Tuesday, May 21, 2019

FISH TALES Marcel Herms


FISH TALES


Fish Tales

Marcel Herms  ART
The Joker
Daniel Snethen
Donald Armfield
Guinotte Wise
Kevin Peery
Mendes Biondo
Alain Crozier
Daryl Scroggins
Doug Mathewson
Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Gary Cummiskey
Tim Staley
Marianne Szlyk
Elizabeth Bruce
John D Robinsson
Joan Dobbie
Sylvia Dianne Beverly




An elderly couple were on a cruise and it was really stormy. They were standing on the back of the ship watching the moon, when a wave came up and washed the old man overboard. They searched for days and couldn’t find him. So the captain sent the old woman back to shore with the promise that he would notify her as soon as they found something.
Three weeks went by and finally the old woman got a fax from the ship. It read: “Ma’am, sorry to inform you, we found your husband dead at the bottom of the ocean. We hauled him up to the deck and attached to his back end was an oyster and inside the oyster was a pearl worth $50,000….please advise.”
The old woman faxed back: “Send me the pearl and re-bait the trap.”
The Joker

I once went fishing with Benjamin David Ivy who later murdered my girlfriend's sister in her own home. Tied her arms behind her back with ligatures, placed a pillow to her head and shot her with a .22 caliber pistol.  He threw the gun into a lake which was later found because it was being drained for work on the spillway.  The serial numbers had be ground off but were raised using some forensic technique.  It was a stole firearm and the neighbor said it was stolen while someone was house sitting but he suspected the house sitter of the theft.  That house sitter was Benjamin David Ivy and the police raided his home and found other stolen weapons belonging to the owner of the pistol, a grinder and other evidence. He was convicted and later committed suicide while in prison.
This summer I was fishing with two of my students in the Keyapaha River and one of them snagged a fish, (possibly a moon-fish) the size of my pinky finger, right through it's mid-drift.
When growing up, Dad always volunteered to spit on our worm for us. He said we would catch more fish that way. Dad smoked a pipe and claimed that was the secret. He always spit on his worm and naturally he caught the most fish.
Daniel Snethen


Yes, last summer my wife and I went out to this secluded area by a pond had a little sexual wilderness, then started fishing. She caught a small mouth bass, (I think) and a few others. We toss the fish back into the pond.
I enjoyed the sexual play before hand, but it was a night to remember.

Donald Armfield


Mostly Midwest ponds, pan fish—but one time in the sierras when I was living in L.A. I limit out on trout couple days in a row, big ass mountain lake—good too, we cooked ‘em up in bacon, iron frying pan—man was that good. No BIG fish, like you know, marlin, that kind of thing. Old man and the sea. Nope. Moby, nope. Farm ponds. Perch. Some bass. ‘Bout it, amigo.
Guinotte Wise

It was just me and my Uncle Chap.

He was a Korean War Vet...who worked for Central Stone in Paris, Mo.

We ate everything we caught...fried...with fried pumpkin blossoms, potatoes with onions and cornbread on the side.

Make my mouth water just thinkin' bout it.

Paris Quarry Lake. 
On the outskirts of Paris, Missouri.
Caught bluegill, catfish, sun perch, flatheads, crappie and snappin' turtles mostly.

Flat bottom Jon boat with a trollin' motor we ran off our truck battery.

Best times I ever had

Kevin Peery



Two days ago, in a little town near to my city, there was the Spaghetti and Anchovies Festival. They made 12,8 quintals of pasta with anchovies in just one day. Funny fact.

Now let's talk about my experiences. The first I can remember was during high school. I went fishing when I was a kid once but nothing interesting really happened. But that day, during high school, was crazy. 

A friend of mine and I wanted to go fishing without our parents for the first time, so we prepared all the things we needed in a little rucksack. The day after we met on the river bank. We brought just one rusty fishing rod and something like 12 cans of beer and a bottle of limoncello. We reached the shore at 6 in the morning and at 9 am we were completely drunk. 
I remember the only thing we were able to catch was a ditch full of mud with our bikes while coming back home. 

The second story happened with Elena some years ago. We were in Sardinia, at the Tortoli harbor. It was night and all was calm and sleepy. She had a roll of fishing film and a stick with her. We went to the port to be alone and fishing was the last of our thoughts. She knotted a piece of bread to the wire and threw it into the water. After a while the thread was pulling. We fished a small fish but threw it into the water immediately.

These are my fishing stories. Not much, though. 


