Yesterday, My Son Taught Me to Fish

by Jane

"Okay, now what do I do?" The question was posed by the distinguished older gentleman to his younger companion.

"Well, now we just sit and wait," was the answer from the younger man, as he scooted back to rest against one of the large boulders found on the rock outcropping jutting over the small pond.

"Just sit and wait....Okay, I can do that," stated the older gentleman as he, too, settled back against the boulder, to watch the cork on the surface of the water--the cork that joined the line from his long fishing pole to the hook lying somewhere unseen in the water.

An observer would quickly notice the contrast between these two idle fishermen, and wonder how they had ever gotten together. The old gentleman was tall and thin, his long robes of the finest quality, his gray beard and hair neatly trimmed. His skin was pale, showing he spent little time outdoors. His eyes were a soft gray, and mirrored great wisdom and a deepness of soul, and, at this moment, extreme happiness.

The younger man was shorter, muscular, and deeply tanned. He wore the clothes of an outdoorsman--rugged leather pants and boots; a well-worn vest. His hair was a wild mass of golden waves. The eyes in his weathered face were a striking blue, and mirrored a kind heart and the brave soul of an experienced warrior, who, it appeared at this very moment, was rather uncomfortable with his situation.

The cork on the water bobbled a tiny bit, and then was pulled into the water, out of sight.

"Iolaus, look! Have I caught a fish? What do I do?!"

"Jerk it up, Simonides! Hurry, before he gets away!" the warrior exclaimed, quickly lowering his own pole and leaning over to help his companion. He took the pole from the old gentleman, jerked the line up quickly, and pulled the hook from the water. Alas, there was no fish there.

"Oh, my, I forgot to jerk the hook when I saw the cork go under. You told me to do that, and I forgot. I told you Iāve never done this before. I'm sorry." The old gentleman seemed truly distraught over losing what would have been his very first catch.

Iolaus looked into his companion's eyes and flashed a ready smile. "Don't fret so, Simonides. it's no big thing at all. Trust me, there are plenty more fish in there, just waiting for us. Hercules and I have stopped here lots of times on our travels between Thebes and Athens. We've named it Floundaria, because you can catch fish as big as flounders here." The warrior brought the fishing line in close enough to catch it in his hand. "Here, I'll just rebait that hook for you."

Simonides watched intently as Iolaus dug around in the dirt-filled container he'd brought along. "Ah, there's a good, fat one," he murmured as he drew a long, red earthworm from the container. As the warrior threaded the worm onto the hook, Simonides unconsciously turned up his nose. Iolaus noticed, and laughed. "I promise, he doesn't feel a thing."

Simonides realized what he'd been doing, and laughed, too. Soon, Iolaus had satisfactorily threaded the hook through the worm, and then stood up to throw the hook back into the water. There was a small splash in the quiet little pond, and then gentle ripples spread out from where hook and worm had entered the water.

Iolaus sat back down beside his friend. "Now, watch your cork closely, and as soon as it gets pulled under the water, give your pole a quick jerk so the fish will get caught on the hook, and then haul him in."

Simonides nodded, settled back again, and watched Iolaus pick up his pole and resume his fishing.

"Why don't you have a cork on your line, Iolaus?"

The younger man smiled, and answered his companion. "Oh, I've done this enough to be able to feel when the fish is just nibbling, and when he takes a real bite of the bait. Remember, I've been doing this since I was big enough to hold a pole." Iolaus smiled to himself as he turned to watch the surface of the water, and breathed in the fresh morning air.

There was silence between the two men for a while, and then Simonides spoke. "I can see why you love to fish. it's so peaceful here. it's as if we were the only two people in the world right now. The calm is so soothing and refreshing. it's a good way to contemplate things that are important to you." He turned to face the younger man. "Thank you so much for bringing me here, and trying to teach me to fish, Iolaus."

