discovering a little something on an innocent fishing expedition
| Fishing Buddies
Walking along the perimeter fence of the mom-and-pop carnival in the be-bop little town, we spotted a lazy river. Next time we'd come here fishing, we said. And we did. Wendy brought two poles. There was no proper sandbank, but we did find a tall ledge which was really just a sewer entry hatch beside the walkway. The hatch was set in a small, square concrete slab - enough room for us both to sit and cast our lines into the river.
It was a silly, stagnant river. We realized we weren't going to catch anything but the occasional foul stench of frog burps. So she baited our hooks with slimy rubber minnows. If we had meant to catch anything, we might have found a real river and bought live bait.
I had not fished in more than ten years. Wendy was well versed in the art of casting lines. A flick of her wrist later, a tell-tale bob appeared a respectable distance away in the slow-flowing water. However, I could not get the timing right. My hook kept dropping straight down, to tease the wet weeds ten feet below our dangling knees. I tried my best but could not convince her that I had ever known how to do it right.
"Oh, forget it," I gave up, setting the pole down. "I'll just watch you fish." I sat comfortably beside her, ducking when she would re-cast. Wendy didn't mind. I didn't, either. We were quiet. Some crickets hummed. Frogs belched beer commercials. Bubbles popped in the surface of the river beneath us, pretending to be fishies. One half of my body started to itch.
I noticed the tomboy at my side. Clad in jean overalls and workboots, she exuded no femininity. Her film-era golden curls were bunched under a blue bonnet. She looked like a grumpy Jean Arthur, who always dressed down in her films. She reeled in her line and re-cast. The line brushed my face, but after a second of panic, the hook had not snagged me. "Oops!" she squeaked.
I reassured her that I was not pierced. I did stand, however, stretching my legs while she worked her line in from a poor toss. I knew I was developing feelings for this naive girl, though I had promised myself to maintain only a hands-off friendship. I sat down again to watch her. Right behind her. Wendy wondered aloud what I was doing. I demonstrated, positioning a leg to each side of her. From behind, I rested my head on her shoulder. I voiced no explanation. She voiced no protest.
Her next toss was shallow, guaranteed to miss where fish might have been if this river had any respectable population. I watched the dancing of her hands on the reel mechanism. I smelled the strawberry that was somehow the only appropriate shampoo for her hair. I felt my chest thumping at her back. I crept my arms around her stomach and clasped them in her lap. I heard her skip a breath. She cast again, the result more shallow than the last. I closed my eyes, savoring the moment. Perhaps I pretended that the possessive gesture signified more than our buddy-buddy relationship.
Consciously, I recognized this position as incomparable for intimate conversation. I could whisper into her ear, and she would receive my voice without duelling my eyes. She would feel the rumble in my chest and take the words to heart. I pondered what hints might compliment her but not end our friendship. When I opened my eyes, I realized that Wendy was motionless. Her hands did not crank the reel. Her head did not weave to follow the lazy sway of her slack line. The corner of her eye met mine. I opened my lips to say something, anything.
She jumped as her line tugged. When she sat up in concentration, my hands unclasped. Her shoulders twisted in effort, and I retreated to stand behind. Wendy worked her line, angling the nibble ever closer. What she reeled up was a tiny fish, not ugly but inedible. The thing flopped only twice as she held it and removed the lure. That little bugger stared at me, and I swear it winked once before she could toss it back into the cruddy water.
That was the limit of our luck on that fishing expedition. One fish in two hours. No lures lost. No fingers bleeding. But I was wrong about one thing. I had been hooked after all.
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