The Street Fisher

The street fisher came to the roads each morning in the early hours, when the dark streets rippled with stillness and the air tasted sweet as motor oil, and he cast his line.

He was clad in a yellow coat and a matching hat that flopped above his wiry brows, which pressed taut in concentration. A large, white beard hid most of the lower half of his face. He had caught the coat and hat years ago and wondered, at first, to whom they belonged. But he couldn’t find a home for them, and eventually realized they were intended for him. Nothing else had been intended for him since. But nothing else was supposed to be intended for him, so this did not upset him.

The rod unreeled, buzzing in his palm, and he watched the hook as it blinked in the light of the waxing moon and then fell, with a plink, into the freeway. He watched the line as it sank, disappearing below the asphalt, dark and thick as honey. And then he waited. It wasn’t long before he felt a familiar pull, and the thin tip of the rod bounced and then rebounded, jittering with excitement. He gave the rod a tug, smiling when it resisted, and then began reeling.

The line came in quick and light. Other fishermen would be disappointed by a small catch, but the street fisher wasn’t. He reeled, and the hook broke the surface of the pavement. An item fell from the hook. It was round and small, about the size of a quarter, and he had a sneaking suspicion that it would have glittered a great deal if the sun were high and not still hidden below the horizon. It bounced onto the road and then spun around on itself, clinking against the pavement before settling into stillness and silence. The street fisher lowered his rod and went to inspect his catch.

It was an engagement ring, slim and silver with a diamond settled in the center. He picked it up and turned it over. It glimmered, mirror-like despite the darkness, and the street fisher wondered, as he always did, how it ended up here.

When he caught an item, he assumed it came from one of two possibilities. The object may have been thrown away willingly; flung from the open window of a car racing down the freeway. These items wanted to be left behind. They wanted to be forgotten.

But maybe this ring had been wrapped around a woman’s finger. Maybe she had been sitting in the driver’s seat and rolled down the window to rest her arm on the ledge. Maybe she wanted to feel the rush of warm summer air in her face as she drove, turning the radio up loud enough to share her music with the other drivers. Maybe the ring slid off her hand as it rested outside the car, and she didn’t even realize it was missing until she arrived at her destination and noticed her naked finger. Maybe she cried.

Or maybe she threw it. Maybe she was running away, driving away, and ripped it from her hand and launched it as far as she possibly could.

The street fisher looked at the ring, turned it over in his palm, then placed it into his coat pocket. He glanced up to the sky. It was still quite dark, but the edges of morning were beginning to peak over the eastbound lane, and a songbird flew overhead, silhouetted. He had time to cast again, but only once more.

He flung the line into the street, and it caught almost immediately. He tugged at the rod, and it tugged back. He began to reel.

A small hand emerged, grasped around the line, and then an arm followed. The street fisher kept reeling. A head appeared, small and round, and a body followed, wrapped in a fuzzy lavender blanket.

The street fisher had caught a child.

He walked towards her. She was an infant, really, and her cheeks were stained with tears, her nose red, her eyes puffy. She blinked and looked up at him. Her lips warped into a gummy smile. He reached down and hoisted her onto his chest. She wrapped her small arms around his neck and lowered her forehead against his shoulder. The street fisher felt her small breaths puff against his shoulder as she relaxed against him, and when he looked down, her eyes were closed, lashes pressed against soft cheeks.

The street fisher noticed his shadow on the road and looked up to see the sun lifting itself fully above the eastbound lane. He was finished here.