Sunday, March 20, 2016


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.

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