LEST WE FORGET (fiction)
I did not notice him at first sitting there on the bank half hidden by the sweet ferns and alders. He was a young man, certainly not more than in his late teens. I thought it curious that his equipment looked much older. He wore canvas waders and over his shoulder was a wicker creel. His rod was bamboo and much longer than I was accustomed to seeing. He wore a broad brimmed hat and the hat band was festooned with flies, but the patterns were not ones with which I was familiar.
"Excuse me," I said. "I'm sorry if I waded into your water."
"That's OK; I am done fishing for now. I need to be headed for home but I was just trying to soak up as much of this place as possible. I wouldn't be back here soon. I don't mind company if you want to sit a spell."
I settled down on the bank next to him. He reached in his pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes; Camels, the short unfiltered kind that I had not seen since I was a kid.
"Smoke," he said holding out the pack.
"No thanks," I said, "never acquired the habit."
He shook out a cigarette, reached down inside his waders and fished out a Zippo lighter, tapped the butt of his cigarette several times on the side of the lighter, flipped back the lid and flicked the wheel. Lighting the cigarette he inhaled deeply and settled back into the grass.
"Going on a trip?" I inquired.
"You might say that. I'm shipping out tomorrow for Germany."
"I've heard they have some good fishing over there," I said.
He stared at me like I had just said a cuss word.
"Don't think I will have much time for fishing. There's a war to win."
War, what war I thought? Maybe Iraq or Afghanistan.
"I'm going to miss this place. I have taken lots of nice brookies from this pool. This time of the year they really like a cowdung or an alder. I generally fish the cowdung on the stretcher and the alder farther up."
Brookies! I had never seen a brook trout in this water, and no one that I knew used any of those flies that he was talking about. He finished up his cigarette and flicked the butt out into the stream.
"Well, I have to be going. There's a nice fish under that bank over there. I raised him earlier but I missed him. Perhaps he will come again if you give him a try." He pulled himself upright and turned to leave.
"Didn't catch your name," I said.
"Malone, Private Andy Malone."
"Nice to meet you Private Malone," I said. "Hope to see you again. I'll leave a few big ones for you when you get back."
A wistful smile flickered across his lips and he turned and walked off down the trail. I thought he seemed to disappear rather quickly but my attention was distracted by a heavy fish rising against the far bank.
Later I stopped at the small country store in the little town near the stream where I often stopped when I was fishing in this area. The owner was an older gentleman and I anticipated that he might know the young man that I had met on the stream.
"Do you know a young man by the name of Andy Malone? I met him on the stream today. He's a soldier home on leave. Said something about shipping out today for German."
The old man cocked his head and looked at me in the most curious manner.
"Are you sure he said his name was Andy Malone?"
"Positive. We set together on the stream bank and he talked about catching brookies which I thought was strange. I don't believe I've ever seen a brook trout in that stream."
"Well, there was a Malone family here back in the 40's, lived in a big old farm house down where they put the new highway a few years ago. They had a boy named Andy but he died in the war."
"World War II, I seem to remember that he died just before the end of the war somewhere in Germany. That's why I asked if you were certain about his name, because if you saw the Andy Malone that lived around here you were talking to a ghost, in fact I think he was buried in the old cemetery just above the river."
A short time later I pulled into the cemetery and parking my car I got out and started wandering though the headstones that marked the final resting place of the deceased members of this little rural town. The cemetery was situated on a hill and had a commanding view of valley and the stream that ran through it. Near the top of the hill under a large spreading maple tree I stopped by a small unobtrusive grave marker nearly overgrown with the luxuriant grass of early summer. Pushing aside the grass I read the inscription – Private Andrew Malone – 1927 -1945 – Rest In Peace.