Left the Story There
Casting a line for closure on a fishing trip
Boomer reader Michael W. Updike tells of a rainy fishing trip, where the stories stayed behind, in the waters of Chickahominy Lake. Instead, as he cast his line to hook the fish, he was ditching worries and finding closure.
The 30-miles-per-hour winds and the thunderstorms couldn’t even put a damper on the first fishing trip I’d been able to work into my schedule for about two years.
I drove separately and met my fishin’ buddy at Chickahominy Lake at about the same time the rains let up for a short while. We launched the boat and skipped across the lumpy lake.
Upon slowing down and drifting softly into a cut, I hung a 2 or 3 pounder on my first cast; lost him due to an unchecked loose drag-setting on the reel. Rule One: Check your drag. Too late this time.
Score – Bass: One, Mike: nothin’
But beyond a hypothetical stringer of bass, I had told myself I’d likely bring back a story or two from the trip.
Turns out, I left a story there, maybe even a few stories.
Heartaches and hooks
Just beyond the Cypress Bank, where the water falls off to a depth of 11 to 15 feet, I hit the anchor button and dropped into the deep a story that had been troubling me for some time. A story of betrayal and being taken advantage of, all dressed in the disguise of a woman pure and beautiful – the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I’m fairly certain, in some future shipwreck dive, right on this spot, some diver will radio to the surface, “We found the gold-digger’s treasure! Mark this spot!”
Looking for shallower water, we headed up Turkey Creek. Several strikes later and one landed bass, we decided this namesake creek would be the perfect place to christen the early day with a small taste of Wild Turkey chased ceremoniously with semi-warm Gatorade.
I tossed over the side a thought I’d been sheltering, feeding, and watering for a while now: Did I do enough for my mother in her final days? Between the trips to the emergency room, the dialysis place, the drug stores, and visiting her at home, had I been there for her truly enough?
Kerplunk! I watched as those thoughts bubbled up through the tannic water, gurgled under the lilies, past the bullfrog who thinks I can’t see him, and on down to the muddy bottom.
I left those questions there.
The motor started and kinda broke my train of thought. We headed to Game Warden Creek, now the home of some fishing club that uses the old boathouse to shelter their boats. When I was a kid, Daddy would bring me here. It was a game warden outpost and boathouse back then.
The wakes died out behind the Tracker and eventually we came to rest within casting distance of a duck blind, browned and brush covered, waiting for next hunting season.
Rhythm from a tireless drummer tapped out the beat of the raindrops on the old boathouse; I pictured a garden spider, scary but harmless, spinning his web to the meter of the raindrops. The shower slowed like a song ending; without a cymbal crash or kettle-drum boom, it faded from its crescendo.
I changed to a sinking worm, the two-hook kind that spins a little like it’s swimming in peril. Not a bad cast, maybe three to four inches away from hanging up on the duck blind. A question sunk down with it: When I took sides when Mom and Dad were having marital problems, did Dad ever forgive me? … He probably would have, I never asked. Was I even considered his son anymore after Momma caught him leaning in a car window, talking and smiling at one of her archrivals? I was about eight or so when all this happened. I remember telling him I wouldn’t call him Daddy anymore.
Catching a break
I felt my line tighten, but by the time I cleared the lump from my throat and brushed back a raindrop from my eyes, the fish had felt the sting and shook loose. By the way, the rain had stopped, by now.
The bubbles rose to the surface as that memory was carried to the deep, never to rise again … excepting maybe in a midnight dreamscape where it’s just me and him casting into the pollen-covered waters of the Chickahominy, the version of that Lake up there in Heaven ’cause that’s where he is today.
I hope you folks forgive me for not bringing back a story. Instead, I took all the stories, the ones that have been weighing pretty heavy on me, the questions I just couldn’t lay to rest, I took all my troubles down to the water … and left them there.
Michael W. Updike is a singer, songwriter and author. He lives in a 1930s Virginia plantation-country farmhouse, which he renovated. Michael also collects and restores antique cars. He enjoys spending time with the love of his life, Jennifer, and their family.
Read more childhood memories from Michael W. Updike and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.
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