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The International Writers Magazine: Fiction Shorts

Incognito on Memorial Day
• Kareena Maxwell
Ben was on the shore fishing with two friends with his pole stuck in the ground when I first met him.


He stood behind, moving back and forth trying to keep the winds from taking his breath away. I was tired of thinking and just wanted to watch as the fish tugged on the bait. All three of them were from the Dominican Republic. This is what they do there; find food from the water that slurps around their ideas of future travel to grand places. I listened as he talked of disappearing far away from West 183rd Street in upper Manhattan. “I need to get a few to last the week,” he said referring to the fish that he still hasn’t caught: Dinner for days from the choppy waters of Southbeach, Staten Island. I resisted asking him about the pollution. Garbage washes up her like chipped shells after a large haul of oysters from the deep end of the ocean. Maybe he balances it against starving. Perhaps his idea of a good time is taking a risk? I wondered why the sea seems to live with her back to the shore. Does she turn herself away from saving people because she too has to eat?

“She use to wait for me to come in the door,” he says. I knew he was talking about his wife… "Now she's on a path of not waiting up no more.”

I understood that. We all change. Everything moves around in circles or back and forth. I wanted to tell him that she probably has not dismissed him as he was trying to say.

Deep green trees bordered the back ground and I still did not want to think about anything, especially a sour relationship from a fisherman who desired fish from unclean water. The tide was in control - not high, with lapping waves and rip tides that tries to fold hot New Yorkers into its belly. A large seagull flew overhead screaming for food. Alone. We were all together but still invisible to something else that we all needed. Even the bird and the ocean were looking for something; someone to take care of them or for them to take care of.

Ben traveled on the Staten Island Ferry from the 1-train and then took the S51 bus. He looked happy even though he wasn’t catching anything. Not here anyway… he was used to travelling and working hard even for free fish as he knew as we all do that everything has a price. Even a free day of fishing.
© Kareena Maxwell July 2012

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