"I think I can," I said.
"I think you can," said Other Half.
"No doubt in my mind," said Number One Son.
OK, so I'm going fishing. First time in 11 years. Trout fishing, that is. There's a little more to it than heaving a line over the side of a boat.
"We'll get the rods from the basement," I said.
Other Half threw a long look at Son.
"He's never put anything back where it was supposed to be in his life," she said, "and the last time he used his rods was before the accident, 11 years ago."
"Neither the tone of voice nor the sentiment are necessary," I said evenly.
A couple of hours later, we found some moderately priced rods at the hardware store, plus some flies, lures and leader material. We could think of only two other challenges.
"We need worms," I said. I had always looked down on fishermen who used worms. I belonged to the upper caste of those who fished with a fly.
"And you're paralyzed," added Son, who never seemed fazed by anything. Takes after his father, you know. OK, OK, takes after his mother.
My hands don't work at all. Only the biceps in my arms are still functional.
"No big problem!" enthused Son.
The problem of holding the rod was resolved through the Red Green school of duct tape use. The handle was taped firmly to my arm and I was instructed in the wide swing cast method of getting a bobber out on a pond.
Next challenge: finding a pond to which I could get my wheelchair within three or four feet. But first, worms. We went up to our garden with prong and high intentions. After an hour or so we found six, three of which in an emergency could be tied together to make one.
The pond was easy. I had chosen it in advance. A woods road ran right along by it so that getting the chair close enough was no problem.
"Don't take your chair too close to the water," Son advised. "You could get one on and be hauled into the pond."
His voice was sarcastic, but I knew what he was thinking. The last time he and I had been fishing, much further in over this very road - only a short time before my accident - we had found a pond which had yielded a goodly number of 10- and 12-inch trout. Each time he would get one on, he'd call out excitedly.
"Thank you! Thank you, Dad! Thank you for bringing me here!"
But that was then and this is now. Forever forward!
With some practice, we learned several things. The first was that my best cast took my bobber about four feet out over the water. The second was that what I needed was a spinning rod and not a casting rod. Third, Son's best cast with my rod took the bobber about five feet out over the pond.
He was using a fly. He managed to get it out a few feet and, lo and behold, something that looked like a trout jumped completely out of the water after the fly. Then it grabbed on. Then it grabbed off.
We scanned the serene water of that little pond and discovered there were indeed trout of some size and variety breaking the water halfway across. They might as well have been in Grand Lake.
We got caught up in looking at the evening. The sun was just sinking below the tops of the trees and long shadows were moving silently across the flat calm of the pond. The vanilla sky was a combination of blue and orange.
Knock, knock. It came softly but distinctly from a little ways around the shore. It was the sound made by a moose hitting its antlers against a tree.
We listened for a few moments while my bobber and his fly floated gently on the water.
"What's that?" Son was pointing at something.
"That" was moving along on top of the water a few feet off from shore.
"That's a frog," I said confidently. He looked further. "No it's not," he said just as confidently. "That's a trout!"
"Trout don't swim along the top of the water with their mouths open," I said. "It just isn't done!"
Son didn't reply. He grabbed an old alder lying on the beach and reached out and gave a mighty smack in the general area of whatever it was.
"You missed," I said, disbelief in my voice.
"Won't miss this time," he said grimly. "Here it comes again!"
This time the wave resulting from the smack on the water could have been used for moderate surfing. In the middle of it was a small body.
"Gee," Son said. "They're funny fish. White on top and dark on the bottom."
"It's floating upside down," I said patiently, realizing he had spent too many years on Baffin.
"It may be the only one we see for the night," he shouted, and jumped feet first into the pond. He emerged a moment later with his "trout" clutched in his hand. I estimated it to be about four inches in length, but declined to take a guess at the weight.
"Well," he said with a shrug. "We got one. Doesn't matter how."
Daughter Number One and her three sons arrived for a visit just as we got home. They wanted to see our catch. I realized impressing them was now out of the question.
"No problem," said Son, "it's in the fridge."
He came back a moment later with a beautiful 12-inch trout on a plate. Daughter and the boys - not to mention me! - could only stare.
"A friend brought it," OH whispered from behind her hand.
I knew I could!
Ed Smith lives in Springdale.
His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fish in the hand
"I think I can," I said.
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