A Fishing Tale
Neither Of Us Fished
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A tinge of spring touched the March afternoon. The wind was calm, the sun was out, and because I couldn’t wait to wet a hook, I was getting mighty impatient with two guys ahead of me at the boat ramp. Crappie feed toward dusk, and fishing time was wasting.
The man in the truck was facing the boat. Shouting angrily, the one in the boat was facing the truck, obviously wondering why his pal stopped before the boat could float free of the trailer.
I wondered, too, as did a half dozen black ladies sitting on five-gallon cans near the water’s edge, fishing. On pretty days, they were always there, barefoot, wearing flower dresses, and wide-brimmed straw hats. One of them, Sadie, lived on Dad’s farm.
“Hello, Sadie. Doin’ any good?” I asked.
“Yas, suh,” she said. “Jes pull dat stringer up and take a look for yo’self.” Indeed, it was full of nice fat bream.
“Lordy be,” I said. “I sho’ hope you’ll remember me when you fry ’em.” She nodded and winked. Nobody fried fish better than Sadie.
“What’s the story with those guys at the ramp?” I asked. “I sho’ would like to get to a weed bed a short ways from here. It’s working alive with crappie. Don’t worry … I’ll bring you a few.”
“I don’t know,” she said, “but dis I do know — dat man in de boat got a foul mouth.”
I decided to walk over and lend the guys a hand. The boat driver explained that his friend stopped all of a sudden, so I went to speak to the truck driver. He seemed not to hear me, and I felt that something was strange. Then I noticed that his left foot had jammed the emergency brake to the floor.
“Sir, I think you accidentally pressed the wrong brake. Hold down the other brake pedal with your right foot and release the emergency brake. Then you can back down enough to free the boat.”
His eyes were half closed and his limbs were rigid, as if in a cataleptic state. Something’s bad wrong here, I thought, as I glanced at Sadie and her friends, who were watching attentively. I spoke to the man again. He uttered not a word, so I tapped him on the shoulder. No response. Gently, I placed two fingers on his jugular vein. Nothing. When I shook him, he slumped sideways.
Thinking the two guys were good buddies, I dreaded what I had to say: “Sir, your friend is dead.”
Instantly, the bulging-eyed, horrified man catapulted out of the boat, into the truck’s bed, onto the ground, and fled, never looking back. Simultaneously, I heard women screaming and turned to see fishing poles floating in the water, dresses fluttering behind fleeing females, and hats sailing off heads.
Other than waves lapping the shore, all became silent. There we were, two guys — one dead, one alive. But we had one thing in common: That day, neither of us fished.