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A Story for a Dead Man

Based on a True Day of Fishing and Tragic Findings

I set my alarm as if I was setting a bomb rigged to blow. It’s 1:22am on a Friday night and I’m half drunk and dreading tomorrow’s wake up. I’ve always hated tomorrow’s wake up, it didn’t matter the time or day or what was supposed to be happening, I just didn’t like waking up much. They vocally agreed to get up at 6am as I silently disagreed and set my alarm for 6:16am. Sleep may be the cousin of death but it’s sure a friend of mine.

“6am on a Saturday? I’ve been waking up at seven all damn week and now I’m getting up at six, on a Saturday!” I complained to my roommate.

“I’ll be banging down your door at 6 sharp. That’s fishing time. We rise with the shine," said my Australian roommate, Andy.

Tomorrow, we were going fishing. Two months ago, the gang and I decided to find a summer hobby, and most hobbies in Vancouver were for the rich, but not fishing. Fishing is a poor mans sport. All’s you really need is a line, a hook, a worm, and a whole lot of patience, and beer helps too. We went legit, we filled out the proper forms and paid the cheap fees to get fishing licenses, then we all bought rods and tackle boxes and dressed them full of gear and tack. We read forums and watched the fishing channel; we even bought a bunch of wacky clothes from Value Village to look the part. For a while, we went reeling every weekend, but we haven’t been able to go in the last two weeks, things kept coming up, hangovers and other hindrances. This week we were really itching to get our rods wet and tomorrow was the day. Fishing excites me. I love fishing, I just don’t like the waking up part.

6:16 hit quick as a train and I was slammed from my shallow slumber. I groaned and reached over to snooze the alarm like a one armed soldier crawling out of a trench. Nobody was banging on my door yet. I knew Andy was bluffing. I had a terrible sleep in my terrible bed and crumby sheets. It was mid-summer and my room was a slow cooker, plus my other roommate got in late and stomped around the house searching for something that took a while to find. I was the cause of late night ruckus more often than not, so I can’t complain. I snoozed a blink and Andy started hammering on the door. Dammit.

“Nick, wake up. There’s a fire. The place is scorching. Wake up. You’re gonna die in there," Andy said while creaking open the door.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I mumbled. “I’m up, you piece of shit.”

“It’s fishing time, baby," he said peeking through the doorframe while chewing on something chewy.

I stretched hard and loud, then got up and went for a quick cold shower. I had left a shit-n-piss combo in the toilet from the night before and the bathroom stunk something awful. The shower was quicker than quick; water barely had the time to run from my curly head to my rank feet before I shut it off and stepped out. I checked the weather as I sat on my bed; nude, wet, and fighting the urge to lie back down into shuteye paradise. 

The weather folks called for a lousy day full of rain and cloud, but what the hell did they know? I looked out the window and it wasn’t raining, but it was dark and cloudy as a fitting funeral for a cruel grandfather. I put on cargo pants and a grey Hawaiian shirt with orange flowers and little hula girls on it. It was a good shirt, a lucky shirt; I’ve had it since high school and it got me laid a couple times back then. The shirt was wacky, but as far as wacky Hawaiian shirts go it was pretty sensible, I had some others in the closet that were just absurd. Andy was up and about the kitchen, he was wearing a green flannel shirt and a funny gardeners hat with a wide brim, the type old Asian ladies wear. It was a real good fishing hat. The funnier you looked the better fisherman you were assumed to be. I had a sweet old fishing hat too, a genuine khaki explorers hat; I looked like a real jerk outdoorsman when I had it on. I also had a machete that I wore on my belt in a tactical black sheathe. It was a nice touch. No one fucks with a fisherman who wields a machete.

I stepped outside to taste the morning air and drink a tall glass of water. I tasted rain, and then I sipped the water. It tasted like zinc and chlorine; I should of let the tap run a little longer. The cloudiness in my glass matched the grey morning sky. My next-door neighbour was up already and tending to her lush green vegetable garden. She wore a wide brim hat just like Andy’s and it made me chuckle. I don’t feel awake till the first time I laugh in a day. Some days I don’t feel awake at all. I stepped back in while Andy was at the fridge packing a bag of sustenance. I contributed seven beers and two granola bars and then went off to brush my grimy teeth. Fishing is great, you might not catch a fish but you always catch a buzz.

