July 02, 2022

A Short Story: How To Catch A Fish by Dawnell Jacobs

Introduction: I had an idea for a Teen (YA) story one night after talking to a friend. He was outside in the park, the evening light shining down on him, his dreads hanging past his shoulders, and his skin aglow. His face looked almost golden with the evening rays beaming off his skin. He looked otherworldly, almost heavenly. We were talking about small things-- our day, work, our children. No part of the conversation stood out-- except his environment. Outside, sitting in the grass, next to a pristine lake with a fishing rod in his hand-- he seemed so at peace. I was reminded ironically of all the times I tried to go fishing and failed to catch anything-- not even a shoe. Thus, I am not an avid fisher, but I always appreciate the sentiment.

Regardless, when I got off the phone with him, my mind start churning about heaven and hell and God and the Universe. This story idea creeped into my head and hung out for a couple of days. So, I wrote it at the behest of a friend. When I finished, I realized it had Christian themes although at the time I was agnostic. Regardless, I didn't know what to do with this story. So, I decided to post it here for public consumption. Maybe, if it gains some traction, I will turn it into a novel.

 Your thoughts, opinions,  discussions, and comments are always welcomed. 

How To Catch A Fish

A short story

By Dawnell Jacobs

 

Get Gear & Bait.

“You need to eat,” she said plopping down next to me uninvited. “Its sad. The new kid sitting all by himself. No friends. Just staring at his lunch and not taking one bite. People are gonna talk. This is a small town.” Her eyes were a deep green, and she had red hair. It was an unusual look for someone with skin as dark as hers. But that is what Fiske liked about her. She was unusual. 

The first time her saw her was in first period. She sat two rows up, close to the teacher. Her hair, a messy braid, caught his attention first. Next her freckles, little small gold fish, little stars, dancing in the dark pool of her skin. She was a reflection of the night sky; clear and balanced and beautiful. She smiled when she turned back to look at him and caught him staring. If her freckles were the stars, then her smile was the moon. White—and bright—and filling up the room.

Their eyes touched, and it was like she knew he was back there staring at her. But it was all in his imagination. She wasn’t looking at him at all. She was looking at a girl with glasses and dark hair. Her best friend, maybe? They laughed at some joke that Fiske couldn’t hear.

However, now--with her sitting beside him at the lunchroom table like they were friends-- maybe, he was wrong. Maybe she had noticed him; maybe, she liked him looking at her because she was looking at him, too-- and that’s the reason she came over to speak. He rubbed his cheek awkwardly. It was a force of habit.

“Maybe, I am sad. Maybe, I don’t care if they talk,” he spoke coolly, leaning back in his seat. “Plus, it looks like worms,” he finally responded. His voice was low and deep—the soft rumble of thunder in a summer shower.

“Worms” she grimaced. “That’s a first—”

He definitely thought it looked like worms. He could almost see the noodles start to squirm in front of him like live bait. The thought made him fidget in his seat as the memory of his dad forced its way into his mind. He used to go fishing with his Dad before he moved here. They would go out to the lake on cold winter days like this and sit. A fire would stir beside them against the wind creating a small star in the darkness. It felt like it was just the two of them; just Fiske and his dad watching the morning light slither over the horizon like a slow-moving snake.  His Dad would give him that look. You know, that look like he was still a baby cradled in his arms—that look, like he was mesmerized by each day he grew, like he was his universe, his world, his reason for being. Then, his dad would break the moment with a joke as he rubbed his gloved hands over Fiske’s head.

His dad was his everything. His dad was the one who taught him how to fish. Yet, all the times he went fishing with his dad—he never caught anything. His dad told him all the rules to fishing, and the first rule was that—you had to have the right gear and the right bait. He always felt like he disappointed him.

“Hey!” her voice interrupted his thoughts, “Are you here? You listening? Did you hear anything I was saying?”

Fiske wanted to sink into the seat. “Nah,” he sighed, answering honestly.

“I said that you looked smart. Like one of those gifted kids.”

“Gifted kids?” he scoffed. “How does a gifted kid look?”

“Anti-social.”

Fiske rolled his eyes. He was one of those kids that was really smart. They had wanted to test him before it happened. It’s like once it happened, everything had changed. It didn’t matter anyway. He wasn’t gifted material. He didn’t care about grades anymore—not achievement test or any of that stuff. He didn’t even care about school anymore.

“Hello!” Tame shouted again.

“Sorry, I got lost,” Fisk responded.

“Figures,” she answered. “If you want to make it here—at this school—you’re going to have to start paying attention. Anyway, you’re lucky.” She leaned back in her seat, a mischievous grin playing across her face. Her lips were plump and covered in pink lip gloss.

“Lucky?”

