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Bookish | Fiction

Death of an Angler

Matthew Poore | Last Updated: 07.14.2011 |


There can be a big leap between the person you were born to be and the person you were raised to be. Hopefully it works out for you either way.

I died a little that day, but it had to happenThe body under the water is a friend of mine. Perhaps my best friend, certainly, at times, my only friend, but I’m not reaching for him. There is a possibility if I did, he could be revived and that’s not a part of my agenda. I saw the slip, and falter, and then the body goes under. I imagine it didn’t take long for the chest waders to fill, the skin to begin changing colors from the water’s frigid cold, the numbness in your hands making it impossible to regain grip. I don’t know how far the current dragged his body downstream. It appeared that’s where the real damage must have happened. You can go under and make it out just fine. Take your clothes off, get warm. At one point or another it happens to most anglers, but not this time. Maybe his head hit a rock. Maybe temperature shock plus being pulled down river by flooded waders forced him to open his mouth in a panic or a misguided attempt to push his mouth out of the water long enough to get a quick breath. What keeps you dry can drown you too.

It’s funny how serene he looks now. He was always twisted up before. It didn’t show to the rest of the world, but he was. Most people thought of him as one of the most laid back people they knew, a guy who never lost his temper. The fact was, he was always upset. Most people didn’t know the difference, didn’t take the time to notice. Looking at him gently bobbing in the current he definitely seems more serene now. And from the looks of that subtle, drowned smile, probably happier too. As I turn away, very small air bubbles continue to escape a mouth that will never again tell me his darkest secrets and fears. I keep moving. This is for the best. He needed to be gone.


The valley walls are familiar, yet distant now. They’re a lyric I didn’t understand and can’t love the same after figuring them out. Barriers, physical and ethereal, tether my feet momentarily in the river. A channel has already been crossed and more comfortable passage is ahead, so I will myself to keep moving.

Reading the riffles was difficult for the rest of the day. In the valley, the sun came up late and does not fully show until it is directly above. Then suddenly glare is upon you. I had fished that section of that river for years, and never been as blind as I was that morning. A polarized lense can’t do a damned thing for tears.

As I nonchalantly turned away from his body, I turned to his memory. Times I’d spent with him when he had been there for me. Like the time I was in the hospital, watching my old man die in a room full of high-pitched beeps and drips. He didn’t say much, just watched me eyeing the small gauge wire attached to the mini-pancake on his chest.  It beeped frequently, though the docs said it shouldn’t.

“I’ve got rods in the car, and bourbon. Wanna catch a few minutes of downtime?” He knew the real answer before I said it, even though my first thought was to decline, as I should be present for people to see at the wake.

So it was, two hours later, in identical black suits, we were muddy, drunk, crude, and happy. Stockers were grilled over a impromptu blazing fire set in a hole in the ground. There wasn’t a profanity or imaginative combination of derisions we had missed in our “mourning period” of my old man’s passing. There wasn’t any talk of hitting or abuse or shame. Just unspecific retaliation for stuff we would never again have the chance to reckon with. We passed out in the dirt, comatose, but when the funeral came the next day, we made it…barely. Because we were late, people were concerned that I was too upset to be there. Only he understood.