Irene Z.

Dry Fishing

That summer, the small man-made lake in Fargo Apartment Terrace exploded in green. No one missed the irony of an algal bloom taking place in the middle of the worst drought in fifty years, but that was the way the cards stacked that year. It was July. The last rain had been in late February. The entire county became a stretch of dry mud brown for miles and miles on end. The grass turned straw yellow and dust storms kicked up in lazy afternoons, and every garden in the state turned dry and brown by April. Water became a luxury item. No one bothered watering their lawns after getting their bills back; showers became five minute affairs every two or three days. The daylight hours became stretches of quiet as the world sulked away for cooler grounds, while the short nights became a mess of birds complaining in the trees, and metal moving and heat shimmering from hot black asphalt. And, in the afternoons, a man could be seen fishing at Fargo Apartment Terrace's waterhole.

The fisherman's name happened to be Erikson Oliver, and no one was ever sure which name was his first name and which one was his last. He responded to both in whatever order, only compounding the confusion. Erikson fished for relaxation. As a child, he fished in the Green River with his father, sometimes camped. That was gone now. Green River had been dammed up ten years ago. Now he tossed his lines into the too-clear, half-dead Fargo lakes. Fishing wasn't about catching: it was about the time for reflection, the sportsmanship, enjoying nature, talking to people who happened to be walking around. Half the time he would forget he was fishing at all until he got back home and his wife asked him why he hadn't brought anything back from his little trip. Bad night, he would say. Maybe next time.

That day he decided to leave the apartment at noon. His wife was out working, and the kids were busy at camp. Erikson slathered on the sunscreen, put on his sunglasses, and headed down to his little part of the lake. There were no geese or ducks to feed at this hour, so Erikson set up his fishing pole as usual and watched the red fly bob in the thick mesh of green algae. He had once read something about ecosystems getting disturbed during times like this, although he couldn't imagine where he had read that. It must have been during school, but he hadn't been anywhere near a classroom for twenty years. Still, he remembered that algae was a good thing. At least the fishes underwater would be happy swimming in all that gunk - if they hadn't been too affected by the shrinking size of the lake. Water, water, dissipating the air. Where it went, nobody cared. Erikson tugged his cap over his eyes. He had seen this pattern, over and over again: a cycle of indifference and a scramble to make up for lost time. People forgot, sometimes, that it wasn't always about their own enjoyment. There were other things in the world to look at besides red brick and blue steel, pixels and moving pictures.

The fly jerked down. Erikson yanked his pole out of the dirt and effortlessly reeled his prey in. It was a sick looking creature, puny and weak. Erikson recognized it as one of the red belly kickers that he had caught often in his youth by the Green River. He hadn't expected to find one of these here. The red bellies preferred river waters and he hadn't seen any in years, even in the Green. He thought they went out, ages and ages ago. Feeling sorry for the poor creature, he unhooked the red belly and threw it back into the water. That was the last time anyone ever saw one of the red bellies in the Fargo Terrace lake, and the last time anyone saw one of the red belly kickers in the state at all.


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