Mendes Biondo




Hi Cat

I 'm not a fishing man, not think about fish, but I like eat them.

juste to say that, in french, "trout" can mean penis :)

have a good night

Alain Crozier

I hope that doesn’t mean you’ll eat a penis. The English have a dish called spotted dick. I’ve never tried it. Cat


Send me a rainbow trout story. Cook it French style.       Cat



Bait

Down by the stink of the river my great uncle Jewel carved notches in a hickory stick, not taking the Lucky Strike from his lips even when he coughed hard.  Mosquitoes were bad under the cottonwoods, and I had my spindly arms and legs working against each other in a constant rub. An aura of gin and tobacco seemed to be keeping the old man free of bites.
            “All right looky here,” he said.  He picked up the rusty hammer he had thrown down when he started to whittle, and he hammered the notched stick into the ground until only the notches showed. “Get the bucket ready,” he said. I looked around like somebody might be coming with something we would collect.  But there was nothing drawing near besides darkness, gathering amid a faint sound of water curling around snags.

Then uncle Jewel made music.  He rubbed another stick up and down across the one he had carved.  He rubbed with a rhythm that reminded me of a man I once heard playing spoons on his knee.  Uncle Jewel smiled and winked as he played.  “Get ’em!”  he said.  “Gyahd damn, get ’em  before they crawl up your pants leg!”  And it was earthworms he spoke of, worms fleeing shrew-sounds magnified.  Their pink bodies boiled up from leaf mulch at my feet like something squeezed through a ricer.  I couldn’t move. Uncle Jewel laughed until he choked and farted.   When he saw how I trembled, still, he handed me a beer, though I was only twelve.  He said it didn’t matter—worms are only good for some things.  And he’d bought minnows to fish with anyway because his seine was ripped. 

One Day, One Pool, One Fish

It was around the time that Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” made it all the way to North Texas. I lived in one of many almost identical tract houses built on flat black soil that had been cotton fields a few years before. My first year in middle school would start soon, but I still had time to follow deep-cut creek beds out past the golf course, past the hog processing plant, and on across the county line. I imagined I might reach Canada, where, according to the classifieds at the back of Outdoor Life Magazine, wilderness land could be had for pennies per acre. At the time I was avid to live off the land as kids had done in favorite books. Northland Castaways, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins…. 
One Saturday I was so far north in the late afternoon that I doubted my ability to return home, even at a dead run, in time to avoid a whipping. I had made it further than I ever had before. But just as I was about to turn back I came to a deep pool in the mostly dry creek bed. It wasn’t much bigger than a hot tub, but swimming in it was a sunfish—the first fish larger than a minnow I had seen in that road of shale and puddles. That one fish, weightless and casual in its slight turns and excursions, represented the whole opportunity I sought. I could catch it and cook it and eat it—and never have to go away from that place. I could build a lean-to of sticks and a bed of leaves.
I had done my reading. A fish hook could be made from a thorn. A fishing line could be made from the inner layers of stripped tree bark. A flower could serve as bait.
I did all of this. Dropped the short thread with flower and hook onto the water’s surface. The fish moved its mouth and gills, but never showed any interest in my plans.
Ten minutes of fishing and I was finished. The sun was setting and I had miles to cross. Some in darkness. So I set out at an even lope. But for a long time I held onto the thought that I almost made a go of it. Almost got away.

Tell us of your most excellent fishing adventure, if you have been? 
I have many I could tell, quite a number concerning fishing with my grandfather. Pre-dawn checks of trot-lines in the Trinity River near the Big Thicket in SE Texas—raising an alligator gar half as long as the boat, or the 60 pound yellow cat he once pulled in. Another time with him on Cedar Creek Lake, getting into a school of crappie so thick we didn’t even have to bait the gold hooks we used, some catches coming up hooked through the back. But this is the story I want to tell here:
When I was five, my mother took me crawdad fishing in a drainage ditch at the end of our street. I’m old now and can see her better. I can see how sad she was to be living at the edge of Houston instead of out in the country. Depressed, they would call it today, but not then. She would have been in her mid-twenties.
We took with us a galvanized bucket, a ball of twine, two large bolt nuts, and two strips of raw bacon wrapped in wax paper. I asked what the bacon was for, and she said—You’ll see.
The ditch water was muddy, and thick stands of cattails grew on both sides, so we set ourselves up by the low rail on the street bridge. Mama tied a nut on each string, and below that a half-strip of fatty bacon. She showed me how to lower the bait out of sight in the water. Her eyes were gray-green, like the water. Silent, she gazed down the length of the ditch.  Later she told me to pull the sting up very slowly. I did, and when the weights and then the bait appeared, several large red crawdads were clinging onto it. When we had raised them all the way up my mother pulled them off and dropped them in the bucket. Why do they keep holding onto the bacon like that? I asked her. She laughed, almost. Too stupid to let go I guess, she said.
We took them home and let them crawl around on the garage floor for a while. Then my older sister begged for their salvation, and we ran together down the street with the bucket, and dumped them back in.


