e was so distracted by his day dream that he failed to see the bobber go under. He was lost in another world, another time, another era.
He'd always loved to go fishing and was quite good too. His mind would re-live past fishing incidents, places, things about the journey, success and failures, bait, tackle. His memories served an almost inexhaustible source of fodder over which to reminisce, a great database of experiences from which to draw in his pursuit of the game.
His greatest love of fishing was in pursuit of catfish. He loved to chase them, outwit them, read about them, catch them and eat them. But since the part of skinning and cleaning didn't appeal to him much any more, most of the time he would just release them without even putting them on the stringer.
The thought occurred to him his setup was all wrong in that he was using a bobber but feeling so melancholy, he just wasn't up to changing it out. Usually he just bottom fished with a light weight. "I am really out of it today!" he said aloud to himself. He didn't even check to see if he had something on the line. He lapsed back in on his inner self and his dream.
His second love of fishing was for Large Mouth Bass. At one time he'd owned an enormous collection of tackle, lures and fishing poles just for bass fishing. Besides Bass and and Catfish, he'd caught Perch, Crappy, Striped Bass, White fish and even enjoyed catching Carp and Trout although neither tasted good to him.
Some of the big game fish like Gar, Salmon, nor Pike ever appealed to him much. Nor did deep sea fishing. He had never been on the ocean.
But, he had eaten a lot of Carp. They were not real good to eat, and many bones. Most people won't eat them, but, fried up in corn meal batter, along with some beans and taters and fried cornbread, some green onions . . . wow. A meal fit for a king! And he'd heard that the huge food chain of McDonalds restaurants bought a lot of it.
He'd heard a guy describe the best way to eat Carp was to nail them to a board, throw it up on top of the house, and after a couple of days, take it down, throw the carp away and eat the board. A smile came across his face as he remembered the incident in which he had coined the phrase for carp, Bugle Mouth Bass.
He'd taken his nephews fishing out on the aqueduct that ran along the baseline of the mountains from the north. At a gate structure set into the side of the aqueduct which opened to fill a huge irrigation canal, there was a large area of still deep water. Out away from that cove, the canal ran quite briskly, keeping the still water within the gate hold from stagnating.
It was in this large pool the youngest boy dropped his Night Crawler laden hook, and almost immediately it had been seized by a huge carp. Must have been a foot and a half. I looked over at Gregg to see what he was so intense over, and saw his pole doubled almost down to the water, and a huge fight going on.
He was squatted almost to his haunches over the battle, and he was hanging on! This was his trophy fish! This was his catch of a lifetime. This story would take its place in the annuals of history to be recalled and retold many times. But the term was coined when he had brought the trophy up almost out of the water. The hook in the lower jaw caused the mouth of the whopper to extended out just like the mouth of a bugle. Hence the term.
But today, his mind was not on fishing. Even though he had not been in quite some time. He'd looked on the trip with great anticipation and knew it would be a welcome respite from his work. Today, he was in a park like setting on a small lake. It was shady, just the right temperature, quiet, and him being alone, would be inclined to steal a few Z's.
His sleep often eluded him, being pushed back with the "Dream." For hours on end he would toss and tumble, try reading, TV didn't even interest him. Other friends of the opposite sex had no appeal to him. He was just lost without Tina. The only way he could enjoy a respite is to work; work till he dropped. Then he would drop into bed. Even so, often times he would have dreams that interrupted his rest.
All these stories of a life time, some unhappy, some that was shared over and over, some of plain old everyday life, and some sad ones which very
seldom were repeated, would come up and be paraded or cast aside as they surfaced upon the roiling sea of memories. From this seemingly unending plethora of memories came the "Dream."
And it was so on this day. The ambiance of the area had taken him back to a most pleasant place of his childhood almost immediately after casting his hook. His mind reminisced about the beauty of a park in Tulare, CA., to which he and his siblings and friends visited many times.
And after his accident, he had gone by, stopped in and walked the old walkways as the beloved scenes of yesteryear played on in never ending sequence in his mind.
His "Dream," was about the girl he was with. Every time he thought of her, a mild and happy smile would cross his face, then change to sorrow, then a laugh, then sorrow, then joy. His face belied his feelings as the scenes changed, from joyful and contented, to regret and painful sorrow of a love lost.
