The Fisherwoman

by Roy Wilson

She had a good spot on the fishing pier and was starting early; rigging her pole with an anchovy as I watched.  The weighted line swung far out over the smooth water of Redondo Bay and ran until she flipped the bail on the reel.  Only then did she turn and take a seat on the little wooden keg.  An open tackle box and a bucket of live anchovies were beside her, and several gunny sacks lay nearby. A heavy, sleeveless jacket, spotted and stained, covered her small body. Wearing baggy men's pants, pulled tight with a large belt, she had stuffed them into red rubber boots.  She looked buried in the tattered knit cap pulled down to ward off the morning chill.  She might have weighed ninety pounds and she might have been close to seventy years old.  I was struck by the most beautiful smile I had ever seen!

As she opened a thermos of coffee I saw her lift the cup in the direction of an elderly Japanese man carrying his tackle to another spot on the heavy wooden pier.  "Good morning, Tak, you're a little late."

He waved and smiled.  "You haven't caught anything yet, have you, Elizabeth?"  It was a gentle banter as he moved to the other side.

I thought I remembered her from a few months ago when I had taken the day to go fishing.  I noticed the meager tackle box beside her and considered the money spent to fill the one I was carrying.  Actually, I thought of fishing as an inexpensive recreation, since it cost only fifty bucks to go aboard the party boat for a few hours.  When she looked my way I said, "Hi, do you fish here very often?"  I paused on my way to the charter boat's ticket office down at the end.

"Most every day, if it doesn't rain."  She grinned and I felt the warm friendship extended to me.

Later, after a day's fishing, I saw her again.  She was at the back door of the fish market and was handing the man inside a heavy gunny sack.  She recognized me when she turned and I saw the twenty dollar bill in her hand.  We both smiled.

As I headed for the parking lot I wondered what I was going to do with the fish in the gunny sack I was carrying.  Maybe feed it to the cats.

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