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On the Water

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Clearing Water Part I

    Two men sat facing their respective rods, watching each their own part of the water back to back so that when they talked, they had to speak a little louder to be heard over the motor that trolled for them. As lake water does on breathless days, it carried their voices across the distance and handed their words perfectly to my ears, though I sat many long yards away on the rocky shoreline, where I’d come to take in the day.

    I wanted to record the glazed, old-world impression painted on that November canvas. I wanted to etch the ivory view into my bank of memory with its distant mountain ridges fading, though pasted as they were with first snow. I wanted to remember the day-fog lightly suspended in the cold air waiting to descend again at night, thick as cream soup.

    I did not know these men, knew not their names nor anything about them, yet I found myself curious as a deer is curious, ears pricked to glean every detail of every sound, for they were as much a part of that glorious autumn day as I. They could have no clue their discussion carried so clearly over the span of placid water, as if I were out there with them.

    Their boat was customized for fishing. Telltale downriggers and outrigger poles defined its intended purpose, gave clue to its singular character. The larger outboard, meant for speed, had been pulled to rest, allowing the well-tuned trolling motor to perform its due. The clever craft cut a triangulating swath across the glass, a pie cut that riffled outward and away behind them, broadcasting its steady pace carving memory across the surface of Lake Pend Oreille.

    The man who sat farthest from me on the opposite side of that eastbound vessel was obviously younger and slightly taller than the man nearer. He wore a light, navy blue jacket, unzipped over a black t-shirt, and drank from a can of beer cradled conveniently in a holder next to his rod, which bent sharply downward, reined as it was to a cabled snap deep in the water below. He reminded me of days of my youth when I, full of life and hope, devoid of worry, stood like that in full bloom. It was a time when I had the courage and muster to believe in and live for almost any dream.

    The other man, gray haired like myself, was stouter, certainly shorter and rounded at the shoulder, eroded by time. He carried a mood morose, as if suspended in gloom like the fog hiding. He was out of place in the painting, a brushstroke gone astray, made with the wrong color of paint. He was the only cloud I saw that day. Perhaps his posture told on him, or maybe it was the short, terse bark in his replies. He wore a heavy sweater of dark gray that matched his mood and a baseball cap. He too drank, but not of beer. Probably coffee, hidden in a lidded mug, used to clarify, maybe brandied for confidence. Surely it was not a drink of pleasure, but one of suture, for wounds hidden beneath dark rhetorical comments.

    An odd couple, I thought, to be sure!

    Then the younger man spoke, “So what’s buggin’ ya, Dickson?”

    “Nothin’s buggin’ me,” came the quick lie.

    “Sure as the sun rose this morning, you’re a bothered man—not the one I fish with on a normal day.”

    “And if bothered, friend, then bothered be. So what’s the problem with that? If a man can’t be what a man is and has to act a charge then there’s damnation in the day and I’ll refuse it. I won’t claim to be bothered, won’t claim that label. It ain’t mine, like so many things I know. If you had half a wit about you, you’d give up that beer and look at life a bit more seriously.” He took a suck on his lidded cup to emphasize his bitter stance. I swear he held that spew on his lips as he looked back at his boatman awaiting the response before swallowing it.

    But the young man was not put out, not in the least affected by this gruff retort. He chimed back with a face of wit, “Spit it out, Dickson. Spat your venom on the water. You’ll feel better. What’s the claim on your heart, anyway?”

    “Got no claims. Have no choice. My heart’s as clean and pure as polished silver. No man in this world has a claim on ol’ Dickson. My line goes as deep as this monofilament. I’ll live out my days as I do. Why do you bother, anyway?”

    “Heh, heh. You’re about as much fun as a roadkill.”

    “You didn’t have to bring me.”

    “Sure I did. Do you think I’d leave you behind? Heck, Dickson, you’re my man. You’re the golden boy of the hour. This is your day, Dickson. You might actually catch one today.”

    Now I was beginning to see, beginning to sense the companionship shared by these braided lives and understand something of their curious relationship.

    “Not might actually,” Dickson replied. “I will! I will catch a fish today and it’ll go far beyond anything you ever imagined.”

    “Mid-life crisis.”

    “You’re an idiot!”

    The younger sniggered audibly, tipping his beer once again to his lips to absorb the chuckle. “Watch out now, you just might hook one.”

    They remained quiet while they made the long turn to come back around west across the same carved piece of water.



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Dwayne Parsons Dwayne Parsons

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