My father taught me how to surf fish on a conventional. “Fuck a spinner. That’s for bait and for pansy ass amateurs,” father said.
Spot heads. Bait for red drum. Every October, Father would camp out at the Virginia state line on the beach in his ’95 Dodge Dakota. I threw a six hook sabiki for spot. Father threw thirteen footers for drum. Me and his first wife would cut up the spot I caught on his tailgate. I’d wear gloves and she’d stick her hands in it, tell me it wasn’t that gross. She’d say, “Look, baby. Look, I’m with your father.” His second wife never said anything. Not a thing. I cut bait while she shell collected. His third wife showed more at court than she did at the beach during drum season, which was fine with me.
What wasn’t fine with me was why we were still putting up the charade. Why my father was still pretending like we were together. Like we were a family. Why my father cared so much about these stupid fishing trips. Even his exes despised these. And that’s really what got to him. When the third wife divorced him for a better man and took all his fishing gear. Thousands of dollars of it. My father of course was never at fault. No. Of course not. And so, when I thought his third wife had saved us from a long October, he came to me and said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll buy some there,” he said.
There. Duck, NC. He spent his money on tackle, four conventionals, and because they were out of a fifth, a twenty-dollar fifteen-foot glow tipped spinner. “The glow tip helps with night fishing,” the shop owner said. “I don’t need a glow tip to see it’s a piece shit,” father said. “I’m not an amateur.”
Fishing at night. Father in head lamp and waiters, smoking a cigarillo while he waded out and cast. His new woman liked to smoke joints while walking the Virginia side looking for sea glass. She would take me with her, which was fine with me cause throwing the sabiki all day was a drag and father forgot to buy anything for anyone else.
I went on a walk instead with number four, on the beach, with the dogs, her smoking, me asking if I could too. She said no. We turned and walked back.
As we returned, we saw a group of people surrounding his poles, while my father waded in from the surf screaming with his glow tip held up in the air. Two men walked in front of him carrying a fish to the shore. The thing was huge. Massive. Wider than the two men carrying the thing. It looked bigger than it was.
My father pointed to me then and yelled, “You like that. You like it,” father yelled. “Let’s see fucking Todd do that.” Father caught a fifty incher on his twenty-dollar fifteen-foot glow tip spinner. Not even test on it. Not a thing worth mentioning on it. But he caught a fifty incher on it and I guess that’s the only thing about father worth mentioning.
Robert Warf is from Portsmouth, Virginia and is a PhD student at Oklahoma State University. He has work in Necessary Fiction, Post Road, X-R-A-Y, HAD, and Variant.