Fishing Days

excerpt The loaded boats – from time to time you can hear the thumping of a strong fish striking against the freshly tarred wood – are lined up in the narrow canal, towed by Michea's tug. "Come on, you dark-bay horse, take me to my beloved, don't tarry!" Timosca chants merrily. The wind is blowing ever stronger, bending the reed. Birds are gliding as if supported by the warm gusts. Bees, barely enlivened, buzz and die in the reed from where triumphant cries of herons and seagulls irrupt. "It's good to be alive, right, Mister Sile?" Marco stretches content from bank to bank, touching the reed curtains with his fingers. "Summer is here, soldier," moans Petro happily. "Now living is going to get good." "You're young, you have a young wife, and no care in the world! But when do we get Mister Sile to marry? To settle down. Not to trudge by himself any more." "Now? I can already hear the foresters chops down the fir." "Auntie Latinca is alone. And you're lonely too." He bends a reed, pulls its yellow top, and chews at it with his teeth. "Come on, dark-bay horse, come on," Timosca bellows. The wind distorts his song. "Could be." He turns up the boats on the bank and then proceeds to dividing the catch. The big, golden and silvery mounds he makes fill up the black sand still wet with creatures. "We go out tomorrow too?" "You're this lucky only one day. Tonight they'll hide all in the reed. We won't see pike no more until June." "But there will be carp and crucian!" "First tench." "There's tench still?" "Enough." "This delta is so rich, Marcole." "Too rich, Mister Sile. It's like that good soil that bears a harvest every year, always different. Something else. Where you fished sheat fish, all summer long, next year you find bream or a pit of small fry. And the following year there'll be zander and perch. There'll be something all the time." "Why do they change all the time?" "It's the water, Mister Sile. The water changes. Where it was small, it eats away to get deeper. It shoves sand and mud in the pit it dug a year before." "You study the water every year?""Like a schoolboy. For a month you inspect places that are yours to fish and so you learn about your property." "Are there also dead places where it's no good setting up your gear?" "At times that's what you may think. And you forget the pound net. Or don't check on it. And when you come after a week you find a big sheat fish, stone dead, or a carp or pike. That's how the water is. You don't catch fish, you find fish." The acidulated afternoon sun – night sets in quickly as according to the calendar it's still winter – makes the fishermen turn their close-shaved faces, whitened by the cold of winter, to the mellow rays. They shed quiet tears like crying for joy. "You don't feel spring here." "There's not too much spring here. Summer comes all of a sudden. After a terrible cold, you wake up to a deadly heat. Come on, dark-bay horse, come on!" "Not even on New Year's Eve did you sing so much, Timosca." He dances without moving from the spot. Then he takes Andrei by his shoulders. Pavlo joins them, not letting such an opportunity pass. Micola strikes a Cossack dance. They are all running in their thick coats, long johns, and rubber boots up to their ankle. "Don't stop till you reach my sweetheart." Their dance goes round the mounds of fish; they stomp their feet, spattering sand everywhere. They roar deafeningly. Milan takes a huge pike in his mouth and dances with it, bending his knees together with Micola. They all take a big fish in their mouths. They have opened up a path among the fish mounds. Sile's legs give in and he falls down, pulling all the other men after him. Roars of laughter. They rest for a few moments on the ground, cooling their palms burnt by the rope of the nets in the cold sand."That's it," Marcu decides. Let's take it in and get going." "Where?" Timosca wonders falsely. "You know very well where." More peals of laughter. They get up, shake off the sand. They wash the fish."Will you tell back in town, Mister Sile, how you held a big sheat pike in your mouth and how it struggled like a perch in the mouth of a pike?" "I sure will!" "What's on TV tonight?" Petro inquired in an attempt at culture. "Sleep as much as you like." "There's really nothing on? Nothing at all?" A wave of sadness floats over the group. Then Danilo takes a step forward like someone volunteering for a dangerous mission. Silence falls abruptly. Only the wind blows over wet, steamy cloth through the barren boughs of the willows. He puts his hand slowly into his bosom and takes out a tiny flask. His hand goes up to the sky victoriously, showing the trophy. Stunned hoorays welcome the incredible discovery. They take a solemn sip in turn. "Pear?" "Pear." "You remember, Mister Sile, how we drank from the fat man's bucket all the water hallowed on Epiphany day? How the Father wept." "But what is a bucket between two guys? It smelled of sweet basil. Perfect to chase the hair of the dog. God, what water!" "Come on, bro, we have the field to plough today. And tomorrow we go after wood." "And the day after tomorrow we take out the cattle, and the other day we plough again…I know." "It's a small place," Andrei grins broadly. They start to the fishery station to turn in the fish. The boats, loaded to capacity, glitter in the pale light. Small ice pieces grate hoarsely at the black wood. "It's summer!" Petro roars all of a sudden, scaring into flight two egrets that were feathering a nest right next to the ship carpenter's hut. On a wide piece of ice flowing down on Fiu seven-eight cormorants are sitting gently. "It's summer!" Petro howls again. "And what's that?" Andrei wonders. "There will be what will be," Marco whispers merrily. From somewhere close by comes the sound of a motor boat. "It's summer, Mister Sile. Petro is right. Summer's here. Come on, dark-bay, come on." A patter of moorhens. A flutter of seagulls. The cry of herons, frightened by the noise. There is the pontoon of the fishing station, and Sinia caressing the white cat, two fuzzy spots, undulating in the light agitated by thin mists.
Cartea românească, 1985

by Radu Anton Roman (1948-2005)