Saturday 26 June 2021

'A Letter of Explanation to the One I Left Sleeping Alone, Open-Mouthed and Cold, in a Tent on the Tepid Shore of Deer Lake' by Lindy Biller

We’d been out fishing all day and remembering all the times we’d gone fishing before, you looking out at the water like it had lottery numbers written on it, me digging my hook into the writhing bodies of earthworms, gritting my teeth against how much I didn't want to be doing it. The first time, when we fished by the dam in town, I made a sweet little fuss, told you I’d never baited my own line before. We both knew how the morning would end, but first, the pretense. The casting and reeling and casting again. The sandwiches and cold beers crammed into your cooler with the nightcrawlers, a picnicking style that, at the time, didn’t bother me. “You’ll lose your bait if you use the whole worm,” you told me, grinning, “you want to split them in half with your fingernail.” But my nails were bitten short, so I had to press my soft fingertips into the worm’s soft body and find out which of us was softer. This time, when I reeled in a 28-inch pike, thrashing and glistening, you laughed, said it was a keeper, hot damn was it a keeper. You scooped up lakewater in the grimy white bucket still crusted with lake scum and old scales. I’d already seen you take apart a fish a hundred times: the deep slit behind the head, another in front of the dorsal fin, the slippery chunks of meat peeled away. While you tended the campfire, I sank into a folding chair and avoided those dead glass eyes. The worst thing about fish is how they still have all that muscle, tight and rippling beneath the scales, how they still feel so alive as you flop them down on the board and cut them open.

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