“I like worms,” she said arching her eyebrow and staring at him pointedly. Then, she reached over with a fork and grabbed a noodle from his plate. She held it up over her head and dropped into her mouth. She looked back at Fiske and smiled. “ All fish do.” She laughed. “My name is Tame. It means goddess of fish.”

“Goddess of fish, huh?” Fiske couldn’t help but smile. Was he flirting? Fiske opened his mouth to tell her his name, but the bell cut him off. He tried to shout over it, but she was already up, weaving through the crowd like a needle and thread through a loose blanket. Next, she was darting out of the cafeteria-- gone.

“My name is Fiske,” he whispered, anyway, to himself. “and it means Fisherman King.” It would have been a nice comeback if she had stayed long enough to hear it. He was the King of fisherman, and here he had met his goddess. A dark girl with coiled, red hair and hazel eyes. A girl with slight freckles sprinkled over her cheeks, small perfect markings resembling ink splatter. He wondered briefly why she even spoke to him. Why did she even dare to fill the lonely spot at his table? Then, he shook his head, rubbing his ebony hands over his own coiled, black hair. It didn’t matter anyway.

He stood up, walking over to the trash can and threw away his lunch. His stomach growled. By the time he left the cafeteria, he was the only one there. He knew he would be late to class, but it was only his first day. He didn’t even know where his next class was. As he struggled to get the folded-up class schedule from his pocket, he thought about his father’s words. “To catch a fish, you need the right bait.”

 

Attach your line

In class, Fiske sat near a boy with a purple jacket in the back of the room. The boy had his headphones in and didn’t even look up at him. To his right, the desk was completely empty. His teacher was a squat man in glasses. When he spoke, it sounded more like muttering. All the words mushed together like wet bread. Fiske immediately knew he would hate this class until the teacher opened up his laptop and started a movie. Something about apartheid in South Africa. Then a boy in the front of the class moved to shut off the lights. Suddenly, the once empty seat to his right was now filled.

“Fiske you said, right?’ she whispered. His eyes adjusted to the dark. It was Tame. He hadn’t even noticed her before.

“You take this class, too?” Fiske questioned, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“No,” she scoffed. “My teacher got sick and sent us in here. I think he had a heart attack or something. I don’t know. That class is bad. A kid kept throwing gum at his head. Got stuck in his hair and he spazzed. Then, I walk in here and see you cowering in the back.” She twirled her braid through her slender fingers. Her lashes were red too and long. He noticed them as she stared at him. “Are you shy or something? I mean, it seems like every time I see you—you’re hiding.”

Fiske looked at his desk. “Me? Shy? Nah,” he murmured. “I’m not shy. It’s not like that.” He paused for a moment as though he were finding the right words. “I’m just-- quiet.”

“So, you don’t talk much, huh?” She grinned. “A man of few words. I like that. I’m the opposite. I am a woman of many, many words. I’m always talking. It’s like a curse. I honestly can’t help it. Does it bother you?”

“Nah” He smiled, not making eye contact.

“Good. You gotta a pretty smile. You should do it more often.”

Fiske frowned.

“What?”

“You don’t call men pretty,” Fiske responded.

“I call it like I see it,” She said pursing her lips. Her laugh was light and flirty. “So, you haven’t even made many friends have you?”

“Who needs friends.” He retorted.

Tame got quiet for a moment. “Everyone needs friends, Fiske. We all need someone.” She paused and licked her lips. “Maybe, we can be friends. Are you good enough to hang out with a Goddess?” She paused, but didn’t give Fiske enough time to answer. “I mean, I don’t have many friends here myself. I mean, I’ve been here all my life, but I hate this place. I do. Once I graduate, I am gone—for good. That’s what I told my Mom the other day. She was mad I said it, but it’s true. You’d probably have been better off if you never moved here. You should probably go back to where you’re from—not that I would want to see you go—but it’s probably better than here. Anywhere is better than here.”

Fiske thought for a moment about where he came from, and his hands trembled. Tame didn’t see it. She was still talking, but Fiske noticed everything. He noticed the smartboard in the front of the room flickering images of despair, he noticed the teacher repeatedly looking in their direction, he noticed the way a sliver of Tame’s hair curled around her left ear, and how she constantly licked her lips when she talked. Fiske noticed how his heart beat a little faster when she looked at him.

“Look,” he interrupted forcing Tame to stop talking for a moment, “This is where I came from.” In his hand he held an iPhone with pictures of his old house and his family: his mom, his brother—and his dad, all sitting on the steps of a brick town home. It was a happy picture from better times.

Tame immediately snatched it from his hands and started swiping through his photos. It was rude, but he could tell she couldn’t help herself. This was her nature. Goddesses didn’t beg for permission, and they weren’t use to being corrected.

He reached out, but she moved away from his gasp.

