The Hand That Wields The Priest
by Emily Devane
That evening, the fish left a strange taste in my mouth.
We’d gone together, Dad in his waxed jacket and waders, me in my parka and wellies. Flies hovered above the river, orange-tinged in the afternoon sun. He fastened together his rod and opened his box: flies lined up like soldiers on parade. ‘We’ll try the March Brown,’ he said, affixing one to the line.
I spied the metal hook; it glinted between his fingers.
‘Can you see him?’ he pointed to a pool of slow-moving water. ‘There,’ he said and I followed his finger to a set of tiny ripples where, seconds ago, a mouth had snapped.
While I sat on a long-rotten stump, he waded in. Shoulders stretched back then thrown forward, he cast the fly towards the pool to dance across the water’s surface. He held his body still a while, then cast again. Patience is required, he whispered. When I tried to speak, to ask if the fish had gone, he shushed me. A glimmer of something, more ripples.
The rod bent – and then jerked to and fro. Dad reeled him in, the fish fighting all the while to shake off the metal hook. On land, he thrashed and gasped for breath – the gills, Dad indicated with his fingertips.
One shiny eye gazed up from the bag. With his hand, the same one he used to stroke my head at night, Dad gave a firm whack with his metal priest. The thrashing stopped.
A priest, I wondered. Was that to save its soul?
Dad held the fish across his hands for me to see the tiny teeth that took the bite, the shimmering belly. ‘Would you look at that,’ he said.
That night, his hand felt different on my head.