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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > October, 2004 - Sleep Deeply and Dream
by Paul Schweer

Sleep Deeply and Dream by Paul Schweer

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I dream about training. Arms and shoulders relaxed, power from my body's weight. Peaceful. Quiet. What I want I suppose. Even when it gets quick. A little dark -- there's something there. Something more than exercise. More than fun and play.

Some people look at golf and see life. Baseball too. Probably that way with most anything. Dancing. Cabinet making. Oil painting. Fly-fishing. Dad used to say, "If you have to catch something to enjoy a day's fishing, you're fishing for the wrong reasons."

It was something we'd do after church sometimes. I'd get a coffee can and the sharpshooter shovel, go looking for an old board or piece of tin to turn over. If the soil underneath was moist, serpentine trails on the surface, I'd dig and find worms. Put them in the can with a little loose dirt, fill the hole back up so nobody would step in it.

Dad had an old ammo can, lead weights and fishhooks and needle-nose pliers, everything we needed in it. Couple cane poles. One rod and reel. Big metal bucket to bring the keepers home. We'd throw it all in the pickup and decide while we rode which pond to try.

Dad would park the pickup close to the shore. We'd carry everything down to the water's edge. I'd pick a cane pole, unhook the weighted swivel, and let the line unwind. Dad would rummage through the ammo can and come out with some hooks, small and large, hold them up where I could see them. Give me a deadpan look. "You want to catch big ones or little ones?" he'd say.

I'd say, "Big ones!"

And he'd tie a big hook onto the brass swivel.

We'd sit and watch the bobbers roll and dip on the water, waiting for one to pop under or sink. Sleep lying on the ground if nothing was biting, waking up again as the sun went low. Hard to see the bobbers, night turned the water dark, but we'd hang in there if the fish were biting.

Catfish mostly. What my Dad called mud cats, thick head and body, dark skinned. And channel cats, lighter skin and thinner, better tasting. We'd keep them on a stringer til time to go home. Put the stringer in the bucket with a little pond water.

We'd bring the bucket into the house, take it to the back room, clear the counter for the cutting board, cover it with newspaper. Dad would get the heavy knife, long bladed and thick, small handle with a curve. Old. Well-used. The newspaper stuck to the smooth slimy skin and would fold and wad and follow the twisting arching turns.

There's a spot on the spine, a little dent that fits the knife. Hold the fish with one hand, careful of the fins, find the dent and place the knife's edge there. Press down. Release the fish. Put the free hand's heal on the blade's thick back near the point. Other hand stays on the handle.

Stand tall, erect.
Arms and shoulders relaxed,
drop the body's weight.

One bounce down through the blade,
head comes off clean and quick.
Separating flesh and bone felt through
hands and arms. Wet sounding crunch,
crack of steel striking wood.
Echo. For a moment.

The mouth would move, trying to get air.
Opening and closing. Quick, then slower.
The eyes would get cloudy.
Mouth would stop moving.

I'd gather the heads, the guts and the skin,
take it all outside. Throw it to the cats.
Then wash my hands. Scrub away the dirt,
the sweat and the slime.
The blood, the stink.

And I would eat well.
Sleep deeply and dream
of lying on the ground,
bobbers on black water.

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