By Guest Author: Corinne Madden
The bright white orb in the sky was surrounded by a soft ribbon of yellow above the waves that were crashing along the rocks that laid on the shore line. A canvas of orange, pink, and red painted the sky as the water mirrored the painting along its surface. Silver lines glazed the surface a few times under the bright light, but then are erased as the sun rises higher in the sky, and I smile. The sky at early morn was the same as it always been, a painting of perfection that could never be washed away. Even though this is the first time I have been here in ten months, it was still the same. It’s like time hasn’t moved at all.
My wrinkled, left hand clutched the rubber handle, my right on the reel handle, ready to catch my dinner for tonight, that is, if I catch one. I just need patience, that’s all, as long as I’m patient then my actions will be rewarded. I guess all those fishing trips with my father finally paid off, I thought to myself as the bobber at the end of my line danced with the waves. The way they danced together, perfect harmony, not missing a step, it was like us a mere fifty years ago. The smile on her face as her laugh echoed through the humid air that one June day, her blond hair wrapped in a red bandanna, the same color of the lipstick that covered her beautiful lips. Her brown eyes were like the night sky but would sparkle under the light of the afternoon sun, her skin the color of the moon. She was her own personal galaxy, and I was one of the planets that inhabited her world. I was distracted by her when I a mere lad of eighteen, about two years older than her, eventually losing grip of my make-shift wooden pole my father taught me to make long ago. I took a dive off of the white wooden dock into the cool water, retrieving my pole as she laughed at my foolishness. When I returned to shore, my overalls and white shirt soaked, it took her a while to stop laughing, but I didn’t mind, in fact I started to laugh with her. That was the first day I realized I truly loved someone. I smiled, those were the days. No, they defiantly paid off.
“Hey, Sir, your line!” A small voiced called out as I snapped out of the memory. The bobber dived under the water as I reeled in my catch, careful not to break my line or lose my catch. The fish was starting to fight back, and even putting up a good fight as I finally pulled the Walleye out of the water. It was only a foot long, just a small one, but it will do for now. I quickly grabbed the line as the fish flopped all over the place, laying it on the dock, removing the hook from it’s mouth. I placed the fish in a black, metal, five-gallon bucket that was starting to rust and stood up, looking at the voice that pulled me out of my memory of her.
It was a young boy, no older than the age of seven, carrying a stuffed dragon that was the color of fire. Scrappy, ebony hair covered his head as his eyes, the color of the night sky, stared at me. His dark skin was clothed in ripped denim shorts, stopping just above his knees, and an orange T-shirt with a blue and white striped guppy with a giant black dot for an eye. The young boy wore no shoes, his feet covered with the mud, cuts, and grass stains from the earth. He had a small scar under his right eye, something that looks like it will be there for a long time.
“Thank you, son,” I said nodding to him, “I appreciate it.”
“Your welcome,” he said, giving a smile. I laughed when I noticed a few of his teeth were missing. “Why are you fishing?”
“Uh, it’s something I like to do?” I stuttered before answering. Why did this question catch me off guard? “Why aren’t you wearing any shoes?”
“Because I only use them for school,” He said blankly, going back to aimlessly staring at me.
“You… don’t have any shoes for outside, lad?” I asked, the lines etched on my face showing my confusion. “What about the winter time? And where is your mother or father, are they around?”
“I have boots for the winter, but I don’t go outside that much anyways. And my mom’s at work, she always tells me to go on new adventures! She says I might actually make friends.”
“What about your father?” I asked as I picked up my pole.
“He moved away,” the young kid shrugged, “He said that he wanted to teach me to fish when I got older, but he moved away when I was at my Grandparents house. He said I needed to take care of Mommy.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, nodding as I moved my eyes towards the old wood, “What’s your name kid?”
“Ashlin,” he answered as I walked towards the edge of the dock and sat down.
“Ashlin? That’s a nice name, I guess,” I said as I threw my line out towards the lake, watching as it plopped into the waves, emerging back to the surface a few seconds later. “What’s your mom making for dinner tonight?”
“It’s probably going to be bread again, maybe if we’re lucky Mommy will bring home some fruit,” he said as he sat down next to me on the dock, holding onto his dragon tight so it doesn’t fall into the water.
