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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 4, December 2013

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Glenn G. Coats
Prospect, Virginia, USA


Local Hero

It is dark when I reach the boat and there are two cars already in the lot. The captain’s son and his girlfriend are steaming up the windows of her Pinto wagon. Jack is in the other car sound asleep, his head leaning against the window. Does he ever go home?

Fishermen arrive at dawn, pay their fares, chip in a few dollars for the pool fish then board the Miss Take II with rusty coolers and thick fishing poles. They mark out a territory along the deck. Jack has his own spot on the port side of the bow. If a newcomer should place his gear under the seat in that spot, someone will say, “Not there, it’s already taken.”

Everyone talks to Jack on the ride out to the fishing grounds. “Were they biting yesterday?” a fisherman asks. “Did the birds lead you to them?” Jack stands there steady as a stone in his wrinkled clothes, his face unshaven, and answers every single question like a teacher. Is he married? Children?

We reach the acid waters and all the lines drop in. Those close to Jack study his technique, the way he lets the diamond jig hit the ocean floor then reels in like there is no tomorrow—full speed. The captain walks around with his head bent to the right, a pipe in his mouth. “If you aren’t cranking in like Jackie, you’re not breaking any jaws. Reel them in boys,” he says.

Jack never stops fishing, never pauses for a sandwich or a drink, never leaves his stead until the captain calls it quits. On the boat ride in, Jack guts his cooler of blues as seagulls scream in the wake. How many frozen fish must a lonely man stow away in the freezer, in order to hold onto his place in the world?

kerosene lamps
the way talk changes
under the hood

lights on a street
talk of the fish
spreads table to table

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