We always got an early start. Though, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that this was at a time in my life when an early start was anything pre-noon. It was also a time in my life when unemployment was not so much an unfortunate temporary condition as an agreeably unhurried lifestyle. So, on any random weekday from April through October, at some hour, as I say, around midday, Carver and I would load up his Fiat with tackle, plus a couple of rods and reels (or are those tackle, too?) and set out. Wrenching the car in gear, Carver'd always announce, "Ready or not, fish, here we come." Again, in the interest of full disclosure, generally speaking, the fish were more than ready.
Carver slips a baggie of buds and some Zig-Zags from the pocket of his flannel shirt and flips them to me. Says I should roll us a joint. Which I do. I pass it to him to fire up.
Which he does. Toking and passing, we smoke it to nothingness. Sweet. Perfect, in fact. Because, Jesus, now that we're up and at 'em and out here in the world with these straight-arrow worker bees and their giant fucking American cars and all this goddamn lunchtime traffic, we need something to take the edge off.
I'm not sure how, but Carver knew — and knew how to get to — countless lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, streams and even abandoned, deep water gravel pits in which we could try our luck. The only thing all these fishing idylls had in common was that they were all located far out in the hinterlands, near crossroad communities like Hicksville and Rube Corners and I Married My First Cousinburg. I always felt conspicuous and out of place in these backwater hamlets where people's teeth were, by my observation, rarer than hen's teeth and varmint was considered "the other white meat." Then again, I was willing to swap these people crisp American greenbacks for Styrofoam cups filled with a scoop of dirt and a few fat worms, so who was smarter than whom?
Carver's 24, about three years older than me. I've known him since I was a senior in high school. Back then, he was dating my older sister, Jody. Now, though, he has a triple role in my life: brother-in-law, best friend, pot dealer. I love how streamlined this is. How simple it makes things. Especially since a lot of the time when I'm buzzed — and thanks to Carver's connections I'm rarely unbuzzed these days — even something like choosing between a QuarterPounder and a QuarterPounder with Cheese seems epic-ly complex.
We cast our lines. We watched our lines. We smoked our dope and our cigarettes. We coughed much and waited long. Carver was ever hopeful, endlessly patient and, as time went on, increasingly competent. Me? I sucked at fishing. And I got worse the longer I kept at it. But this inverted learning curve was fine by me. Because, really, my goal wasn't to put a barbed hook through some bluegill's puckered kisser but to hang out, get high and zone. So while Carver honestly considered reeling in a fish as his triumph over a wily adversary, I saw it as an irrelevant interruption of my right hand's steady, pendulumlike swing between open Dorito bag and open mouth.
"If you like what we've been smoking, I've got ounces for sale," Carver tells me. If I like it? If I like it? Well, fuck. Let's see. I don't know if it's Septober or Octember; my heart is skipping every fifth beat; my hair is fighting my brain for control of my head; and, unless whoever turned gravity up turns it back down to its normal level, I don't think I can stand up. So, come on, Carver, what's not to like?
Occasionally, through the laws of probability, piscine recklessness and/or the hand of Satan, I would land a fish. And this was not good. Because then I would be compelled, while struggling to unhook the bastard and put it back in the water from which I'd just involuntarily dragged it, to gaze into its accusing and desperate eye (yes, "eye;" just try looking a fish in both eyes), contend with its flailing tail, slick scales and sharp fins, its frantic, gasping gills and convulsively arching body. All as its weak maw pulsed, pulsed, pulsed, open-close, open-close, silently mouthing the question, "Why? Why? Why? Why?" It took far too many fishing trips for me to realize I'd never ever have a satisfactory answer to give the miserable creature.
We do another number on the drive home. It's dark out now. Carver says something about fishing again tomorrow. Fuck a duck. Where's he get his energy? ©