He remembered walking hand in hand with his little Tina (short for Christina), as they stood on the rock decorated shore of the shaded lake to watch the duck and geese dive for goodies in the mud at the bottom of the shallow lake. They always took some bread to toss bit by bit and watch the Koi, (they'd always called them Golden or Albino Carp), surface and like a vacuum, draw in the bits of bread floating on the surface.
They admired a Mandrel and her clutch of little ones waddle across the walk way and laugh in pure joy as each little duckling would take the tumble down the little slope head over tea kettle to the water, then start paddling for everything it was worth to catch it's mother.
He caught himself looking at her, admiring her delicate features, admired the sun catching and glowing on her hair, admired the way she stood, admired the way she walked, the feeling of intense joy and contentedness he felt around her. There was not the slightest doubt he would make her his wife.
Many times she would look up and he would just be standing there open jawed at her beauty. She would set the hooks into his heart even deeper when she would smile that perfect little grin, her beautiful green eyes, and giggle a little bit as she became aware of his admiration of her.
He loved her. The first love, love. That deep down fastened-in love that would never die, no matter where he was, who he was with, the circumstance or other life changing incident, that love for his little Tina, would never leave him. And so it was on that day.
Sure, he'd had girlfriends, acquaintances, puppy love perhaps, but when he saw Tina that night there in Tulare, he was smitten deeply. But there was only one Tina, and he had muffed it up, something of which he would never forgive himself.
His pole jerked sharply downward as the game he'd came after, deeply hooked after attempting to steal his bait fought to get loose from it's trap. Gil never even looked up. He wanted to pursue this avenue some more. He loved that happy time in his life, and would go on living there for the remainder of his time here on earth any time he could, and as many times as his mind was placed under its spell.
But he loved her ears, her face, her eyes, her neck, her hair, her womanly shape, her legs . . . Wow. He really had it bad today. The "Dream" had captured every facet of his attention. He wanted to stay there even though someone was shaking him, "Mister, you have a bite. Wake up mister, you've caught a huge fish!
"Drat!" he thought as the child kept shaking him. "Be quiet, I'm trying to fish here!" he thought as he looked around and saw the fellow standing there. The little guy was pointing at his bobber, and when he looked in the direction the boy was pointing, he saw what he was so excited about.
Gil looked around but didn't see his bobber. "What?" Then, he became aware of the action on his pole, and grabbed it from its cradle and began working the monster in toward the shore. The little fellow was standing there wide eyed, in astonishment and wonder, and Gil handed him the pole and said "you wanna bring him in?"
The little tyke said "what do I do mister?"
"Well first, little feller, my name is Gil Travis. What's yours?"
"Kendall," he responded never taking his eyes off the pole.
"Hi Kendall," Gil began. "Just hold the rod like this and crank this little handle to reel him in. As you crank it the line will be wound around the spool."
Kendall took to the chore as if he were an old hand at it. How he had wanted to have his own sons to teach like this. But his age at this point in his life belied any thought of ever having offspring of his own now.
"Keep the pole close to the water and keep the line tight. If you relax the line, he'll spit that hook out, and you'll be dining on air tonight instead of fresh fish. Keep a strain on him and bring him in, and you'll be dining on fresh fish for supper," Gil explained.
The little feller was doing excellent and Gil saw on his face the same joy he'd experienced on his first catch. There is just something vastly different about first experiences which usually stay with you for life. He was sure Kendall would never forget this incident, and he wanted it to be a wonderful experience for Kendall.
Even as he watched the scene playing out, his mind reverted back to the "Dream," his very own first experience at love. The thought of how easy it was to relapse and go over the cliff to be impaled on some sharp and painful memory of the subject of the "Dream" always put a twinge in his heart and and many times changed his outward demeanor.
The aspects of the "Dream" were daunting. They could take his mind and render him into nothing but a mass of regret, a feeling of a lifetime wasted, and the longing for the embrace of that girl he'd loved since he first saw her. He remembered the blue dress which she wore, how her shape was so perfectly eloquent.
How easily she would float into his mind as he relived scenes of seeing her as she walked, as she came toward him, even waving to her in her parents car as they passed within recognizing distance.
He remembered hearing her singing while playing the piano before service began, remembered looking up from his guitar to see her watching him. Her astonishingly beautiful face he adored so much was burned into his heart and mind forever. That perfect little smile would immediately reveal to him the real angel she was, and his heart would melt again, and again and again.
What an awesome affect she'd had on him. Almost immediately, the scene of seeing her crying the last time he saw her would turn the lightest day into darkness and dreary existence. He had taken a long haul job which would keep him away for weeks at a time hauling special objects of military design. Once he was away for six months.
