The thermos had been his stepmother’s idea. Though his father had been a minister all his life, and had officiated at hundreds of funerals, he had steadfastly refused to say what he wanted for his own arrangements. “You’ll know what to do,” is all he’d ever say when questioned on the matter. “Bury me or burn me or blow me out of a cannon—I don’t care. I’ll have my heaven. It’s yours to do. That’s one funeral I won’t have to preach.”
So when it happened,it was Margaret, his stepmother, who had decided that, after the wake and funeral, the body would be cremated. When Danny’s sister and brothers had questioned her, suggesting that he’d rather be buried at the family lot next to their mother, Margaret said it would make their father portable and divisibleand, after all, he loved to travel and never got to do enough of it, and healways had tried to be fair with them all.
Thus, to his youngest son, the artist, she gave a portion of the ashes, which he mixed with acrylics and oils and began a series of portraits of his father. To his middle son, who was the associate pastor at the Presbyterian church, she gave a portion to be buried in a bronze urn under a tastefully diminutive stone in the local cemetery with his name and dates on it, next to his first wife. The graveside service,like the wake and funeral, was widely attended by fellow clergy, local Presbyterians, and townspeople. To his daughter she gave a portion sealed in a golden locket with an emerald on it which could be worn as a pendant or ankle bracelet in Ann Arbor where she practiced law. And to Danny she’d given the thermos—an old green Stanley one that looked like something carried by construction workers—and said, “Why don’t you take your father fishing?”
Danny remembered his father taking him fishing, that first time in the river,when he was a boy, how the water tightened around his body, the thick rubber of the Red Ball waders constricting in the current. It was late March. It was cold and clear and he wondered how his father ever found this place, hours from home, driving in the dark to get to the river at first light. How they stood overlooking the river from the top of the hill, its multiple interwoven channels his father called “the Braids” because it was in this area the river split and turned and coiled around itself before returning to its orderly flow between two banks below Indian Bridge. He remembered his father saying they were going to a secret spot, back in the swamp, called Gus’s Hole, named for the man who had discovered it and told someone who told someone who told Danny’s father. Then hiking down the oak ridge with their rods and net and gear. His father held his hand as they stepped into the river and he could feel, for the first time, the weight of the water moving, something urgent and alive; and how his father held his hand high in the air, like dancers doing twirls through the deeper water, the boy he was then bobbing in the water, his father holding him aloft to keep the river from rushing over the top of his waders.
They fished hardware then—Little Cleos and Wobblers and other spoons that looked in the water like wounded baitfish. Or clattering plugs that nose-dived in the current and jiggled just above the bottom. Later they would graduate to long poles and lighter tackle and various spinners. His father always swore by Mepps #4s with little egg-colored beads and copper blades. For steelhead they’d roll spawn bags through holes behind logjams and fallen trees and finally they gave up their spinning gear for fly rods and reels and the slow perfections of theirown patterns—caddis and stoneflies and hex nymph variations—of preparation,presentation, catch and release.
Excerpted from Apparition & Late Fictions by Thomas Lynch. Copyright © 2010 by Thomas Lynch. Excerpted by permission of Norton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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