There was no plan for dinner, only the hope we’d catch fish. My stomach was rumbling. I didn’t trust the Germans any more than I did the flimsy fishing rods, reflective bait and rusted hooks we’d dug up in our landlord’s dank and moldy cellar. Still, I let them lead me to the pier.
We looked ridiculous. Moritz was already well ahead of us on his bicycle, steering that big goofy grin of his through all the winding streets of Galway. Jens and I shared the other bike. “Myles, here… you sit? Take care,” he instructed me. We struggled to make the bike work. I tried to sit on the handlebars while Jens pedaled, but he couldn’t see. I tried to stand on the spokes, but he almost kicked me off. Turning was impossible. The fishing rod nearly poked him in the eye.
“Do you reckon we’ll catch anything?” I asked when we gave up and walked the bike along the boardwalk.
“Of coarse! A tasty mackerel.” Jens promised, licking his lips.
The sun was setting. The low patchy sky was filling up with colors like a busy country quilt. Green, pink, yellow, purple, red. The waves crashed and sprayed against the barriers, kicking up cold, salty air. I tucked myself in; hood over my ears, my raw hands stuffed in the sleeves of my coat. I looked at Jens, trotting along with the bicycle, school bag on his back. His glasses were fogging up from his breathe.
“Where did you learn to fish?” I asked him about Germany.
“I don’t learn. Moritz. He is the master,” Jens answered.
In the distance, we saw the lighted bridge leading to the city center. The little homes on the outskirts had plumes of soot-smelling peat smoke drifting out of their chimneys, and small glowing fires marked the pier. Someone was playing guitar.
“I’m sorry you leave already,” Jens said, looking down at his boots. “Now it gets fun.”
“I know what you mean. I like Ireland. The music, the beer, it’s all very nice. ”
“But you want to keep moving. I understand. And of course, you go to Germany? I wish you wait till Christmas. When I go home, I could give you tour.”
“Germany will be good.” I reassured him of my plans for the next stage of my travels. I have a friend there who will show me around. Besides, who knows how long I will stay. Maybe we’ll meet again.”
“Does your friend know Berlin?”
“He is in Trier.”
Jens said nothing. I don’t know if he was satisfied. We were passing his work, a little Italian restaurant at the corner of town. He had picked up the pace.
“What did you steel last night?” I asked him. The previous week he had brought home a collection of steak knives and silverware.
“I forget to take it out of my bag,” Jens said, smiling. “Something to drink.”
I laughed and stuck my hand inside his bag. There were two bottles of cider wrapped in socks.
“They aren’t cold.”
“Moritz brings ice.”
“Good…. You hate working there, don’t you?” I said, looking back at the restaurant.
“Only two more weeks, then I quit. I make enough already to get me through Christmas.”
“Are you worried about leaving Ulla here?” I asked about his fiancé.
“She has to finish her studies,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “There’s no money now. In Germany, I can make real money. Here I can’t. It will be ok. I catch her lots of fish tonight and fill the freezer before I leave.”
We were at the bridge. In the spotlight, a gypsy woman was begging for money. She had a cold whimpering voice that made us shiver. We promised her a fish and walked past. Then we started down the path to the pier. Closer, and I could see Moritz’s silhouette. He was standing on a cement block surveying the bay with a confident hand held over his eyes, as if he were saluting the water.
There was a crowd gathered around his post.
“Do you see anyt’in yet? Tell us what you see?” Impatience resounded as everyone struggled to share Moritz’s rock.
Everyone was looking for ripples or froth in the rolling waves. Apparently the schools of fish were known to chase the tide of krill into the harbor. When Moritz gave up looking, an older man with a bristly white beard and a checkered, woolen newsy cap helped him down, mumbled something Irish in his ear and offered him a sip from his paper-bagged bottle. A boy and his father soon took Moritz’s place on the lookout.
Below them, a shivering couple had spread out a quilt on the grass. They held on to each other tightly, let out small laughs while their third friend, the guitar player we’d heard from afar, strummed and sang “Danny Boy.” Everyone was happy to sing and listen, watching the warming scene.