With that particular job, he'd been sequestered with armed guard, not allowed to talk to anyone, call anyone and even when he finished the haul, he was warned to never reveal to anyone information about the job under penalty of facing the firing squad. He knew no one who'd ever faced the firing squad and live to tell about it.
The day was a joyous one as he returned home and immediately called her on the phone. But the phone had been disconnected. A trip over to her house confirmed the worst. Tina was gone. Another man with lots of money had stolen her away, and now all he had of her was memories. So much for a military career.
He had wanted to explain to her he'd taken a very lucrative contract before he left for the first haul, but as soon as he'd taken the contract, he was whisked away and sequestered to be investigated without his prior knowledge. He was in training for loading the particular type of rocketry for six weeks straight, learning more about his truck than he'd ever dreamed was possible.
Often he would have to force himself to think of happier times, and just recently, another happy incident which he had dubbed the "Dream." Very soon after this thought had crossed his mind, did he realize it was something he may never see. True, he had dreamed of the girl, dreamed of her features, dreamed of holding her close, of all the little things that encase an awesome experience, but had little hope of it becoming a reality.
Then, almost as if by magic, he'd found her on a meaningless site online. And he stared at the picture of his love and her little grandson. Grandson?? How could she be old enough to have a grandson? "Well, Mr. Dingaling," he berated himself. "It had been two score years since he'd seen her, but memories of her were a daily experience. Sometimes many many times each day.
True, she was different than he remembered her. But as he went over each detail, many facts became evident of her and her life. The smile that he cherished was not present, in its place was a forced smile, like one coerced by the photographer as he attempted to catch joy, and use it as the essence to project his work.
True, he could see the distinct and lovely features he'd admired over the years in his minds eye. But, the smile on her face in this picture spoke of a life lived with uncontentment, of missing that one thing in her life that would have made her happy, and now, those same happy memories would bring tears of joy into her eyes. That was her own "Dream."
Gil stood on the shore of the little lake there in the shade of the huge ancient Oak tree, and the obvious look on his face due to the weight of all these memories visible and detected by the youngster. "What's the matter mister? Did I do something wrong?"
Gil was shaken out of his dream again, and realized the boy was addressing him, and immediately and forcefully, changed his face to reflect the joy of seeing the little boy experience one of his own "life memory" story.
"Oh no," Gil reassured, "you did a fine job. You would make your father proud."
"I ain't got no daddy mister. He died when I was a baby. But yonder is my momma," and he waved exuberantly to someone at Gils back. The joy that was spread like sunshine across his face was priceless, and he wondered after the little fellow.
"Mom, I caught this monster fish! That man, I mean, mister Gil, told me how to do it, and I did it just like he said. Isn't it great mom?" he gushed all in one breath.
"It sure is son. I think that's a trophy fish if I ever seen one!" his mother exclaimed, reflecting the joy of the little tyke. "She then turned to Gil and said "thank you kind sir for helping Kendall. He really is a good lad and he gets very little adult male supervision."
"Aw, it wasn't nothing," Gil said quietly. "My name is Gilbert Travis," he said as he stuck out his hand.
The lady was pretty, no doubt about that. But she never measured up to his love. No girl ever measured up to his Tina. He then turned to Kendall and said, do you want to clean the fish and take it home to cook for supper?"
The lady interrupted the thought and said, "that's a grand idea, but we couldn't take the fish today, perhaps another time."
She was easy on the eyes and had a really nice personality that appealed to Gil. "Then if you don't want him, I suggest we turn him loose. I usually just turn them loose and let them grow up and try to catch them later. What do you think Kendal?"
Kendall was saddened by the loss of his catch, but the last part of the sentence changed his demeanor, and he held the fish out to Gil. Gil immediately put the fish back in the water so it could breathe, then set about getting his needle nose pliers dug out of the tackle box. He squatted back down on his haunches, reached in and picked up the fish.
He then started talking to Kendall who was squatted down right beside him in true 'little boy' style. He was all ears and eyes as Gilbert was talking.
"When you're wanting to keep the fish alive and set him free, you have to be very careful. If you hurt him too much, he'll die from shock. You can tell if he's goanna die or not by the way he swims off. First, you push the hook through far enough to snip the barb. Then the hook can be removed very easily," he explained.
