by John Grey

The old man and I sit at the diner counter
picking ashes out of the toast.

Where else would I be on a Saturday morning
but in the shadow of the Alpha fisherman
watching him gulp down coffee
while I sip through the thick tangy scent of orange juice.
Next time, I’ll insist on a cup of joe instead.

I hold myself up by the elbows
so as to feel so much older
while Sally the waitress
unbraids the early morning crew
with her usual salty sass
and Sam the cook shouts something to my father like
“save some of them big fat trout for me.”

I’m looking forward to damp grass, river bank,
and the slow curdle of brown water
around two taut catgut lines.

It’s a good deal for me.
There is a chance that, even at twelve years old,
I can haul in the bigger catch.
A hook is a hook
and a fish has no clue
who among us deserves most tribute.

Better this than suffering him
sinking baskets over my head
or busting my pride on the checkerboard.

The old man pays the bill
and we drive off in his truck.
I wonder how many more times
the two of us will be doing this.
It’s the start of a season – fishing season sure –
but with another, unspoken definition
going for it.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a schoolboy in 1963.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Grey is an Australian poet and U.S. resident. His poetry was recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish, and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit, and Louisiana Literature.