My brother used to go down to the river and fish with a stick and a dirty sock every weekend.

When he would get back I would ask him what he caught, and he always replied,

“The biggest fish you ever saw.”

“So why didn’t you bring it home?” I would ask him.

“Because it promised me that if I threw it back, I wouldn’t be able to catch it ever again.”

“That’s what it said?”

“Yup.” My brother would then amble off to his room, leaving me to ponder the value of a fish who could speak well enough to bargain for his freedom.

One day my brother came back from the river without his wooden pole. He wouldn’t explain to me what had happened; instead he ran to his room, tight-lipped. The next morning we found that he had packed a suitcase and left in the night.

I went down to the river, searching for the spot he had always described, where the piles were perfectly spaced for a man to lean on one and use its neighbor as a footrest. But I did not find such a spot. There were only gray gravel yards and rotting warehouses.

Seven months later though, we found where he had really been going. Or should I say it found us? On our doorstep was a bundle with a newborn baby inside and a note that read, “Be careful what you fish for, asshole.”

I wouldn’t say I was surprised that I never saw my brother again.


First Flight

“Would you like a pear?”

I jumped in my seat and turned to see a black guy sitting next to me. He wore a business suit and his head was shaved. He was looking at me as he slid a briefcase under the seat in front of him.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“A pear. I brought three from home, but I could only eat two of them, so now I’m stuck carrying this one around. Would you like it? I’m sick of pears.”

He had a brown paper bag in his lap. He picked it up and held it out to me. I took it, hesitatingly. I’d never actually tried a pear, but I guess today was a day for firsts.

“Does this happen often?” I asked. “Strangers handing strangers food on a plane?”

The man laughed. 

“You know, In all my flying experiences, no stranger has ever offered me anything except the bag of pretzels or peanuts that the airline gives us.” he said. “So I guess not, no.”

“How many times have you flown?” I asked.

He paused and looked up at the personal reading lights and flight attendant buttons above our heads.

“I’ve lost count,” he said. “Let’s just say that I’ve flown about three to four times a month for the past eight years. You do the math.”

I mentally calculated about four hundred flights, and then took a second to appreciate the number. “This is my first time flying,” I answered.

“Well then, In that case,” He held his hand toward me, “I am honored to accompany you on your first journey through the air. My name is Dave.”

I returned his handshake. “I’m Michelle. Nice to meet you, Dave,” I said. We exchanged a smile, and then I turned to look out at the morning dew that was sliding down the small oval window. I was sitting near the back of the plane, so I could see workers loading the plane with luggage.

“So, Ms. Michelle, what brings you out here on this fine May morning to experience the magic of flight?” said Dave.

I continued to look out the window at the little worker bees. “I am going to see my son,” I answered. “He is getting married.”

“Well a mighty congratulations to you. I’d say that was a worthy occasion to break in your flying legs. It’s not like a rocking boat, per say, but it does take some getting used to,” He chuckled at his small joke.

I nodded and looked down at the brown paper bag in my lap. Yes, I thought. Today was a day for firsts.