Josh struggled to kneel comfortably on the dock but the sun had heated the surface to an uncomfortable degree. Shifting was driving splinters deeper and deeper into his flesh. At last he had the bait skewered on the hook and raised himself to his sandaled feet. Securing the lid on the plastic container of pungent dead clams, he heard the slap of flip-flops on the stone steps leading down to the dock.
He expected Iris was about to kick him off the dock, send him down along the rocks and brambles that were overgrown along the shore to either side. She wouldn’t want his hook to pose a threat to her swimming. But when he looked up she was in cut-off shorts and a snug long-sleeved tee.
“Not gonna take a dip?” He moved closer to the end of the dock and prepared to cast his line out. “Head’s up,” he warned, bringing the rod back.
“Not after yesterday.”
“Come on,” he said as he swung his arm and the line flew out, landing in the water with a small plop. “It was probably just a fish. You were working with bait after all.”
“Uh-uh. It wasn’t a fish.”
“Okay, whatever you say.” Josh began slowly reeling in the line, his eyes focused on the red and white spot that would disappear beneath the surface momentarily and then reappear a little bit closer than before.
“Adam believes me.”
“Adam’s always paranoid about something.”
“Well, good luck. I think I’m gonna walk up to town. Need anything?”
“Real bait? I appreciate the effort but these things suck.” He pulled the line up to reveal a hook that had lost its bit of clam. He would have felt a tug if there’d been a nibble so he knew the damn thing had slipped right off.
“Take ten from my wallet. It’s on the coffee table.”
“’kay.” Iris turned and slapped her way back up the steps and into the cottage. Josh heard the screen door bang shut a few minutes later when she left for town.
Josh settled in to a rhythm of casting out, counting, and reeling in for another cast. He hadn’t had a single bite between the time Iris left and her return at least an hour later.
“You gonna call it quits anytime soon?” she called as she brought down a plastic bag with the container of store-bought bait.
“Something must be scaring away the fish. I’ve never seen them this quiet before. Not even a nibble.” He let the line sit in the water next to the dock while they chatted.
Iris eyed it with trepidation. “I know one thing that would keep the fish at a distance.”
The line began to run out on Josh’s spool. He snapped to attention and began to reel it in. There was less resistance than he expected but it still a struggle to get his catch onto the dock.
“Ewwww!” Iris squealed when she saw it lying there.