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June 17, 2024

The Old Fisherman

By Jerry Guarino

Tony carefully looked over his choices. Should I go with live bait or a lure? The sky is clear today. No cloud cover means the fish will be able to see me casting. A shiny yellow plunker will catch the sunlight and attract them, but a live minnow will attract their smell. All right, I'll start with the plunker.

The plunker was his favorite lure. His father had given it to him before he died, along with all his old gear. Sure, there were fancy new lures, but the plunker was his dad's favorite, so he used it out of respect. Tony remembered getting up early to get on the boat. His mom would pack a lunch for them. By the end of the day, they were as smelly as the fish, but always brought something home for dinner.

But he was alone today. Both his parents gone now. Fishing was the one thing he could do that brought back memories of them.

It was one of those days when the fish were winning. Tony never got skunked before. He thought about fishing with his father, how his dad would encourage him when the fish weren't biting.

"Don't worry Tony. The big ones are coming. You have to be patient."

And they always came. Tony and his father wouldn't leave until they brought one home for dinner, even if it was small, just one or two pounds.

Tony was getting tired. He reached down for a snack, but there wasn't any.

I guess Ma forgot to pack my lunch. Or maybe I just forgot to take it. Yeah, Ma never forgets me.

Tony started to rub his eyes. The sun was going down. He heard something from behind. It was his son David.

"How are they biting, pop? What have you caught today?"

"Sorry son. I've been fighting them off for a couple hours. I get one on the line and he wriggles out, or bites the line. I even lost my best plunker."

"Let me try, pop."

David took the gear, pulled out a crawfish, dipped it in garlic juice and baited the hook. Then he leaned back and cast it out about thirty yards, between some lily pads.

"Careful son, you might get tangled in the weeds there."

"I know, pop." David reeled in, swaying his rod from left to right and back to left again, very slowly. Then he stopped and jiggled the tip up and down. Nothing yet. He began again, repeating the swaying and pausing, jiggling the tip up and down. When his cast returned to about fifteen yards out, he sensed a nibble.

"I got a nibble, pop."

"Don't jerk him too fast, let him take the bait."

"I know, pop. I learned from the best."

Strike! Suddenly the fish took the hook and began running out. Twenty, thirty yards out, then darting back and forth, trying to escape the hook. But David had him. He set the hook and began reeling him in slowly, keeping tension on the line so the fish couldn't get away.

"You got him, son. How big is it?"

The fish jumped out of the water. It was a big one.

"Pop, I think we have dinner tonight. Looks like a five pounder, at least."

David pulled the fish out of the water, a largemouth bass. He put it on the scale. Seven pounds even.

"Hey Ma! David got a big one. Seven-pound largemouth bass."

No answer.

"She's probably doing laundry, pop. Go wash up and meet me in the kitchen. I'll make you dinner."

"You bringing that bass, son?"

"You bet, pop. Just give me a minute to clean it."

Tony went downstairs, washed his hands and sat at the kitchen table.

"Ma, where are you? David's gonna fry up a fish for dinner."

No answer.

David turned off the PlayStation and joined his father in the kitchen. He took out some fresh fish he brought from the grocery.

"You cleaned it real fine son. Good job."

"Thanks, pop. You taught me how."

David and his father had dinner, then went to the living room. Tony always got sleepy after dinner. As he was nodding off, he turned to David.

"Where's Ma, son?"

David cried a little. "Probably doing laundry, pop."

"All right." And he fell asleep in his chair.

Article © Jerry Guarino. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-11-11
Image(s) are public domain.
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