Not Buying Minnows from the Domino Playing Men

Our bare feet under river water the color of weak coffee with a little cream / sand sliding away from each step / it’s late evening under a clear blue sky, and the first mosquitoes are appearing, the deep woods on the far bank seeming to exhale them / sand bars divert the current slightly in places like whales almost surfacing, and deeper channels bring in more darkness / our bait seine is made of fine string mesh, three feet tall and a dozen long, with lead weights beaded along the bottom and stick handles at each end / ten feet apart we walk out into the slower edge current, up to our thighs, and drop the net / we move toward the bank slowly, holding the sticks upright and pulling / a few feet away from the water’s lip we sense movement between us, a flustering of the water, bits of spray rising and small glints / the first stars / and in the last angled beams of evening, when we pull the net to land,  a dream of all aquariums appears, a writhing of silver lights and tiny monsters, something like a translucent crab, softshell turtles the size of  fifty-cent pieces / all the colors of soap bubbles / how can there be so much in a blank span of water? / we sort out the minnows and drop them in bait can water for the next day’s fishing / and then the rest are hauled back, the seine pulled against the direction of their capture / all gone, the net clean—all back into that night / the drive out  in the jeep is rough, ruts catching and slowing us at times, until we are back on the graded road / our speed rising so wind will keep mosquitoes from us all the way back

  
Movie Star

This is a story that comes around to fish, but they are way down there under the word water. When I was living in North Dallas and going to college, I used to spend hours each day sitting at a coffee shop counter bar reading and writing. They knew me in there and just kept filling the coffee cup, sometimes far into the night. They would also let me order food off the kid’s menu because they knew I didn’t have much money. The place was one of a chain called, of all things, Sambo’s, a name that would never fly for a second these days, and rightfully so in my view. A fine waiter worked there named Lewis. He was a tall, elegant black man who had once worked at a fancy hotel in downtown Dallas. He had graying hair and piercing blue eyes, and he wore a white shirt and black tux jacket every day. He was a man of great discretion but was not averse to quietly offering opinions.
I was at the counter reading one day when my new girlfriend came in, the young woman who would later become my wife. She was tall and beautiful, as she still is, and turned heads everywhere she went. She sat beside me for a few minutes while I gathered my things so we could go to a park, or maybe to a movie, or go get lunch at some other place. I had met her at the bookstore where we both worked, she already working there when I took a job in shipping and receiving. We left, and the next day I came back and took up my place at the counter. Lewis poured coffee and then paused, looking at me. “Where did you find that movie star?” he asked. “Or, more to the point, what is she doing with you?” He was frowning at me, his head tilted. I said “Just lucky, I guess.” Lewis shook his head and made a noise that indicated much was being wasted on me, and then he moved on to other customers.
Cindy met me there a couple of times in the following weeks. Each time, after she had left, Lewis would look at me and shake his head, sometimes muttering something like dayyy-um under his breath. 
Then one day Cindy was there with me, and I went off to the restroom, and when I returned Lewis had is wallet out and was showing Cindy pictures of fish he had caught down at White Rock Lake. He had a whole photo slip sleeve of them. Big bass lying on grass with a cigarette pack next to them for scale. Another picture had a dozen or so fish of various kinds and sizes in a bathtub. Lewis was explaining all of the specific fish details, such as their weight, the place and time of day they were caught, what kind of lure was used. And Cindy, bright, kind, and polite as always, was offering up phrases such as, “You must be very proud of that one.”  Lewis was smirking faintly later, after Cindy had left, as if he had managed to point out to a fine lady, right under my nose, the really impressive shit that matters more than whatever I was always reading about in books. But I wasn’t too worried because of my ace in the hole, something I knew that he didn’t. What he didn’t know was that Cindy was a vegetarian, and although she would surely not admonish him for catching fish, she would have, if given the chance, set them all back to swimming, down and away  in the green water their glinting flat eyes still seemed to remember.




On Hold For Fish Heaven


    I’ve never been good at putting two and two together, understanding the logic of the next step. When I was a kid, fishing was constantly on my mind. I liked the idea of going fishing and was fascinated by the endless minute variations in the paraphernalia. What I never imagined was catching a fish. The cause and effect, go fishing, catch fish, never occurred to me. What to do with the fish I couldn’t imagine catching was even farther from my grasp.
    For months I’d been doling out my allowance on fishing supplies, the finest the five and dime could provide. I had a plastic tackle box and spent many pleasant hours arranging my cheap lures, bobber floats, lead weights, and rubber worms. Why would anybody put a weight and a float on their line at the same time? I didn’t know. Somehow, I got a rod and reel. The reel fascinated me, and I never did figure out how it worked. All spring and into the summer I enjoyed my afternoons playing with my fishing gear, being careful not to get caught on the sharp
unused metal hooks.
    My mother became exasperated. Beautiful summer days and all I wanted to do was stay in to read comics and play with my tackle box. Now and then she’d prod me out of the house
insisting I just go out and fish. Even with a stream in our backyard and a reservoir less
than a twenty-minute walk away I’d still wander around for hours looking for the right place.
I’d find some pond and lay out all my stuff. One by one I would attach my plastic bugs and rubber worms in different combinations, giving each one a turn at being cast and getting wet. I was careful to wipe them dry afterwards and remove any grass or mud. One afternoon against all odds I caught a fish! A brown brook trout about eight inches long.
    I showed my mom the fish. She said it was very nice, then wrapped it in foil and plunked it into the big chest freezer out in the garage. When my dad came home, I told him. He agreed my catching a fish was nice, but no, he didn’t need to see it. Over the years my fish worked its way lower and lower in the freezer, sinking deep into the permafrost. Years, then decades went by.
    Time passed but not for my fish. Eventually my father passed away and it was time to sell the old house and move my mother into a nursing home. I hired a local company that does estate clean outs to the place ready for sale. Dividing the contents into keep, sell, donate and trash. Part of the donating plan involved the non-expired food in the freezer. Part of the trash plan was to scrap the heavy old rusted appliance. I wasn’t thinking about the fish. It was over fifty years since I has accidentally caught the fish.  There was some misunderstanding or scheduling change that came up and the freezer went off to the junk yard still full, liberating my fish from it’s earthly cycle. A long delay, but the little guy was finally on his way to fish heaven.