Meanwhile, one man had a camera and was snapping pictures left and right. He took a picture of the pier, a picture of Moritz and another of the old man. Then he turned his lens on the professional fishermen who had found their own, private perches up and down the wall, and who already had their lines waiting in the water.
On the last rock—a fair jump from the pier and an island in the rising tide—sat two other shadowy fellows. They huddled by a glowing pile of peat, warming their hands, sipping canned Guinness, and threading bait.
“Moritz!” We called and waved ahead. He looked our way and rubbed his hands together in happy anticipation.
“So?” He said when we approached. “Tonight I end my mourning. I no longer sad about Ada. When I catch Sophie a Mackerel tonight, she will see it’s love.”
“Sophie?” We both asked as we set down the bicycle and lay out the bags.
“An Irish girl I meet last night at the pub. Myles you don’t wake up when I come home? I take taxi. I pee in the bush.”
“Don’t worry. I heard you,” I said, reassuring him that his drunken return had not gone unnoticed.
“Sophie?” Jens asked for details. Moritz replied in German, something that made Jens laugh. I laughed too but for my own reasons. I could never tell when Moritz was joking. Ireland meant nothing to him besides being a distraction. He needed a cure for his failed relationship with Ada, the schoolteacher he was engaged to back in Berlin. And yet, for a month already, he had carried on “mourning” her. More than once he had explained how it was his ritual to allow a certain period to pass before he could think of other women.
Suddenly the old man with the beard tapped me on the shoulder.
“Do you see t’em?” He smiled, spoke in a soft and pleasant tone, scratched his beard and indicated the night’s first stars. “T’e Mackerel. T’yll be coming soon, now, always wit’ t’e stars.. Best be ready boys. T’ey’ll be coming fast.”
The fish didn’t come. At least not in a flurry like the old man had predicted. Every now and then a wave would bring a tug on one man’s line and then he would hurry to reel the slippery striped specimen in amidst sporadic cheers from the crowd. But the big wave, the big catch, that kept us waiting.
Our lines set in the water, Jens produced the cider, Moritz prepared three cups with ice, and I gave them my knife to open the bottles. Then we all said, “Prost.” Spying our provisions, that old man, Jasper was his name, sat down with us and begged the end of the first bottle.
“’Tis good cider… t’anks lads you’ve a good heart for an old man. Lovely eve. Isn’t it?” His small talk and “t’ank yous,” were redundant, but it was worth listening to his stories of the Mackerel.
“T’ey come slow tonight… t’e catch not like it used—” Jasper said. He took off his hat, crept to the side of the peer and stuck his head below to glimpse the shimmering, sloshing water. He gave it a long hard stare and then he sat up and took a swig from the bottle. Suddenly he turned his sharp gaze away from us and made us wait for his observation.
“Have you been t’ere? To t’e islands lads?” The old man finally said, pointing out far across the bay to the fabled Aran Islands. “In anot’er time I’d agree to take you for a wee pound fifty. O’l Jasper here,” he said, pointing to himself in hearty, grander introduction. “Used to be a respected islander me-self, one of t’e clan, if you will. Bitter myst-ries set me apart now… Poor soul I am. I’ll be banned by t’e lot! Lost me boat and me fortune chasing t’e old Mackerel. T’at I did.”
“You’re a sea-fairing man?” I asked, indulging the pirate character he presented.
Jasper stood up proud, and eagerly agreed. “Aye t’at I am, or was, depend’in how you’ll remember it. Was a far time ago it was, t’at I had me boat and did me fair bit of fishing in t’ose t’ere waters. ‘Tis cold in t’e winter mind you. Cold and violent, but t’en comes t’e good catch, and t’ere be a fair market here in Galway…. Used to have me many mates out t’ere, and we’d meet in t’e night to do our fishing.”
No way could we interrupt. As soon Jasper felt empowered to speak by that bottle we’d placed in his hands, he was rolling and not about to stop his stream of consciousness.
