lying a little. Jesus. All her contacts and photos and music – all ruined. She heard footsteps coming through the woods.
“Oh hi, Mrs. Willis, Deputy Kent. You guys on a nature trip too?” Beth Ann asked. “Something bothering you, Mrs. Willis? You’re looking a little pale.” Beth Ann went to shake her hand. “Good to see you.”
Mrs. Wallis pulled back her hands in despair. Beth Ann had dropped a tiny snake on her wrist.
“It’s a baby garter snake, Mrs. Willis,” Beth Ann said with a smile. “No reason to be afraid.” She held up three tiny snakes who slithered through her fingers, one trying to get away. “Woops,” she said, catching it with her other hand. “They’re not poisonous, and certainly can’t smother you or squeeze you to death like a python. You like pythons, Mrs. Willis? I’ve got one in my bedroom, but he’s only four feet long. The vet says Jerome could grow to sixteen feet. You want to come over and meet Jerome, Mrs. Willis?”
Mrs. Willis screamed, back up and ran. Linda was left with the two girls and no one to file a report. “Beth Ann,” she chastised her. “You didn’t need to scare Mrs. Willis. Now, would you girls please get out of the creek, and stay out. You’re covered with mud,” she added, and headed back to the cruiser.
“We didn’t start out that way,” Alice said with a giggle. She was glad she’d picked Beth Ann as a friend. Beth Ann was cool. “Can I touch one of those snakes?” she whispered, feeling brave.
“Of course,” Beth Ann answered, dribbling the snakes into Alice’s palms. “They’re plastic,” she said and burst out laughing.
SPAWN: Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, a powerful salmon protection organization in West Marin.