An old man sat on a log with a fishing pole

An old man sat on a log with a fishing pole.  The ravages of arthritis plaguing his stiffening joints, he attempted repeatedly to replicate the fishing knot he had tied thousands of times before.  The rabbit went through the hole twice, then around the tree half a dozen times or so, then…through a hole in the tree?  It was there that the metaphor always faltered, and he chuckled at both failures–the metaphor and his manual dexterity.

The log on which he sat was, in a former life a tree no doubt, though the old man failed to recollect the moment in which it had passed between its states of existence.  Many a times had he explored these woods; hunted here, practiced marksmanship, forestry, horticulture…fishing.  The present embankment was in fact well-known to him, as it had escaped both time and the erosive forces which normally accompanied waterside terrain.  With its calm and clear waters, shaded by the overhanging canopy, it had always been an ideal fishing spot.  Fishing–the clichéd pastime of the aging man.

Finally succeeding at the rabbit–hole–tree routine, he concentrated now on the knot-tightening.  It was the more difficult step in the process, as it required a three-point tension be applied in a precise manner, else the knot culminate in a Gordian tangle of synthetic fibers rather than the exacting coil of tensile strength its perfected design predicated.  The hook, the line, and the loop (the hole in the tree): a trinity.  The old man had long ago learned it was far easier and safer to embed the hook in a fixed object whilst applying the required tension, as it had an unpleasant tendency to instead embed itself in the skin of the man holding it.  But on this day, perhaps as a challenge to the universe which granted him the arthritis, he instead held the hook, which promptly slipped and embedded itself in his thumb.  The old man laughed at his own expense, extracted the hook, completed the knot, noted the bead of blood which now welled up from ancient tissue, and took solace in his observation that the knot was indeed tied properly.  He skewered a worm and cast it into the upstream side of the deeper waters, still in the shade–a spot most likely to garner attention from the water’s ichthyoid inhabitants.  Clicking the reel to its locked position, he gazed toward the sky and its waning light.

The land on which he now sat had belonged to his family for generations, but was now defunct.  Even if it had still been producing, its value alone rendered it pointless to maintain.  No new generation would tend crops here.  Crops themselves were semantic.  No, the youth of this day would seek its place out there.  And the old man held fast his lingering gaze.

At present he stood, with no small force of willpower required.  His failing hearing might ordinarily have precluded the ability to perceive the approach, but it was a clear evening.  They were coming for him, yet still a ways off.  They would again appeal to his logic, but their logic was that of youth.  A man’s greatest fear is obsolescence, yet it was also his greatest ambition.  To no longer be needed in any function was a great achievement.  And besides, he was far too old to travel.

He glanced now again at the water.  It seemed so serene in its stillness.  Less like water than a dark mirror.  And he had always fancied swimming.  Another adventure would always remain, and he had no intention of answering the summons of the approaching figure.

He set down his fishing pole and smiled one more time.

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