“Wow!” she spat. “You lived in a big city! What is this? New York? Atlanta? Chicago? This must have been your house! It’s huge! What do your parent’s do? They must be doctors or lawyers or something big.” Fiske tried to answer, but she wouldn’t let him get a word in. “Who is this?” Tame continued unfazed. “Is this your Mom? She is gorgeous. She has the prettiest dark skin. She’s so tall and slender. She reminds me of those ballerina advertisements.” She paused. “Oh . . .” She paused again, and looked at me. “Is this your dad? He’s . . .”

“Light . . .” Fiske spat. “Yeah, he’s biracial.”

“You know, a lot of people think I’m biracial because of my hair, but I’m not. It runs in my family. Anyway, I think it’s cool. You guys look alike.”

“Thanks. Everyone thinks it’s weird I’m so dark—and my dad is so—"

“Light.”

“Yeah,” Fiske finished still holding his phone in his hand. She was staring at a picture of his dad and him, a selfie. His father, casually laughing, with one arm wrapped around Fiske. He had on the jacket that Fiske had bought him for Christmas as a present. He remembered this day. They were headed to the movies. Fiske didn’t want to take the picture; he thought it was so stupid. He was too old to have his dad hugging on him like that. At the time, he thought it was so embarrassing, and the sentiment was all over his face. Now, as he stared at the photograph, he was grateful his dad had insisted on hugging him.

“My dad and I spent a lot of time together, especially outdoors. He loved the outdoors. He taught me everything I know about hunting, surviving. But my favorite lessons were our fishing lessons. He gave me these rules—or, like, steps.”

“Oh, steps on how to catch a fish! Cool. So, you like to fish? You must because this is the most I’ve heard you talk.”

“Yeah, I like to fish, Ms. Goddess,” Fiske blushed.

“Ms. Goddess,” she smirked. “I like that. My Dad likes to fish, too. He goes sometimes. He rarely takes me though.”

 “Yeah? Well, my dad took me all the time. He taught me about bait and how to attach your line. Everything there is to know.”

“Attach your line? Is that the first step to fishing?”

“Nah, it’s the second. First, you gotta get your gear and your bait. Then, you find a good fishing spot and attach your line.”

She grinned. “Attach your line, huh? We should go fishing. You and me—”

Suddenly, the room was quiet. Fiske could see Tame staring at something behind him, and her mouth suddenly shut. He had never seen her so still. Fiske turned around to see Mr. Hinze. He was hovering over Fiske, a stout whale with his head hovering just above water. Mr. Hinze blew out a puff of air and extended his right hand.

He said only one word, a single command: “phone.” Then, he added a time limit: “now.”

“I can’t,” Fiske stuttered, attempting to slip his phone back into his pocket.

“It’s either the phone or the principal’s office.”

“Look, Mr. Hinze, it’s my fault” Tame interjected.

“Butt out, Tame!” Mr. Hinze commanded. “You got 5 seconds to give me your phone, young man.” He started counting, but Fiske jaw only tightened.

“I’m not giving you my phone,” Fisk interrupted. His phone contained the last images of his old life— of his dad. For a minute, it seemed as though Hinze was going to try and take it from him with the whole class watching. Hinze jerked forward, his face still puffing air, a bead of sweat hovering on his upper lip. He obviously didn’t like being defied, but Fiske couldn’t give up his phone. Mr. Hinze tried to snatch the phone away, and Fiske danced around his hands, weaving the phone in and out like a he was in a music video. It ended with Mr. Hinze on the floor, red faced and beached—a beached whale who was obviously pissed.

“Get out!” he shouted from the floor. “To the Principal’s office and a referral will follow. You too, Tame! Out!”

“What did I do,” Fiske heard Tame shout, but Fiske was already up and walking. By the time, he heard Tame’s footsteps, he was already down the hall.

“It’s because of you,” Fiske said, finally turning to confront Tame. “I can’t get in trouble. Not, again. Not on the first day.”

Again?” Her face puzzled. Fiske instantly wished he could take back the words, but he couldn’t.

“Never mind. Just stay away, okay.” He regretted the words even as they slipped from his lips, but he couldn’t afford anymore trouble. Not after what he had already put his mom through.

“What about our fishing trip? You said it was your favorite, right? Won’t that make up for this.”

 Fiske stopped walking for a second to think. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Tame’s eyes were big as she looked up at him. He noticed for the first time he was taller than her. He wondered briefly how her hair felt against his palm. She was so pretty. The freckles on her face were cute; small constellations against the night of her skin, he wanted to trace them with his finger tips.

He sighed. “I don’t even own a pole anymore.”

“I’ll get you one.”

“You’ll get me one,” Fiske questioned looking at her suspiciously. “You’ll get me a pole? Why?”