Doug Mathewson

Lake Elmo
It’d been months since we’d gotten out as a family. The last time it was when Halloween and Election Day got combined. Voting in costume was quite a sight, or “quite a fright” as cousin Dickie said when he saw all those vampires with their plastic fangs and their “I Voted” stickers.
With fuel bricks for the car being in such short supply me and Dickie ride our bikes mostly, but Mama and Jupie-June need the car to get around. The Sportsman’s Club across from the lake advertised a “Fisherman’s Breakfast Special”  and nobody is going to say that a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll served with a bottle of imported beer isn’t worth $5. Today being opening day they had a crowd. The start of Fishing Season and Easter are combined on the same day now.
            There was an egg hunt next to the lake. It was fun for the kids, once they got used to the smell. Dickie went off to get us four breakfast specials and by the time he was back I had Jupie-June and Mama all set up in lawn chairs down by the water. There’s nothing worth catching in Lake Elmo, at least nothing you can eat, but the ladies had magnets on their lines instead of bait and we casting for those electronic mud skippers. They were robot fish who’s batteries had died years ago. The ladies would take them apart with pliers and use the pieces for making jewelry.            They had a stand out on the state road and sold vegetables, fire wood and crafts to the summer people. Jupie-June loved making up “Ancient Legends of  the Lake” to tell the tourists.
Stories about the gods of the lake or alien visitors from space, and all these gods and visitors had faces exactly like the robot fish! Her best sales pitch story was for the earring and necklaces.
Tourist ladies could wear then with the heads pointed up as a birth control measure, or with the
heads pointed down to promote fertility. If you wore some up and some down I don’t know what the hell would happen. For the gents Mama had come up with these two headed money clips.
She always called them “Big Money” clips, implying that having one in your pocket was bound to attract riches. Between the jewelry and the produce they made out all right.
            Now the story I heard about the robot fish, which is maybe true and maybe not, was that the government dumped them into the lake years back to destroy the underwater marijuana crop the kids had planted in the muddy bottom. They’d  planted the seeds hoping the dope plants would go unnoticed among all the duck weed. I don’t know much about hydroponics, but seems like all that would do is get the frogs high (as if you could tell).
            Now Dickies gone back for at least thirds on breakfast, claims sea gulls or maybe crows
stole the first couple when he wasn’t looking. That doesn’t seem real likely. I’ll believe it when the birds bring back the empties for the deposit.










I only went fishing once with my grandfather when I was a little tyke.  Off this bridge along the highway somewhere near Pontypool.  I caught one rainbow trout and one bass.  We brought them home and I didn’t want them to die so I put them in a water bucket out in the backyard not realizing that the bucket was too small and not filled with the water of their natural habitat.  When I got up the next morning the bass had been torn in half by the neighbourhood cats who had come by and enjoyed an easy feast.  The trout was belly up but I dropped it into a nearby creek hoping it would survive even though I knew it was too late.  I felt so guilty about killing the fish that I never went fishing again.


Angling today

The fish with the face of a judge moves slowly as always, just breaking the surface. There is no sound as you trace your fingers down the length of my spine. The fan in the restaurant turns noiselessly round and round. The waiters stand in the doorway, casting over our table. Hooks lodge in our lips, so we dare not move.



SOLAR CORONA

A Chinese chamber on the moon
full of rotten cotton leaves.

On my mission to the moon I found out my penis
did more than pee. It was Space Camp: Level 2.

There’s no way to know exactly what happened.
The uniform just rubbed it funny.

You only see the sun’s crown when the sun’s
got a nail poked through.

I did experiments on the dark side
while my friends touched down.

The person who holds their breath the longest
dies.

I looked in the mirror that first time
then pretended to look away.

I was in the bedroom but I wasn’t sure
who else was in the house.

You only see the sun’s crown
when the sun’s not around.