Christian texted me, “You anglers ready?”

“On the road. 15 minutes," I replied. We were going to be more like 30 minutes but he’d figure that out.

Andy stood at the door with his rod and tackle box and funny hat. He was yapping at me, uselessly trying to hurry me up. I grabbed my machete and threw on my hat and then paced around the house looking for nothing but time. I finally stepped out whistling a song I didn’t know and grabbed the rest of my gear off the back deck. Andy jingled his keys and locked the house door as usual. He was always the key man.

“I’m always the key man," he said.

We walked around to the front where I had the car parked. It wasn’t my car, and it wasn’t Andy’s either. Andy did have a car but it was a real jalopy. If you managed to get it started it would squeal and burp and brake down any time you stopped for longer than a second, so you were toast at stop signs and red lights. You had to be a real madman to get anywhere in Andy’s car. Luckily for us, our buddy Sam flew back to Ontario for his brothers wedding. For a while it looked like they were going to call it off but turns out they’re going through with it. Congratulations. Anyway, Sam proposed that if I drive him to the airport I could use his car for the whole weekend.

“You got a deal, friend,” I said with a devious grin and a few trips to Taco Bell on my mind.

Last night, while dropping him off at the airport, he got out and I hopped in the drivers seat, just then an old woman backed right into his front bumper and left a hell of a dent. I couldn’t believe it, not even a minute of me behind the wheel and an accident occurs. She got out slow and confused.

“Ohh, I’m terribly sorry dear! I didn’t see you there, I thought I was clear. My darn side mirrors buggered here,” she spoke in rhyme, but it didn’t last the next time she talked. Sam witnessed the whole thing go down, and even though he recognized it wasn’t my fault he still got red stressed and awfully worried, and rightfully so. Sam and the negligent granny spoke in monosyllables and then she drove away, only god knows if she made it home. They decided not to claim anything through insurance. Sam was in a hurry, had a plane to catch. I was shrugging my shoulders as Sam pulled his suitcase and hair out, then I drove away with his freshly dented 30,000 dollars. Now its our fishing wagon.

Andy and I approached Sam’s car on the street and that’s when I remembered I was driving. I didn’t have the keys on me. Andy tossed me the house keys and I ran back into the house to get the car keys, and then I headed back to the car. I forgot to lock the house door. I’m a bad key man.

“You lock the door?” asked Andy.

“Yeah”, I said, “Of course I did.”

I started the car and the radio blasted at a ridiculous volume, I had a fun drive back from the airport the night before. We headed over to pick up Christian downtown. It was 6:47am on a Saturday and the streets were deserted, besides a couple of jackasses who were probably drunk driving from the night before. A jerk in a white Mercedes swerved right in front of me while driving on the bridge, I laid on the horn and Andy yelled, “PIG FUCK!” at him out the window. Then we laughed for a few minutes at how funny it was to yell, “pig fuck” at someone.

We got to Christian’s apartment and he came down in his usual fishing garb. He wore a green army hat and a cool Camo jacket with the name “BARTON” stitched on it. That wasn’t his name though. I popped the trunk; Christian loaded his gear and got in the backseat.

“We gotta’ get worms,” he said, “they have them at Husky gas stations.”

“Right. We gotta’ get coffee and food too”, I added with a gurgling stomach. Andy fiddled with the radio, scanning for good driving music. He landed on a rocking hit from the 70s and I hit the gas. We were in search of coffee to drink, food to eat, and worms to stab with fishhooks.

We had decided on going to Deer Lake, a little basin about fifty minutes away. Usually we went to a spot a lot farther from the city, but not this time, only us three could go today so we decided to keep it relatively local. I was content we weren’t journeying to a spot too far away. Honestly, I didn’t feel too confident driving the car. It had been a long time since I drove on the highway; it had been a long time since I drove at all, and this was a brand new car to me and I had already collided with that old hag the night before. It wasn’t my fault though. Anyway, they say Deer Lake is ripe with black bass and yellow carp this time of the year. I read that on a fishing forum.

