Ketley was a burly man, and because of our differences over the years, he and I stood at the end of that aching pole; his muscled arms were bent on pulling in that monster. He often snarled mid heave. I was sure, at times, he would have loved the head on that line to have been mine. I may have been wrong, but I had chills that morning on the river; strong notions, dare I say it, that I couldn’t cast aside.
He froze my core with his backward glances as he caught me reminiscing. I knew how wrong, but at the same time, how tantalising my dalliances had been with his shapely fair-haired, sassy woman, whom I did love with all my heart.
Had I been altogether spoiled for choices, I could have kept her, instead of being plainly faced with death’s place underground. So, I kissed her farewell and braced myself for the wrath of Ketley, but why we had to meet here of all places was not a curiosity to me.
His sights were held firmly on that there bleak as hell’s charmed water, and god knows what he thought was underneath it all.
“Give me that small hook, will you?” He growled at me with a threatened animal growl – that low noise in its throat – usually, it meant it was angry. He looked at me hard, and that always made me go cold. He was angry.
What he called a small hook could have suspended a small calf. The cold steel was sharp and grey, and it looked like it could pierce three men at a time – and I was just one. Still, I had trusted him all of my life, and I didn’t necessarily want to stop now. Also, I had an escape planned.
I handed the hook to him as I recoiled involuntarily, and at the same time, I watched my sweat be flung into the Four Corners of a god-an awful night’s sea swell. He swung the steely crook over the boat’s edge and it soon took hold of the hellish, glistening creature he had managed to draw alongside us. It was magnificent. It was huge! God almighty, it could have been the devil. I’d never seen a catch that size. Heh, in my mind, he should have rode off majestically then and there on that critter!
But instead, he started talking, and not in the angry voice I’d anticipated for most of the night; he was too watchful of the water, and seemingly, any possible onlookers. I sat back away from him just in case. He seemed calm and collected as he (just like that) asked me if I felt confident enough to run his livery, and that he ‘knew for damn sure’ I could take care of his wife. But what about his three kids?
I stammered for quite a while, both inside and out – the words just would not come. My mouth? Well, that giant fish from hell was looking mighty interested in its large space as my jaw got wider and wider. Despite the abundance of torrid sea water, my mouth just plain dried.
“Just as I thought.” His creased to bust eyebrows all of a sudden burst. He savagely continued with, “Thinkin’ with yer groin, but with actions of a jellyfish. So, yeah, meet yer maker, squirt!|
Plunging into the freezing dark perdition of my predicament, I felt a hitherto calming warmth, as if hell froze for me all that was bad. Ketley saw wrongdoing and acted… and I, at the time, only saw curvaceous smiles, fear, her desperation and a hallelujah heaven awaitin’, and so, I indeed acted. But who was right?
By now that great creature of a fish was as damn inconsequential as one might get. And me? I was a goner, but also didn’t altogether mightily care two hoots. Ketley went home, she froze as she always did and turned for warmth to another, who soon joined me in purgatory for cosy chats and fishing and good times. I knew just by commons sense, she would soon be joining me.