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Tyger, Tyger 2014
41” x 48”
by John Babcock

Photo by Linda Babcock

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Micah Perks

"Alone in the Woods: Cheryl Strayed, My Daughter and Me"

Excerpt from Alone In The Woods: Cheryl Strayed, My Daughter and Me
Shebooks, 2.99, and also 2.99 on audible

My daughter and I drove south to rent two sea kayaks. An experienced kayaker, I was at ease. My daughter had never kayaked in the ocean, had never really kayaked at all. But the ocean was calm and so was she. We paddled for several hours, saw some otters, a sea cave, an elephant seal. We were half hoping to see a shark, but we didn't.
            When we paddled back the surf had come up. The waves were about nine feet before they hit the beach. I noticed we were the only ones on the water. The guy who rented us the kayaks yelled from the beach that he would guide us in. He called, "One at a time. Keep your eyes on me." If he pushed his open hands away from himself we needed to back paddle, held his hands still, remain still, and paddle like hell when he gestured for us to come towards him. "Whose first?" he yelled over the breaking surf.
            I didn't know if it would be better for me to go first or second. I asked my daughter, but she just shrugged.  I didn't like the idea of leaving her alone on the ocean, but I thought I would be able to help her more if I were on the beach. I didn't know if she was afraid. I assumed not, because she never was.
            She waited out beyond the break while I began to paddle in. The guy on the beach gestured for me to paddle forward. Then to stop. I resisted the urge to look behind me at what was coming. He began gesturing energetically for me to paddle forward. I paddled like hell. I felt a wave lift me high, pull me forward, but it let me go. I jumped out of the kayak in foaming waist high water and pulled the kayak out of the water.
            My daughter's turn. As she paddled in, I dragged my kayak up the beach towards the rental shack, walking backwards so I could watch. The guy started jumping up and down, waving frantically. For a minute my daughter balanced in her kayak on the top of a ten or eleven foot wave.
            How did that happen?
            Then the wave crashed over her. The empty kayak shot out of the water perpendicularly, smashed down again. My daughter had disappeared.


Micah Perks is the author of the novel We Are Gathered Here (1997, St. Martin’s), a memoir, Pagan Time, and numerous short stories published in Zyzzyva, The Massachusetts Review, and Epoch, amongst many others. Her stories have also been anthologized in The Encyclopedia Project, Viz Inter Arts, The Best Underground Fiction and others. Four of her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She has been given multiple residencies at The Blue Mountain Center and received a Saltonstall Foundation For The Arts grant. She won an NEA in 2008 for the first chapter of her novel-in-progress. Recent essays have been published and are forthcoming from The Rumpus and Tin House. Micah lives with her family in Santa Cruz California, where she co-directs the creative writing program and is a professor in the Literature Department at University of California, Santa Cruz. She’s at work on a novel.

Wallace J Nichols
Micah Perks

Danusha Laméris
Debra Spencer
Gary Young
Jake Young

John Babcock

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