“Maybe, I’m just extending my line or attaching my line or whatever,” she smiled. “Maybe, I like you, Fiske. Maybe, I have a crush on the mysterious new boy, who is cute but barely smiles. Maybe, I can tell you are lonely and need a friend. Maybe, I need one too. Look, this town is small. New people don’t come here often, and I like new things. They make things interesting.” Now, it was her turn to look at her feet and shift her weight—but she was bold. She looked down; she shifted; but, then her hazel eyes were back on him. They seemed to stare through him. Her lashes were red like her hair—and long.

“Friday,” Fiske said, quickly. “We can go Friday.” Then, he quickly turned from her and sped down the hallway toward the principal’s office, and he could hear Tame’s short footsteps slowly following behind him.

When his Mom showed up at the school, Tame was nowhere around. Fiske was grateful for that. He didn’t want her to see his Mom. She pulled up in a car that seemed to hold the entire world in it. He remembered when his Mom was a neat freak. She owned a Mercedes then, and Fiske and his brother weren’t allowed to even eat in the car. Now, they were living in it.

“What did you do now?”

“Nothing, Ma.”

“I thought you were staying out of trouble. It’s the first day. They told me you pushed the teacher.”

“He fell, Ma.”

“Now, you gonna have me in here cursing out the principal—for what? A cellphone? They are talking suspension—on your first day?”

“I’m sorry, Ma.”

“I can’t get called off my job, Fiske. We need the money. You see how we’re living?”

“I know, Ma.”

“I wish your dad was here! Do you know what this would do to your Dad? If he saw you like this? You were a straight A student—you were in the gifted program, for god’s sake-- and now look at you!”

“I’m sorry, Ma,” Fiske whimpered.

“This is crazy, Fiske.”

He didn’t respond to the last line. The whole world seemed crazy the last few years. Everything was crazy—but what really made him quiet was the last part. The part where she said, “I wish your Dad was here.” That statement seemed to ring in Fiske’s ears like a gong, reverberating over and over again, a silent echo, a silent scream that he carried with him everywhere he went. “I wish your dad was here.” In his heart, he wished it, too.

 

Be patient.

His Mom had found a hotel, it wasn’t a nice one, but it would do. He found a roach in the sheets, the wallpaper peeled off the walls, but it had a roof. It wasn’t a car, and he could stretch his legs. Even if his legs sometimes bumped into his brother’s at night. 

Time seems to move slowly when you are waiting for something. Fiske was waiting for Friday. Fiske was waiting for his fish. His Mom had found his father’s rod, the one his Dad gave him as a gift. Fiske didn’t even realize she still had it. Yet, here it was. In his hand’s like a life raft, ready to save him from this sinking feeling he had been having since the accident. The feeling that everything was always going to go wrong for him—because he deserved it.

“It’s going to be alright, Fiske,” his mom whispered interrupting his thoughts. She smiled gently at him, and the corners of her eyes crinkled reminding Fiske of her age. His mom seemed to be aging faster. He wish he had a time machine. Most of the times, he wished he could change everything; instead, he was drowning and taking his Mom down with him. He nodded and leaned on the back of the car. The fishing rod in his hands.

Nevertheless, when he was helping his mom pull clothes out of the trunk, there it was: slick and thin and black. It still had a line threaded through it from the last time they went fishing. Thread from two years ago. He blinked back tears.

“You thought I lost it,” his mother said standing next to him. He could feel the heat of her body, he could feel her words, they held her love for them both. She placed a hand on his shoulder. “I couldn’t even bring myself to think about tossing it out. I know how much those trips meant to you—and him. He loved you so much, Fiske. His first born, and somewhere out there floating around in the heavens, he still does.”

Fiske looked at his mother. “I know, Ma.” He said slowly. His words were short and miniscule, but they meant so much more. His Mom reached toward her son and wrapped her arms around him. She gave him a squeeze, and he moved into it. Fiske would never tell his mother to hug him, he would never say how much he needed it—but that embrace meant more to him than any words she could ever speak. It felt like it wasn’t just her—it was from them both.

She even smelled like him. She was wearing one of his shirts again. It was a musty odor—like the woods. Fiske liked the smell. To him, it smelled like a barbeque, it smelled like playing football on the beach in just flip flops, it smelled like sitting in the living room laughing at old photo albums with embarrassing baby pictures; it smelled like driving in a car with the window down blaring loud music, it smelled like dad jokes, like an open beer bottle on the table during football season, it smelled like home—it smelled like him—like his love.

Fiske yanked himself away from her—from the smell. He didn’t want to cry. He refused. He didn’t cry at the funeral or when his Mom, a former housewife, had to work to pay the bills or when they had to sell the house, or when his Mom started drinking or when they moved from the city to the country. He didn’t cry when he watched his life fall apart, and he wouldn’t cry now. Instead, he clutched his fishing rod and walked into the motel—his new home—to get ready for school. He wanted to let Tame know, she didn’t have to buy him a new rod. He had one of his own.

