MONDAY: Barbed Hooks

BY WILLIAM FALO

This story was previously published in U.K.-based Fictive Dreams. Copyright is held by the author.

KAT HELD onto the fishing rod ready to strike if the bobber stayed underwater. She tensed up as it bounced up and down and dipped below the surface. The fish were interested, but it ended when a baseball hat and two gloves drifted into the bobber. After scaring away the fish they drifted downstream spinning in lazy circles like actors doing a slow dance as they exited the stage.

“What the hell is going on?” She yelled out.

She heard a noise on the bridge above the stream. Someone was up there throwing things in the water.

“Knock it off,” she yelled.

“No,” a man said.

“Stop polluting the stream. I fish here.” She always cleaned the area.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be finished soon then you won’t see me again.” He threw a coat over the railing.

She tried to snag the floating clothes with her fishing line, but missed.

“If you jump you are really going to pollute this stream. I can’t let that happen.”

“Oh no.”

“Jump somewhere else.”

“I don’t know where else to go.” His voice trailed off.

“Find somewhere.”

“Just because you have a good life, doesn’t mean I have to listen. I can jump here if I want.”

She looked down. The clothes disappeared from view except for a glove that got hung up on a stump sticking out of the stream. How can she stop this? Her father took her here when she was a little girl and taught her how to fish. The memories she loved would be tarnished by a suicide.

“My life isn’t that good,” she said.

“Yeah, I bet. I have reasons to jump. My fiancée left and I recently lost my job. I’m lonely all the time.”

“Get another job.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Yea right. At least you’re a man. Do you know what it’s like to be a woman trying to get ahead in business?”

“No.”

“Figures. When you know then talk to me.”

He leaned over the railing and remained silent. He might survive the jump, but if he hit one of the rocks in the water it could be fatal. She would never be able to come back here after seeing that happen.

After a long silence, he called out. “What’s your name?”

“Kat.”

“I’m Brandon.”

“Okay, Brandon. Can you go somewhere else to jump now?”

He remained silent until he looked over the edge. “You ever catch anything?”

“Of course.”

“Can I try?”

“I guess so.” She rubbed the handle of the knife she carried. “Just don’t mess up my gear.”

He did. He cast the line out and kept reeling it in too fast and throwing it back right away. It left a tangled mess in the reel. She watched him keep trying until the line snapped and the bobber drifted away.

“Your father never taught you to fish?” Kat asked.

“He was always too drunk.”

Once she fixed the reel, he cast it out and before too long the bobber went underwater.

He reeled in a decent sized bass. “Yes.” He jumped up and down holding the fish.

“Okay, now let it go.”

“No.”

“Yes. Live and let live.” She pointed at the stream.

“Damn it.” He dropped the fish in the water and it swam away. They watched it until it disappeared.

“Thanks.” He started toward the bridge.

“You’re still going to jump?”

“Yep. Catching a fish doesn’t change anything, does it?”

“I don’t know.” Kat pulled out her phone and turned away from him then punched in some numbers.

After a few minutes, sirens started to wail in the distance.

“You called the police?”

“I release the fish so they can live not die.”

“Shit. You mean like me?”

Before she could answer two police cars reached the bridge.

“But you were so nice to me,” he said.

“I didn’t mean to be nice.”

“No. Are you ever nice?”

“We’ll I don’t use barbed hooks. It ensures that the fish will live.”

The police reached him and Brandon held his hands up.

“Will I see you again?” He called out when they led him away.

“Maybe.” She turned away then looked back. “When you get better buy a fishing license

and a rod.”

The police cars faded into the distance. Kat sat down and watched the leaves in the water drift away. When she looked downstream she saw one of Brandon’s gloves still clinging onto the stump despite the current constantly trying to take it away.

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