Sheepshead in Ernest

Sheepshead in Ernest

In Florida on vacation, 

our kids pranced on an old pier,

fishing poles in hand.

“Maybe we’ll snag some Whiting!

None of us caught anything.

We tried up and down the pier

in all the deepest parts, 

never the shallow end.

Came a hearty, old man, faded overalls,

a once white, dirty t-shirt,

long, silver, greasy hair,

a big burlap bag over his shoulder.

The old man went straight to the first pylon, 

poured out some fish bait

from the bag he placed on the pier,

pulled out a rope with a hook on the end.

Below, crystal clear water.

Stuck a piece of fish on the hook,

dropped the rope down 

the side of the pylon.

Snap, an immediate lurch.

Dragged up a big, beautiful

black and white striped fish,

wiggled as he threw it in the bag.

Another piece of bait on the hook,

another huge fish lashing the pole,

into the bag, into the bag,

fish after flopping fish. 

Everyone stopped fishing. 

Someone whispered: 

“Look at that!”

“What kind of fish is that?”

Only one among us knew

about the strange fish. 

“Them’s sheepsheads.

Good eatin’.”

Into the bag, 

into the bag, 

as if he were alone,

the old man did not look at us.

He only saw the fish

and the expanding bag,

flopping around on the pier

beside his holey shoes.

He stopped,

his bait gone, 

swung the wriggling,

bulging bag onto his old shoulders.

A Hemingway look-alike,

conqueror of the sea, 

he strode away,

an old man headed for a sale.

Vern Fein

Vern Fein is a career special education teacher who decided to write fiction after he retired, but wrote a few poems also and now has over seventy poems published in a variety of venues like *82 Review, The Literary Nest, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, Ibis Head Review, Former People, 500 Miles, and The Write Launch, and has non-fiction pieces in Quail Bell, The Write Place at the Write Time, and Adelaide, plus a short story in the online magazine Duende from Goddard College.

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