Sunday, September 09, 2007

I met a noodler once, in a dank bar down alligator alley during the road trip years. Alex slid in next to him at the counter; or at least, he would have slid, but the stool was sticky and had one leg that threatened to buckle, so he lifted himself gingerly on to the seat. The man's hands were scarred, the skin buckled and twisted, wrapped around his glass. Half of his right index finger was missing, lost to a snapping turtle. That's the danger with noodling, with plunging your hands into murky holes in the hope that what bites you on the hand is what you want to be bitten by. I remember hearing stories about noodlers who accidentally stuck their arms into a nest of moccasins, men who had not compensated for the weight of the creature they would be pulling to the surface and drowned with their hand clamped firmly in the mouth of a fish. Swamp justice is harsh and biblical in that way.

Yesterday, as the bus sat at a red light, I watched a man in khakis and a button-down shirt stand in the park and practice his fly fishing casts, tossing a bright yellow line back and forth across the grass. At least from a distance, both of his hands appeared to be intact.

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