Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Most never are. A few months later the hostages - past history now erased - will be taken out, dusted off, assigned a value and then set out to be recycled into someone else's dream, like a big wheel that just keeps going round and round and round...
That's why I'm here, poking in dusty corners and rummaging through the ruined dreams of others, hoping to scavenge something of value among the smoking ashes of their misfortune.
And that's when I see it, leaning against a big tangle of cheap rods, cheap reels and yellowing monofilament.
It's not a reel. It's a time machine, and I'm no longer a dyspeptic, slowly eroding 38-year-old man standing in a filthy pawn shop that reeks of piss and desperation. It's nineteen eighty-something and I'm a mullet-headed teenager standing on the cow-stomped red dirt bank of a windswept Oklahoma farm pond, reveling in the warmth of a mid-spring sun, the sirens of youth whispering their false promises in my ear as I cast that exact reel. The world is good. No rocks on the shoals of my future. Were there ever, back then?
It's morning. School is in, but we aren't, and a whole day of illicit possibility stretches out before us. The next pond, the next adventure beckons, so off we go, stowing our gear in the back of a '71 Nova that stinks of bass slime and Fish Formula. Where? Don't know. Just go. We'll find something. And we do, although none of us are to realize it at the time. We search for no grand, overarching truths, no deeper meanings. We just fish. Is there anything else?
I'm back in the pawn shop. I kneel and disentangle this artifact of memory, this someone else's dream from the snarled pile. The rod isn't the same. Mine was a Lew's. This is a Berkley. But everything else is identical: Medium-heavy action. Pistol grip. Five feet, six inches long. Stiff. Clunky. And at the time, perfect.
The reel, however, is mine. A Shimano Bantam, paid for with the minimum-wage sweat of countless paper bags filled with the groceries of bitchy housewives, lifeweary single welfare moms, alcoholic, rheumy-eyed bachelors, sweet, gray-haired widowers who'd sometimes tip me a quarter and batshit-crazy outpatients from the state mental hospital who'd yell at the sky and pray to gods only they knew as they took the bag from my hands and walked out the door and down the street, shuffling back to whatever world they temporarily stepped out of for bread and milk.
I hold the reel in my hands. It's cherry. History wiped clean. Memory erased. Whatever hard-luck story that led it to this pawn shop corner, forgotten. Ready for a new memories to overlay the old ones. Or in my case, have one set of old memories replace another.
Round and round and round...
I take the rod and reel up to the counter.
"What's your best price on it?"
"Twenty-five and tax."
"I'll give you twenty out the door."
"I can do that."
I give the clerk a twenty and walk out the door with my artifact, this totem of memory suddenly recollected. Ersatz, maybe. But at some point, isn't it all?
Posted by Chad Love at 1:10 PM