It was hot and they both sat at the side of a pond.

They were fishing but, like is often the case when fishing, they weren’t talking. Sometimes, the best thing to do, in any situation, is to just sit. Sit and not talk. Become and embrace the axiom about opening your mouth and removing all doubt about your being a fool. Another axiom has to do with negotiation where, in certain situations, the one who talks first will lose. To just sit, sitting and not talking, but thinking is a priceless thing. Fishing is the easiest time to do this. Partly and under the auspices of because you don’t want to scare the fish, but more importantly and instinctively because both individuals know it’s better not to talk. They think and they know, and they are satisfied. And nothing needs to be said. Questions are asked and answered in each one’s mind. Conversations had. Fishing allows a man to think and ask and answer all by himself since that is where the answers for the truly important questions always come from. And that is why men like to fish - the seductive, sadistic and all too temporary allowance of being alone. And so they sat. They sat and fished, not talking. Each to his own, never unaware of the other - in fact, currently thinking about the other and answering the questions he would ask the other, expounding upon the facts known to him presently, using logic and deductive reasoning and speculation, speculation of the wildest form, rationing out and pondering various probabilities of extremes on each end of the possibility spectrum. Presently, one decided the reason the other divorced. He, the other, had had suspicions since shortly after they met. She had told him that there weren’t any others and proclaimed an undying love for him, but he knew better - or he thought he knew better. He suspected and created wild scenarios with her and the others and thought about hiring someone, and thought about taping somehow and doing some things on his own but never did, but it was always the smile and proclamation that kept him from acting on his suspicions. Always that proclamation. It was not the proclamation, but the thought of what it meant, or might mean, that was what kept him coming home after the nights when he would leave. He hated to see the bruises and cuts of his own unremembered doing. He hated to see the battered smile and the thought of her begging for forgiveness. He hated how he felt inside. She deserved it, he thought, but that could never alleviate nor justify the woman pain of the cuts and bruises. She was far more forgiving than he was, but his stomach wrenched every time he saw her. But they likely divorced for that, the one thought. Then he thought of his own thoughts back then. He thought of the drunken nights when she looked at him. He thought about how that would be and how he could never face his friend then. And he thought about the one night when she had clearly gone too far. She was drunk, he thought, but then, so was I. He figured if it was him, he’d have to forgive her, but not his friend. Or maybe he would. He studied that for an indeterminate time, then fished some more and changed his bait. The other was contemplating his own scenarios and questions and answers, mostly about his friend, then said he thought it was time since there were no more bobber quivers like there were to begin with, to change bait. He reeled in his line and found an empty hook. The fish had taken the bait, piecemeal, and left the hook wanting for more, as even they as fish knew would be coming. He went about the business of reweighting his line and adding fresh bait. And he sat. He

sat and thought about his friend some more. The other remembered. Did that really happen? She was drunk, but so was I. I don’t remember. He thought he couldn’t remember but he knew he wasn’t really trying. He didn’t want to remember. And after that, remembering or not remembering, he never looked the other in the eye with the conviction he had the privilege of doing before. He tried, and would smile and laugh and comment and reply but was always trying to erase and ignore it though he knew he never could, even not fully remembering. So he kept on with the charade, hoping time would erase it all, or rather, hoping that starting over - in his own mind, since he did not know whether the other knew or not - would somehow alleviate the guilt and pain and betrayal. Part of him had hoped that the other knew about them, and was willing to forgive. And, again, he thought about who or if he would forgive were the roles reversed. As fact, the other did know. And he sat and fished and made small talk as if he didn’t know, but he knew. Part of him relished the fact that the other did not know that he knew. He would not turn loose of that for all the world. It was the only card he had on the other and instinctively could not and would not give it up. But still he fished. And even though he didn’t know for sure, he knew. So he gambled a little on that presumption, and even thought about how he could possibly be wrong, and the fairytale possibilities, because there were some who would never do such things. He was pretty sure, however that she and he were not of that ilk. And the other thought about that too, about he should not be of that, but was. He wrote it off, but shamefully and hopefully chose to stow the entire full thought away, perhaps out of fear, or fear of confrontation, but it was easier to stow it away. He knew. They knew. And as the other tried not to remember, so, too, did this one. But neither could forget despite both pretending not to know. So they fished. They sat in that turmoil of silence that becomes so unbearable that it must be broken for all the tumultuous thoughts that pervade. They sat and fished and said nothing until the silence required being broken by some small slice of insignificant reality. Then as one was silently forgiving, the other was silently repenting. It was nothing either had thought of as new, but rather became or evolved into or acquiesced to an instinctive mandate. They simply sat and fished and accepted. A man will kill for who steals his food or bothers his family, but when it is someone he knows, he must choose. And he usually chooses against violence, but though he thinks and fantasizes about killing and torture and retribution in his own manner which is justified by his own hypocritical morality - for he who is doing the killing or retribution is yet just as void of morality in his vengeance than the victim of his justice is in his guilty act - he does not realize this and casts out and says nothing. One then said that it was getting late and they both agreed. Each pulled their lines from the water without purchase and neatly tied their tackle and hooks. Finishing fishing is a surrender, regardless of whether or not anything was caught. It is either a prideful or an acceptable surrender, but there is that time when you must quit. Every fisherman knows this and accepts this as one accepts most things people don’t want to accept, with sadness and inevitability and some meager hope. Finishing without catching anything is a greater surrender. Proverbially, one thinks about next time, but it cannot be immediately forgotten that there was no luck today though he tries and thinks about why there were none today, attaching insignificant things as if they were significant, offering reasons like the weather, or location. They both realized though, as fishermen, that days without fish are just as likely as anything and so were not

completely disappointed and both had the patience of fishermen. It was that patience that comes always, when learned from nothing other than fishing, where if there is no patience, there is not a fisherman. Both had known, however remembered or learned or not, that patience is more than a virtue, it is necessary and essential for everyone that is human and they both knew with some age and perhaps even youthful wisdom, that time eventually cures everything that matters no matter what pain. They went fishing again. And they continued in the same fashion, not talking, but answering their own questions about each other, forgiving and repenting, alternating and in tandem and changing bait and casting together because they were friends, but they still did not talk because that would most certainly scare the fish.

