The Fisherman

The Fisherman by John Langan Read Free Book Online

Book: The Fisherman by John Langan Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Langan
as he wiped the ketchup off his plate with his remaining fry, he hadn’t been up here since before Sophie was pregnant, when he’d driven her out 28 so she could see where he’d grown up.
    It’s always tricky when someone who’s lost what Dan had speaks about it, especially so soon after. You’re never quite sure what to say, because you can’t tell if the person’s only offering a passing comment, or if they’re looking to talk. I imagine this is how folks must’ve felt with me after Marie died. With Dan and me, there wasn’t the kind of long friendship or deep family bond that would allow you to feel you could risk making a blunder, since you could count on the other person knowing you were trying your best. This wasn’t the first such remark Dan had made in my hearing. It seemed he’d been voicing a few more of them each weekend; I suppose that was why I decided to chance it and said, “So, what did she think?”
    “Who?” he asked.
    “Your wife,” I said, already afraid I’d blown it, “Sophie. What did she think of Phoenicia?”
    For the barest instant, long enough for it to be visible, a look swept across Dan’s face that was equal parts disbelief and pain, as if I’d broken into the private vault of his recollections. Then, to my surprise, he grinned and said, “She told me she understood me and my redneck ways a whole hell of a lot better, now.”
    I grinned back, and the worst was past. For the rest of that summer, on into early fall, as we roamed the Catskills, fishing streams I’d fished on my own, trying some spots that were new to me, I learned a little about Dan’s wife, and about his family, too. He never said much at any one time. I don’t believe he’d ever been the kind of fellow to speak about himself for too long. As you may have noticed, that’s a condition that’s never afflicted me, and once I saw it was all right with Dan, I had no problem talking about my life, which I hadn’t thought was all that interesting, just long enough for me to have seen and heard a bit. I talked about Marie, some, though not about her dying. If there was one topic that was off-limits, it was our respective bereavements. This complicated my conversation, since, as I’ve said, she was sick for really all of our short marriage. I solved that problem by speaking about the way things had been before we’d married, during our courtship. I talked about Marie, and I continued to feel her occasional visits, often when Dan was sitting only a few feet from me. I don’t know that I ever got used to those moments—however regular they might become, I don’t know that a body could—but I continued to take an odd sort of comfort from them.
    Consciously or no, Dan followed my lead, by and large sticking to the beginning times, to events far enough removed you had an easier time convincing yourself the pain you felt in your chest was nostalgia, nothing more. He never spoke about the twins, Jason and Jonas, and, to be honest, I was grateful for that. Marie had wanted children in the worst way, and it had been one of her bitterest disappointments to have to leave this world without having had at least one. She and I had spoken about the matter a fair bit, up until the morning of the day she died, in fact, and after she was gone I found I had trouble being around children, seeing Marie’s nieces and nephews at the family events I continued to be invited to. Seeing them, seeing any small child, reminded me of what Marie and I hadn’t had the chance to have that we had wanted to have, and that focused my hurt the way a magnifying glass does sunlight. Over the years, those feelings had silted over. I found it easier to cope with the presence of children. But I guess they weren’t as far off as I might’ve wanted. All it took was the strong wind of me talking, and there they were, a little dusty, but in one piece.
    Still and all, I liked to believe that whatever slight discomfort I might’ve felt was worth it

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