“I knew a Swede once. Lanky fellow. Man died out t’ere fishing. Died wit’ t’e Mackerel, he did. Wanted to shoot a movie or somet’in. Fool he was, comes to me on t’e dock one day and asks me ‘how’s it done—t’is fishing…’ Aye he’s a mind to try it, and I says to him ‘you mean, t’e Mackeral? Why, yes I’ll take you. T’is here’s me boat, Ti’s here’s me line. Man pays me t’e wee-one-P-fifty. And he hops in jolly and we set out on t’e waves. We was mates; me telling stories of old Ire, and he grinning toothy like, telling about his hopes in t’e movie business.”
“What’s t’at you’ve anot’er?” Jasper was excited when he saw Moritz’s reach into Jens’ bag in search of the other bottle. “T’at’s grand ‘tis. We’ll make a night of it out here… What was t’e word you used? Ah yes, a ‘sea-faring man’ I am and here we are a-waitin’ our morsel on t’is fine eve—four stranded sailors.”
Again, we poured ourselves tall glasses and offered Jasper the end of the bottle. He was pleased, and I didn’t mind. I said I’d go and fetch us another round as soon as it was needed.
“T’ere’s a good American for ye’,” Jasper declared upon hearing my offer and he laughed a bit to himself before he managed to speak his sentence. “Aye, you know what Churchill says about t’eir lot?” he asked the Germans and was even so bold as to place a chapped and soiled hand on Moritz’s shoulder. Jens and Moritz shook their heads.
“An American always does t’e right t’ing in t’e end but not till he’s tried everyt’ing else first.” Jasper’s laugh had a snake-like hiss to it when his temperament was roused by true humor. It took a while for Jens and Moritz to realize the joke and join him laughing.
“But ti’s lad’s ahead of t’e game, I see.” Jasper went on an on, happily indicating me as the focus of his jest. “Knows we’ll be here a while. Knows we’re bound to make a night of t’is and has promised to fetch us drink.”
As he calmed down, he tried to retreat from his political statement and to paint the waters peaceful. “But t’ere a good people, t’e Yanks. I’ll tell you t’eres no-one more generous when t’ey put t’eir minds to it t’en t’e Americans. T’ey’re a bit mixed up now, t’ey are, what wit’ all t’eir wars and nonsense, but I’ve got good faith. Our brot’ers over t’ere will come round; t’eyll do t’e right t’ing. T’ey’ve all a fine heart…”
A spell of quietness came over us all as we sipped our second glass. Perhaps Jasper was anxious to find out if I really intended to fetch another round. Perhaps Moritz and Jens were tired of his company and hoping that our silence would drive him away. The more our hunger grew, the more we watched the time.
“I’m going,” I announced. I was surprised when Moritz said he wanted to come along. Immediately Jens dug deeply into his pocket to find a couple euro coins. He wanted us to buy him a snack of chips, and a can of Guinness.
“I wouldn’t eat anyt’in if I was you. You’ll risk falling asleep and miss t’e catch.” Jasper warned.
The three of us pretended not to hear.
“Just like t’at Swede did, aye. No stomach fur t’e waters. Always hungerin, always complaining and begging Ol’ Jasper here fur somet’in to eat. Best keep warm wit’ drink I say. Never mind your hunger till t’e fishin’s been had, and t’eres Mackerel a-plenty.”
We took leave quickly. Moritz, with his long legs, was hard to keep up with.
“I think he’s mad.” He whispered about Jasper as soon as we were at the bridge. “Let’s not go back so fast.”
“What about Jens? We can’t leave him there,” I said.
“Jens takes care of himself. Besides, we not give up fishing because of Jasper… Someone has to stand watch.”
“Do you think Jasper killed that Swede? The way he was talking…”
Moritz laughed. “Come on. Him? No… He’s harmless.”
Moritz was the sort of guy to make a game out of anything. When we walked past the flock of swans that nested at the end of the next pier, he had to chase them into the water until he was out of breath. When he spied a plastic soda bottle on the sidewalk, it became a football and we took turns kicking it down the wet street.