At school, time seemed to stand still. He didn’t see Tame in first period. He didn’t see her at lunch. He didn’t see her. Instead, all he saw was the ticking of the clock, and the calendar on his phone reminding him of Friday. Friday was the day they said they were going fishing. Was she sick? He thought. But he had to remind himself to be patient. His father’s rules for fishing slipped through his mind: get the proper gear and bait, attach the line—and be patient. He reminded himself about being patient. He could see his father sitting on the lake smiling. The light of the dawn playing along the lines of his face. His eyes darting in and out of the shadows as he spoke. He could hear his voice, deep and husky in his ears. His father never lied. Be patient, he would say. Fiske was trying, but he wished he knew her number. Why hadn’t he thought to get her number? Did she even have a phone?

During lunch, he was nervous. People kept looking at him weird for carrying a fishing rod around with him all day. Some people made jokes, but most just whispered to their friends and gave him odd looks. Fiske hated attention. Attention always brought bad tidings, and he was right. Attention brought him Hunter.
Hunter was short and clumsy, which contrasted with his name. He stumbled over his own two feet, and Fiske knew this because they had Algebra I together. He was always breaking something, falling over something—sabotaging something. He never apologized for it—and that was Hunter’s way. He was a bull in every sense of the word. Today, Hunter decided it was a good day to trip over Fiske’s fishing rod during lunch. It broke into three pieces—scattering across the lunchroom floor—along with Hunter’s lunch.

“Aye,” Hunter responded jumping to his feet and dusting himself off. “My lunch! You owe me!” he glared at Fiske, who was on his feet. Fiske hands were balled into fist. “Who even brings fishing rods to school, idiot! That’s your own fault!” Hunter stepped forward, but Fiske didn’t speak. All he could see was the only fishing rod his father gave him, and his father could never buy him another one—because his father was dead. Hunter had taken away the only thing left between his father and him; so, Fiske decided to take Hunter away from his jaw. Fiske swung, and he swung, and he swung some more. He didn’t think about the blood on his fist, or the blood running down his nose from Hunter’s punch, or the fact that he was now on top of Hunter pounding into his face. He didn’t even hear the screams—not he screams from the other kids, or administration or even from Hunter.

All he heard was the sound of the dirt shoveled over his father’s grave at the funeral. All he heard was his mother’s cries. His father was dead, and Hunter broke the last gift he ever gave him. Then, he told Fiske it was all his fault, and it was. All of this was somehow Fiske’s fault.

When the Principal finally pulled them apart, Fiske didn’t care how badly he had messed up. He was too busy fighting the tears from his eyes. He didn’t even hear what the Principal said to him; he didn’t have to hear it. Fiske knew he was suspended.

When his mother finally picked him. She only said one thing.

“I can’t keep this up, Fiske. I won’t be able to keep a job if I keep getting called off work. We’re going to be back in the streets. We’ll be back to living in this car, again. It will be just like last time. Is that what you want?”

“No, Ma.” Fiske responded, but he was stoic. His words felt empty and hollow and broken—like the fishing rod laying on the cold tile floor in three pieces; the fishing rod that he watched the janitors throw away like trash. He wished he could be thrown away with it.

 

 Handle With Care.

“I bought you something,” she said and, in her hands, she held a fishing rod, a Dobyns Champion Extreme Fishing Rod. It was expensive. Fiske’s dad planned on buying two for their next fishing trip. He had saved up money to buy one for himself and one for Fiske, and now, Tame was giving him one. Fiske stared at it in disbelief. “It’s my Dad’s,” she continued. “He works at a hardware store, and his boss is the owner and he’s kinda rich. He likes to give my Dad hookups, you know. Sometimes, he gives him discounts. Just so happens, he just gave my dad a new rod, and we thought you might like this one.”

“Thanks.”

“He plans on taking us—you know—my dad. Since, we can’t drive or anything.”

“Cool.”

“I heard about what happened the other day-- at school. I had to stay home,” she licked her lips, stuffing her hands in her pockets. He could tell by her face she wanted to say more. Something was bothering her.  “My mom is sick.” Her voice cracked briefly. “She’s dying.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” she said kicking at a leaf on the ground. Tame’s hair was wild today. Her hair fiercely fought the wind, dancing around her head in odd patches, but she looked pretty. She was wearing makeup, and hoop earrings, and a hoody that showed the shape of her body with fitted jeans. Fiske never really paid attention to the way she dressed before. Maybe, it was a way to distract himself from what she was talking about—losing a parent. He knew that pain. The only difference was that she gets to watch parent walk slowly toward death, while death snatched his parent away. He couldn’t decide which was worse. At least, she wouldn’t be the blamed for her mom’s death like he was for his dad.

“I’m sorry, Tame,” he said slowly. He kept trying to find the right words, opening and closing his mouth like a guppy. “I know it’s hard.”

“Everything seems hard at first, Fiske, but at least when she’s gone—she won’t be in pain, right?”

