Fisherman and Old Cloot first appeared in the August 2013 edition of Swords and Sorcery Magazine. Curtis Ellett paid my first fiction royalties for it, but it was only my second published short story and so, one of my babies.
I wrote it all the way back in 2007 as I was in the process of becoming a parent for the first time. Morning sickness characterized that entire pregnancy—think nine months of motion sickness and you’ll about have the gist. It comes through in the story. My stomach still heaves when I read it.
The same year that I was pregnant, the household income was also being threatened, and normal first-time parent fears pressed to the edges. “What if we don’t have enough to feed our child?” I grew up in a country where children suffered malnourishment all the time. I’d watched the day-to-day struggle to find food. That concern morphed into Fisherman’s driving motivation and the source of his sons’ temptation.
The nausea and the threat of hunger swirled around with the old Scots wives-tales of creatures that lived in burns and down wells and in the lakes.
I combined the cloot name (meaning, “cleft foot”) with the kelpie myth of a shape-shifting horse/water creature and its magic bridle. I researched Scottish fish and flora and their seasons.
And then I called up the memory of an August day in 2004 when my husband and I hiked around Loch Katrine to reach my mother’s ancestral burial ground. Because Loch Katrine serves as the primary reservoir for the city of Glasgow, we couldn’t drive. It rained on us all morning, which isn’t unheard of in Scotland, so we nibbled our snacks while we walked instead of sitting down to eat lunch. By the time we reached the MacGregor cemetery, the weather was clearing and the afternoon stroll back to the car was filled with scents and sounds of Scottish lake life.
It rained even harder the night we drove around Loch Ness, so I haven’t got a photo of the Loch Ness monster to show you. But the image of Nessie was clearly in mind while I wrote Fisherman and Old Cloot.