“It better not rain tonight,” I mumbled when the bottle skidded across a puddle and landed with a splash.
“It will. Look here and there,” Moritz replied, pointing out an array of faintly illuminated, threatening gray clouds.
“Won’t the fish swim deeper if it rains?”
“I think no. It’s the tide that brings them. How about here? Let’s have a drink?”
He was pointing toward the Quays Pub, an iconic two storied bar that stood at the center of Shop Street. I was still reluctant to make Jens wait so long.
“Come on.” Moritz insisted. “I invite you.”
The bar was dark inside. We sat on old barrels in the basement pit, stared down at the illuminated stained glass floor and hurried to swallow down pints of thick Guinness sludge. Meanwhile, a Celtic band occupied the overhang and mixed guitar with drums, banjo and sweet mandolin.
“Watch and listen,” Moritz said, pointing out every tall blond girl that entered the pub and every cluck of the Irish tune. He knew most of the waitresses by name and was especially proud of his friendship with the guitarist. “I love this town. I can stay forever,” he said.
“I wish I could too,” I admitted. “At least you have a passport.”
“Yes the EU is very good now. I don’t know why Jens goes back already.”
“He has to. It’s too expensive.”
Pale froth lined Moritz’s stubbly blond mustache and he licked his lips.
“When the catch comes in he’ll see he can stay.”
I laughed. “Moritz, there’s more to life than fishing. You can’t live off fish.”
“I’m going to,” he replied stubbornly. “Me and Sophie…. Myles I don’t understand you. Why do you come here?”
I let his delusional romantic scheme go, and confronted his question with a shrug of my shoulders and a sip of my drink.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t have a reason. I had to leave New York. I bought the cheapest ticket I could find. It’s all by chance that I’m here.”
“I think you should stay.”
“I can’t stay. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.”
“What makes you think Germany will be any better?”
“Nothing… I want to keep moving for a while, that’s all. I mean; you know what it’s like to ruin a relationship? I messed up with that girl and that friend I told you about. I messed up a lot of things in New York and now I’ve got to get away.”
Moritz looked saddened. He was at the end of his pint.
“You want my advice?” He asked me.
I said sure.
“You have to make anchor if you want anything out of your travels. Otherwise, you waste time. For me, it’s Mackerel and Sophie. That’s all I need to anchor. I decide this last night and now already I feel better. You should decide something and start to feel better too. ”
“It’s that simple?” I asked, not trying hard to hide my sarcasm. He didn’t understand the question and instead of answering, stood up, slapped his five-euro note on the bar along with a two-euro coin and pointed to the door.
“We go now? Come. Time we fish.”
At the corner fish fry we picked up two big orders of fish and chips to share, and filled Jens’ bag with a six-pack of tall beers. On the way back, we didn’t say much. I guess I was thinking about what Moritz had said. We were in a similar situation after all. Living in a strange country and determined to escape the headaches of old friendships and soured relationships. But Moritz’s case was also different. Choosing an anchor and starting over was easier. He didn’t feel guilty and embarrassed. He hadn’t caused an affair.
It was drizzling. Nothing serious, only the usual Irish mix of static, bone-chilling mist. I started to trail behind him, busy kicking my own stones across the street. When I saw the line of people fleeing the pier, I ran to catch up.
“What’s this? You leave already?” Moritz asked everyone who passed us by. The couple, the guitarist, the photographer, the father and his son, they all buried their heads in their jackets and walked at a clip.
“Not worth catching chills is it now?” The guitarist shivered.
“Besides, d’ey’ve got it wrong, me d’inks. Predicting d’e mackerel d’is early… Best try again next week,” the photographer gave his expert opinion as he stopped to polish the mist off the lens of his camera and to snap one last quick shot of Moritz and me returning, determined to make our catch.
As the rain worsened, we ran faster. Luckily Jens was waiting eagerly in the distance. He had a poncho prepared for each of us.