A young woman trail running in Colorado
was chased by a juvenile cougar.

How’d she feel squeezing its throat to death?
How’s it feel strangling yourself free?

Cesar said you punch a cat in the mouth
and grab it by the esophagus.

I’m sleeping off the puppy pee
I heard in the hallway.

To be honest, it wasn’t a woman who strangled that cat.
It was the boa constrictor fingers of a penised man.

I used to say penis to be funny.
Now I say it to be grave.

Astronauts from the six Apollo moon missions
left 96 bags of human waste on the moon.

Koala bears eat their parent’s poop. We learned that
by minding their business.

When you’re alone in lunar orbit it’s impossible
not to masturbate.

Pop like a Chinese cotton seed on the moon—stretch
clear to the light.





COMMANDMENTS

turn from grey to black too quickly
like a thin steak on a hot fire

proceed to the edge of global warming
flash your backstage pass

taste blood accidentally

drape clocks over the edge of a table
drape a handkerchief over a walrus

stagger like a zombie down your street
slip like thread between the teeth of a puppy
dig a hole in the carpet

hand over any unharmed baby
to your nearest firehouse

pop a zit on your upper lip
sleep in a field of nightshades
replace what’s clear with light


layaway doomsday

Tim Staley




Find Your Beach Where It Is


I.

In Greenland,
children play past midnight
on a rocky beach
without sand or seaweed.
Nearby flowers and lichens appear,
brightly wearing down boulders.
Tourists’ tents bubble on sand
like orange and green fungi
on a fallen log.

They do not squander summer.

 II.

The children in New England
fling ribbons of brown seaweed
and streamers of green
back into the water.


Adults swaddled in
gift store cover-ups
avoid the Atlantic’s bite
and the seaweed that clings
to every wader’s legs.

III.

 The young father and his sons
fish from the banks of the river
his grandfather once swam in.
It was clean.  It was decent.
He recalls from his wheelchair.

Sun sparkling on the water,
the green flourishing on the bank,
the white of new polo shirts,
hide dangers in the fish
that swim this river
the color of a great-grandfather’s memory.


Marianne Szlyk





Flounder


“ONE DOLLAR,” said Ben’s grandfather, holding a worn dollar bill in front of his grandson. “I’ll bet you this here dollar I can catch something before you do, buddy.”

“A dollar’ll get you a bag of finger mullet, Fred,” said Chester, the old man selling bait out of the shanty off the feeder road at the end of the island, and he grabbed the buck from Ben’s grandfather and stuffed it in his pocket. “Strong scent, them mullet. Good for flounder, if that’s what y’all are fishing for, and it outta be. Ain’t nothing else biting today.”

“Yessir, flounder,” said the boy’s grandfather, handing both fishing poles to his grandson Ben to hold.  The old man patted the inside pockets of his slicker, greasy and torn though it was, and pulled out an old pipe and a crumpled pack of tobacco.

Ben’s grandfather set to stuffing his pipe, his hands trembling so that strings of tobacco fell on the ground and he hissed at them as they fell. Ben watched silently. The old man saw the boy watching him. Watch your tongue, Fred, the old man said to himself. Boy don’t talk much, so don’t be cursing none to show him how.

“Take him fishing, Daddy,” his daughter Colleen had asked. “Get him out of the stables for a while. Boy needs to be with people sometimes,” she’d said. “Child can’t live by horse alone.”

“Not like his ma used to, huh?” the old man had smiled at her, but his daughter’d just poured him another cup of black coffee and set his breakfast dishes in the sink.

“Ben’s not like me, Daddy,” she’d said. “Or like you. World hadn’t beat the tender out of him yet. And don’t you be the one to start, you hear me? Be kind to him. Please.”

You was plenty tenderhearted too, the old man thought, least with them damn horses, and again the fragments came back to him as he sat there in his daughter’s makeshift kitchen in the little home she’d made on the Texas shoreline, these ragged bits of memory and valor mixed up with years he’d lost to the bottle. He thought of Colleen’s mother, of the cancer that took her so young, and the pain and terror he’d felt holding their young daughter by the hand, watching the preacher sanctify his wife’s new dug grave.
Chester the bait man scooped up a ladleful of shiny silver slivers into a plastic bag of seawater and plopped it into the bucket.  Ben’s grandfather shook off his memories and looked at his grandson.

“They look like they’re just babies,” Ben, said, peering at the bag of mullet.

“Look like fish to me, son,” Ben’s grandfather said, and he smiled a weary smile at the boy. “Swim like fish, and sure as hell stink like fish.”

“Fish is fish, son,” the bait man said, giving the boy a rough tussle on his shaggy hair. “And generally speaking, fish stink some.”

Do they stink worse than the stench of old age? Ben’s grandfather thought. Of an old man ain’t saved his only child? And again his mouth twitched for want of whisky but he shrugged it off with a grunt.

