I want to eat barbecue on my deathbed. More specifically, I would like to eat brisket. Despite being located in the South, decent barbecue eludes me in Florida—especially in the Keys. As I stand waist deep in the salt flats of the backcountry casting my line about, I think about the unctuous taste of fatty brisket.Perhaps I’ll get a bonefish today or possibly a permit, but I’m not optimistic. I haven’t been optimistic for seven years.
That boy loved barbecue. I remember when I took him to a little shack a few miles outside of Tuscaloosa. The old woman heaped a pile of steaming brisket onto the scale and then she looked at him with an inquisitive gaze.
“More,” he said.
He was twelve, and I remember it like it was yesterday. He devoured the brisket and most of my ribs, but I didn’t really care as long as I got at least one. A large piece of tan butcher paper was spread in front of us on the weathered picnic table. I watched that boy suck every piece of meat off of those bones. I held up a piece of brisket and explained to him what the bark was. I pointed to the blackened burnt end, showed him the red smoke line, and smiled.
“This is the good stuff, son.”
He didn’t care much for the white sauce. I guess he didn’t like the black pepper. And he never cared much for fishing. Of course, I didn’t really start fishing until I moved to Islamorada.
I loved that boy more than life itself. When he ate barbecue that day, I saw that scintilla of jubilance in him. I saw how he wanted to suck the marrow out of life. As he grew older, I saw how he feasted on life in ways that maybe he shouldn’t.
“I love you, dad,” he said as he looked up from the feast.
I could fish these waters for the rest of my life and never, ever gain the satisfaction I had when that boy told me he loved me. I never wanted him to stop saying it, and even on his worst days, he still said it to me.
“I love you too, son. Very much,” I would always reply.
These aged, tired hands struggle to hold the rod as I cast into the twilight. I wish they felt like they did when I held him. I held him in the beginning, and I held him at the end.
I figured that when I moved down here that the memories of Alabama would dissipate and I wouldn’t have to contemplate the loss. I thought that the distance would make my heart hurt less. Yet, as the sun fades into the horizon, and my line remains relaxed and somewhat disconnected from the wooden pole I hold in my hand, I can’t help but let my mind drift. I recollect a hot summer day in Alabama, and I yearn for more.
Boris Jenkins is a former bartender, English teacher, and professor. Boris has a PhD in Education from Oklahoma State University. He quit his career in academia to become a full-time writer. It was probably a mid-life crisis, but either way he’s writing every day and loving it. Boris has written a novel that is currently on Amazon and he’s working on another. Boris lives at 8,000 feet in Evergreen, Colorado.