“Right,” He agreed.

 “What was it like for you? When you lost your dad?”

Fiske turned away from Tame at that moment. He didn’t want her to see his face. Losing his Dad was like losing your way in a wind storm. It was like having the sun always at your back. You can feel it, you know it’s there, but you can never witness it rise ever again. It was its own purgatory.

“What are we waiting for, anyway?”

“My dad,” she laughed. “He hasn’t been fishing in a while and decided he wanted to buy some more bait.” Fiske nodded

They stood in silence. The sun was dipping low, and the air grew colder. Fiske felt like he should say something, but didn’t. Instead, he and Tame just watched the last few kids leave the school. They were a bunch of dark colors, and hoodies and tennis shoes. A mass exodus of book bags walking, while Tame and Fiske waited.

“I’m surprised they let you back on campus to meet with me.”

Fiske chuckled. “What makes you think they did?”

“So,” Tame started, cocking an eyebrow. “They don’t know?”

“Nah,” he answered. “Not unless you tell them.”

“You are so bad, Fiske.” Tame laughed. She looked pretty when she laughed. She lit up like a goldfish in a pond at dawn: sparkling golden slivers of light, she was.  Fiske liked it. He liked her laugh just as much as he liked her.

“You know, I could have just had my dad pick you up from your place. We didn’t have to meet at the school and risk getting in trouble—again.

“Nah, here is good.” Fiske shrugged his shoulders brushing off her suggestion with a wave of his hand. He didn’t want her to know where he is living or how he was living. He could feel her eyes on him, but he didn’t want to look at her. He was afraid he’d give himself away. Fisk felt like a fish bobbing up and down in pond water— she was pulling him in— but he can’t get to close. He doesn’t want to go to the surface. He doesn’t want to dance in her sunshine. He’s too comfortable drowning.

“Sometimes, Fiske, I just think you like being bad.”

Suddenly, a car pulled up. The window rolled down to reveal an old, male Tame (minus the freckles). He had her eyes, and her nose, and his hair was a mass of dreads piled on top of his head.

“You, Fiske!” he shouted gruffly.

“Yeah.”

“Well, let’s go!” he shouted. Fiske looked at Tame who was already on her feet and headed for the car. She climbed into the front seat and motioned for him to hurry up. Fiske followed. When he climbed into the car, he couldn’t help but notice all the junk everywhere. It looked like his car hadn’t been cleaned in months. It almost made him feel better about his Mom’s car.

“Hey, just dump that stuff on the floor,” he said looking at him from the rear-view mirror. Fiske did as he was told. When he shut the car door, the whole car shook. “So, I heard you knew what you were doing. You knew how to catch a fish.”

“Yes, sir,” Fiske responded trying to sound respectful. He wish he could see Tame’s face, but she was too busy staring ahead at the street as her father pulled off the curb.

“Good! Cause this one wouldn’t know how to catch a fish if it jumped in her lap!” he exclaimed. “Last time, I tried to take her fishing, we ended up having to dig her hook out of a pine tree. Then, the rest of the time we spent untangling her line.”

“Dad!”

“It’s true! She hasn’t wanted to go back since. I was pretty shocked when she brought it up.” There was a silence as he looked at his daughter with a slight smirk.

“I’ve wanted to go.” 

“Uh, huh.” He chuckled, and then turned to Fiske who was listening quietly in the back seat. 

“So, you use to go with your dad, huh?” He asked Fiske. “Why don’t you go anymore.”

“He’s dead.”

Silence. There was always silence when you said things like that. Fiske should have finished the statement. He should have said “He’s dead, and I killed him.” Yet, that was too much—even for him.

“I’m sorry to hear that, son.” Then, there was more awkward silence. “I’m honored that you’d let me fill that role for you, today—that I can help you revive some of the good memories of your dad.”

Fiske tried to smile, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Instead, he turned to look out the window. The leaves were falling from the trees. Most of the branches were naked and bare. He wondered if it snowed here in winter.

“Thanks,” he finally said. Then, Fiske decided to spend the rest of the ride in silence. He preferred to listen and watch. He listened to the sounds of the radio, the talk between Mr. Reed (he had learned to call him) and his daughter, Tame looking embarrassed, but unable to stop grinning from ear to ear. It was obvious that Mr. Reed loved his daughter, and she loved her father back. Sometimes, it was hard for Fiske to watch. It reminded him too much. It hurt.

Finally, they rolled into a park filled with pine trees, and picnic tables, and even a playground. Fiske climbed out of his car and followed Tame and her Dad to a secluded area by a lake. It was dusk, and her father had remembered to bring folding chairs, a small portable heater, and of course plenty of bait.

“So,” he started looking at Fiske, “she told me you know the rules. I’m going to let you lead. Tell us what we need to do, Fiske. How do we catch a fish?”

