FISHING LESSON • by Gayla Chaney

The boy, probably ten or so, stood barefoot in cut-off jeans and no shirt. His flip flops were beside his tackle box along with a wadded up t-shirt. As I approached, I saw that he had something on his line. The tug and pull of a fish gave the boy a start, and he let out a whoop as he jerked his pole back. I stopped and watched as the kid skillfully reeled in a black bass, probably a seven-pounder.

“Get a load of that, would ya?”   the boy hollered gleefully. I don’t know if he even saw me. For a moment, I didn’t speak. Let the kid have his private victory party, I thought, watching the youngster dangling his catch and laughing at his prize.

“You’re a beaut! A keeper for sure,” he was saying to the fish. He turned then and saw me watching him. I thought he might feel embarrassed or ashamed, having been caught fishing off another man’s pier. But the boy was just too excited to feel anything else. Grinning, the young trespasser held up the bass for my inspection. “I caught this beauty all by myself. I bet I could catch one for you, too, if you’d like me to.” Beaming, the boy waited for my response.

“Well… I suppose,” I began.

“How much do you think this baby weighs?” he asked me as he held up the glistening fish.
“Six or seven pounds,” I offered, but the kid shook his head.
“Bigger than that. I’d say eight.” He acted like he was scanning a scale as he spoke in an authoritarian tone. He was imitating somebody, I could tell, as I watched the enthusiastic youth take the fish off his hook.
I assumed at first glance that the boy was one of the unruly Munson clan, based on the unmistakable stance that seemed a peculiar, inherited trait that ran in that seedy tribe. The Munsons carried their weight on their heels with their toes pointed outward, producing a sort of waddle-walk. If they weren’t moving forward, they couldn’t just stand still. They would rock on their feet as the boy was doing now.

“You a Munson?” I blurted out.
“Yep,” he answered casually without glancing up from his task. “Did you see me bring him in? He was a fighter, but he was no match for me, ’cause I’m a bona fide angler. Do you know what that means?” he asked, but he didn’t wait for my answer. “It means I’m a real fisherman, like my granddad. He taught me how to do this,” the boy said, motioning to his tackle and gear. “You want me to show you how? I’ll teach you to catch an even bigger fish than this. You got a pole or you want to borrow mine?”

I stood there speechless for a second, sizing up my uninvited guest. “Just you show me,” I replied as he fixed the bait on his hook. He grinned and threw his line back into the water, his face intent on the spot in the lake where his bobber floated.

The boy reeled in his excess line, taking up the slack while pulling slightly to his right, rocking gently on his heels like a true Munson. “I’ll show ya’ what you need to do first,” he said. “Watch me and learn.”

And with the sunlight reflecting off the water, I watched as the confident young Munson demonstrated his fishing techniques, certain I could absorb the lesson he was so generously willing to share.

Gayla Chaney‘s fiction has appeared in print and online journals, including Potomac Review, Carve, Natural Bridge, Mad Hatters, Silverthought, and Paper Street. She lives and writes in central Texas.

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