It was too much for Henry to stomach, so he didn’t. Instead, he turned around, bent over and vomited. Chase, a guy he barely knew, set down his fishing net and the trout they just caught and looked anxiously around the large pond and nature preserve.
You okay? Chase asked.
Think so, Henry lied.
Henry hadn’t been fishing in twenty some odd years, since he was 8 or 9-years-old when he had gone wading through a shallow river with his best friend Jordan while Jordan’s mother walked laps around a nearby church parking lot, a red 1-pound dumbbell in each hand. They were too young to know how to read the small river, to understand where the fish would be dwelling, or what type of lure the fish might bite, but they cast out anyway. After a while, they abandon their rods and just looked for toads and salamanders under the rocks.
But Henry’s wife thought getting outdoors might be good for him.
You could use some fresh air, she said. Beth said Chase has everything you need. But you should pick up some food on the way.
She had been treating him with some level of caution since his father had died, which was what? A week ago, now? Two weeks? Honestly, it didn’t matter but getting out of the house did sound appealing if for no other reason than it gave him an excuse to ignore condescending text messages from his aunt and uncles about funeral plans and details of his father’s will.
Okay, Henry said.
Okay? His wife responded, surprised. Okay!
Henry had only met Chase once, at one of their wives’ work parties. They had gotten along well enough to share a few beers together while they surveyed a large room full of people they didn’t know.
When Henry got to the nature preserve, Chase was sitting in the open trunk of his SUV sorting through a tackle box.
Howdy, Henry said.
Good to see you, Chase smiled. Thanks for coming out. Should be good fishing.
We’ll see, Henry said and forced a little chuckle.
When they got to the water and tossed the line in, Chase tried to ask how he’d been doing, but Henry pretended to get a bite, which was enough to change the subject.
Henry hadn’t picked up food like his wife had suggested, so after an hour or two, he started to feel a little frustrated standing on the shore, staring at a small red and white bobber rocking in the water, making small talk with a guy he didn’t really know.
Then, suddenly, Henry’s bobber dropped below the surface, and Chase let out a whoop.
Pull your rod up. Up, up, up!
Henry did as he was told and lifted his rod skyward, sinking the hook into the trout’s mouth. In took a few minutes, but Henry reeled him in.
That’s a keeper! Chase said as he spooned the fish into a large fishing net.
Henry then watched as Chase picked up the trout, pulled out a pair of scissors and drove them into the mouth of the fish Henry had just caught. Henry remembered that Chase was a doctor, like their wives, like the man that couldn’t save his father’s life and decided to just rip the ventilator tube out of his father’s lungs, causing him to cough up blood, then said don’t worry, he won’t feel it for long.
But Henry could feel it in his throat then and now. Feel it traveling upward from his stomach, hot and bubbling, through his chest, and then his throat until it came out, putrid and yellow.
Sorry again, Chase said while Henry wiped his mouth clean.
It’ll be fine, Henry said, and it would be, he just didn’t know when or how. Let’s keep fishing.
Paul Hile is a writer based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. After spending many years working in advertising as a copywriter, he left the industry to become a stay-at-home father and to finish his first book. He now spends his days writing, reading, cooking, cleaning, and hiking with his children in tow. Paul’s work has appeared in DEFINE Magazine.