The sweet scent of decay

by Amy Turn Sharp


We all went up to to his family's cabin on Lake Mustang for a long weekend. He took us out on a small fishing boat that he had won off of someone in a poker tournament the Spring before. We had zinc oxide on our noses that day and the bait smelled stronger than death.  There were flasks of whiskey and the three of us sat on the banks and howled with laughter.

He told us to look at the surface of the water.

Watch the surface, you can learn a lot from watching the surface of most things

You will get a glimpse into the future if you are paying attention

Look now kids

Look at the sudden silent trout

And then he laughed so loudly that my ears pained as he rolled down the bank and thudded into the roots of an old tree, like a rolling stone.

We caught only three fish that day but I always think about that day, the day that he was drunker than the hot sun and he told us to pay attention.

To look harder.

And he didn’t care that we walked away from all of the fishing gear and spread old quilts under the big tree nearby and made love like slow motion in the heat of a summer that is so far away now. He didn’t care because he was drunk and passed out and the fishing was not so important as the stories he had told us or the words he spoke so freely with us.

The Surface of things.

I have always remembered that. You never know what someone is going to remember. You can't see it in the moment as it burns into your brain like prison tattoos.