The next time they fished, they tried a different bank. They sat down near enough to the cooler, but struggled a little negotiating their gear and sitting place with one hand, while the other hand clutched a 12 oz can. Once they settled and sat and cast, they popped. The momentary silence born after they settled themselves melded with the lake’s placid topface and before the popping and the casting was a God-flash of perfection, fleeting yet lasting noticeably and unignorable like a pause. It was a snapshot of silence and a flat laketop that lasted no more than a second or two, then was gone and like a polaroid developing, so the memory of its perfection solidified in their minds and they knew this dimly. And though they also knew the perfect silence would return, they would not forget this one as they would not have forgotten the past or the ones to come. The popping broke the silence first, followed shortly thereafter by the casting, but the popping would always break the plane first. It was that unmistakable sound of the popping of a can that is louder when fishing than anywhere else. Then comes the two plops - with a third, less soundful - of the bait, weight, and bobber all disturbing the top of the lake creating the concentric circles everyone always talks about in Hallmark, and beginning the declination and ebbing of those circles like the beginning of the broken silence marks the fade back to quiet, and the casting today broke both. The circles and silence were equidistant from their beginning and end and the two sat into their zone and began their thoughts, sipping pensively. Jad sat on an embankment that rose sharply above the shore under a short crippled tree. The small and cementfirm dirt hills made it difficult to find a natural coaster. Jad didn’t think much about the other today, except that he figured he didn’t care whether he was postulating or prognosticating about him in the least. He could care less today. Today Jad felt sorry. He felt sorry for the kid.

The kid was born into a miasma of felonious concentric circles. His dad was an old-time felon that had finally mended his ways, mostly. His last arrest was just over ten years ago. His mom was gone. He never knew her. But he knew his dad’s girlfriend as his mom and she was all he knew for a mom. They struggled constantly with money and anything giving rise to conflict, but they would always get drunk and make up faster than silence restored or minimal patience. Contrition was quick from the diminution of intelligence and like those so inflicted are naturally wont to forget anything traumatic. Mostly, the kid ended up with bruises as they kissed and reassured him everything would be okay. He came home one day in Winter and the heat was gone. The mom had worried about him getting home and tried to figure a way to blame the kid, deflecting her own beating and not wanting the kid to receive it, but figuring the kid would receive a lesser sentence than she. Somehow, the kid knew this, though he did not know the intricacies, he knew with a childlike epistome that he would get beat. Over and over. He wouldn’t kiss anyone and he wouldn’t make up with anyone. Jad knew this and pained like the others, though some did not pain because of their own childhood pains and figured it to be a circle, like theirs, and certainly they had turned out alright. But most pained silently as with Jad. Their true guilt being of omission, not doing or saying anything and so was Jad’s. The small community survived like a combat war private living day to

day and hour by hour, not remembering one minute to the next and his life depending on making it to the next minute of the day, and so more than caring they were all desperate to succeed by mere existence not by choice but by some bizarre, primal, smalltown community instinct and so they ignored though some silently wept. Jad met the dad one day as the dad came out of the bar. It was daylight and dad kicked the dust of the gravel parking lot as he walked towards the vehicle. Dad berated the mom and the kid from the driver’s seat and the car did not move save for the dad moving around violently and shaking its frame slowly and side to side in response. Jad thought. No others were close, but still there was an aura of graveldust surrounding the car in the sun and air. Jad raged. He went to the car and dragged the dad out of the vehicle. Jad beat the dad with his fists, as pure rage should egress, and his thoughts were on the kid and the mom as he struck the dad, every bloody shot. And the dad knew, though he still wondered, I DO deserve this, and so smiled a little as he got assbeat, but never figured he ever did anything wrong, ever. The mom kicked Jad and beat him with the tire iron. She figured her sentence might be less, but also instinctively she beat and raged too, instinctively but realizing something was wrong, not knowing who to beat but thinking beating someone was good. She and the dad left him not for dead but for the inability to flee. Still, he was injured and bloody. And the community slice who saw this fled as well and would not tell. And the kid had been interminably impressed beyond what they had forgotten as kids and would never forget. Jad remembered this and sipped. He would have wept, but figured this was all part of some plan and so checked it into his mind’s recesses of probably should do or say something but don’t want to get involved or don’t want to create a big to-do, or fear of selfness and pure fear, but also fear of truth and guilt and mostly guilt but also rage. So he checked his bait from time to time and said nothing. But the kid would not forget. And Jad knew this and pained a silent pain of circles that could never get silent and even and placid and wept and fought against the figure of waning of circles evening out. Silently, he cried out, of pain and guilt and justice, as loud as he could, primal and reeled in and changed his bait.

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