A cloak of quiet disrobes. Sunrise on the lake is a moment unshared with any other time of day. My hair knots itself into a bun as feet paddle my torso down the many stairs leading to the dock. Lizards scurry for their lives, but it’s not them I’m interested in.
Air clings to a damp promise, and though it’s chilly, the hair on my arms rises to attention from humidity. Digging in the dirt of a blue plastic container, fingers score a wiggly one meant to meet its demise at the end of my hook. With the flick of a wrist, the worm sails into the water and sinks five feet into the murk where the hunted swim.
The world above wakes. Children greet dads with eggs, toast, and fresh coffee. Some linger.
Others rise to greet the congregation of today. The Sunday sermon is altered to project the title, Father, on full display in celebration of the men in our lives who’ve molded us — whether directly or by omission — into the shapes we currently assume.
The last time he sat here he’d insisted on measuring my catch of the day, and proudly boasted about it to my uncle, later. They were forever in competition. I imagine they still are.
I tended his line, adding new hooks or bait when needed. He didn’t catch any that day but he had this faraway look and a grin that never left.
We were through for the day when he confided his secret.
“When you catch a fish, it’s just like I caught it.”
Years later, I help my daughter net a catfish larger than any I’ve ever caught and I understand. I know what it means to pass down a wordless tradition. Something you can only experience by doing.
Memories float over gentle ripples from a motorboat when mother otter swims by. Two offspring cling to her belly fur. She eyeballs me before ducking under a neighboring dock.
The end of the rod jerks and my line goes taut.
“This one’s for you, dad.”
Inspired by my dad, who is definitely fishing today.
My debut poetry collection — Holes and a series of rabbits — is now available!