The old man stood silently by the edge of the water. His eyes were squinting into the nigh-set sun. He was almost motionless, and the animals had taken him for one of their own. They did not fear him. He was like a tree stump. His body did not move when he made a cast. A quick flick of the wrist sent his small spinner tumbling low across the still water. Occasionally, a swallow would dip to the flying lure and the old man would smile.
There were times when the rhythm of casting could take him back in time. Decades passed in seconds. Sometimes, he would catch himself turning to look for Tommy. Then he would remember, and he would feel foolish on top of feeling the pain. He'd hear the voice of the preacher saying how it wasn't right for a child to die before their parents. He recalled being so angry when the red-faced man had said it. Now he knew that, cliche or not, it was the absolute truth.
He blinked back a tear and flicked the spinner toward a weed bed, skirting it just above the vegetation. Years and years. He could see the bottom of the lake in his mind. It was part of him.
He'd loved fishing with Tommy. That kid. God had put a lot of pepper in that kid. He was hell on wheels from the time he'd learned to walk. The folks at school had all kinds of fancy names for it, but he knew it was simpler than that: he was a boy. A boy who didn't like school.
Sometimes, he'd called his son "All or Nothing" because that's what he was. He was a passionate boy who lived by extremes. It made him hard to deal with, but there was a fire in him that was a pleasure to see. And he had been a good fisherman. He was relaxed at the lake. The sun melted the chip on his shoulder.
The old man was crushed, and was inexplicably embarrassed, remembering the morning Tommy died. Or maybe he'd died in the night. Regardless, he was dead when his father had tried to wake him. Shaking the boy gently. Then more roughly. Then with tears in his eyes. He didn't stop until the doctor had given him that shot. And, though he knew it was stupid, it shamed him. He couldn't accept that his little boy, though no longer little, was gone from the world.
He paused his retrieval when he knew the lure was right over a submerged log. He couldn't see it, but he knew it was there. And then there as a tug on the line and the old man set the hook. He added the crappie to the others in his cooler and took the spinner off. Before putting it in the empty chaw tin he kept in his back pocket, he took a close look at it. The paint was chipped. Gone, really. It was a battered wood color now. The golden spinner blade was still shiny. He watched it flop in the breeze, glinting like a little piece of magic. He held the lure in his hand and thought. How long? How many times had the little piece of wood, feather, and metal provided his dinner?
He couldn't look away. There was a memory tickling the edges of his mind. He wanted to think that this was the same lure, but he wasn't sure. It didn't matter. He smiled. He looked up the bank to the deep water Tommy had loved. He closed his fist around the lure and felt a slither of blood eke between his fingers. He looked at it and chuckled, rinsed his hand in the water. He put the lure away. And then he broke down his rod and ended another afternoon fishing the same way he had for over fifty years now. He stood perfectly still and absorbed it all. He watched the herons loop in a lazy sky. He heard the red-winged blackbird call. He could hear an osprey shrieking and there was an otter playing in the weeds, taking long strings of green to places unknown, even to the old man. He looked at the light dance on the water and smiled.