The warrior shifted on the rock and answered, "That's okay, Simonides. I believe everyone needs to go fishing at least once in their lives, for just the reasons you've mentioned. For me, it's more than just putting food on a table, it's a time to think things through and put my life back in order- get my priorities straightened out." There was a short pause, and then Iolaus jerked quickly on his pole and jumped to his feet. "Whoa! I think I got one!"

Simonides also jumped to his feet in excitement as he watched Iolaus play the line between himself and the captured fish in the water. The line jerked back and forth on the surface of the water, bending the pole in the warrior's hands, as the fish fought to free itself from the hook in its mouth. Ever so slowly and carefully Iolaus skillfully drew the line in closer to himself, till he caught it in his hands and began to pull in the tiring fish. The water churned wildly as the fish came closer and closer to the surface. Finally, it broke from the water, and a proud Iolaus pulled his flopping catch up to the rock where he and the old gentleman were standing. "Wow, Simonides, look at that! it's definitely a keeper!"

Simonides bounced up and down and clapped his hands like an excited little boy. "Oh, that's wonderful! Look at it--it's so big! Great going, son!" he exclaimed as he slapped Iolaus on the back.

Suddenly there was a strained silence between the two men. Simonides slowly and self-consciously lowered his hand from Iolaus' back. "I....I'm sorry, Iolaus."

The warrior stood there in silence, looking down at the rock they were standing on, as his newly-caught fish wiggled on the line, spraying both men with droplets of water. Slowly, he looked up, and gave his companion a rather sad smile. "That's okay, Simonides. It doesn't bother me like it used to. I've grown up a lot since then." Iolaus closed his eyes and shook his head ashamedly. "Man, I was such a jerk back then."

Simonides put his hand firmly on Iolaus' shoulder. "It's okay, Iolaus. It was a difficult time for everyone concerned. I can understand how you viewed me as the creep who was stealing your mother and sisters away from you. I would have felt the same way if I had been in your place. don't worry about it. we've all grown in the time that's passed. I'm just so happy that you 've come to feel comfortable enough around me to visit us more often." The old man smiled to himself. "You should see how your mother's eyes light up when she sees you coming to our door. She loves you with every ounce of her being, Iolaus. She always has."

"I know that. And I know how I hurt her by not coming to Athens with you all back then. I just couldn't...I didn't want to give up the homeplace, I didn't want to leave Herc, I wasn't willing to give up the life I knew, sorry as it was...I had lots of personal demons fighting inside me. I...I just can't explain it." Iolaus slowly looked up into the other man's eyes. "Can you...does mother...understand at all?"

Simonides smiled warmly at his stepson and squeezed his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Yes, Iolaus, we understand." The wise old gentleman then lowered his hand from the warrior's shoulder, pounded himself on his chest, and looked out over the pond. "Let's catch some more fish, and really surprise your mother when we walk into the house this evening." He looked back at Iolaus and grinned. "What do you say to that?"

Iolaus beamed back at his stepfather. "I say let's go for it!" The two men sat back down, and Simonides watched as Iolaus pulled the hook from the fish's mouth, and then dropped the fish into a fine-meshed sack that he kept attached to a bush close beside them. He then dropped the sack just under the surface of the water.

"Why do you do that, Iolaus?" Simonides asked with wrinkled brow.

"That keeps the fish alive, and therefore fresh, until we're ready to go."

"Oh, that makes sense," answered Simonides, and he turned back to watching the cork in the water.

Iolaus quickly and expertly rebaited his hook and threw it out into the water. The two fishermen then sat in silence for a while, each thinking his own thoughts and listening to the birds and other sounds of the wilderness around them and their little pond. Peacefulness reigned.

Eventually, Simonides turned to his fishing partner. In a soft voice, he asked, "Iolaus?"

Not taking his eyes from the pond, Iolaus answered, "Yes, Simonides?"

"I just want you to know that I love your mother and sisters, and now, my grandchildren, more than I ever thought was possible for one man to love anyone. They are my life. I am now a complete man. Yes, I wish you could have also been a part of my...of our life, but I do understand why you couldn't. I...I just wanted you to know that." The old gentleman turned his eyes back to his fishing.