“T’ats good German planning. ‘Tis….” Jasper couldn’t help commenting as he watched us scramble to cover up. “Now, have you got t’e drink? Was beginning to t’ink you lads had lost heart.”
Now we faced the storm. One wide umbrella held at an angle stopped the sideways rain and ocean spray but could hardly combat the gusting wind. Moritz pointed the umbrella towards those silhouette islands like the bow of a ship on a fierce tack, and I watched his hand shake as hail drummed on our backs and lightning cracked over the entrance to the bay until at last his arm blew over and the umbrella ripped off its frame.
“T’ere’s a storm for ye lads” Jasper called and encouraged us. “T’is will pass…”
Suddenly Jens yelled “I’m hit!”
A packed hail ball had struck his ear, sending a stinging, electric sensation through all his nerves. I watched him crumple to the pavement and thrash around, actually believing that he had been struck by lighting. By then, of course, the worst was past. The storm clouds were lifting, the rain and hail was letting up. Soon we could see the moon and the stars again. Jens was still in shock, but the rest of us were laughing.
“Alright lads, pull together. Let’s drop our line and have a try fishing,” Jasper called us back to attention. Moritz and Jens were eager, but I’d had enough.
“Our food’s soaked. Look Jens. I’m starved. I’m going home to warm up.”
“Come on, stick it out,” they replied in chorus. “The beer isn’t ruined is it? At least have another beer with us. That will warm you.”
It was already close to midnight. I had a buzz that bordered on a hangover, and I was shivering, but I also didn’t want to miss out.
“Fine. I’ll stay a little longer,” I relented.
For a time we all sat together on the edge of the pier, sipped our beers, watched our lines, and were cold. Though he was looking increasingly fatigued, Jasper provided conversation.
“Do you know what nonsense t’at Swede was about? I used to catch him, I did. He was always taking pictures of me boat, always filming t’e waves and t’e sky and t’e big rigs coming and going in-out t’e harbor. A simple lad, me t’inks till one day he starts telling me of his grand adventures up in Belfast and t’e far north of t’is sad and sorry land. Says he’s been takin’ black taxi rides all-round town to see t’e murals and to interview t’e rebels. All for a documentary on t’e troubles. T’at was his plan anyhow, but he backed off, of course, as soon as someone t’ere roughed him up a bit. Afterall, you can’t do a t’ing like t’at alone, mind you… Aye, I remember t’e fool he was, asking me rhetoricals in t’at silly Swede-fish accent ‘I think maybe it’s too contentious? A HACH HA HACH!”
Jasper wheezed and hacked when his story got the best of him and only after a long draft of beer had soothed his voice could he resume.
“Well, it weren’t not’ing, I told him, so’s to keep his optimism going, but t’e fool was a lost soul, and t’e more we sailed together t’e more I wondered if he didn’t deserve to sink. You’d t’ink so too if you were t’ere… When t’e very next day I bring us into to the port on Inishmaan for a healt’y brew and a bit of stew from a lady I knew t’ere and of course he’s nuzzling in comfy, spilling all his story, and telling lofty tidbits too. I was jealous, I’ll tell you t’at was growing in me, but t’en I see him make his folly when he asks us all a damn fool’s question. ‘Have you heard about the famine? I’m trying to understand….’ He asks the bar maid. A-HACH! T’e famine? A-HACH, HA-HACH-ha! What bloke in Ireland’s not heard of t’at? Bloke probably wanted to make a documentary of t’at too!”
Strange. Jasper was as much talking to himself as he was to us. He even tolerated our speaking candidly over him from time to time, but when he laughed that vicious laugh we all had to listen. As for me, the whole time I was with my friends and that stranger all I could think was, “I don’t know if I have what it takes to get involved here. Their lives are continuing, mine has to start new.” It was the most impatient I’d ever felt.
“I think I make lemon sauce? I want it to be colorful… No, No a cider sauce is better…Maybe I make something with capers? Ulla likes capers…” Jens was drifting too. His thoughts went back and forth deliberating and drafting many dreamy mackerel recipes in between Jasper’s outbursts.
