My grandpa whispered through life, puffs of conversation here, the scuff of a slipper there. During football season, he sank into the folds of his recliner, a battered transistor radio pressed to his ear and the TV on mute so he wouldn’t bother anyone. He cut the grass with an old-fashioned push mower lest he disturb the neighbors, and he always started the Oldsmobile with the garage door down before rolling, ghostlike, down Olive Street.
When it came to rainbow trout, however, Grandpa was a warrior. I was his first mate, twelve years old and itching for fish as I clambered aboard lime green fiberglass on a Saturday morning. Just offshore at Diamond Lake, he transformed into a mad man, gunning the motor and letting ‘er rip as he arrowed his craft toward open water. Leaning into the waves as they slapped against the helm, we hooted into the spray.
Grandpa’s rubber boots squeaked across the floor of the boat as he cut the motor and retrieved the fishing poles. I wouldn’t touch the worms, so he handed me a pole with a Triple Teaser and hurled the line until the lure plunked in the distance. He threaded his worm and cast the hook, nodding his approval of our position to the prey. We were on the hunt.
I got the first bite, my line snapping taut as Grandpa leapt to the gunwale and yelled like a banshee, “Not too fast! Slow, but steady!” At the first flash of silver, he seized his weathered net and hollered, “Careful now—don’t wanna lose ‘er!” The net dragged the water as he positioned it just so, scrambling for the catch, his boots dancing. With a whoop of victory, he snared flapping flesh and swung it over the side. “That’s my favorite fishergirl!” he beamed, tugging my braid before unhooking our dinner.
When we got home, he disappeared into the backyard to slit fish bellies and dig out the guts while Grandma heated the frying pan. As I shucked sweet corn and sliced beefsteak tomatoes, a faint sound tickled my ears. When Grandpa brought home a basketful of Rainbows, not even he could help but whistle.
Traci Mullins, a non-fiction book editor by day, discovered flash fiction in 2017, and it’s been a love affair ever since. Her stories have been published in three anthologies, Panoply, Spelk, Fictive Dream, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Boulevard, Blink-Ink, Dime Show Review, Ellipsis Zine, Cabinet of Heed, Fantasia Divinity, and many others. She was a two-time finalist in the London Independent Story Prize competition.