Friday, January 2, 2015

Fishy Neighbors

The rural town they moved to had wooded areas to explore; wrinkled with creeks and small ponds. The pine reminded Wesley of Christmas year around.

Wesley watched the man next door leave every morning before the sun came up, carrying long poles and a green tackle box.

“Wesley, you are up, dressed and have eaten. I’m beginning to believe you are a vampire or something!” Mom’s comment always made him smile.

One morning, while playing with his yellow truck in the yard, he noticed the old man leaving even though the sun had been up for hours.

“Did you oversleep today?”

The old man scowled at the tyke wearing filthy blue overalls and no shirt. Ignoring the child, he kept walking down the road.

“Hey mister, are you deaf? I had a deaf dog once and he never came when I called him either.” Wesley caught up to him, imitating his stride.

“Do I look deaf to you?”

“Well people don’t exactly look deaf, they just is. You didn’t answer me when I asked you a question so I thought maybe you couldn’t hear me. My names Wesley Peters and I live next door to you. What’s your name?” Wesley stuck out his hand to shake but the man looked down at him with disgust.

“It’s not polite not to answer or shake a man’s hand when it’s offered. Didn’t your momma teach you anything?”

“My mother taught me not to stick my nose where it don’t belong. And I don’t shake filthy hands.”

“My mom says as long as I leave it outside I can get as dirty as I want. I change in the tub room and put my clothes in the washer so mom can launder them on Sunday. Then I take a bath. I’ve noticed that you leave before sun-up to go fishing.” Wesley kicked a disk-shaped rock, sending it shattering through the leafy growth.

“How do you know when I leave?”

“I can hear your front door since I’m always up when you set off. I was hoping that once we met, you would take me with you sometime.”

“You know how to fish, boy?”

“No sir, but I would like to learn.”

“Then have your father teach you.”

“My daddy went to live with my grandparents in heaven. Momma says they needed him more than we did so we can’t be selfish. If we are good, we can be with them someday.” The gruff old man didn’t see the tears. He was too busy trying to ignore the child. He regarded the boy when he heard him sniff.

“Well, you’ll have to bait your own hook and clean any fish you catch. I don’t wait on anybody.”

Wesley bobbed his head, grinning as they settled next to a flowing creek. The clear water moved slowly. Wesley saw minnows swimming by the shoreline.

“What should I call you mister?”

“Bud. You can call me Bud.”

“Well Bud, maybe I can catch some fish for the table tonight. Mom would be so happy if we didn’t have to eat only vegetables again.”

 Through the afternoon, Bud yelled at Wesley and even called him names but Wesley just smiled and kept trying. It was late when Wesley caught his first fish. Excited, Wesley bumped into the trout line, watching it float away.

“Why you clumsy oaf; look what you’ve done. There goes my dinner for tonight.” Bud yelled.

Wesley didn’t stop to think; he just jumped in the water. He came up with Bud’s line, but two of the fish were gone. Climbing onto the shore, Wesley took his fish off the pole and handed it to Bud.

“You can have mine, since I lost two of yours.” Without even a thank you, Bud packed up his fishing lines, leaving Wesley to trail behind so that he wouldn’t get lost.
When he arrived home he told his mom about his day but left out the parts where Bud was mean to him.

“How’d you get so wet?” She helped him out of his clothes and into a warm tub of water.

“I jumped in to get Mr. Bud his fish back. Sorry I didn’t bring any fish home for you mom.”
She hugged him tightly, saying he would do better next time, but Wesley knew there wouldn’t be a next time.

Summer turned to winter. Everything turned brown or was covered in white from snow. Everything, this is, but the Blue Spruce that stays green all year long. His mom decorated their house with bowls of holly and the sweet smell of pine. She stacked pine cones and strung berries with string to hang or weave through the branches they had laid inside. Tall red candles graced the table. She even made some banana-nut bread and opened a jar of her apple butter to put on the warm slices.

A thunderous knock on the door told them that someone had come to visit.
“Whoever can that be in this weather?” Mom asked.

A large man stood in the doorway, wearing a wooly coat and a hat with earmuffs that covered most of his face. In his hand, was something long and thin, covered with wrapping paper.

“Why Mr. Bud, come sit by the fire. You will catch a death of cold.” Setting him in her favorite chair close to the tiny hearth, she hung his coat and hat to dry.

“Would you care for some apple cider and slices of banana nut bread?” Mom didn’t wait for him to answer. She returned with a hefty slice covered in apple butter and a mug of spiced cider. When we finished eating, I couldn’t stop myself from inquiring about the package he held.

He didn’t answer; he just shoved the package into my hands. I tore off the paper and inside was a beautiful new fishing rod. “Maybe this summer we can try those lessons again.”

I believe they heard my whoop all the way into town.