“Sophie has brown hair, Good firm breasts. Last night I take my lighter. Like this, you see? I show her…” Moritz flicked his lighter and made a flame. “I say; ‘it’s fire between us…”
We all laughed at Moritz except for Jasper, who’s droopy eyes were glazing over. The old man’s speaking had slowed, and he was slurring his speech as he stretched out his body, leaning against a rock.
“T’ere’s an awful lot of nonsense t’at a bloke’s got to cut t’rough—t’is life—I’ll tell you t’at much. Aye, I will, and t’en t’at Swede, oh t’at unlucky Swedefish, he’d tell you too if it weren’t for t’e fall he took. Yes. Aye, one morning he’s up early, up and about, doin’ t’ings here and t’ere always at t’e bow wit’ his camera, watchin t’e waves, and like he’d gone and asked for it somet’in special, t’e wind comes up from behind and sweeps him clear off deck. One big splash into t’e deep dark blue, and I’ll be sleeping long and lazy t’at day. Aye, I was, I tell you true. I never heard a t’ing till the kettle was blowing ‘toot,’ maybe half an hour I rolled in me bed, hollerin’ for t’at lazy Swede to come on up and make his tea. ‘Tis a Mackerel fortune me says. Don’t mind t’e pun. Long time I heard t’e kettle call, but I couldn’t move a fin….”
Jasper dozed off. His head nestled against a rock, his legs splayed out, almost knocking his empty bottle on its side. We all made faces. Nobody knew what to say. Then midnight struck. The Cathedral bell tolled out each hour’s note in a dolefully slow mood. We looked at each other, disheartened.
“It’s a bust. There’s no fish.” I was about to say when suddenly Jens jumped back and nearly dropped his rod.
“What was it? You feel a tug?” Moritz immediately wanted to know. But Jens said nothing. He merely inched closer to the edge of the pier and stared intently at the moon’s silver reflection. Moritz and I joined him.
“Did something bite?” I asked again.
“Shhh,” Jens hushed.
We could hear Jasper snoring. A chilled wind blew. Then there was a signaling splash that announced the vanguard. Within seconds, we saw darting white fish bodies swarm under the water.
“It’s come!” Jens was excited. Moritz started to laugh. We all rushed to drop our lines back into the water. Nobody thought to try and wake Jasper up.
“Quickly. Come quick!” There was a lot of commotion as we hurried to make our catch. That’s how fast they bit at the bait. The second we dropped our lines we’d feel a nibble and see the bob submerge. The next strong tug was our queue to start reeling. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy, the fish were smart, and they often got away.
Jens was the first to pull one out of the water, but he was careless taking it off the line and reluctant to kill it with his bare hands.
“Hurry you have to… smack him. Smack him against the rock…” Moritz continued to call desperate instructions in German, but Jens hesitated for a horrible moment. I saw the fish gasp for air, its gills ruffle, and its blue eyes bulge. Jens was scared to touch it though, and when he tried, it slipped out of his hand, dangled on the line, managed to tear its jaw free of the rusty hook, fell to the ground, flopped and flipped around until at last it fell back into the water.
Frustrated, Moritz gave up on us and concentrated solely on his line. As soon as he felt a pull, he performed the ritual like a professional, dragged the Mackerel out of the water thrashing, and mercilessly smashed its head against the nearest rock.
Then he threw it onto the grass. I watched as the fish slowly stopped breathing and a small, final trickle of blood oozed out of its gills. The blood merged with the slime and the salt that coated its body and ran into the wet grass. Before I could look up again, Moritz tossed another fish in my direction.
Now I wanted to catch my own. I stared down at the water. The white fish underneath were still dashing recklessly into the harbor with their mouths wide open. I stepped away, down the pier, to give myself more space, and threw my line in. One nibbled but got away. The rest somehow swam around.
“Why don’t they bite?” I called to Moritz who had hit the jackpot. Jens was equally frustrated.