Andy was the DJ, Christian was the navigator, and I was the wheelman. Everyone was doing their job pretty damn well. It didn’t take long to rid myself of driving anxiety; I was in complete control, relaxed and confident, king of the road. We almost drove right by a Husky station but I noticed at the last second and swung the wheel hard. I heard tires skid like a bat outta' hell, but I think it was just in my head. I often add sound effects in my head. It turned out to be a pointless stop; they didn’t have any bait at this location, only a greasy worm of a clerk. I peeked down at the gas gauge, I’ve been avoiding it this far. The needle was a thick hair under a quarter tank. A cautious man would have gotten gas at the Husky. I didn’t get gas at the Husky. Back on the road we came upon a McDonald’s, we wanted a Tim Horton’s, but McDonald’s would suffice.

While standing in line to order, an elderly man walked over sporting a Bass Pro hat and a well worn, denim fishing vest. He had his white undershirt tucked into his high jeans, which were tucked tightly into tall rubber boots. He looked like a pro, like one of the old guys who hosted fishing shows and commented on all the forums. This guy knew the spots, all the lakes and all the rivers and all what creatures swam in them. Most importantly, this guy knew where to find bait. I bet his truck bed was overflowing with buckets of fat slimy worms, disgusting little dirt crawlers, grease gummies, witch spaghetti with extra sauce. “Mmmm” said the fish.

Christian approached the fisherman with respect and confidence.

“Excuse me sir, do you know were we could buy some live bait?”

“Huh!?” the old man shouted with squinted eyes.

“We’re looking for some live bait. Worms. We’re fishermen too.” Christian


I tipped my hat towards the old man, real comradely like. He was confused.

“Oh! No no, I no fish” he said, “This hat was six dollars.”

Turns out he wasn’t a fisherman at all. He was just some old guy with a Pro Bass hat and a stupid vest who was up early. We felt silly and laughed it off and apologized for assuming so. I ordered an egg sandwich and a large iced coffee with one milk and no sugar; instead it came with four creams and enough sugar to bump up the Rogers stock 8%. We walked back to the car through the crisp morning air. I coulda’ swore that man was a fisherman. He looked funny as hell in that get up. He should try fishing, I bet he’d be great.

Back on the road it was time to merge onto the highway. I was ramping up to 100km with an egg sandwich in my left hand. The merge went smooth and I drifted over to the HOV lane. We were going fast and I was feeling good. The iced coffee had my early morning blood flowing like a steam pump. These fish better swim deep and far if they know what’s good for ‘em, because I’m coming with the fury of a mad fishmonger.

“I’m gonna’ catch a big bucket mouth son of a bitch today, fellas.”

“You’ll be catching nothing but weeds, pal,” Christian chirped from the back seat. 

“You’ll see, the lake waters gonna’ drop by two feet once I pull this monster out of it.”

 “Pull your head out of the water and it’ll drop by 4”, Andy chimed in.

“Well, hopefully there’ll be BBQ grates in this lake for ya’ Andy, cause no way in Hell will you be catching any fish.”

Last time we went fishing, Andy reeled in a BBQ grill, it really busted my gut. We joked around all in good fun, but truthfully fishing was a competition. We were all trying to catch the biggest damn fish in the lake. That’s how you became the Alpha Fisherman. Christian was the Alpha as of now; he’d caught the biggest fish of all our expeditions. There’s about six of us all gunning for the title of Alpha Angler. There was this one time we brought two girls fishing with us and one of them got reel lucky and caught the biggest white sturgeon I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t believe it, it was the biggest fish any of us had ever caught, I mean she could barley lift the bastard. It should have won her the title of Alpha Fisherman from Christian, but we didn’t count it. It was also the last time we brought girls fishing.

The clouds were dark and low and started to spit rain. I finished the egg sandwich and put both hands on the wheel. Andy played a song that I didn’t like and Christian missed a turn queue. Mistakes were being made, and the worsening weather was punishment. The rain grew stronger and stronger. I switched the wipers into overdrive; back and forth, side to side, they fought the rain hard. We took the next exit and got a new route. We were still on the look out for a worm shop, but the lake was getting near.

“I’ll find us worms. I’m a wormer, I’ll fill this whole bag up," Andy proclaimed, holding up a McDonald’s bag.

