Then the river at my feet churned and flew up like a clear tent above my head.

Behind the sheet of standing water, as through a windowpane, I saw something whip upward, its body emerald green, its big bulb head swiveling with yellow eyes sunk in a flat face crossed with scars.

The slit mouth broke the film of water and widened with dirty snake’s teeth in rows and the hot stink of rotting fish. A clawed fin pierced above one of my kidneys and dropped me deep like the plunging arm of a carnival ride —

I woke up shaking, still under the green water and trailing blood from the hook through my stomach and out my back.

The windows were dark. I looked up and saw the clock radio’s radium-tipped hands said five. The alarm hadn’t gone off yet.

I was soaked in sweat, so I got up and showered. I shaved, watching my eyes in the mirror, and dressed and had coffee and cold cereal as I shivered.

The temperature in the room had dropped at least 30 degrees over night. I sat on the love seat wearing my heavy jacket, watching the slowly brightening overcast sky above the river turning silver.

“Who knows?” Tug had said as we left Mussel Bay. “You saved the fish. Maybe we’ll find Paul’s Sleeping Child monster.”

The dream had been vivid enough. I hadn’t dreamed it before, only of the fish, saffron like a monk’s robe, and the pretty smiling girl by the underground river that fed the green lake.

I could still see the thing. The smooth slick arc of the back of its neckless head had been the worst. Then the way it twisted toward me, instantaneously, free of any law of nature or machine. The oval eyes locked mine in a freezing, intimate stare, from a void of reptile blackness without sun or stars or reflected light —

My breath made smoke when I leaned too close to the window. The radiator startled me, clanking and banging as it filled with steam. I tensed again when the alarm went off.

Looking out at the moving Clark Fork of the Columbia, I knew winter had come; the short late-summer fall was over.

The room was just getting warm when it was time to go. I got up, picked up my bag, and opened the door. I turned back, looking at the dim room, thinking I’d forgotten something.

Then I saw the white Sleeping Child by the yellow book on the coffee table and stepped back to get it, for good luck but also protection, remembering Joe White Horse and Mrs. Blackdeer who lived up the gravel street from Joe’s cabin.

“What the Child dreams is what we do here,” she had told me.

“Before or after we do it?”

“During. That’s why he cries. Sometimes he dreams before, when he knows he’s dreaming and tries to wake up.”

I locked the door and went down the hall to the stairs.

The bank sign said 29 degrees. I waited five minutes by the phone in the lobby and the cowboys pulled up in the long, blue king cab. I went out onto the sidewalk and jogged across the cold street.

Both boys were wearing red-checked hunting caps instead of straw Stetsons. Bud rolled down his window.

“Hey Bill.”