Burying the Hook

by Bryan Jones

The vacant lot at the back of the neighborhood left a gap between the houses that resembled the missing tooth of a broken smile. Eric walked across the lot and entered the property that the city owned. The property sprawled down to the river. When they were boys, Eric and Steve had trespassed back there to get to the good fishing spots. That was almost thirty years ago.

Eric still had on his dark suit and dress shoes.  Only a few hours had passed since the funeral service.  He found the old trail and thought about fishing in the deep pools with Steve's lucky fishing lure.  He had the lure in his hand.  He stopped for a moment to look at it.  He scratched his thumbnail against the single rusted hook.  When Steve had loaned it to him, it had looked brand new.  For years, he had meant to return it.  He knew now that he'd never be able to give it back to his old friend.

When he made it to the wide bend in the trail, Eric stopped to stare at the old post that he and Steve had sunk into the ground next to a large oak tree.  They had wanted to build a wooden fort on the property.  But they had never done it.  Only the single post remained of their grand plan.  Still, Eric was proud that it was there.  It defied an expanse of time that he found difficult to measure.  He remembered how two scrawny boys had carried that heavy piece of lumber on their bare shoulders.

Eric went up to the post.  He touched it and disturbed a swarm of memories.  

Then Eric heard something behind him.  He turned around.  Two shirtless boys in blue jeans and sneakers came down the trail carrying a wooden post on their bony shoulders.  Their voices were excited and exhausted at the same time.

Their names were Eric and Steve.

"It weighs more because it's treated," Steve said.

"Treated with what?" Eric asked.

"Copper preservatives that help keep the rot out."

The boys stopped on the trail. Steve looked down and kicked a dirt clod like he was conducting some sort of test.  With a free hand, Steve pointed to a spot near an oak tree.  But then Steve drew his hand back.  He stroked his fingers against the sides of his chin like he had seen his father do.  No, this wasn't the right spot.

"There are better places up ahead," he said. "Let's keep going."

Both boys shifted the post on their shoulders.  Steve led the way down the trail. They vanished into the woods.

No one remained in the clearing.

It was quiet on the trail until the breeze stirred.   From an oak tree branch, a bird twittered.  Only a dark hole in the ground marked the spot where once a wooden post had stood.  At the bottom of the hole lay a lure with a single rusted hook.

BIO: Short fiction by Bryan Jones has appeared in Eclectic Flash, Concisely, State of Imagination, and The Danforth Review.  He lives and works in Texas.