When we pulled up to Deer Lake we entered the eye of the storm. This was the type of rain that made you cancel picnics and soccer games and made you call off weddings. A little rain is good for fishing, but this rain wasn’t good for nothing. As we drove into the parking lot we passed a Police officer in her squad car that was camped out at the entrance, I made eye contact and then looked away. The eyes of cops always have a way of making you feel guilty; whether you did it or not, when staring at a cop you might as well have just done it.

There was a thick fog across the entire lake that went way up into the trees and curtained the sky in a spooky dense grey. The lake was vibrating up and down from the pounding rain making the water shiver and dance. We pulled into a parking spot facing a little playground on the beach that was invaded by soaking wet ducks. There had to be hundred ducks on that beach. They were all waddling around slowly with their heads down, circling and taking turns leading each other, like old people dancing at some community center. I parked and shut off the car, killing the radio. We sat in silence while the rain hammered on the roof.

“Well this sucks,” said the obvious.

“Weather man says it should clear up soon,” said the optimist.

“What the hell does he know?” said the doubtful.

“Lets give it 15 minutes then drive out of this storm,” said the rational. We agreed.

We took a gander around the area. At the far end of the lot was a boat rental office that was dark inside. Down at the dock was a bunch of paddleboats tied up, about twelve of them. We chatted about getting a boat, a real boat with some serious horsepower and rod racks and even a sonar depth and fish finder. A jogger ran by completely unbothered by the rain, she was running fast but not to escape the downpour, she embraced it. All joggers are crazy, but this one was especially nuts. In the middle of the lot was a giant hole where two deep valley cracks met. All the rainwater was running down into this pit and it seemed like at any second a massive geyser would burst from it sending a jet of water sixty feet into the air, then the hole would slowly refill and do it all again. Eight minutes felt like six hours and I was getting sleepy. The harsh rain was quite soothing in an ambient kind of way.

“Lets go for a walk to the dock,” I said. I was tired of waiting for the geyser.

Andy and Christian had dependable rain jackets on, but mine wasn’t stitched for a drizzle let alone a monsoon. We got out of the car and jogged over to the rental building that offered an overhang for cover. I was already soaked to the bone when I made it to shelter. We walked around the small building; it had public bathrooms, which was nice to know. The dark doorways were knitted with thick cobwebs and beefy spiders preying over a buffet of silk wrapped lake flies. The gutters were overflowing and the water pour was digging graves into the mud.

We turned a corner and ran into an old Asian fisherman who was waiting out the rain by practicing the ancient martial art of Tai Chi. He was dressed in a Camouflage jumpsuit and wore a black beret on his head. His rod and tackle box were propped up right behind him, we were sure this guy was a real fisherman and not a phony. He gracefully pushed his hands through the air while craning his leg up and around into a new defensive position, breathing slow and steady, one with the wind and the trees and the rain. He was the Tai Chi fisherman of Deer Lake, a dangerous man no doubt. He looked like he had the stopping power to punch through a brick wall in slow motion and stop a moving train with his forefinger. His eyes didn’t change at all as we walked by, almost as if he never even saw us. We all acknowledged his presence with wide nodding eyes to each other and kept walking. We did a full loop of the building then retreated back to the car. Andy strayed off to flip a big stone and check under for worms. All of us were drenched, especially me. I took off my dishrag of a jacket and hung it over the back seat. Andy flipped the stone.

“Nothing,” he shouted, and ran back to the car.

We decided to take a drive over to Burnaby Lake, another local lake we’d only read about on the forums. I was bummed about the weather; my shirt and pants were all wet and comfortable as a straight jacket. Christian navigated and we got there in about fifteen minutes, it was a lot closer than I expected. We parked by the main dock, which was loaded with minivans and trucks. I guess there’s a Vancouver Rowers club, and I guess they met at Burnaby Lake at 8am on Saturdays. A group of teenage girls with fit legs and broad shoulders walked by carrying their long thin boats overhead towards the dock. Many of them wore glum faces, just as bummed about the weather as us no doubt. I got out and checked the trunk of the car hoping that Sam had left a spare jacket in it, I was in luck. It was a damn fine raincoat and perfect for the shitty weather.

