I’ve always loved to fish. Ponds and lakes, rivers and creeks, I love to dangle a line and watch the bobber. But I’m crazy about fly fishing for trout. Maybe because trout are such a fickle being, changing their tastes and behavior by the hour, sometimes minute. Nobody knows why. Maybe today, this minute, trout is attracted to white lures. Or black and yellow. Or brown. If the weather changes, a front moves in, the sun shines, the wind blows, trout changes their mind as to what they like to eat and how they like to eat it. Sometimes they don’t like anything at all. In short they mess with your head.
The day I almost quit fishing happened to be a beautiful sunny day in Bennett Spring, Missouri where fly-fishermen and women have flocked for decades. Imagine a humungous hole the size of an apartment building from which 100 million gallons of water flow every day. This instant river is stocked with rainbow trout from the adjacent hatchery.
Now I know what you think. Isn’t it easy to catch trout if it’s stocked in the stream? You would think so, especially when you see two dozen of them swimming around your feet. In fact there are thousands of trout of all sizes in this stream. But that doesn’t mean you can catch them. It takes all your cunning and a strong arm to present the fly just right. And even then…
But let me get back to the point when I was about to quit. My husband was fishing next to me. He’s been coming here for thirty-some years. As soon as we stepped into the stream that morning, he began catching one after another. And though I had the same exact fly, the same depth I did not get a bite. Mind you, I didn’t lose them after the strike. That happens on a regular basis to even the best out there.
No, I plain got no bites at all. The bobber or what fly-fishermen now refer to as the strike indicator (sounds more manly) kept swimming downstream without the slightest dip. The only difference between us was that he was fishing about ten feet farther almost to the opposite edge of the stream. Because of my limited casting skills and maybe because my arm is lower and not as strong, I couldn’t reach that far. And so he kept catching. And I got frustrated. Then mad. He caught more and more, always releasing because the total limit on a given day is four trout. Still I caught nothing.
After two hours he’d reeled in eleven trout. And then just when I was about to stomp off and turn my back on trout-fishing forever I landed one. A single beautiful trout I proudly put on my stringer. That one single trout rescued me from a state of gloom and restored my faith in fishing. At least for that day.
I’m proud to announce that my short story BLACK MARKET has been published by Circa, a historical fiction journal. In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their childhood. My father, born in 1928 and my mother, born in 1932 were war children, pawns of the Third Reich. They saw their fathers drafted as rations dwindled into starvation and bombs rained.
In May 1945, when WWII finally ended, Germany was destroyed. Solingen, my parents’ hometown, had turned into mountains of rubble, thousands of civilians were dead. It took five years of painstaking cleanup by the famed Truemmerfrauen to remove the worst of the destruction. Nationwide starvation ended in June 1948 with the introduction of the Deutsche Mark. After that, life turned into a frenzy of rebuilding and economic recovery.
Before this background I wrote the story of two German kids, Helga and Guenter and their miraculous path to each other. It is not just a tale of survival against the odds, but a love story of two individuals who found in each other what they needed most. BLACK MARKET is one chapter from the second book, modified as a short story. Though it’s been a few years since I completed the manuscript and I’ve since written three more novels, I can never quite put the story out of my mind. Like the memory of a life-changing event, the characters and their plight are always with me.
Especially when I come across the images on my computer. Few personal photos exist of this time. Who could afford cameras or film or have the time to pause to take a shot when every shred of energy was spent on securing the next meal and surviving the next assault of carpet bombs? The images I do have speak for themselves. I once commented to my father that he looked so solemn. He said there was nothing to laugh about. I believe it.
I hope the entire novel-in-stories will be published one day.