I Have a Fishing Magazine in my Toolbox by Mark Usyk

The living room floor's a battle field. Green army men and tan army men stand toe to toe, rifles trained on each other, the wounded and the dead lie everywhere. For a short while it looked as though the tans would prevail against stacked odds, but then there was a swing in morale as a green sharp shooter lowered their numbers one by one from a hidden position in a pile of Lincoln Logs. The tans were in retreat, victory looked all but certain... Then the Lego ninjas showed up. Like tornados sweeping out across a prairie the Lego Ninjas laid all before them to waste, no mercy was given. Bodies lie everywhere. Hard plastic jabs into the underside of my foot as I step though the carnage. Grimacing in pain I stumble and little plastic soldiers are scattered, sliding under the couch to become MIA until the next time the vacuum is run. I mutter under my breath. Moments ago Carter asked if he could play Lego Star Wars on the PlayStation and I told him he needed to clean up the army men first. He's now in his bed room crying because he didn't see why he needed to pick them up. "There's too many! I'll never be done! It's not fair! You hate me!" I've heard this before. He'll work it out in his room, reappear with red eyes and pick up his toys. He's 6.


I retreat from the battle to my bathroom downstairs. I grab a magazine from a stack and flip through the pages for the next ten minutes, a 6 year old wailing in the background about picking up toys. Life is unfair. He thinks he's knows, but he has no idea, he's 6. The magazine takes me to the salt flats of some far off Caribbean island and images of Permit and Bone Fish turn the upset child into white noise in the background. I wish I could somehow find my way to a salt flat in the near future but it's nothing but a dream at this point. Life is too hectic, I don't have the vacation time at work. Money is always less than it needs to be. Yea, Carter's right, it's not fair. But at least I have fishing magazines in the bathroom, life could be worse.

Later after the boys are in bed and Holly's on the couch watching some show I have no interest in, I realize that the midnight shift is approaching fast. I've got just enough time to make a sandwich, gather up all the trash and get it out to the curb, and Holly reminds me that it's snowing. It'd be nice if I shoveled the drive way before I left so it wasn't so bad in the morning she says. I make my sandwich. I put the trash out to the curb, trying to balance the cans on the built up ridge of dirty snow left at the end of the drive way by the plows during the day. I survey the scene. Yea, I should shovel. But I've got 4 wheel drive. I can blast through and shovel in the morning when I get home before she leaves for work.


Back in my room upstairs surrounded by fly tying paraphernalia and fishing books and magazines I'm leaned back on the couch with my feet on the coffee table. My laptop is there, opened and ready, I know I have stories to finish, and a book that's been two years in the making still not done. But I'm just not feeling it. I grab a magazine from a pile on the floor and flip through an article on a Pike trip to northern Canada. I hear Holly's voice in the back ground, something about the drive way. I study a picture of a huge 40+ inch Pike with a mangled streamer hanging off it's jaw and utter a low "Uh huh" to whatever it was she said. She'll find in the morning that she also has 4 wheel drive, and most likely, she'll be using it to get out of the driveway. I have fishing magazines in my room.

The midnight shift drags on through the early morning. For an hour I'll have nothing to do, plagued by boredom until suddenly I get a call to three different broken down machines all at once. Grease, grit, puddles of hydraulic fluid and broken off bolts, it's one of those nights, or since it's 2am, I guess it's one of those mornings. I finally get caught up, there's time to breath, the building is a buzz of loud rackets, the machines sounding as well tuned as a bunch of buckets full of rocks rolling down a hill, but they're running none the less. I'm thinking about summer, about casting a popper to the lily pads on the family farm and the huge Bass I got on the 7wt as I plunk my second quarter into the coffee machine. Before I can hit all the buttons the page tone on the loud speaker goes off again, and I hear once more "Maintenance man to the Orbit Saws." Damn. Those saws are the last things you want to get called to for anything, much less a break down. That end of the building, those machines set in place back in 1962, it's the darkest, greasiest, most wore out and blatantly unmaintained corner of the entire plant. It's where old machines and young men go to die. It's like Grandma's house...It's dark, and it smells funny.


As the coffee machine fills the paper cup I think in my head what tools I might need for the possibilities of what could be broken. I walk back to my tool box and set a white paper cup of steaming hot coffee covered in dirty finger prints on the top of the box. I shake my head and scowl, I don't want to go get elbow deep in these greasy contraptions. I'm just not feeling it, I've got three hours to go, but in my head I've already clocked out. I open a drawer. Yea, I have a fishing magazine in my tool box.