“You’re on,” Ben said suddenly, lively as the old man had rarely seen him. “First one catches something wins a dollar, Grandpa.” 

The old man grinned at the boy, who stood soft-eyed and gentle-voiced before him, holding the old fishing rod and tackle box the boy’s mother had once used as a girl.
Ben’s grandpa stuffed another pinch of tobacco into his pipe and leaned into the bait shed and lit a match and sucked the flame down into the pipe and the tobacco burned red. He puffed out a few mouthfuls of smoke and coughed. The tobacco smelled thick and sharp like horse dung. The boy wrinkled his nose and turned away.

The old man lit another match and puffed again on his pipe and looked at the boy, small for his age with gray-green lonesome eyes like his mother’s.

He thought again of his daughter, Ben’s mother, and the fury in her gray-green eyes that sickening night months before the boy was born.
“Let me do this for you, Jelly Bean,” he’d said to her then, his words slurring together.
She’d come roaring up to the tumble down stable-hand shack they’d lived in on the horse farm in north Texas, riding on the boss’ yearling. The animal had been beaten wildly, by the boss no doubt, and the old man had helped his daughter unsaddle the young horse, black as crude, and he’d stayed with her as she brushed it down and treated the whip marks with salve and fed it oats and stroked its muzzle the way the boy
Ben had done to the self-same horse that very morning before he’d come fishing with his grandpa.

“Somebody’ll have to pay for taking this here horse,” the old man had told his daughter so many years ago. “And it might as well be me, for all I ain’t done for you, nor your mama before that. Was me that sunk us down to living here like field hands all these years shoveling horse shit for that bastard.”

“I paid for it already, Daddy,” she had said, “even if that SOB denies it, which he will do like he denies everything else he’s done to me and this family and this horse and half the county that nobody dares talk about,” and it was then he’d seen the look of her, his beautiful daughter, her hair matted at the back of her head and her clothes twisted and crumpled.

“What you mean, you done paid for it?” he’d asked her, the words coming thick and dull out of his mouth heavy as they’d been with whisky and cigarettes that night, though in his heart he’d known what she had meant. She’d punched the air and cursed the world.

“I mean, I already swapped him a trade, Daddy,” she’d answered him. “To get him to stop beating this poor animal. He got what he wanted finally, so let’s just leave it at that and let this horse be. The animal’s had a hard time of it, Daddy. Anybody can see that.
Just let it be. I’ll be alright. I’ll think of something to prove this horse is mine now.”

Ben’s grandfather had looked at his daughter that terrible night, lean and defiant even haughty as she’d been as a child, motherless for all the world to see, but he’d seen the defeat there, beneath the set of her jaw and the black iron sear of her words. The horse’s owner would deny it all, they’d both known that. The beating, the barter, the devil’s bargain she had made. And the back country law would believe him, bossman that he was, as they always did.

So he would help her, as best he could, he told himself. And, sure enough when the bossman railed about his stolen horse, the old man had marched himself into the sheriff’s office looking bedraggled, and swore a blue streak that he’d stolen a horse—a coal black gelding he’d found wandering whupped and raw across the boss’s land out off of the old farm road down by the railroad tracks. And sure enough he’d taken the poor horse, he’d said, saddle and all, and sold it to drifter passing through, though he was damned if he could remember who he was, slumped down drunk as he’d been and broke down as the horse must have been for the beating someone, maybe even the bossman, had laid upon it. And they had believed him, these small town lawmen, and let him do his time down in Huntsville Prison with all the other robbers and thieves just to be rid of him for a while, and his daughter swallowed her pride and thanked him and moved away, driven off in the darkness with the horse in a rickety trailer, far off from the Texas panhandle where the horse was born, and she’d set up her little riding stable on the southern tip of Galveston Island, and made herself a quiet life, a simple living all alone.

The boy had come along months later, sired, the old man figured, by his daughter’s barter in the night, but they never spoke of it, his daughter and he. They kept their conversations at the prison—such as they’d been–on business, a new horse or saddle or the pleasantries of life—Ben’s first words, first steps, his two front teeth, the tuft of sandy hair that jutted up into a cowlick plain to see, and over time the boy had grown to six years old, far from Huntsville, but sweet and kind and gentle, a quiet boy, unlike the cruelty from whence he’d come.

Standing outside the bait shack beside his grandson holding the bucket of finger mullet, the old man suddenly felt a rush of tenderness and fear for the boy, just a child who couldn’t possibly know the ugliness of this world, its steady creep into even the lives of the good ones, like Ben’s mother.
“Take him out past the jetty near the old road, Daddy,” his daughter had asked earlier that morning as she set the breakfast plates onto the drying rack.  “Folks say the flounder is biting good over yonder.”

He’d said he would and smiled at her and she’d stopped and brushed back a stray strand of greying hair and smiled back at her father. He’d grinned the grin of a prodigal man and gone to find his grandson Ben that morning, alone as usual in the stables, stroking the velvety muzzle of his coal black horse, flecked now with a few white hairs across its nose, a beautiful animal still, sleek and strong for all its suffering. The pride of his young boy’s life, the old man had thought, the one thing that sets him apart from every other fatherless boy cross the bayou.