He looked at Kendall who was completely engrossed in the ordeal. He went on, "if he has swallowed the hook, or if it is too deep to easily remove it, just cut the leader close to the mouth and leave the hook. He will eventually expel it naturally. See?" as Gil held the fish up for Kendall's inspection.
Kendall peered into the mouth of the fish and said "I can't even see it."
"No, neither can I," Gil agreed.
"So you just gonna cut it here?"
"Yep" he replied while cutting the leader. He then handed the fish to Kendall, and said, place him the water carefully, and right side up so he can breath. Just let go of him and see what he does," Gil finished.
Kendall was all boy. He grasped that stinky fish with both small hands, got on his knees in the mud at the edge of the water, and placed the fish carefully back into the water and let go. The fish momentarily took a few good breaths of water over his gills, then darted away.
"Yep, he's gonna live," Gil exclaimed.
Kendall was jumping up and down and cheering. "Wow, that was so awesome. Thanks mister!"
Gil turned to him and handed him the rod and reel. Let me show you how to do it." He then busied himself with Kendall for a couple of minutes showing him how to put on a new hook. After showing him how to bait his hook, set the bobber, and cast, he said "When's your birthday Kendall?"
Kendall said "Next Tuesday. I'll be nine years old. I'm almost a grownup!" he stated never taking his eyes off the bobber.
"Well, Kendall, you can have my whole setup for your birthday if you'll promise me one thing."
"What's that mister?"
"Just promise me you'll take extra care and release a good portion of your catch. That way, they'll grow and breed and leave plenty of game for everybody," Gil responded.
"Wow, you have a deal mister Gil!" Kendall exclaimed happily.
Gil turned to look at the boys mother and she had mist in her eyes. "Thank you Gil." She stuck out her hand and said "my name is Tina . . ."
The demeanor on his face changed so drastically that Tina was distraught, and she said immediately, "Oh. I'm sorry . . . Did I say something wrong?"
"I'm sorry," said Gil. "No, you didn't say anything wrong. It's just my first love was named Tina, and I fight depression badly because I lost her one day because I set my priority in a job preparing for a life with her, rather than life with her itself. I've never gotten over it."
"I'm sorry for your loss Gil. Is there no way to make amends?" She countered. She could tell by the hurt on his face that the wound was very deep.
"Perhaps one day," Gil responded. But in his mind, he knew things would never be the same, and in the meantime, he would go on loving his beloved Tina, and living his life within the world of the "Dream."
With that, he said "well I must be getting along." He bid goodbye to both, and turned, walking back into a misty land of loneliness, a land of make believe, a land where he could have anything he wanted with the mere effort of a dream. But all he ever wanted was the love of his life. "Hold on, my love. I'm coming to you," he mumbled mostly to himself.
At that, he stepped into the "Dream," never ever wanting to return from it again. There, he could walk by the river hand in hand with her for days at a time, tell her how much he loved her, describe her beauty to her, squeeze her to himself, and never let her go.
Unbeknownst to him, his beloved was in the same boat as him, her husband had died early on leaving her to raise an adopted child on her own, but she, like him, would not approach the other for fear of rejection. Apart, they would dream the same dream, but it would take a miracle for them to ever come together.
But she faced something extremely devasting in the loss of the little son who called he grandmother. The photographer had incorrectly stated he was her grandson because that is what he called her. But the truth was, he was merely an adopted son of a childhood acquaintance.
Much of their lives had been wasted, each wanting the same thing, each not knowing how to obtain it nor knowing the other wanted it.
So life would go on. Gilbert was a man without direction and it was a wonder he'd never turned to alcohol or drugs. He couldn't seem to hold a job and his money ran out, the same money he'd lost his Tina over. He quit driving because of the relation of it to losing the one he intended to marry. He bounced back and forth between little jobs, never gaining a foot hold.
One day Gil slipped off a step exiting the cab of his truck and fell, breaking three ribs one of which punctured a lung ripping his sternum apart at the same time. He nearly bled to death before they could get him to the hospital. But the rib in his lung never hurt near as much as the pain he felt over the loss of Tina. After a long pull on the glass of water he lay back onto the pillow on the hospital bed, and stepped into his dream.
He made the decision right before the meds took hold. He would return to his place of birth, live out his life and die there . . . alone. In the meantime, he still had his dream . . . Let them operate and when I get well enough, I'm heading out as soon as I can get a few bucks in my pocket.
"I love you Tina . . ."