“Just bread and fruit? That’s it?” I asked astonish as I waited for another catch.
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “Mommy said it’s all we can afford right now.”
“Hm, interesting,” I said, looking back towards the water.
“Can you teach me how to fish, Sir?” Ashlin asked, looking up at me with sad eyes, “My dad is never going to teach me.”
“Uh, sure kid,” I said, “There should be a spare pole in the back of my truck, go grab it and bring it back here okay?”
“Can I leave my dragon there?” He asked smiling, his eyes lighting up with excitement as he stood up.
“Sure, kid, go ahead,” I said as he scurried off. He came up a few seconds later with a small wooden pole that I used a few years ago. It was a make shift, but it would still reel in a good-size Walleye. He sat back down beside me and looked at me, smiling.
“Ok, now you got a worm on there?” I said as I looked at his hook, sitting empty as he looked at it. I chuckled as I pulled out a small a small ALTOIDS case, filled with worms that I used for fishing. “Okay, so you’re going to hook it on three times, like this,” I said as I impaled the worm, folded it, and impaled it again, and repeated it another time. Ashlin nodded and looked back to me, awaiting his next order. “Okay, son, throw it out to the water.” I watched as he threw it out, the bobber landing close to mine.
“Like that, Sir?” he asked, as he watched his bobber dance with the waves.
“Yes, now you wait,” I instructed, “Fishing is about patience.”
“Okay,” he said as he diligently watched his bobber.
“So, does your father send you any money or anything like that?” I asked as I turned towards him, watching his eyes glued towards his bobber, “Have you tried to contact him? Send him any letters?”
“No, Mommy says that he can’t get any letters from me where he’s at. I’ve already tried to but Mommy saw me writing and told me to stop because it will never get to him,” Ashlin shrugged.
“Well, do you know where he lives? Maybe I can send your letter to him?” I offered.
“Mommy says he lives in a place called Heaven,” Ashlin said turning to me, his eyes wide as he stared up at me, “Do you know anyone who lives there? Mommy says a lot of people live there.”
“Oh, uh,” I stuttered as I looked out towards the water. Her smile comes back into my mind, the young smile she had when I was at this spot one day all those years ago. I remembered many years later at the hospital, our wrinkled faces in disbelief when they told us about her sickness. I remember that word briefly, it ran through my mind a million times: Cancer, Cancer, Cancer. It took her life a year later. The doctors tried everything but it wasn’t enough.
“Really, what’s their name?” Ashlin asked curiously.
“Her name was Hellen, she’s my wife,” I said, trying not to let a tear slip, “Did your mom ever say why your dad left?”
“Yeah, she said he wasn’t feeling well, so he had to move away so we wouldn’t get sick,” he said, “I just wished he taught me stuff before he left. I’m wondering if he’s having fun where he is right now.”
“Yeah, I don’t blame you, kiddo,” I said as his bobber shot under, “Ashlin, there son! Okay, so just reel it in, but give it some slack sometimes so you don’t lose your catch. That’s it, good boy!” I watched as he pulled his catch out of the water as I caught his line. A Walleye, a small footer, was flopping around on the line, Ashlin smiling at his catch. “Good job, kiddo!”
“I caught it! I actually caught it!” he said looking at me, “Thank you, Sir! Thank you! Mommy is going to be so happy!”
“It’s no problem kid,” I said smiling, “Now, here,” I said as I cut the line, “Go give this to your mom, okay?”
“Okay, Sir! Can we come back tomorrow?” He says with excitement.
“Sure, kid, I’ll be here waiting for you,” I chuckled, “Now run along.” I watched as he nodded and turned around scurrying to get his dragon before running off. “Oh, Ashlin! Bring that letter to your dad tomorrow, I can send it to him!”
“Really?! Okay, I will, thank you!” He said as he ran off smiling. I smiled as I slowly gathered my things, looking out to the water one last time before walking towards my semi-rusted truck, the bumper near a small garden of orange lilies Hellen planted so long ago, as I got in and started the truck, the dock driving out of site as the sun rose to high-noon behind me.