I was midway through my after-lunch nap when my old guide friend, J. Binkley Backwater called.
"It's been awhile, Bink," I said. "What have you been up to?"
"I want to run a new guidin' idee past you," he said.
This was a surprise. I had assumed that Backwater had already hatched every possible scheme to separate his "dudes" from their money without having to work for it. His motto, misspelled out on T-shirts he sells for $30: "If our services dont meet your expecktations, lower your expecktations."
"What now?" I said.
"Last July, a couple of doctors on my boat got to talkin' about surrogate mothers. Seems to me, I could be one."
"A surrogate mother?"
"No, you idiot. I could be a substitute for whatever a dude needed one for."
"Give me an example," I said.
"Let's say a dude is s'posedly up here to fish, but he spends more time at bars and strip joints than on the river. I could do his fishin' for him, and he could do what he really wants to do. Of course, he'd have to show up long enough to pose with a fish for a photo, but I'd do all the work, and for just my usual guidin' fee."
"Well, I guess I could throw in a T-shirt."
"No, I mean the whole idea. It's the most preposterous scheme you've ever had."
"You ain't heard the best part," he said. "That comes when I tell 'em that what happens in Alaska stays in Alaska -- but only for a price."
"You've outdone yourself."
"There's more," Backwater said. "The trouble with bein' a fishin' guide in Alaska is the short season. But as a surrogate, I can fish for a client all winter long. Of course, the colder and more miserable it is, the higher my fee."
"You've gone too far, Bink. For a good three months, the river is frozen solid, and all the salmon have spawned and died.
"You don't think I'll really be out there, do you? I'll pay some kid to sit by a hole in the ice for me. As for fish, there's plenty in my freezer."
"You're saying the kid would be sort of a surrogate surrogate. Even the fish would be surrogates."
"The dudes will love it," Backwater said. "Instead of sittin' on the ice with icicles hanging off their noses, they can be in a cozy bar with a cold drink in one hand and a hot woman in the other. I expect winter fishin' to be my biggest seller. Dudes will come here instead going to Mexico."
"Bink, it appears that you've found a way to cope with the present economic disquiet."
"Things ain't so bad," Backwater said. "There's plenty of opportunities for somebody who ain't afraid of a little work."
Les Palmer lives in Sterling.
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