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Breaking Strength

Kathryn M. Arbour

For a minute, I feel as carefree as that woman in the park, the one in cutoffs and barefoot, fly rod in hand, lawn chair boundaries set up around her, casting off again and again. She swings the bamboo pole sideways, just beyond the normal reach of shoulder, trains the long filament in the arc she is perfecting. Back cast, forward cast, roll cast, the fancy false cast. Yesterday, she crouched over a basket of bobbins, tied blood knots, arbor knots, clinch knots, wind knots, while a teacher stood nearby using only empty hands, arms and legs to show a body in motion on a river. I hope the woman wears the vest tomorrow, packed with ants, grasshoppers, feathers and spools. And waders, with layers of blue batting around her feet—a freestone river—where she can practice the bob and weave of pushing against the icy rush of snow melt. Later, when I stand in my own rush, in the split second of wanting to outrun the waters swelling around me, I’ll find the eddy and remember that woman’s stance, her hand on the grip, the delivery of her line to its target, ready to reel in the rise. I’ll hope to have calculated my breaking strength right as I go for the biggest prize I can land.

A New England native, Kathryn lives and writes in Denver, Colorado, where kids and grandkids live just a stone’s throw away. Her work has appeared in Peregrine, Pacific Coast Journal, New Virginia Review, Confluence, and Black Buzzard Review.