The Old Man sat with his back against an oak stump, a rod and reel propped in the crook of his knee, line leading down at a gentle angle and descending from sight at the point of a flowing V on the surface of the shallow creek. He sat with the bill of a mesh-backed cap tipped forward over his eyes, which were closed, his head tilted comfortably to one side.
“Patience,” he said, quietly, “is the name of the game when it’s hot.”
“I thought you were asleep,” I said.
“No, it’s hard to fish when you’re asleep,” he said. “I’m just being patient.”
Nothing had happened in the 20 minutes since we’d sat down, unless you counted the grasshoppers that had resumed stirring and the turtles whose heads had, by now, popped back into view by the far bank, eyeing the dead log perches they’d slid from as we walked up, considering whether it was safe to return.
Just upstream, inside the elbow of a sharp bend where last winter’s fallen gum tree left a hillside open to the sun, a copse of American beautyberry grew in a thick tangle, leaping over the horizontal trunk, spanning ground wide and high.
The purple berries shone in bunches like miniature grapes. They weren’t poisonous, but practically nothing that wasn’t starving ever ate them. Like cauliflower and carrots on a party vegetable tray, they were always the last to go.
Waiting for September
We’d come to the creek to find shade and some quiet, somewhere away from the view of eyes whose owners would have put us back to work. It was late August and, for the most part, the garden was in. We’d taken care of the corn, put up lots of butterbeans and shelled a surfeit of peas. The okra was pretty well played out and most of the season’s tempting experimentals from the Jackson & Perkins catalog had achieved all they were going to do.
We’d done enough serious fishing to stock the freezer and more than enough gardening to do the same. Now we were waiting out the hot weeks leading up to September, when the calendar would lie and tell us fall was almost at hand.
I reeled in my bait to check it, finding nothing had disturbed my hooks-worth of worms but the water itself.
“Want to move somewhere else?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said. “I’ve found what I’m looking for right here.”
“There’s nothing happening here at all,” I said.
“That,” he said, “is just what I was looking for.”