We walked over to the dock, it was more of a harbour than a dock, I mean you could really moor the Titanic here. It was crowded with rowers of all ages, all of them suiting up and launching their boats skillfully. These rowing boats were sea razors, slicing across the water at fantastic speeds. Most of the boats were single or double sculls, they’d be at the dock and with two rows they would be halfway across the lake. A whole fleet of them cutting across the waters, it was really something to see. There was this real fat woman who was three times thicker than her boat, I thought she was doomed for a dip, but once she hit the water she went zooming at wild speeds and with balance of a jungle cat. It was truly remarkable. We watched the rowing for a while; the rain was finally starting to settle down. We agreed this was no place for fishing, not with a fleet of razors on the water. We decided to drive back to Deer Lake. Before going back to the car we went looking for worms. After flipping every log and stone, kicking apart piles of sticks and digging in the dirt, we found nothing. I should have trimmed my nails before going worming, I thought.

Andy cried out, “They should be here!”

“If we weren’t looking for worms they’d be everywhere. After rain they’re always everywhere, except when you’re looking for them,” said Christian.

I was back in the car and had to honk at Andy a bunch, he wouldn’t quit digging for worms. The man was going mad in his pursuit for the slimy bastards. He finally got in the car, a defeated wormer, and then we headed back to Deer Lake. The sun was starting to come out and our gas was getting dangerously low.

While driving we passed an old beggar begging at a traffic intersection. I briefly glanced at him; he had a cardboard sign hanging from his neck and a hunched up back as if the sign weighed 200 pounds. He was panhandling a ratty old hat at every car that was stuck at the red light. I didn’t take the time to give his sign a read, but I’ve read enough beggar signs to imagine just what it said. He needed better bait to catch the attention of folks like me. I’m not sure if Andy or Christian saw him, none of us acknowledged him out loud. I paid him no more attention than I would a dead tree in winter. I hope that someone else did though, I really do.

By the time we got back to Deer Lake the rain was gone and the sun was breaking apart the clouds. It was 9:47am. Our 6am wake up was fruitless; the morning had been washed away, down into the crack, and the geyser wasn’t coming. We passed the cop car again but the lady officer was gone. I parked in the exact same spot as before, facing the playground and the lake and the beach with all the damn ducks still moving about. All the fog had cleared up, which exposed three tall towering apartment buildings just beyond the tree line of the lake. I hated seeing those buildings; they murdered the peaceful nature vibe of the lake and traded it with the cold atmosphere of the cruel city, the very feeling we try to escape on these fishing trips. I really hated seeing those damn buildings. We got out and walked around to the trunk and started unpacking our gear like we were about to pull a bank heist. The first thing I grabbed was the machete; I laced it through my belt and let it hang at my side. That’s when we heard the frantic shouting of a man with a foreign tongue.

“Hmm, what’s going on here?” asked Christian.

“It’s the Tai Chi Master,” said Andy.

Sure enough, the Tai Chi master was pacing up the beach towards the ducks, and the lady cop was following him. He was terribly distraught, waving his hands through the air like the wipers on overdrive, his coolness and tranquility had completely gone out the window. The cop followed him with slow steps, hesitantly, I doubt she could understand him, or maybe she knew exactly what he was saying. Andy took a few steps forward, I watched through the swing set of the playground. The Tai Chi master parted the ducks and walked over to the edge of the beach, where the sand ended and thick bushes began. He started pointing at something out of my view, rapid pointing and shouting; he waved the officer to step closer. We started fooling around, mocking what we thought the Tai Chi master might be saying. We imagined he saw a dead body.

“Look! A sunken warrior, defeated in battle, for now he sleeps with the fishes!” I jokingly said in an ignorant Chinese accent.

We meandered across the playground and onto the beach to get a better view, something was definitely happening here. The ducks waddled past us. The officer walked into the water towards where the Tai Chi master was pointing. The Tai Chi master stood still, breathing heavy and holding his hat at his side. We approached him.

“Excuse me” Christian asked, “Do you know where the best fishing spot is on this lake?" playing it innocent and dumb.

He turned to us with wide haunted eyes, “A body!” he said, “Boots, and a body!” 