“Because you not have Tasmanian Devil.”
“Tasmanian Devil? What the hell is that?”
“More good bait. I buy today.”
“You have better bait than us?”
Moritz paused between fishes and showed us the silvery fish shaped knob he had purchased at the local fishing store.
“Why you not tell us we need that!” Jen’s demanded to know, swearing in German.
“Of course you need Tasmanian Devil to catch Mackerel. How you not know this?”
We were not amused.
“Give me that!” Jens turned on Moritz and started pulling at his rod.
“Stop. We miss all the Mackerel. Come on, let me, I’m better. I catch for you too.”
Jens didn’t give up and the two fought desperately over the Tasmanian Devil. That’s when I felt the short tug of a fish biting into my hook.
“I’ve got one!” the thought sparked through my mind, but I didn’t call out. The struggle was so fast paced. I remember the instant I plucked the fish out of the water. The numbing sensation in my hands was almost too much to bear. It made me dizzy watching the mackerel wriggle and thrash. Somehow I got my hand around its body and slipped the hook out of its lip. Then, of course, I lost my grip. The fish fell to the grass and made two giant leaps in the wrong direction before it landed right at sleeping Jasper’s feet.
“Look!” I called to my friends. At last they stopped fighting and we all watched silently as the poor mackerel breathed it’s dying breathes in agony. Its fins moved helplessly in slowing measures. Its ever-open eye stared relentlessly at the snoring man above. The smell of fish was in the air, but Jasper never stirred. At last, the mackerel expired.
Moritz went back to work, but by now the catch was dwindling. Jens and I, on the other hand, had lost heart.
“Tomorrow we get Tasmanian Devil,” he told me. “We come back tomorrow and make good catch. Tonight was practice.”
I nodded. The truth was I didn’t know if I had another night of fishing in me. I liked the anticipation, but I didn’t like watching the fish die.
“You get one. Good job,” Jens tried to reassure me as he packed up his line and started wrapping Moritz’s catch in newspaper. “You want I clean him for you?”
I looked again at my specimen, and then at Jasper. Both their mouths had dropped wide open and the bit of drool that ran into Jasper’s beard looked like it would freeze.
“You think we can leave him here like this?” I asked both Moritz and Jens about Jasper.
“What else can we do?” Moritz shrugged his shoulders.
“We have to leave him something, no?” Jens agreed with my sympathy.
“Maybe we tell the garda on our way back?” Moritz suggested.
“You don’t think they’ll arrest him do you?”
Moritz shrugged his shoulders again and started to walk toward Jasper.
“Should we wake him?” Jens suggested. Moritz gave the man a good shake and even patted his bearded cheek, but Jasper was out cold.
“Dead?” Moritz wondered.
“No, look. He’s breathing. He’s drunk.”
“We don’t take him home. Ulla won’t be happy,” Jens said, wanting clear boundaries. We stood around unsure what our responsibility was to the man we’d intoxicated.
“Look, it’s already one. In six hours, it will be morning. Doesn’t he have a bag? Maybe he has a blanket we can cover him with?” I offered a solution. We searched the pier for Jasper’s bag but nothing turned up.
“We could wrap him in Newspaper?” Moritz suggested. Jen’s laughed and then the two of them began arguing in German again about the absurdity of Moritz’s idea. That was when I noticed my mackerel still lying at Jasper’s feet. Jens had left it there when he became distracted by our dilemma.
I walked over to the sleeping bum and stared down at my fish. What the hell was I going to do with a mackerel? Jens and Moritz, they both had their plans, but I was leaving. I didn’t give a damn about that fish. It was as if Jasper heard me debating. The nearer I got, the more color returned to his face. I saw him shiver once and I was about to kneel down, take my fish, and try one last time to wake him, when Jasper let out a soft grumble and turned on his side. His arm knocked over the cider bottle he had fallen asleep next to.
Comments? Please leave your thoughts below. Diana is anxiously awaiting feedback to inform her final Mackerel oil painting!