by Tim Fitts

For most of the morning, I fished under the dock and crevices along the concrete wall, snagging sunny fish until I had reaped a bucketful, then switched to scrubbing baby leeches from beneath the stones, salting them into goo.  For lunch, I sat on the dock and ate mustard soaked sardines on soda crackers.  The lake belonged to friends of my grandparents in Northern Michigan.  In the afternoon, my grandparents’ friends sat on the porch for a while and watched me fish, so I cast the line out into the black with a bobber on it and waited.  “Get anything?” they shouted.

“No,” I said.

“Hope springs eternal,” they said.

“Okay,” I said.  At ten years old, I mistook their encouragement for a directive.

When they finally went inside, I reeled in my bait, and a sturgeon followed the line into the shallow, presenting its monstrous, obscene head and torso.  The sturgeon came so close to the edge we were able to stare each other down, have our moment.

Would you believe the fish bit, took the bait, dragged the monofilament to the depths, wrapped the line around a log, covered in funk and creepers, tied a square knot, sheepshank, half-hitch, and all kinds of pretty bows?

Tim Fitts is the author of two collections of short stories, Hypothermia (MadHat Press) and Go Home and Cry for Yourselves (Xavier Review Press). He currently teaches in the Liberal Arts Department of the Curtis Institute of Music. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @timfitts77