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The blossoms fell, curling into the swirl of water before an old, weather-beaten log – the boy sat patiently on a large boulder, his rod beside him. He studied the water.
The sun also fell, in long, golden rivulets that seeped around the boys' resolve. It was mid-afternoon, and the soundtrack of birdsong and burbling water eased the roughness of the terrain, dulled its edges. In the distance, a crow called his indignant cry into the breeze, where it danced across the top of the pines.
For thirty minutes, give or take, the boy did nothing but watch and study. By watching the water, he could make a pretty good guess what it looked like under the surface. He saw old tree branches and stones that twisted the water in its course. In time, he also saw fish, imagined them – he knew where they would be.
With slow, quiet movements, the boy picked up his rod and cast a small salmon-egg hook – just the right size for a kernel of niblets corn. He did not use salmon eggs. Never had. Wouldn’t recognize one if he saw it. Didn’t know what color they were. He knew only that the small golden hooks were cheap – and the perfect size for fishing corn. Whether the fish liked corn or salmon eggs given the choice, the boy did not know, nor, did he care.
He was in no hurry and, one finger on the line to feel for bites, he let the corn float through the eddies before lifting it and recasting it farther out. Sometimes closer. If he had been old enough to drive and city enough to drive on freeways, he might have seen this as a kind of merging. He knew when the currents changed and he directed the corn through the churning water. After some time, the boy twitched the tip of the rod briefly whereupon, it doubled over. He let the fish tire itself out before bringing it to the bank. From his back pocket, he pulled an old Barlow knife which he used to kill the fish. A hard rap to the head, so as to prevent it suffering. Then, he wrapped the fish in wet cloth and put it in the shade.
It was then that the tranquility of the scene was destroyed as a middle-aged man in waders, vest, fishing cap, and wool shirt used his fly rod to part the branches in front of him as he walked. He stopped when he saw the boy, raising an arm in salutation.
The word sounded off, like it was coming from the wrong mouth. Like he was putting on an accent. It was a pregnant ‘howdy’ and the boy answered cautiously.
He nodded a greeting and stared at the water. The man came closer, closing the distance between them.
“You live around here? You fish here a lot? Where are the good spots?”
The boy looked at the toe of his tennis shoes and mumbled. He did not know how to answer the questions. They were questions that didn’t deserve or warrant answers. He did not want the man to know anything about him or the water. He did not want the man to know that this spot was a cathedral. Fishing was communion.
“You don’t know anything about this place? Come on – I only have five days to fish…”
There was a lilt in the request – the boy could see that he was trying to ingratiate himself, the funny guy. Teasing. He didn’t like it. It felt like a game or like he was the butt of a joke and everyone was laughing. He didn’t want to talk to the man, and he certainly didn’t want him fishing close by.
The man stuck a cigarette into the corner of his mouth, but didn’t light it. The sun seemed too hot, and the boy squirmed before deciding this was an OK time for a small lie. He did not like lying, but he didn’t like strangers either.
“Fishing isn’t too great unless you’re willing to walk. Up a few miles it widens out – that’s where the big ones are.”
The man smiled.
“You didn’t feel like walking?”
The boy did not answer. The man grabbed the bill of his cap and tugged on it in a contrived, mechanical way. Then, he lit his cigarette and headed in the direction the boy had indicated. He was a carnival – a parade of noise and flash. The boy began to feel bad for the water. For the fish. They didn’t deserve this.
The boy got his line back in the water, but something ineffable had changed.
To be continued...
#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back..