Iolaus then turned to face Simonides. "Yes, Simonides, I know that. I've never doubted your love for them, or their love for you. I've seen it with my own eyes. You are all so happy." The warrior then turned back to his fishing. "Herc has told me more than once how hard-headed I am, and I'm afraid it's that same hard-headedness that kept me from maybe knowing just what a real family was like." He shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, well, it's past history, now. I'm just glad you and Mom and the girls have all been so happy, and I'm happy with my life, too. I guess you could say everything's worked out well. I'm glad for that."

Simonides was turning to answer Iolaus' comments, when his cork suddenly bobbed once, and then went under the water with a vengeance, bowing the pole in Simonides' hands. "Iolaus, look!" he cried, and he gave his pole a mighty jerk and jumped to his feet.

Completely forgetting his own pole, Iolaus also jumped to his feet, and shouted encouragement. "Come on, Simonides, you've got him! Just keep the line taut. Boy, he's a fighter!"

The pole bowed deeply, and the line swished violently back and forth in the water. Simonides had to take a little step forward, the fish was putting up such a fight. Iolaus quickly grabbed onto the pole to help his stepfather, and the two men stood there together, the younger man's hands over those of the older man--working in unison as they struggled to bring in Simonides' first-ever fish.

And bring him in they did. Slowly, but surely, the fish tired and the two fishermen drew him in. When he cleared the water, and the two men could see him for the first time clearly, they exclaimed in unison, "Look at that!" It was a huge fish.

Iolaus was laughing with excitement and pleasure as the pulled the hook from the fish, then held it up by its gills to show it off to his companion. "No one's going to believe that this is your first catch, Simonides. This is a beaut! We can even go on home, now, 'cause this fish will feed all of us tonight, just by itself!" Still laughing and holding up the fish, Iolaus unconsciously put his arm around the older man's shoulders.

The warrior didn't see the tears that came to his stepfather's eyes, but he felt them in the emotion of the tight embrace Simonides gave him, and he heard them in the man's voice as he softly said, "Thank you, Iolaus."

Slowly, Iolaus lowered the fish, and clasped his stepfather closely as he returned the embrace. They stood there in the beauty of the moment, surrounded by the peacefulness of the little pond known as Floundaria. Eventually, Iolaus stepped back, and with his own eyes glistening with tears, looked up into the face of his stepfather. "You know, Simonides, my father never called me 'son'. Oh, I'd hear him tell his buddies that I was his son, but it was always just a phrase meaning ownership, like his dog, or his barn, and he always sounded embarrassed when he said it. All he ever called me to my face was 'boy', or 'crybaby'. He couldn't even bring himself to call me by my name. When you say 'son', it sounds good. it's okay if you want to call me that again sometime. I...I think I like it."

Simonides blessed Iolaus with a smile that came from deep inside his heart. He put his hands on the warrior's shoulders, and said, "And I shall say it, often, with pride and genuine affection. Now, ...Son..., let's bag up our fish and take them home to your mother. I can't wait to see the expression on her face when she sees what this old city boy did on his very first fishing trip. Just the first trip of many, I hope."

Iolaus grinned. "Oh, it will be, I assure you."

So, two men, carrying two fishing poles and a sack containing two fish, walked away from what would always be a very special place to them, the small fishing hole called Floundaria.

EPILOGUE

It was a large crowd that gathered in the Odeion for this day of poetry reading. It was the regular crowd of academicians and poets and other writers and artists and their families, so they quickly took note of a stranger in their midst. He came with Simonides and his family. He looked quite out of place, and a bit self-conscious, as he sat with Simonides' beautiful wife and two lovely daughters and their families. Whoever he was, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy having Simonides' young grandchildren climbing all over him. There was much whispering and discreet pointing as the regular crowd wondered who the stranger could be. All speculation ceased, however, as the poets filed up to the stage, to present their most recent works.

There were poems of love and love lost, of heroism and treachery, lyric songs and vehement diatribes. Most of the poetry was beautiful; some was tedious. Each poet's efforts was answered by polite applause.

