On Writing “Telemetry,” by Matthew Neill Null

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Matthew Neill Null’s story, “Telemetry,” appears in our Winter 2012/13 issue, edited by Ladette Randolph and John Skoyles.

About ten years ago, I backpacked onto this mountain, the site of a logging ghost town, to do some fishing.  I hadn’t been there before and didn’t realize how low and drought-stricken the river would be.  The fishing was awful.  You have this Field & Stream fantasy that the further you go from the roads, the better the fishing will be—but for the most part I’ve found the opposite to be true.  The people know where the trout are.  Especially in West Virginia, where there isn’t anything to do but fish and hunt.  Ten dirty trucks in the Forest Service turnaround is usually the best sign.  Anyway, everyone else knew better.  The only other people up there was a group of three guys, graduate students from the state university.  They had been there for weeks, the wear had started to show.  Like all grad students, they were eminently bored, above all with their own work.  I mean, that ingrained boredom that has a solidity, like sculpture, like yard art.  It was a seven-mile hike out, much of it on a heel-splitting railroad grade, and I wasn’t ready to leave, so I spent some time talking with them about their research.  (They had a gate-key to a private road.  I hoped they would offer me a ride off the mountain.  They easily deflected my hints, but were friendly about it.)  All else is fiction.  (Maybe I was asking myself, What could liven up this scene?)