Fiske laughed. “I can only teach you what my father taught me.”  Then, he took out his rod and began taking them through the steps. Checking to make sure he had the proper bait and gear. Finding the right spot with the wind just right. Attaching his line, and casting it into the water—and finally the best and hardest part: to be patient. 

Tame, of course, struggled with her line. Her father stepped in to help her some. It made Fiske smile to see Tame so off balanced. She was supposed to be a Goddess of fish, he reminded her.

“Well, as a Goddess of the fishes,” she quipped, “I don’t need your silly steps or your fishing rod. I usually just step into the water and catch them with my bare hands.”

Her dad laughed. “Sure, you do.”

“I do.” She repeated, sternly. “However, I’m simply trying the mortal way for right now.”

“Well, now all we have left to do is wait,” Fiske added. They sat down in our seats, facing the setting sun with the portable heaters. Mr. Reed took out some root beers for Fiske and Tame. They both took it and sat back. The breeze carried the faint scent of rain, and I wondered briefly if our fishing trip would be cut short.

“So,” Mr. Reed said, breaking up Fiske’s thoughts. “I’m just a little curious. If you don’t mind me asking. Why did you move here.”

“My mom needed a job, and a new start. She had us close our eyes and pick a spot on a map. My brother’s finger landed here, and I didn’t really care where we ended up.”

“A fresh start, huh? I can understand that after losing your dad. Do you mind telling me, how he passed? If it’s too hard—”

“I killed him.”

“What?” Tame gasped. “You don’t mean that, Fiske. That’s a horrible thing to say—”

“Of course, he doesn’t mean that. Honey, let him finish.”

Fiske took a sip of his root beer, and sat motionless for a moment. He wondered if he should finish. Maybe, he should just stop there. Let them judge him. Let Mr. Reed move his daughter further away from him. Maybe, that was enough. But instead, he opened his mouth and the words took over.

“I shot him—with his own gun.” I paused remembered what happened. The words spilled out like octaves. “He kept it on him. ‘Just in case,’ he would always say. He hoped he’d never have to use it, but it was always there just in case. And, I messed up.”

“Fiske,” Tame interrupted again, but Fisk just looked at her. His eyes were a still lake.

“It was my fault. We were coming back from fishing. I thought I was going to catch one that day—I was sure—but I didn’t. My Dad was telling me that he was going to buy us a new pole. An expensive one. He thought a new pole would help me fish better. We laughed about it. I remember how big his smile was—like he was still proud of me for trying. Proud of me even though I was just a failure,” Fiske paused for a brief moment as the memories came flooding back.

 “We took the back-way home, cutting through the woods to get to his car. He handed me his coat to hold, so he could unlock the door. Then, these kids showed up. These kids from my school. There were four of them—all wearing black. I didn’t know them. It was like they just materialized or something. One minute, it was just me and my dad; then, the next minute—these kids were on him. Wanting money, wanting blood, they jumped us, and I was screaming for help. I was scared. It happened so fast. I tried to fight back, but they were on top of me—holding me down. I could barely swing. My dad was fighting them off. I could see him. He was winning, too. He got one of them on the ground. But then, one of them—the tallest one—he pulled a knife out—and my dad froze. Everyone froze, even the guys on me. It was like they all knew this was bad. I don’t think they planned murder. My dad looked scared—like he knew it wasn’t going to end well. Like, he could see the future. He looked at me and told me to run. I can still remember the way his lips moved. I can still hear his voice. He shouted it—hard—and I backed away, but I couldn’t leave him. I couldn’t leave him fighting by himself.”

“What did you do, Fiske?”

He blinked, and took a sip of his soda. “That’s when I saw it-- my Dad’s gun. It was on the ground. It had fallen during the scuffle. I got to it and pointed to one of the kids. They let me go, and took off. The other one, the one with the knife, he put my dad in front of him like a shield or something. It happened so fast. The other three took off, but that one, that one laughed. ‘You ain’t gonna do nothin’’ he spat, laughing. He was looking me right in the eyes, his knife at my dad’s throat. My Dad was looking at me, begging—and I closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. When I opened them, it wasn’t the robber on the ground—it was my dad. He was bleeding, and some cops were behind me. The blue flashing lights were everywhere. The robber was a stain of black against the evening sky. He got away. He got away, and my dad was dead because of me. I shot him.”

“Fiske,” Tame muttered. “I—I’m so sorry.” Her face looked almost pale as she stared at Fiske in disbelief. She moved closer to hug him, but he stopped her. Her dad watched them both—before speaking.

“It’s not your fault son. You dad loves you, and he probably loves you more for trying to protect him. Anyone could have made that mistake.  In fact, many people do—all the time. Your dad wouldn’t want you to carry that guilt and shame on you for the rest of your life. I know he has already forgiven you, but I bet you still haven’t forgiven yourself. You should.”

