Route 7 Review - Page 110

Spring and Fall By John Solomon The best days for fishing seemed to have a certain visceral feel, a kind of predatory urge that drove Mark knee-deep into the nearest river to stalk trout. Such was not the case when he was getting ready for his last client of the season on a cold, overcast fall morning. In fact, his feelings were quite the opposite: pack it up and go home. The damp wind tugged at his fleece jacket as he stepped out of his Jeep, yawning and scratching his haystack of hair, and walked up the steps of the log cabin fishing lodge where he worked. Fraying gray clouds hung close to the earth, and the valley floor faded into a hazy curtain, masking the timbered hills nearby. Mark really didn’t notice. Sure, a few Brown Trout might make the day interesting, but sitting by the woodstove with his friends drinking beer and watching a football game sounded just as fun. And a lot warmer. The booking was a half-day wade on the private water behind the lodge. The woman who’d called earlier in the week practically begged, a late birthday present for her father. They were outof-towners, his health wasn’t great but she was sure he’d do okay. Heard it before Mark thought, but inked the reservation and figured it would get him a few dollars closer to a new rifle. It would probably be a slow afternoon of fishing. But, fishing was fishing, and that’s all that really mattered. Mark was pulling on his neoprene waders when a rented minivan arrived in the small gravel parking lot out front. He recognized the woman from her voice – thin, stylish, and tense. She was buzzing around a short lanky old man as he tried to get out of the van, reaching for support and moving about 8 frames per second slower than everything else. He gave the lodge a once over and shuffled across the parking lot with steps that never got his feet off the ground. Mark sauntered onto the covered front porch to greet them, hands tucked into waders that were turned down to his waist. The small talk was superficial and Mark threw out some canned lines about the lodge and the river as the old man looked around skeptically, the creases on his face deep and weathered. The woman seemed distracted by the young guide’s jaw of stubble and the early wrinkles at the corners of his eyes where the outline of sunglasses was still resonant in his tan. As they stepped inside the lodge, the old man scuffled past Mark and paused at a wall of photographs. He tipped his brown cowboy hat back so he could push his face close enough to see them. The woman raised her voice and said she’d be back at lunch to get him. The old man didn’t pull his eyes away from the pictures, just sort of threw a hand up as if to say fine, fine, you do that. The woman leaned in close to Mark and lowered her voice. “Please be patient,” she said, “he can be difficult.” Mark glanced at the old man, who was on his way out the back door onto the deck. “Not a problem.” “His name is Walt but everyone calls him Tex. He’s always wanted to do this,” she said, grabbing his elbow. “Really, he has, even if he acts like he doesn’t. Just make sure he has fun…please.” With a squeeze, the woman turned and walked out, digging a cellular phone from her shoulder bag. Mark sighed and scratched his fingers through his hair before he put on the lucky fishing cap he always wore. Time to work the magic he thought as he stomped to the back door, pulling his vest off the hook by the door and taking a rod out of the rack. Mark had a reputation as a fun guide who could get laughs out of clients even on the worst days of fishing. This might be different. He saw the old man standing beside the river, hands in his pockets. Mark walked toward him, slowing to a stop as deep, rumbling coughs came up from the old