OLD JIM • by AJ Smith

“You’re such a pretty girl. You have a boyfriend?”

“No.”  Twelve-year-olds don’t have boyfriends.

He told me his name was Jim and he was working on the big ship that had been docked for two days. I’m not sure how old he was, but let’s just say he was dad age.  His right forearm had a large faded greenish tattoo and his hair was streaked with gray.

“You ever been fishin’?” Jim asked.


“You want to?”


“C’mon now. Where’s your sense of fun?”

Fun? That didn’t sound like fun to me. Fishing was for tired old guys.

“I’ll let you drive the little boat,” he said.

And that was all the bait the old man needed. I looked over at Curley, the marina manager, and he gave me a nod and said, “He’s all right.”

I quickly learned fishing really meant listening to Jim babble about his life and all the goddamn mistakes he’d made. I hated fishing.

“I think we oughta head back. I have some chores to do before my mom gets home from work and kills me.”

“Sure, kiddo.”

On our way back to the mainland Jim told me about his daughter.

“Cary would’ve been about your age. Such a colicky baby. Lois was so depressed. I was always away at sea. I thought she’d snap out of it. Thought they both would.”

I looked up at Jim’s weary eyes. His face dripped sweat.

“Maybe we could stay out a little longer,” I said.

AJ Smith writes poetry and short stories. She is hard at work on her first novel.

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