CBA Record January-February 2024

The Heron By Tom Keevers

He headed down to the lake as the low ering sun neared the tops of the Norway Pines along the shore, the green of their peaks luminous in the dying light. He’d tied on an imitation grasshopper. There was a short pier below the cabin, and about this time, when the wind gave up and the surface lay calm as ice, he could usually pick up a few largemouth bass cruising the shore. He was hoping she’d be there, but as he came onto the margin of sand and stopped to pull off some line before stepping onto the pier, he checked himself. He hadn’t seen her since last fall. So much happens in a winter, cruel things you can’t control. Don’t do it, he thought. Don’t fill yourself full of hope, expecting things, always dis appointing yourself. It’s the little things, the little, nice things that get you when they don’t happen. From the pier he made a few false casts, working out some distance of fly line, then let the grasshopper settle gently onto the water— naturally, as if the wind or some fatal miscalculation had brought it there. He waited until the watery circles around it disappeared, then twitched it. He didn’t really know the bird was a she, but he liked to think of it that way—she had come up behind him on an evening just like this one, early last summer, an immature great blue heron, and stood fishing at the edge of the pier while he fished also, and on an impulse when he’d caught a small sunfish, he tossed it to her. After that, whenever he’d come down to the pier to fish she would come, just appear from nowhere and stand and wait for a meal. Elaine would come down sometimes and tease him that he’d found a mistress. Sometimes it had worried him—was he teaching her bad habits? Might she lose her wild ways? It’s not Death with a capital D that gets you, he thought; it’s the little things. So many little things that add up to what you are. Standing in the Louvre in a little knot of strangers looking at the Mona Lisa,

some of them couples with their heads leaning together, and you could just as well be a post there among them. Elaine had always wanted to go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa, but she never made it, and somehow, he’d thought he was doing it for her; it had been a mis take. Little things. Going to the phone when your flight’s been cancelled to let someone know you won’t be back on time, then suddenly realizing there’s no one to call. Whether you get back tonight or tomorrow or never, it makes no differ ence to anyone. Or driving all day to get to the cabin so you can get away from the emptiness of the house, then smelling the stale emptiness that rushes out at you the second you open the door. It occurred to him, as he went through the motions of fly casting, repeatedly set tling the grasshopper onto the quiet sur face of the lake, how skilled his casting had become. And it occurred to him how silly, how pointless it all was. He hooked a small fish then, raising the rod tip, reeled it in and unhooked it, and he held it in his hand, feeling that awful element rise in his throat, starting his chin to tremble. He laid his fly rod down on the pier. What was the purpose of this, he thought; what was the use? He didn’t know what made him turn around, but when he did, she was stand

ing there in the shallow water, tall as his chest and incredibly beautiful in the liquid gold of the low sun. She stood sideways to him, holding her head high, her graceful neck s-curving down to her blue-gray body, taller even than last year, her long slender legs joined to her mirror image in the water. He chucked the fish onto the beach. Holding her wings out a little, she went to it quickly as it flip-flopped toward the water. Her head darting almost faster than you could see, she snatched the fish, held it sideways in her long bill, then tossed it, straightened it, and swallowed it whole. Then she turned and waded back into the water, stepping slowly, high step ping, moving closer to him this time. He watched her come. Then he picked up the fly rod and stripped some line from the reel and started casting again, laying the grass hopper out onto the quiet water, hoping.

While working as a Chi cago police officer, Keev ers attended The John Marshall Law School, and on graduation practiced law in Cook County from 1972 to 2020 (mainly in torts and probate law); The Heron was inspired by a true-life experience.


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