My dog caught a fish once. We were at a pond out by the ravine. I was on the bank looking for frogs and turtles, tip-toeing over the soft ground so as not to muddy my new tennis shoes. She was somewhere nearby, prancing in the reeds and cattails. Dogs like her are always nearby.
I hesitated at every movement, all too conscious of those shoes. We weren’t too well off as a family. Presents were shiny, distant and rare as shooting stars. Soon as I caught one streaking by, there was much more to do than idle wishing.
I promised my mother I wouldn’t scuff them for the first month. I knew that promise would become a lie from the moment I said it, but the easiest promises come out when you’re about to get something new.
There was a skirt of moss around the pond. It had grown tremendously that year, like a blanket of green blight, so thick in places you could almost walk on it. Summer baked it grey on the ends. The fragrance was stronger than a raw stick of rhubarb.
As I maneuvered around the bank I made sure to steer clear of that moss and those towering reeds. Sadie didn’t though, because dogs don’t live by our boundaries. They don’t have to worry about scuffing up their shoes or going home wet and muddy. They don’t even have to worry about breaking promises. They’re free from all that.
The frogs were too fast for me. Every time I came close to one, he’d yip and spring in, whether I had eyes on him or not.
The turtles were hiding. All I ever saw of them that day were the black thimbles of their heads surfing on the ripples.
Sadie caught the bass right around the time I started to accept the futility of my game. My mother never liked the name Sadie, but me and the boys outvoted her. That was the way things worked on the rare occasions when our family’s monarchs agreed to a democratic decision. My oldest brother Peter suggested it. Mother thought Sadie was too human, but my brothers and I didn’t know any Sadies, so that was easy to discredit. Even if we did though, we could never take a stance against Peter. He didn’t talk enough, so everything he said was rinsed clean with wisdom.
Mother’s dissent about Sadie’s name would eventually hold true. It wouldn’t stick. Even though His will doesn’t always coincide, I think God has a severe tendency to side with mothers.
As I persevered on the bank Sadie continued splashing around, exuberant and jolly, harmonized with and driven by her canine nature. She was making quite a ruckus though, and in my growing frustration, I decided her frolicking was the reason for my failure.
In the nearby shallows, she came trotting into view, ruining a string of lily pads in her course. Her tail swung idly as an extension of her mood. Her muzzle was down, sniffing and lapping at the water.
“Sadie!” I hissed.
She looked up me and closed her mouth. Drool and water dripped from her chin.
She whimpered in response.
I pursed my lips and felt my heart fold in half. We both seemed to understand that I was asking her to betray herself.
That was when it happened. She sloshed around for a moment like a horse trying to keep from trampling a mouse. In the next, she threw her jaws into the water and brought them out with a small-mouth bass fighting in between.
We ran all the way home together, me gripping the back of my handed-down trousers while she shook her head savagely now and then to keep it from wriggling free.
My brothers didn’t believe me until they saw it for themselves. I always found that kind of funny. It was so much harder for them to believe that a dog could catch a fish with a quick snap of its jaws, as opposed to a person spending hours using an elaborate contraption strung up on a pole, with a hook dangling from the end.
Sadie caught that fish before she was even one year old. That was the story of her life.
After that, we called her Fisher.
Mike Weitz lives in Kansas City, Missouri with his wife and children. With a Bachelors degree in English, obtained from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Weitz’s work has most recently been published in the short story anthology Nightscript (Vol. 4).