Plugs

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Fishermen

by JeremyT

My father wakes me before he has stoked the fire. I pull on my clothes as quickly as I can, then my boots and helmet. While my father checks the line and tackle, I put a log under the chimney and stir the coals. I have a minute or two to warm my hands before he coughs to me. I put on my gloves.

Today, we go fishing.

We walk the snaking path down the mountainside. The rising sun glints off the rapids below, dazzling me, and I nearly trip. My father steadies me with a bear paw of a hand. I feel embarrassed.

We reach the rocky banks, out of breath. We do not speak. We can barely hear our voices over water raging against the rocks. Our breath makes white clouds. I buckle my helmet and cinch my gloves tighter.

The sun rises another hand’s width into the sky before we begin. My father weaves the line through my harness, knots it. I pull away as hard as I can. His knot holds. I look out at the fast-moving water as he feeds the rope through the pulleys that hang from the pines. I plan my steps.

He gives me a nod, and I walk into the river. The cold shocks me. It numbs first my short legs, my scrotum, then my chest. My father feeds out more line. The current sweeps me from my feet, and I play out into the deep middle. I pray we don’t wait long for a bite.

Minutes pass. I dimly feel hands grasp my leg, and then I feel as warm as if I am sitting by the largest fire I can build. I shout wordlessly, and my father begins to haul on the rope. The hands walk up my leg. Thin arms wrap around my waist. We’ve hooked our catch deeply. She fights the line, but my father is stronger.

I breach the water onto the bank. The mother clings to me still. I examine the catch. She is beautiful. Sleek black hair, long graceful limbs, and cherry red lips.

“Can’t we keep her?” I ask, shouting, as I always ask.

“Ah, this one will fetch far too much at market,” my father says. As he always says. He begins to pry open her fingers, and the warmth fades. I shiver as my father dresses the mother in a simple robe and binds her to the leading line.

He shouts, “Ready?” I am already walking back into the water. Maybe he will let us keep next one.

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