A Victim Who's Not You

Three young boys splash
in lake water up to their shins
so I take my rod and reel
down the shore.
It's 95 degrees
in the shade
and I'm jealous of their lack
of jeans and work boots.

I drift the plump half of a nightcrawler
still squirming under water
by a swath of weeds
where I'd hide from the heat
if I were a bass.
My bait disappears in the glare.
I feel several tugs, jerk the tip back
to set the hook in its jaw
and reel in a sunfish
the size of my palm.
Veins of turquoise
festoon its orange flanks.
It's swallowed the load whole.
Some men would rip the hook out
along with bright red gills
but there's been enough carnage
to last one afternoon.

I cut the line and drop the sunny
back into the lukewarm soup
a shard of steel still buried in its throat.
One of those kids laughs a little louder
as I tie off my frayed line
to a loop in the pole.

This fishing shit's not for me any more.

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