Mwanner, "Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park," 2005
A child would wrinkle her nose, so squeamish and sad for the worm she had fed to the hook, but her grandma would be matter-of-fact: “Darling, that’s how to catch a fish.” It was like that with us, long ago. We clambered into an old blue rowboat, feet wet from the saggy dock and the boat’s slow leak, pulled up its rusting coffee-can anchor, commenced to paddle. The oarlocks were stiff as my grandma’s fingers in the early morning, but all workable enough once moving. Edging the lakeshore, we raised oars and drifted. “Feed the line out so the bobber moves away—good girl! Keep your eye on it. When it dips, tug back to set the hook—I’ll help.” I caught an old soda bottle, then a clump of waterweed, and when I reeled them in and found no fish and needed to put a fresh worm on the hook, I’d tear up. My grandma caught two perch, olivine as lake water, mottled gold, before I saw the bobber dunk beneath a ripple then rise. I tugged—a tug back! The line zipped off the reel until I heard, “Gently, gently…now pull it back.” Grandma helped. Something small and shining swam near—a sunfish, iridescent, sunrise-bellied, flashing its gills in a panic as it was caught. We put beauty in the bucket with the fading perch; grandma gutted them later that day, and I burnt my tongue from the heat of sadness and pride that seasoned my dinner.