Down at Ocean Park, in Oak Bluffs, on Martha's Vineyard, a small island, off Cape Cod, MA, stood the cement pond. Actually, there were two kidney-shaped ponds, separated by a concrete dam. The south pond was always dry.
"It leaked," my Dad told me. "And they never could figure out how to plug it."
Ocean Park was the perfect place for kids to play. It was a big rolling sea of green, dotted by a few trees and some protruding boulders, which had been painted white. Your average toddler could run all-out for ten minutes and not get out of sight of their parents.
The pond was one of our favorite places to play. Boats were sailed there and rocks skipped, but no swimming. For one thing, it was shallow. More important, we didn't want the deadly piranhas to get us! Hey, when you're five and the "older" kids tell you something, you believe it.
I always felt sorry for the little cherub, standing in the middle of the pond, with the jar. Like the leaky pond, they never could get him to work. He looked so sad, standing there, with nothing to do.
One day, my buddy Reed and I decided we'd go fishing, in that old cement pond. He got his bamboo pole. It was taller than the two of us put together. We were real young! Off we went, proud and determined, as young men going into battle: out the back door of our cottage, through the Campgrounds, across Circuit Ave, and into the park. Did I mention we hadn't told anyone where we were going.
Yeah, a different era!
It was only then we realized we had no bait. No matter, we'd improvise. Reed nobly offered his shirt. Tying it to the line, we tossed it in, and waited.
My Dad had told me, "A good fisherman knows patience."
Yeah, this is why there are so few five-year-old fishermen!
When a bite was not forthcoming, in what we deemed a reasonable timeframe, we altered out technique. Laying the pole across the concrete dam so it pointed toward the water, we threw, the shirt Reed was wearing, into the pond. Now, the question was, how long to wait for a nibble? Oh well, that was easy. I stood on the pole, to prevent it getting pulled in, and Reed took off! Fast as his little legs could carry him, he ran. He raced all the way around the pond and back to me. We hauled the shirt in, wrung it out and checked for bite marks.
Nothing, we couldn't find a nibble.
Seems the piranhas didn't care for a cotton blend shirt.
We stayed most of the afternoon, not bored for once single second. When at last, we heard the church steeple chimes. We knew it was dinner time. The bells rang, just that reason. One last wring and Reed put on his shirt. We tramped home. Sitting down to dinner, my face sweaty and my feet black with filth, yet, my hands were washed, I was famished.
My Mom asked, "What'd you do today?"
"Went fishing with Reed," was my reply.
"Catch anything?" she asked.
"I got a big one," I said, but gave it to Reed."
Mom smiled. "That's nice."
Years later, I returned with my girlfriend Jo Ann. Same park, save one thing: the old dry pond had been filled in and turned into a flowerbed. They never could plug that leak! The flower bed was pretty, but I felt a sense of loss.
Yet, there was one bright spot. The little cherub, they'd finally gotten him to work. Standing at the water's edge, staying well back, in case the piranhas were hungry, I watched the water trickle from his jar. I couldn't swear to it, but it looked to me as if he was smiling.
Click here for more by AJ Robinson.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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