Then, as his words escaped his lips, suddenly, Fiske felt a tug on his line. It was moving. He had caught something.

“A fish!” Tame screamed. She was pointing to the water, and you could see the movement. It was big—whatever it was. Fiske started reeling it. Tame threw down her rod to help him. He thought the rod was going to break under the weight. When he finally got it out of the water—it was a catfish. It was huge almost as tall as he was. Mr. Reed looked especially proud.

They fished into the night, catching bass and salmon and catfish. Tame caught one, Fiske caught three, and Mr. Reed caught two. Fiske fish was the biggest. It felt good. It felt like he had honored his father that night. He had caught a fish using everything he had taught him.

“Don’t forget,” Fiske reminded them, “handle with care.”

 

Take a Picture

“I’m not dropping you off at the school. It’s late. I am taking you home.” His dad used that tone of voice that let you know he wasn’t playing. Fiske frowned. He was trying to find a way out of it without seeming disrespectful. “You can either tell me where you live, and I take you home—or your Mom can come and pick you up.”

“He’s not going to let you out the car until you tell him.” Tame laughed. She thought it was comical, but Fiske wasn’t joking. He didn’t really want them to know where he stayed, but the look that her dad was giving him. He knew he had no choice. Fiske grimaced and climbed into the car.

“I stay in the motel off Blanchard.”

Tame made a face. Her eyes were round and big and she looked at him, but she said nothing. Tame and her father gave each other a look, but they didn’t speak.

“Okay,” was all her father said as he cranked up the car and started driving. That’s when the rain came. It was a slight drizzle at first, and then it was a downpour. Like a white sheet in front of them, the shards of rain scattered over the ground, soaking the roads. It brought back memories of his dad. The two of them driving in rain like this— the silence was deafening.

When he finally pulled up to the motel, his mom was waiting there. She was outside, a wane light highlighting her figure. She looked sad and lonely. When she saw Fiske stepping out of the car, her face lit up—but then darkness soon followed when she saw a man step out of the car with him. Tame’s father held an umbrella as they walked toward the motel room. Fiske could tell his mother had been crying.

“Mom,” he said searching for answers.

“I was fired today.” She said sadly.  “I don’t know what we are going to do. I already put our things back in the car. I can’t afford this place after tonight.”

“I’m sorry, Ma.”

“You were staying in your car?’ Mr. Reed interrupted. 

“Who are you, exactly, and what are you doing with my son?

“Ma, it’s okay.”

“Excuse me. I’m so sorry. I am Michael Reed, Tame’s father. Your son and my daughter are friends. I took them fishing today.”

“I didn’t even know he had friends.”

He laughed. “They seem to be rather close. He got my daughter out on the lake catching fish. I was shocked. She’s been so down since her mother caught sick.” He paused.

“Your wife is sick?”

“No, we’re divorced. We have been for a long time, but when she got cancer—she lost everything. I’m not going to let the mother of my child and my daughter live on the streets, you know.” He swiped a hand though his dreads. “I don’t want any woman with a kid living on the streets. I know this is not my place—but I have room for you and your boys. I could use the help to. I need a caretaker for my ex-wife, and I might even have a place for you at the hardware store where I work. I am friend’s with the boss.”

“Really?”

“Really.” He added, “you can stay with me. Get on your feet, and help me out in the process. You got a good kid, you know. You don’t need to be out here like this—struggling. Not when there are people that can help you.”

She paused for a moment, and then smiled. “when can I start?”

He laughed. “You can start tonight. You know how to clean fish?”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “Yeah, I actually do.”

When you catch a fish, you’re supposed to take a picture with it before you let it go again. The last picture Fiske and his dad ever took together was his dad holding a fish in his hands, and Fiske held onto that memory tightly. They forgot to take a picture at the lake: Tame and Mr. Reed and Fiske, but they decided to do at dinner with three extra people—Fiske’s Mom, his younger brother and Tame’s Mom. They all crowded in Mr. Reeds’ small kitchen and took a picture together— and it seemed oddly important. His mother was smiling. It had been so long to see her smiling. It was as if, in this small kitchen, she had been given hope.

Fiske couldn’t help but wonder who were the real fish and the real fisherman in the room. If there was a fish in the room, it would have to be her—Tame—the Goddess. Tame was the person that needed to be put back in the pool and replicated over and over. There needed to be more people like her in the world. More people willing to extend a line to a complete stranger—that needed it.

 Today was a good day, it was the day— Fiske finally caught a fish. His father would have been proud.


Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 


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©Dawnell Jacobs 2021 Author of Black MagicThe Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Your Story Matters: How To Be The Author of Your Own Destiny and The Monsters  Within: Heart of Darkness. Now on #Amazon, #Kindle, #Nook & #Barnes And Noble. Buy your copy of The Shade of Devotion and Brains Not Included today!

 

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