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James Goar

If the picture had come out better it may have been pleasant to look at. As it is, both of us are in shadow (either under, or overexposed, I don't know), outlined by our hair and teeth and the mountains behind. I can tell by the way we lean that I have my arm around my brother. He holds a fish as though he caught it and not just found it floating belly up next to the shore. The fish had a gash in its back which nearly split it in two. I suggested that it (the gash) was caused by a propeller. My brother agreed. A young boy is behind the disposable camera.

At noon we watch a fisherman return in his flat-bottom boat. The boat has two padded seats and two motors, one for trolling, the other for hauling ass.

A woman emerges from her tent and hollers out, "Catch anything?"

The fisherman says he didn't even get a nibble.

My brother holds our fish above his head. One hand in front by the gills and the other by its rear so it doesn't split in two.

The boy who rides next to the fisherman says, "You got one!"

I say yes, that I caught it on bread and what are you using. He says something like "the ZZ twirler", but that maybe he should fish with bread. My brother says that he should.

In the evening the fisherman goes back out, this time with his wife. My brother and I walk down to the water's edge with the Snoopy pole we'd bought at the marina after making our claim of catching a fish. It cost us $19.95 without tax. We bait the hook with worms, I apologize to them, my brother tells me to fuck off. We start bragging on the Snoopy pole. Telling it what a fine instrument it is. How it's going to catch us some big fish. Then we decide that it better not try to catch a big fish. A big fish would snap it in two. We ask it for some minnows.

Bobber's in the water and we're drinking Keystone Lite. I want to hold the rod, he reluctantly gives it up. I hold the rod and want to give it back, he won't take it.

The boy comes out of the neighboring tent:

"Catch anything?"

"Nope," I say.

My brother gives me a grin, "Shit, you call that monster nothing?"

"Oh ya," I say. "Nothing besides what we caught this morning."

"Fryn' it up?"

"Threw it back," my brother says.

"Shame," the boy says. "Could've been dinner."

"We'll catch it again," my brother says.

"Not the same fish."

"The very one," I say. "You see this pole?"

"Sure, fished with one like that when I was a baby," the boy laughs.

"Laugh it up," I say. "Fish love this pole. Just beggin' to get caught by it."

"Look," my brother says and points down the waterline a bit. The boy looks and sees the fish, belly up, bouncing against the mud. "Beggin'."

"That fish is dead,"

"Might be," I say.

"It's dead."

"You know an awful lot for a little twerp," my brother says.

"Ain't so little not to know when a fish is dead," the boy says. "That's the one you caught this morning?"

"Found it dead," my brother says. "Show it to your father and act like you caught it."

"I don't have a pole."

"Say you used ours," my brother says and after taking a sip of beer asks, "why aren't you out with your pops?"

"Ain't got room for three."

The boy comes over and we take pictures of all of us holding the fish. Must've taken fifteen or so pictures. My brother kisses the fish and the boy giggles. I tell him we're only this way because we're drunk. He doesn't believe it and tells us that we're "good boys." We tell him that he's ok with us. We fish and fish and catch nothing.

The bugs are out and evening's growing dim. I'm surprised to see the father and wife returning. They troll up next to shore and cut the motor. The boy shows them the fish.

"Nice fish, eh," I say.

"Nice fish," the father agrees after a quick glance. "Whatcha catch it with, boy?"

"Snoopy pole," the boy says.

"Hm," the father says. He eyes us up and down. "Where you boys from?"

"Tucson," my brother says. "Where you from?"

"Show Low," the boy says.

"Caught a big one," the wife says.

"Oh ya?" my brother says.

"Oh, ya," the father says and rolls his eyes.

"Folks fish often?" I say to the father.

"Nough," the father says. He steps into the water, staggers a bit, then falls down, "Damn mud ate my shoe." The wife jumps in and helps him up. "Leave me be," he says. He does not look at her. My brother wades into the lake and helps them drag the flat-bottom boat up onto shore. I drink my beer and watch them.

"Thanks," the father says to my brother. "Spare a cold 'un?"

I pull one from my pocket and toss it to him.

"Obliged," he says.

The wife shows me the fish.

"Nice," I say.

"Caught it myself," she says, and walks over to their tent.

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