Ben’s grandfather shuddered in the wet autumn air, and turned and spoke to the boy.
“You ready to catch us some flounder, son?” he asked, and nodded to Chester and stuffed his tobacco back into his pocket.

The boy and old man picked up their gear and walked down the stretch of hard wet sand past the jetty. It was a public beach but at 8 am on a holiday morning in November they had the place pretty much to themselves.

The old man put his hand on his grandson’s shoulder to steady himself, wobbly as he was without drink, and he felt the boy straighten his back and pull himself as tall as his six years would let him. He hadn’t seen the boy much these past six years, he thought, some of it his own damn fault and some of it the jail time he’d done for the sake of the stolen horse and his daughter and the trouble she’d have been in if he hadn’t. It wasn’t his first turn at jail, and odds were it wouldn’t be his last.

The old man looked down at the ground. The boy’s small feet lightened the gray sand beneath him slightly as he walked, a halo of paleness bursting out from each footprint, only to vanish in the salty wetness rushing back to fill the void. He looked down at his own feet, clumping along in his old boots, pressing the gray green lightness like the boy’s eyes into big, bleak circles around each step. He coughed and the boy’s shoulder jerked slightly beneath the old man’s hand.

“Flounder here we come,” said Ben quietly, slowing his pace to let the wobbly old man he barely knew catch his breath.

“Yessiree Bob,” the old man said, sucking on his pipe again though it had long gone cold.
To the old man’s surprise, the boy took hold of the old man’s fishing rod.  “Your pipe’s gone out, Grandpa,” he said. “Lemme hold your stuff and you can light it again.”

“Right you are, Ben,” said the old man, and he turned his back to the waves and stuffed his pipe again and leaned toward the sand dunes and held his hands over the match and lit his pipe. The wind hurled the smoke away from them and it vanished in the air like breath on a cold blue day.

Then he took the bucket from the boy and bent and opened the bag of finger mullet and tried to thread his hook through the gills of one but his hand shook and the fish struggled against him and again he felt the pull of liquor and he righted himself. He took a deep breath and tried again and this time he got the hook through the mullet’s mouth, almost dead now with the hook sharp inside it. The old man tugged on the hook and tightened it up.

“Hold out your hook, son,” he said to the boy, and he held Ben’s hand tight in his as they held the hook and dug it through another mullet’s gills and out its mouth. The old man’s hands were cold and he held them around his pipe and puffed again.

“You know how to cast this thing?” he asked Ben.

“Seen it done,” Ben said. “Don’t go fishing much.”

Then the old man crossed behind the boy and helped him swing his fishing rod back and forth a few times before letting loose the reel and watching the hook and sinker sail far out into the surf. Then he took up his own reel and cast his bait out beyond the waves.

They stood there, holding their fishing rods, looking out into the Gulf, the wind blowing their slickers flat against their chests and the cool salt breeze whipping through their hair. Out at the edge of the horizon they could see the dim shape of an oil rig and farther still beyond a tanker bellowed. The port of Galveston lay north and west and farther up to the north Houston’s ship channel beckoned, waiting for ships and cargo that came and went, loading and unloading freight cars piled high with sulfur, yellow as egg yolks, and cotton baled taut beneath their sheaves of burlap torn and tattered as field hands, bounty from a crueler time bound for or from the great wide world beyond.

Ben and his grandfather stood, breathing in the seaweed smell of it all. Their lines ebbed with the rhythm of the waves and above them the seagulls cawed as seagulls do.

“Yessiree Bob,” the old man said at last. “I could sure do with some barbecued flounder tonight.”

The boy suddenly lurched as his fishing rod bent forward and he put one foot out and leaned back and groped for the reel.

“I caught something!” Ben hollered and he began to jump up and down, the taut fish line see-sawing the air. “I did it! I did it!” he shouted above the wind, breathless from excitement. His line pulled and yanked.

“Hold on, boy,” Ben’s grandfather said, and the old man stepped back and jammed his own pole into the looser sand behind them and angled it back and the line slacked then stretched taut again. Then he stepped up behind his grandson and put his arms around the boy and laid his hands over his and together they began in fast turns to reel the boy’s catch in.
“Gonna get me a dollar,” Ben muttered as the flounder flew out of the water and splashed back down as the old man and he pulled it in. It flipped and flopped in the shallow sea brine, and the old man let go of the rod and grabbed the line and walked over to hold the fish up above the foam.

“Yep, looks like you done won that dollar, son,” he shouted to the boy running up behind him.

But then the boy stopped. He reached out and touched the thin flounder as it struggled and grasped it between his hands, stroking it like a hurt pup, flailing against fate.