Simonides was the last poet to come to the podium. The regular spectators discerned a different light in the poet's eyes, and a brightness in his whole demeanor. They were especially anxious to hear what would come from the man who was one the most popular and learned poets of their great city. This is what Simonides of Athens gave to the listeners on this special day:

"Another Man's Son"

He stood there--
defiant, independent,
and hurting.

I stood there, also--
yearning to reach out to him,
but not knowing how.

He was a youth who needed a father;
I, a man who wanted a son.

Alone, he had cared for his mother and younger sisters,
the responsibility heavy
for such young shoulders.
Yet he never complained,
or bent under the weight.

His amazing knowledge of forest and stream
kept food on the table;
the wolf away from the door.

He was the man of the house,
hard at the work of an absent father,
instead of the play of a boy.

His life had made him strong,
loving, and capable.

Then, I came along.

In just a few short weeks,
I turned his world upside down.
For I fell in love with his mother,
and, gloriously,
she with me.

She was gentle, kind, and loving,
soft, beautiful, and strong.
When she agreed to wed me,
I was overcome with joy.

I had never dared dream of finding
such a treasure as this;
a family to love with all my being,
her children to become mine.

The girls were little more than babies,
and accepted me with open arms
and hearts.

But the boy viewed me as an enemy,
a usurper taking from him
all he knew and loved.
He would not let me call him my son,
because I could never be his true father.

His mother told me of his young life,
of growing up knowing ridicule, criticism,
and abuse,
But never the love of the father he tried so hard to please.

I grew to hate this man I'd never met,
the man who had been given such a blessing
and would never realize what he had given up.
Yet, my hating his dead father
was of no help to the scarred soul of the boy.

He was adult enough to recognize my love
for his family, and the more comfortable life
I wanted to give them,
But he was still child enough
to resent and fear
this unsettling of his world.

It broke his mother's heart
to leave her beloved son behind,
But he could not abandon all he knew
to live in another man's home.
He was almost a man himself,
and not to be forced to come with us.
We knew he'd be watched over
by dear and loving friends,
But the pain was still great,
as we pulled away from the old life
and the boy.

Years passed,
and we all grew.

The boy became a man;
and the brave friend and partner of
the mightiest hero of our land.

I swell with pride
to recount the exploits
of the great Hercules
and his companion against evil.

Of Iolaus, the man
whom I had so wished
could call me father,
and would let me call "son."

I became grandfather
to the beautiful children of my daughters,
who love me as their father
and husband of their wonderful mother,
The woman who made me complete.

My life has been so full,
abounding in love and compassion
from a family for which I praise the gods,

But, there was still one thing
that would always bring
deep pain and regret--
Remembering the boy who needed a father,
when I so wanted him to be my son.

We met again, just short days ago,
the boy become warrior and hero,
the man become teacher and poet.

We talked, heart to heart,
and revealed to each other
our feelings for our present lives
and the lives of our pasts.

We came to understand and accept
each other's wishes
and experiences,
And how they had shaped our lives;
for the bad and the good choices
we each had made.

I came to know the heart of this man
I wanted to call my son,
And he began to learn more of me,
and to realize how much he'd ached
for the love of a father.

And we came together,
the man and the grandfather,
the warrior and the teacher,
the hero and the poet,

For, you see, yesterday
my son taught me to fish.

The crowd rose to its feet, to give ovation to Simonides and this poem like no other they'd heard from him. Those sitting next to his family were the only ones who noticed his wife's and daughters' tears as they embraced the stranger who was sitting with them. There were tears in the stranger's eyes when he made his way to the stage and Simonides. The two men grasped each other's hands tightly when they were finally able to reach each other. One of the crowd walked up to Simonides, and asked him who his guest was. The stranger was the one who answered.

Iolaus turned to face the poet, and said, "Simonides is my father.."

END

Disclaimer: No intentional harm was meant to the literary world for the above abomination passing for a poem. You are asked to please engage your imaginations, and read it as such.

Go on to the next story in the challenge.


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