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Fisherman's Apology
Tom Imerito

While you gather for the evening, dear penfellows, I'll be gone for the week. I will miss your new acquaintances, but (please don't be offended) in late June wading beats writing. Worms beat words, if only by a phoneme. Lures and luck live side by side. But so much for apologies.

There is no earthly experience as ravishing as setting foot in a forest-banked river, just shorts and old sneaks, no boat, chest deep. I spin a piece of meaninglessness into the unseen world beneath a glimmering mirror of heaven. Upstream, then two o'clock, then one. The deceitful spinner slaps thirty feet out at twelve. No chance to sink. He strikes. Hard. Down. My right wrist tightens reflexively. I raise the tip. He shakes his head. My left hand cranks feverishly. My torso twists as I jerk hard above my head and set the hook. The invisible force tries to pull me in. Of course it never wins, except in Benchley and Hemingway and Melville, but they're only writers, not fishers.

I loosen the drag. Don't horse 'im. Stay away from that deadfall. Tire 'im out. He surrenders to the deadly air. Gape-mouthed. Gasping. Then wriggles one last time before giving up to the comfort of my loving grip. He stares in one-eyed dread as I twist the hook from his cartilage. We exchange astonished looks. Back in the stream, he doesn't know he's supposed to swim. A tap on his tail and he's gone—inside the undryable wetness again.

Whether horrific or serene, the mystery of what's beneath pulls me to the river's edge, lures me to the current, surveys my movements, returns my gaze, slithers mossily along my stoney soles, and caresses my belly with mile-long wavering fingers of cold.

If he cannot live in my world, then I must go halfway to his. My feet in water. My head in ether. Until that surreal moment, when his realm becomes mine and mine becomes his. Anything is possible. The meaning of life is caught between biospheres.

If I cannot set foot in the same river twice, I must go a thousand times.

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