“Let it go, Grandpa,” the boy said quietly, his eyes suddenly fierce like his mother’s. “Please, let it go.”

And Ben’s grandfather, his hands not shaking so much now for lack of drink, looked hard at the boy, the Gulf breeze slapping his hair across his face and he saw the same sorrowful fury there he’d seen in his daughter that night six years before, and suddenly he felt the same sick helplessness sweep over him, busting his heart into a thousand splinters.

The old man gently pulled the hook from out of the flounder’s mouth, and the boy, holding the wiggling fish in both arms now, wadded into the surf and gently let it go.

“Don’t need a dollar no how, Grandpa,” he said. “’Leastwise, not that way, I don’t.”
Coughing again, the old man went and got the bucket of finger mullet and handed it to the boy.

“I reckon we don’t need no dollar’s worth of mullet neither, son,” he said softly as the salt air stung his eyes. “No sireee Bob, I reckon we surely don’t,” he said as his grandson Ben, smiling now as he’d never seen him smile before, whooped and knelt and let the silvery finger mullet dart out into the foamy undertow.



Elizabeth Bruce


Born and raised on the Gulf Coast in a little Texas town by an east Texas daddy and a Yankee mama, Elizabeth Bruce came of age under the fearless leadership of her best friend Gladys, from whom she learned how the break the rules and not get caught. In young adulthood Elizabeth migrated first to the Rocky Mountains for years of youthful indiscretion, then on to the Hell's Angels block of NYC for a hot minute, and later to NE DC in the early 1980s where she’s been ever since. A writer and theatre person, she’s spent 36+ years and counting working on the 1400 block of Columbia as a theatre producer at Sanctuary Theatre and a teaching artist at CentroNia. Her debut novel, And Silent Left the Place, set in south Texas in April of 1963, tells the story of a WWI veteran who came back from the Great War middle aged and silent. It won Washington Writers’ Publishing House’s Fiction Award, plus distinctions from the Texas Institute of Letters and ForeWord Magazine. She’s published fiction in the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, and India and is currently shopping around her collection of one dollar stories, of which “Flounder” is one. She and her poet/playwright/son-of-a-prison-warden husband, Robert Michael Oliver, have long lived and raised their adult children Maya and Dylan in DC’s Edgewood/Brookland neighborhood.




THE BUDGIES




‘My two budgies died within a week of each other,
the vet said the second bird died of a broken heart’
she said seriously, looking for a reaction:
‘I’m really sorry to hear that, I’m sorry for your
loss and just a few hours ago 73 innocent people,
including women and children and the
elderly were massacred in the middle-east by
suicide bomb attacks’ I said seriously, looking
for a reaction:
‘Oh’ she said, fluttering her eyes ‘I need to
get to the supermarket, take care’. and she
walked away and so did I as the world does.



John D Robinson




Dear Editors,

I don't even like fishing. To me it's killing for pleasure. And so, when my grands were small, I was shocked to find myself writing a fishing poem. But anyhow, here it is. I hope you'll choose it for your anthology. It does appear on my personal poetry blog but hasn't been otherwise published.

LITTLE FISHIES SCOOPED OUT
OF THE OCEAN OF TIME


They’re the cutest little squirmy things
all slippery as fresh caught trout
& you so proud
(the way you carry them around.)

They smile & pout
& wet & poo -- it’s true!
They hold the future
in their bodies

& you

so careful not to drop. While
on the horizon, we granpies
& grannies, great
uncles & aunties,

slowly descend
in a pale orange glow
(fumbling the triggers
of our digital cameras.)

No reason to fuss.
It’s the way of the world.

But it’s you, busy mummies
& daddies (who never get to sleep)
Thank you for working so hard
to keep it all running.

I’m so glad
you learned how to cook.



Joan Dobbie





When I think of My Father



When I think of my father, I think of a warm
kind loving Family man.
I think of devotion, dedication, honesty, high
moral character, doing best you can.
A hard working man, taking care nine
children and his Darling wife
Doing what was necessary to afford finer
things in life.
His only hobby was fishing, he loved
loved it so
He didn't eat fish, never stated why
Oh how Dad loved to see glow in our
eyes
Each time he came home from fishing
with a large cooler, sometimes two, filled
Dad's joy came seeing how happy we
were anticipating homemade fresh,
fried fish yum yum, nothing like it
He took pride in catching Biggest and
Only best receiving citations for catch
of day
When he was fishing, he was having his way
All kinds he caught, Rock, Bass, perch, trout
Blue to name a few and without a doubt
my favorite Spot
Often Dad would say "my oldest daughter
saids small Spots are better than no Spots"
Spots had to be a certain size to be legal
seems like a mighty long time since any
freshly caught Spots were on my table.
When I think of my Father I think of how He
loved fishing and didn't eat any kind of
fish at all.

(Dedicated to Daddy, Daniel Levi Beverly, Sr.,
Springtime Memories 2019)


Sylvia Dianne Beverly