I told my best friend Paul that I enlisted, but he wouldn’t believe me. He said that I was just drunk; we never talked about it again.
A month later I took my oath, then met Paul at the bar to get wasted. Everything was going fine until this guy bumped me at the counter. I pushed him back, and he punched me in the gut—Paul flashed his knife, and the guy backed away apologizing.
Outside, Paul set me down on the curb.
“What’s your problem?” he asked, and I wanted to scream, all I can think about is leaving!
“I need another drink,” is what I said.
We stared at the stars for a while. Then he said, “Come fishing sometime.”
“You know I don’t fish.”
“Sure. But the water’s real nice at night. It’ll do you some good.”
I was too drunk to argue with him. That weekend, Paul took me behind the power plant. I drank while he casted, and watched his headlamp beam across the water. It jerked each time he moved, and after a few beers, made my stomach turn.
“You okay?” Paul asked, as I bent over.
“I’m gonna puke.”
I stood and climbed the rocks. Paul shouted after me, but I ignored him. At the top, I saw smoke from the power plant dissipate—a pit opened inside of me, and I heaved and heaved but nothing came.
I gave up trying and started back to Paul. He was wading in the water and tugging at the line; it wouldn’t come free, so he cut it with his knife. On shore again, he set up the rig and casted out to darkness.
When I reached the bottom, Paul had a big, silver fish hanging from the hook. “There she is!” he shouted. He swung it toward me, but I pulled too hard on the line—the fish dropped back to the water.
Paul stared after it.
“What’d you do that for?” he asked.
I said nothing.
“You have no patience, that’s your problem. And you’re drunk again! You’re always drunk! Can’t you ever wait?”
“Wait for what! Wait like you? Waste my life fishing and waiting for nothing?”
I didn’t see his fist, but felt it hit my jaw. Next thing I knew I was on the ground, and his eyes were wild, and in his pocket he clenched the knife. I blinked at him. He stood over me for a long time. Then his hand came out empty.
He turned to the water and casted.
I left him there, but at the top of the rocks, I couldn’t move—my legs went numb and brought me to the dirt. On my knees, all I could do was watch the smoke. Paul came eventually. He passed without a word and vanished beyond the power plant. When he was gone, I felt my legs again, stood, then followed.
M. Guillermo holds a BFA in Journalism and Design from The New School. You can find him at https://mguillermo.substack.com/