Half Sour, Half Sweet
This cover took awhile to come up with. It still looks a little odd to me, but I wasn’t satisfied with any of my ideas. This is the most striking, and I do like it. It has character.
I’m still editing the story, so it will be anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so before I publish it. It begins with a lonely 70 year old man driving into the country to fish in a trout stream behind the house he grew up in. A place he hasn’t seen in a half-century or more. But of course, there’s more to it than that. He notices something that he should have found when he was a child, and it opens up a whole range of regrets… and magical opportunity.
It’s been interesting to write. But then, it’s always interesting. If it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t do it.
In any event, I hope you like the cover. And I hope you’ll enjoy the story when it comes out. Here’s an excerpt from the mid-edit rough draft. It may change a little before it’s published, but not much. And of course, I chose a portion that leads up to, but avoids, major spoilers.
He hadn’t held a pole in twenty years, and it showed. It took a dozen bad casts to remember the knack of it, and then the thirteenth put the worm just under the overhang of the bank, in the dark where the fish hide. The worm drifted with the current as it sank. The water was shallow, no more than waist deep, and he could see the worm go. It wriggled, living up to its name, and bounced over the stones in slow motion until it fetched up against a big granite stone half-buried in the bottom right by the opposite bank. A zigzag of bright white quartz and flecks of fool’s gold striped it top to bottom, vanishing into the feathery spray of seaweed that ringed it like a skirt.
David recognized the zigzag, the quartz, the gold. How many times did I see that stone as a boy? he wondered. How many times did I think of digging it out and taking it back home with me? But he never had. There was always a reason: it looked too heavy, couldn’t tell how deep into the creekbed it was sunk, the water was too cold, it probably wouldn’t look as pretty once it dried.
The worm kept eddying back against the bumpy granite, doing jerky loops in the turbulence. A little brown spotted torpedo flashed out from next to the stone, from behind the thin screen of seaweed. It tried to drag the worm back under but David set the hook. Unlike the trick of casting, he remembered how to set the hook well: the firm, precise snap of the wrist that caught a trout without yanking the metal barb completely through its delicate lip. The fish put up a little fight and then it was up on the bank. It was small, but big enough to eat. Maybe half a pound. He gutted it with his pocketknife in the grass, leaving the head on, and slipped it into the cold bag in the cooler. He rinsed his hands in the cool water and dried them on a different patch of grass.
As he closed the lid he looked back at the stone. Where the fish had emerged, there was a little black gap in the seaweed.
It hadn’t come from next to the rock. It, or the current before it, had opened up a little burrow of sorts underneath.
The stone wasn’t as big as he had always thought. It was lying flat on the bottom. It didn’t reach down into the mud at all.
I probably could have lifted it out when I was ten, he thought. A seventy year old man could probably manage it too, arthritis or no arthritis.
He sat back down and fished, thinking. That little hole under the rock kept drawing his eye even though no more fish came from it.
There were no more under the rock, but there were more lurking under the banks. They were biting better than he remembered—or maybe seventy just has more patience to wait for the next bite than ten. In an hour there were two more trout in the cold bag, and he had missed hooking three more. If seventy was more patient, it was also slower setting the hook than ten. If he were still a boy, maybe he’d have caught them all. He reeled in his line and set the pole aside.
He ate a summer sausage sandwich he had made for the trip. His eyes kept sliding back to the little hole under the rock; he half-expected to catch it winking at him. He had another cola and walked across the little road to water the apple tree. Old man, weak bladder.
He went back to fishing, and in another hour there were five fish in the cold bag. Enough for breakfast and dinner tomorrow. He packed up, then came back to the bank.
His eyes kept catching on the rock, pulled toward it like iron to a magnet. I should have gone in and gotten it up when I was a boy, he thought. It might have looked nice in the back of mom’s garden, in among her marigolds. She’d have liked it. She had always had an eye for natural beauty…