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a peaceful protest

I was 16, and the thought of being forced to mention God as part of the pledge of allegiance was too hypocritical an act for me to play along with. Each day of high school began with this mundane recitation, as most people just stood with their hand jutting from a hip, the other dangling across their chest as they counted out the seconds until they could sit back down. They leaned against desks, and talked through it about what party and where it would be, if there would be a keg or a bonfire in the woods. I recited the words, omitting the "under God" part as a sort of half-baked protest. I was raised to flaunt my family's ramshackle atheism, as a choice of smug pride. We knew better, was the prevailing logic.

But one day, I could not stand and say any of it. It felt so rote, so hollow, so devoid of choice. There was no law that said I was required to say it. I knew this was my right, a form of free speech. My homeroom teacher was a legendary drinker, a trash-talking re…

I am a fisherman


He has pale blue eyes. Our feet are almost touching on the wet floor of the little bus that lurches alongside the river. I sit facing him, looking out the back window so crusted with mud you cannot see through it. He tilts his head back, slugs from the tall can, and lets is dangle form his hands. It is dead cold out. I can smell the cheap beer on him, or maybe it is from other cans rolling around empty below the seats. He stares hard, at nothing.

The Leica is tucked inside my jacket. I don't see a way to take a picture. I am too close, the ride is too long. His face is such a perfect map of exhaustion and frustration, the beer somehow bottomless as he slurps from it. No, this is not a picture to take. It is one to let pass by. 

My father is a fisherman, as his father was. He can spend a day in a tiny boat with nothing but the wind and water around him. He catches plenty, but coming back empty-handed is nothing to be sad about. It is the process that matters, the getting ready, the going, the being there, the eventual return. It is a neat circle, perfect actually. I tried to fish with him as a boy, bored and complaining an hour into any session. Cold, hot, needing to pee, hungry, I made him nuts. I accepted the fact that I was not a fisherman, that baiting a hook showed no glory for me. 

Now, I think of that young man as one I threw back into the water. It was not a lost shot, but one I traded for a better one. 




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