Sammy grabbed the back of Dirk’s checked shirt. “Ah, come on. Teach me how to fly fish.”
Dirk plowed through the crowded fishing store, dragging the five-foot-nine, 220 pound Sammy behind him. As he reached the front door, two fishing guides blocked his escape.
He faced Sammy. “No, and hell no.”
The guides pushed past Sammy and Dirk. The older one sneered. “Get out of my way, twerp.”
Dirk frowned but held his tongue.
Sammy pronounced his words with his nose as much as his mouth. “Why not?”
“Because I have to get back to work.”
He didn’t want to hurt the man’s feelings. Sammy was a klutz, and Dirk had dark thoughts of plucking streamer flies from the tender parts of Sammy’s anatomy or Sammy bobbing down the river, begging Dirk to save him. Nope, fishing with Sammy would never happen.
Dirk stared at Sammy’s pudgy fingers, clutching his shirt, until Sammy let go.
Sammy huffed. “Fine, then.”
Dirk held the door open for Sammy, and a twinge of guilt tickled his conscience when he saw the moisture glinting behind Sammy’s black-framed glasses.
Sammy squared his shoulders and marched across the parking lot to his silver Cadillac, holding his head high.
Dirk shrugged and spoke to Sammy’s ample backside. “Have a nice day.”
Two weeks later, the store manager called Dirk to his office and gave him the bad news. “Sammy bought the shop. You’re taking him fishing.”
Dirk gulped. “Oh, hell.”
He left the office scowling, while a grinning Sammy plucked fly rods from the display rack and flicked them about his head like a cossack’s saber. He wore a wide-brimmed fishing fedora with the fluttering price tag dangling from the brim.
When Sammy saw Dirk, his smile blossomed. As he rotated towards the counter, the rod in his hand turned with him, decapitating a helpless mannequin. “Hi Dirk, where are we going fishing?”
Dirk had given this matter much thought since the manager had informed him of his fate. He decided Beaver Flats was shallow enough to keep Sammy safe and held enough small trout to please a rookie fly fisher.
The following Tuesday morning, he picked Sammy up.
Dirk geared up while Sammy struggled with threading the line through the narrow guides on his rod. He showed Sammy the guide’s trick of doubling the line and pulling it through the guides.
Sammy removed the fly box from his vest. “What fly should I use, Dirk?” Then he opened his fly box upside down, dumping half the contents into the tall grass. “Oh, Darn.”
Dirk plucked a tattered fly from the lambswool patch on his vest and tied it to Sammy’s leader. “This fly is special.”
Sammy’s forehead crinkled. “Why?”
Dirk smiled for the first time since they’d set out on this doomed expedition. “Because it’s already caught fish. It’s a proven fly.”
Sammy slapped his companion on the arm. “Thanks, Dirk.”
The guide led Sammy to the edge of the river and pointed to the rocks in the slow current. Green fingers of aquatic plants waved downstream. “Be careful. Those rocks are slick with rock snot and are slippery as greased cannonballs.”
Sammy nodded and shuffled into the water, moving one booted foot an inch in front of the other until he was knee deep in the river. Dirk steadied him when he teetered.
Off to their left, Dirk spotted a beaver, giving them the stink-eye with its snout poking above the water. He hoped it would glide away.
But Sammy got too close.
The beaver dove for the safety of deeper water, slapping the surface with its tail like the clap of God.
Sammy’s feet shot forward, and he landed on his butt, the river flowing an inch below the top of his waders. His mouth formed a perfect letter O, and he stared at Dirk with terror in his eyes. “Was that a trout rising?”
Dirk shook his head and helped Sammy to his feet. “No, it was a beaver.” He led a wobbly Sammy back to the truck.
Dirk retrieved Sammy’s rod and reel from the shallows, then patted him on the shoulder. “Are you okay?”
A white-faced Sammy nodded to Dirk. “I don’t think I like fly-fishing.”
Dirk handed Sammy an Orange Crush from the cooler and helped him get out of his vest and waders. “It takes a while to catch onto it.”
On the return trip, Sammy stared out the window, facing away from Dirk. But Dirk could see Sammy’s reflection in the window and noted the tears dribbling from his eyes.
When they arrived in town, Dirk parked in front of the Stonegate Pub. He turned to Sammy. “We always go for a beer after a fishing trip.”
Sammy beamed and wiped the wet from his cheeks. “Yeah, Dirk. Let’s go for a beer.”
Richard is a Calgary writer whose non-fiction has appeared in the major US and Canadian outdoor magazines. His short story and flash fiction have been published by Close To the Bone, The Scarlet Leaf Review, and in the anthology Blood on the Holly.