“Oh... ”

I stepped closer, and then a little closer, looking up and down, trying to avoid the green and white duck shit at my feet. I could see where the officer was standing; she was looking down at something just a few feet into the water beside the bushes. She was looking down at a pair of old boots that were sticking heel up out of the water. I looked a little closer and saw a pair of legs in those boots.

“Jesus Christ,” I whispered, as if I was about to deliver a prayer.

There’s a body in the lake. The breeze suddenly stopped and the air went stale. There’s a dead body in the lake. We looked around at each other, all of us stiff and confused. Blank faced and mute. The officer walked back to the sand shouting “Everybody back away, clear the beach!” She waved us away, Andy, Christian, myself, and the Tai Chi master. I took one more look at the wet boots in the lake and then turned back towards the car. There is a rotting corpse in the shallows. A quick wave of sickness filled my stomach; it was a real strange feeling. You ever walk up a broken escalator? You know that first extremely unnerving, stomach dropping step you take onto it, it was sort of like that, but it hung around for a while. I heard sirens in the distance, but that was just in my head. In a way, it was kind of exciting, like the beginning of a real good thriller.

We stood back by the car with dumb frozen smirks on our face, trying to process what just happened.

Andy said, “I only saw boots. I didn’t see any body there.”

“There were legs, in the boots.” I assured, “I saw the legs.”

“It’s just like Stand by Me,” said Christian, “That’s Ray Brower in there!”

We laughed at that. Absurdly shocking and tragic situations always bring out the giggles. We made some other darkly comedic remarks and then went all quiet again.

I didn’t talk much for the rest of the day; none of us did. I was thinking about the boots and the body. I had never seen a dead body outside of a casket before. A corpse breeds curiosity, I had so many questions and theories. Nothing will make you more curious about a stranger’s life than finding them dead in a lake. I thought back to the beggar at the intersection, maybe if he was lying dead on the pavement I might have been intrigued enough to read his sign. I wondered why death is the most powerful bait of human interest, even more so than life. Boots and a body and million questions. Was it suicide, an accident, or murder perhaps? Suicides are just sad and boring, and accidents are a real drag too. I wanted it to be murder. I guess I wanted someone to blame for ruining my fish day and breaking my cerebral silence. Yeah, it’s dreadfully selfish, but I just craved a good story. Every dead person deserves a good story. I pictured the body floating there. Maybe he had a bashed in skull, or a knife stuck in his belly, or maybe he had lungs full of lake water and forceful bruises on his neck. Poor old sport. The reflecting lake felt much spookier now than it did when we first arrived in the rain and fog of the early morning. I looked across at the buildings standing behind the lake and the trees. They reminded me of three tall perverts peeking over a fence at something they have no business looking at.

The lady cop stared at us from the beach, all-suspicious like. Wait, why the hell was she here already anyway? Why was she camped out here hours before the body was found? Something doesn’t smell right, and it isn’t the duck shit smeared on my foot. A police cover up? That’s a good story, I thought. She might’ve been thinking something else.

“These three guys pulled into the lot two hours ago, parked as close to the body as possible. Then they left, only to show back up an hour later, just as the body was found. Two out of three murderers return to the scene of the crime, and these three did it twice. Now these guys still wait around, observing the police, and one of them is wielding a machete on his belt! Could these guys be the killers?”

If I were her, that’s what I’d be thinking. I took off my machete and put it back in the trunk. If this was murder, we could be prime suspects. Cool, in a fictional narrative kind of way.

We decided to walk round the lake and check out the fishing spots; we came all this way to fish, might as well drop a few hooks in. Also, we wanted to see CSI show up and block off the scene of the crime and start swabbing everything. We walked around the path quietly, listening to footsteps and the signing birds. We attempted to give friendly smiles to all the joggers and dog walkers who passed by, oblivious to the dead body just up ahead. This side of the lake was entirely blanketed with thick lily pads, and I thought maybe if you could run fast enough you could skip across the pads without ever sinking. Maybe that’s what the dead man tried. We found a little dock and decided this spot was as good as any. Andy went off to find worms, Christian and I set up our rods quietly.

“I feel like I have to puke," said Christian.

“Yeah, me too.”

