Welcome to Flash Friday! In these posts, I take a writing prompt and whip out a short story off-the-cuff with little editing. If you have an idea for a writing prompt, send me an email, and maybe I’ll use yours next time!
Today’s prompt is: An unusual fishing trip
Pop shambled forward on the dock, worn soles of his plain shoes scuffing on the dusty planks. He peered into the misty haze hovering over the water, turning his head to take in the entire lake with his tunnel vision. A distant mountain was a smudge of charcoal against the pale indigo of the sky. The sparse light of approaching dawn revealed shadows of stately pines rising at the far end of the lake. Gentle splashes brought his eyes to the surface of the lake where he could just make out ripples forming on the water as fish rose to the surface, feeding. He breathed deeply, taking in musty air that chilled his lungs and sent a shiver through his gaunt frame.
Pulling the ragged ends of his shirt tighter around his middle, Pop dropped into his favorite deck chair, creaks from the shabby boards protesting loudly in the silence. Pop wriggled to find a comfortable position. It wasn’t easy. His bones poked out in too many places these days.
He set the can he carried on the arm of the chair, grating metal on rough wood. Turning his head, he found a good spot to prop his pole upright against the other side of the chair then turned back to the can, popping off the lid. The rich smell of soil warred with the reek of dead fish. Dirt shifted lazily with the movement of creatures sliding through it.
Poking two fingers down into the dirt, feeling the soil press into his nails, Pop sifted until his fingers touched a slippery wriggling. Carefully, he caught the creature between thumb and forefinger and pulled it out of the can.
Pop smiled. “Got you.” He held the worm up to his eye, loose ends curving upward and writhing in his grip. Pop reached for his pole. “Now, this is going to hurt you more than it does me.”
As he looked away to guide his free hand to the pole, he felt the worm slip from his fingers. Turning back in surprise, Pop caught a glimpse of it wriggling through a crack in the planks of the dock. A moment later came a soft plop from below the dock. He examined the lake surface around the dock. In spite of the waxing light, he couldn’t make out the worm in the water.
Shrugging, Pop reached back into the can. “Plenty more where that came from.”
He brought out a second worm and held it up. This one was fatter and longer. All the better. The trout in this lake appreciated the long juicy ones. He kept a tighter grip on this worm as he turned once again to find his pole. The worm was wriggling in his fingers, then it was gone.
He looked back to stare at empty air where the worm should have been. Looking down, he found it. This worm was not as lucky as the first and inched down the planks, aiming for an empty knot-hole.
“Oh, no you don’t.” Pop bent, intent on the worm, reaching out to grab it. His fingertips brushed the soft body of the worm, but only pushed it closer to its escape route.
Constriction of air in his doubled-up middle made Pop grunt in an effort to breathe, but he forced himself to stretch harder. Again, his fingers just touched the worm. Then the worm slipped through the hole and was gone. A soft plop.
Pop straightened slowly, a frown on his face. He tugged at the wisp of beard on his chin and took a deep breath. “So be it.”
Reaching into the can, he brought out another worm. “I’m not taking my eyes off you.” Peering intently at the worm, he reached back with his free hand and groped for the pole. With no peripheral vision, Pop couldn’t guide his hand and managed to bump the pole off balance, sending it crashing to the deck with a crack, unnatural in the morning stillness. By reflex, he turned his head to look at the fallen pole. In that moment, the worm slipped from his fingers.
“Dad-nab-it!” he grumped as he watched the worm disappear. Another plop from below.
Pop grabbed the can in one hand and dug through it with the other. How many worms were left in there? He dredged his memory of the previous day, trying to recall how many he’d bought at the corner store.
His fingers closed on wriggling slime just as he remembered Jack saying, “Here you go, Pop. Five worms.”
Pop brought out a handful of dirt with the two remaining worms writhing in his palm, ends poking out through his fingers. He chortled at them. “No escape for you two.”
Bringing his worm hand around where he could keep an eye on them and still see to fetch his pole, he bent over and stretched out his free hand. Sweat beaded on his forehead. Pop finally got his knobby fingers around the pole and brought it up.
Between wheezing gasps for breath, he managed to snicker at the worms. “Soon, you’ll both be fish food.”
He grasped the pole between his knees for stability and somehow managed to find the hook with one hand and fumble it free. He took a deep breath. “Now,” he said, “the moment has come.”
Pop brought his hands together, aiming the hook for one of the ends of worms. He made a quick thrust to slide the worm onto the hook, but met with empty air. Somehow, he’d missed. Pop frowned. He aimed again. Thrust. Miss. He raked the worm with one eye.
“Must be losing my touch,” he mumbled.
He aimed for the other worm. Thrust, miss. Thrust, miss. Gradually, he became aware that the worms were dodging out of the way just as the hook got close to them.
“Lousy stinking worms!” His voice cracked open the morning like a thunderbolt. “Why can’t you hold still a minute?!” He squeezed his hand and felt a soft squishing. He grunted. “Serve you nasty buggers right. Now hold still!”
He thrust the hook at a worm in a swift jab. The next moment, he gasped in pain. His hand opened in reflex. The worms dropped to the dock and wriggled through gaps in the planking. Two soft plops.
Pop pressed his lips together and moved his head, shifting his focus to stare in dismay at the fishing hook imbedded firmly in the flesh of his thumb.