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U3A Writing: I Fish

So why does the man fish everyday when he is of working age? Zelda Margo tells of an astonishing encounter.

Emma found solace at the tranquil lake. Rain or shine, she and her dog Chum were out walking. And rain or shine the man was on the bank fishing.

After months of walking past him, “Do the fish bite?”

“Yes. Does your dog bite?”

“No! What do you do with your catch?”

“The small ones I throw back, the others I give away.”

“It must be great not having to work.”

He looked at the dog, the trees, the ducks and his line.

“It's not great. It's tragic. I'm a pilot, correction – was a pilot. Loved planes since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.”

Emma shivered. Chum sat down, head on paws.

“Feel my back. Go on, feel my back.”

“It feels like a steel brace.”

He whipped off his cap revealing fine reddish hair.

“Look at my scalp.”

It was criss-crossed with scars.

“Work is a blessing. I'm unable to work.”

“You look so healthy. Handsome actually.’’

“I was, but I did not heed a warning.”

“A warning. What warning?”

“Here, sit on the grass and I'll tell you.”

He fiddled with his line and the bait, and recast.

“Three years ago, on a free day in New York, I was aimlessly wandering round when a small white building caught my eye. Interesting architecture. I was passing the entrance when I heard an organ. A place of worship, so in I went. By the way, what's your name?”

“Emma.”

“I have never forgiven my parents for naming me Fike. It has caused me unending embarrassment.”

“You were telling me about the place you entered.”

“Yes, at the altar stood a tall slender figure in a white robe. There were about thirty seated people. As the music faded he called a name. A blond man stood up and he was given a message. Name after name – message after message... FIKE. I looked round for someone burdened with the same name. FIKE, there was urgency in the voice. Against my will I was on my feet. The priest's intense gaze kept me rooted.

“Do not fly – ever! You are not to fly.”

“I sank back into my seat. The following day I flew the plane back to Johannesburg. That was my job and my passion. After a while I forgot that weird day.”

“Did one of your aircraft crash?”

“No, and here is the irony. I was a passenger on the doomed Namibian flight. The crash that killed the pilot and 160 passengers. It made all the headlines, I believe.”

“Yes, yes... Headlines. It was a mechanical fault.”

“I knew nothing. I was in a coma for three months. A year in hospital. Constant pain and diminished concentration. That, Emma, is why I fish.”

“That Fike, is why I walk. My husband Richard, was the pilot of the ill-fated flight.”

He stared at her. Held out his hand. They sat hand-in-hand gazing at the sparkling water. Each in their own private world of pain.

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