I cast my line into a little clear pocket between the lily pads. There was a pretty yellow flower growing from the center of a wide green lily, it was real nice. The flower looked like something a French artist would paint and then sell for an outrageous price to some art schmuck. I stared at the yellow flower for a while, wading slightly in the lake water, and then I thought of the dead body again. I didn’t feel like fishing much. Christian was having trouble with the lily pads and hooking a lot of weeds. Neither of us had the focus or patience to fish right now, nor the proper bait. The sun was scorching the back of my neck; I missed the rain and the clouds. Andy came back to the dock after twenty minutes happy as a clam. He finally found a worm.

“Were leaving,” I said.

“What? Why!”

“We’re going to a new spot. This lake sucks,” said Christian.

 “But I got a worm! I finally got one!”

“Save it, were going to go to a new spot.”

“Yeah, a spot without a dead body in it.”

Andy put the squirming worm in a little plastic bag. I pictured the pale sunken face of the dead body with worms devouring his tender cheeks and crawling through his eye sockets and nose holes. Gross. We walked back to the car, contemplating life and digging for more worms. An elderly couple passed us with pleasant smiles and lively eyes.

“Any luck today, lads?”

“Nothing today.”

“Ah, well don’t give up yet!” he said with a warm encouraging smile.

When we got back to the car the beach had been taped off with yellow tape and a dozen cops had switched places with the ducks. They all stood around in groups of three or four, sipping coffee and quacking jokes, it reminded me of high school mornings before the bell rang. The cops had all drove up silently in their squad cars and parked in obnoxious places. No sirens were ever heard that day. There was a shady man parked in a car beside us with his window down smoking a cigarette.

“What, they find a body or something?” he asked us.

“Yeah, just off the shore there.”

He shook his head peering down at the cops.

“All our tax payers money hard at work” he grumbled, “They’ll be sitting around here for hours before anything’s done. Wasting time on dead bums and junkies, they should be out doing real police work.”

We nodded in some kind of passive agreement.

“Oh well. You fellas catch anything?” he asked as he flicked his spent cigarette to the pavement.

“Nope, nothing today”

“Ah, you’re supposed to lie to me. I wouldn’t know any better,” he said with a frozen ice tray of a face.

We chuckled and packed in our gear quickly. I started the car and we backed out. The man stared at us as we drove away, far away from Deer Lake.

Andy played some suitable depressive music and Christian looked up a river we could hit along the way. I was driving fast and had left my mind miles behind. I wasn’t paying attention and almost ran a red light when Christian barked from the back, leaving me enough time to pump the breaks. Close call. I gave my head a shake, turned down the music and focused on the road. We found the river but couldn’t find places to park, and when we did find a spot to park we had barbwire fences between the water and us. We got back in the car and moved four or five times, every time a different obstacle in our way. It was getting cloudy again; the taste of rain was in the air. We finally found a parking spot with a path to the river; we went down and set up. Andy hooked his trophy worm and tossed him out into the water with a floater rig. I used a floater rig as well, but I was using rubber power bait, Christian was using a spinner rig along with power bait as well. I cracked a beer and took a long gulp. It was nice down there at the river for a bit, then the sky began to spit, and in a matter of minutes it became heavy and fierce. The forces of Man and Nature didn’t want us to fish today. Death and thunder was enough of a message for me.

“Fuck this, lets go home,” I said.

We agreed. We were very agreeable this day. We each did one more cast and reeled in disappointment. Then we packed up. Andy unhooked his worm as gently as possible, then he placed the slimy bugger down in the dirt. The worm was bloody in the middle, but he’d live fine and well as any worm would.

I started the car and thank Christ there was a pump within five minutes of driving because there was less gas in the car than enthusiasm. The drive home was miserable and slow, the traffic was awful and I missed multiple turn offs, which added time to forever. We picked up cheap pizza and a couple of Vietnamese sandwiches before we finally got home, we were starving and that was an urge we could satisfy with precision. The rest of the day was languid and wasted with video games and television, which was exactly what we needed to distract our minds from grim thoughts.

That night I set my alarm and woke up early the next morning. Sleep is the cousin of death, and that’s a family I’ve spent enough time with lately. In the Sunday paper was a short article about the body at Deer Lake, it stated the unnamed man was 75 years old and that his death was deemed “Non-suspicious” by investigators. I would’ve deemed it otherwise, but what the hell do I know?

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