One day last year as I walked around the lake, I thought about the fishermen dotting the shore, “regulars,” casting and waiting. My mind dove under water and imagined the lives–errands, dating (was there courtship?), mating, eating–the daily grind of these lake fish. How many families lived in this man-made liquid city? Was there a hierarchy? Were there different neighborhoods, and did they fight over property or trespassing? Swimming with the wrong fish? Domestic squabbles?
Then I pictured what happened every time a fish took the bait. The instantly alert human’s tightened grip on a stick that’s straining, bending as the hooked fish fights against the pull of rod and reel. Struggling, a tug of war, panicked attempts to swim through the pain of sharp metal puncturing and tearing at his mouth. For better or worse, this lake is his home, his family or friends are here, his life is here. Somehow he knows he won’t survive if dragged from it.
That was Jill. Like the fish and his lake, for better or worse, her home was with Dad. He’d given her a glimmer of hope at some burger joint–we never ate out–that we’d all live in DC when he remarried. Then suddenly we were moving to Mom’s at the end of the week. My pre-Algebra class, with Stephanie, threw me a going-away party that Friday. Too focused on Monday in a new county, school, making friends, keeping Steph and Leslie, I failed to notice Jill’s furious tug of war to stay with Dad. Her friends. School.
I fished as a kid, summers at my grandparents’ trailer home and cottage on another lake. Honored to sit with Grandpa in his boat as dawn broke, lines cast in murky water preferred by bass. Hooking sunfish one after another from a creaky wooden dock. So easy, the satisfaction of having “caught” something, pulling a short, round, iridescent creature from the water, flapping and gasping as I grasped and unhooked him. Tossing him back in the lake. There you go, I thought. No harm done.
I don’t recall seeing Dad doing that. Except with his daughter.