by Ray Hoskins
She asked to be spared the details; he could not oblige.
The devil, after all, is in the detail, he said. So don’t interrupt … Just like a woman, the lugworm, or arenicola marina, has a big mouth and a nasty bite, and so, he chuckled, If I pinch her behind the neck, she’ll open her mouth and you can take the hook …
His tongue poked out and licked the air. She screwed her face as the hook fed into the mouth and down the alimentary canal and body, swift and cruel until the worm encased the hook right up to the eye.
That way, he said, you see no hook, no barb, just lug. She’s stuck, but her tail still swings attractively, look.
She focused beyond him on waves clawing at shingle, gulls daydreaming on the swell. He busied himself with weights and lines and the threading of more creatures.
High tide’s the best for fishing, he said, when the sea stirs up food for our prey … or quarry, if you like.
When you’re casting out you must first look behind, he said, you don’t want a kiddy on your 2/0 hooks! No — that would be very nasty; very.
He cast with a grunt and watched the line spin toward the horizon, waited a while, reeled back and laid his rod to rest.
Right, he said, your turn! Get your lug! I’ll bet you didn’t expect this today!
No, she thought, and spanned a hand over yesterday’s Daily Mail bed of worms, who would expect their first rod and reel, first beach fishing lesson, first wrap of gillish worms on their fiftieth birthday? So this was the big surprise he’d been planning.
Can I wear gloves? she said. I’ll get them.
No gloves! he said.
My coat then, I’m cold.
He sighed, clutched his keys in his pocket. I’ll go.
He turned to crunch up the beach to his car; she picked up her rod.
It was a good weight, already set up with line, a shock leader, a three hook rig, tail bomb and impact lead that would release those hooks on impact, let them loose to catch their prey … or quarry, if you like.
Now, she said, if I can just get this right.
He shouted Watch out you stupid cow! as the line whipped past his head, You could have hit me! You barely missed!
No, she said. I did not, she said, and she turned her back to him and her face to the sea and cast that rod with the great sighing heave of every frustrated year behind her.
What made her smile, she told them later, was the sight of the gulls’ graceful lifting from the swell, not the sound of his screams as the hooks found their prey … or quarry, if you like … no not at all. It was the gulls lifting that made her smile, just the gulls that lifted her spirits with them.
Ray Hoskins is a copy editor, native of Durham, northeast England, now living in Brighton on the south coast. He has published poetry, short fiction, and articles. You can read some of Ray’s longer fiction at http://rayhoskinsstoryblog.blogspot.co.uk/