Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Flash Fiction Friday - Cycle #60

Caleb Winters sat in his wheel chair on a dock that crudely interrupted the flat calm of Harpshead Pond.  His presence and the dock the only proof Mankind even knew of this peaceful place.  A loon cried off to his left and dragonflies swarmed in manic flight wolfing down mosquitoes foolish enough to be out and about.  Caleb spotted his bobber begin to bounce.

Caleb's fishing pole was stuck in the rod holder Harold had zip tied to his chair a week earlier.   Learning to fish with one hand had been difficult, but over the last seven days he came up with a system and yesterday he finally caught his limit. One more now and he would reach his limit today also.  He pulled the rod out and yanked hard setting the hook.  He immediately returned the pole in the holder to brace it.  Awkwardly he began to reel the line in.  

Whatever was on Caleb's line was bigger than any fish living in this pond.  His rod tip dipped hard with each crank of the reel.  Caleb stopped.  Could it be one of those lake trout Harold boasted about?  Called them togue or something like that.  He was often not sure what Harold was saying.  His thick Maine accent frequently a foreign language to Caleb’s New York City ears.

Caleb brought the rod back up with a sharp tug.  Nothing.  He moved the pole one way, then another.  Again nothing. 

"Damn!  Another snagged line. ....... Harold!......... HAROLD!..........My damn line's snagged again."

No response.  Caleb sat in his chair fuming.  What was the use of hired help if they were never there when he needed them.  Caleb sighed, tried to calm down using those relaxation techniques that flexible filly at the hospital tried to teach him.  No good.  He continued to rant.

Several minutes later a man stepped out of the camp nestled in the tall pines some 75 feet up from  the dock.  He wore a bloodstained white apron and was wiping his hands on a dishrag.  He looked down towards the dock.  The afternoon sun had dropped far enough he had to raise his hand to his forehead to block out its intensity.   He saw Caleb.

"Caleb!  Did you call?"

Caleb turned in his chair as far as he could.  Over his shoulder, "Yeah, where the Hell have you been?  My line's been snagged for an hour.  Get down here and fix it."  Harold rolled his eyes. Caleb's ranting followed him as he turned and walked back into the cottage to locate the tackle box. 

"What the Hell have you been doing Harold?  You got blood all over your apron."

Kneeling down next to Caleb rifling around the tackle box looking for another hook and leader Harold spoke. "Been cleaning all them damn fish you been catching.  You ever gonna eat any?  If not, I know a family that would appreciate the fresh fish."

"I don't eat seafood, you know that.  Just toss it out."

Harold found the leader and hook and stood up.

"Toss perfectly good filets?  No sir I won't do it.  I'll drop em off for  Millie and her brood on my way to town."   Harold bent over and reached for the last bobber in the top tray of the tackle box.  "You keep snagging something in the same spot.  Ferchrisakes, try casting somewhere else.  Think all I have to do is babysit you?"

Caleb opened his mouth and quickly closed it.  He opened it again.  "Just fix the line dammit, It's almost sundown.  One more fish and I hit my limit again.  Never thought I'd enjoy wrestling fish out of the water.  You know I hate seafood dontcha?"

"Yeah Caleb, you just told me.  You hate eatin fish, but you love catchin them.  I'll sleep in comfort tonight knowin that.  Thanks."

Caleb looked at Harold again.  His eyes became slits.  "What bug crawled up your ass?" 

Harold straightened up.  His back complained, his knees screamed.  He was getting too old for this nursing shit. 

"Well, I'll tell ya Caleb.  It was you.  You crawled up my ass.  You’ve done nothing but piss and moan since the day I rolled you out of the van.  First it was the mosquitoes.  They were eatin you alive.  Then you didn't like how the bug spray made your skin all greasy and shit.  We get past that and after the first night all you did was complain about how noisy it was here.  Trees rustling, loons crying, ....Ferchrisakes Caleb we just come up from Manhattan.  You think this place is noisy after living there that last 50 years....And while I'm at it, what the Hell were you thinkin when you bought this place? .......  Spent five million dollars and for what?  I know, I know, you wanted your own retreat, your quiet place to escape Humanity.  Well goddammit, then retreat and shut the fuck up."

"Caleb's eyes were no longer slits, they were bug eyed open.  Oddly speechless, he took a moment to gather himself.  Finally, "Well now, I guess you can pack up your things and we'll be done with each other.  No employee of mine shows me disrespect."

Harold did not say anything.  He reached out and grabbed the snagged line.  He cut it loose and attached the new bobber, leader and hook.   When he was done he threaded the hook through the fattest worm left in the small bowl next to Caleb's wheel chair.  He handed the rod to Caleb. 

 “Here you contrary ole fart, fixed.  Now fish and leave me the Hell alone."  Harold walked back up the dock and headed for the camp.

Caleb spun his chair around and watched Harold's back disappear into the cottage. He smiled.  The two of them had been together for 20 years now ever since the plane crash and the round the clock care Caleb needed from then on.  He loved that old Mainer, he really did.  But what he loved the most was pissin him off.

The challenge was created at "Flash Fiction Friday"  - "Write a story using the weather, a town, something to eat, and a song.".

I did not hit the prompts very well, but I did finish it inside the word limit.  My first draft was over 1300 words.  I kept nibbling and condensing until I had 1000 words exactly.

Not hitting the prompts cleanly bothers me some, but finally punching out some fiction again, well, that more than makes up for it.

I'll be back.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this character study. I admit I thought Caleb was doomed when Harold's bloody apron popped out. Well done!

Ingrid Hardy said...

This is kind of like a moment in time... A moment between two characters. Enjoyed this! But particularly this: "I know, you wanted your own retreat, your quiet place to escape Humanity. Well goddammit, then retreat and shut the fuck up."

I could think of a few people I'd like to say that to...! :-)

pencilandpaper said...

This made me smile. I like these guys. I too thought there would be some shenanigans with the bloody apron--it added some suspense and tension. I'm glad it didn't go there. Well done. Thanks for sharing!

Thomas Pluck said...

Yup, you played the line well with the tension and had us hooked!
Great character study. Kept expecting someone to take a swim.
I do the same thing- I write over the limit and then cut what needs cutting.
Writing is knowing what to leave out.