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Thunder Pie | A Dark Hole In The Forest Full Of Bluegills

I just stand there cursing out loud, firing my machine gun into the air, shooting bug spray into my eyeballs.

“I have liked remembering almost as much as I have liked living.”
— William Maxwell

The blue is backed by blue then backed by blue. Above the mountain lake another mountain lake, but upside down and called a sky. Piper sits on the edge of the dock where people launch their canoes and their kayaks and he looks down at the sunfish in the deep clear water and they see him. They must. It matters little though. If the freshly torn hunk of gas station nightcrawler slips down at just the right speed, at just the right time: a fish could inhale. Even if it knows that there is something awkward about the whole scene. Even if it knows that this bit of possible food might be a front/ a hoax/ a sham/ a scam.

I am sprayed with Deep Woods OFF!. I smell of those chemicals so that bugs ignore me, but in a moment standing there at the lake, by the parking lot, I have this realization that I have come to associate the odor of this bug spray with peaceful things/ beautiful things. I don’t know what ingredients they put in that stuff. Not much of it is organic or anything like that, I’m sure. They don’t sell a lot of organic shit where I shop. In Walmart. That place doesn’t deal in too many ‘safe’ alternatives to keeping bugs off of your ass, and if it does at all, I don’t know about it. Because I don’t really care. I buy this one. Deep Woods OFF!. Because it reminds me of days like this. Days like today, me and Piper and Henry, just the three of us, spread out here by the boat launch/ fishing/ looking/ breathing easy/ unaffected by the whole world out there fucking shit up.

It’s probably poison, the bug spray. Maybe- over time- it causes tumors or makes your wang into a sad wet noodle. So what? So does everything. Car exhaust. Air conditioning. Jet chem trails misting down on you disguised as midnight dew. All around me, all the time, the embers of death barely glowing, but glowing nonetheless. I spray myself down with the OFF! and it smells like summertime, like sunscreen lake sand blazing hot afternoon-ness/ ocean beach/ amusement park/ baseball game/ backyard bbq/ fire pit cologne. I douse myself in it because I know that somewhere out there there is someone chomping at the bit to talk down to me about how dangerous this spray really is. And I’m over it. I’m over all the people talking. All the people filling me in on what they have learned.

Go to hell, all of ya’s, I think to myself. I look at Henry out there in the high grass, throwing a spinnerbait, hoping for a bass. Elysian Fields. Humanless but for us. I lift the can of toxic as fuck bug spray from Walmart and I stare at it a second and then I lift it to my face and open my mouth and I pop down on the button with my trigger finger.

The taste is massive.

Like a hook in the jaw, dog.


What inspires the sky to move like it does? To be azure one day and gun metal the next? There are so many questions I will never get answered. It’s okay, I guess. The science behind firmament temperaments and all that is fascinating, I’m sure, but my goddamn cup is full, you know? I don’t have any more space, I don’t think, up in my skull. Up in my brain. Even now, I’m sloshing around in the gravy tipping out of my boat. Every time I swing to catch the door closing at Sheetz/ every time I bend to tip gas into the mower/ turn with the quickness to see myself in the reflective glass/ slip into my car seat/ or roll over in the cool night sheets: I spill things I was trying to hold onto.

My scissor-cut Dickies shorts are stained with piss dribble and hot sauce, but also with bird-shitty splotches of things that, up until yesterday or whatever, they lived up in my mind. In my memories. Like postcards or index cards magnet’d to the fridge, (some old, some fresh) eventually now, they just all seem to overflow down out of my head as if it were some partially crushed red solo cup of root beer in the sticky booger hands of a 3-year-old punk.

There comes a time when you need to just let that shit go. When you must understand that you aren’t ever going to be the one that knows the ins-and-outs of why the sky is the color it is. It just is, baby.

It’s just blue, blue, blue. Or black, black, black. Or purple, purple, purple, violet, stink bug silvertone.

Nothing to do with God. Nothing to do with anything any man or woman ever said or theorized.

The fucking sky turns over and over, it appears to me, like a pig on a spit.

The eyes now. Then the eyes gone. The crotch now/ then the crotch gone. A slow spin for the ages/ a demonstration of fate, if you will, in which even the dumbest thickest stupidest sons-a-bitches out there can figure out that what is natural is also hard to swallow.

Hard to reckon with. Hard to understand or maybe even accept. But accept we must, as the day winds down again. Same as yesterday. Same as all them yesterdays.

Corn kernel chunk of nightcrawler disappearing down into the crystal clear lake. In the shadow of the dock.

That’s all me and you are.

And the sky is just the water and the worm is the cold witchy moon.

No one is catching much at first. We are rusty. The reels have old Trilene on them and even though I have been storing them in the dark coolish summer kitchen, something has frayed the mono. I notice my reel has a big bird’s tangle as soon as I lob a bobber. I sigh/ feel dejected. I want to punch a motherfucker in the side of the head when I get to being so excited about fishing and then I get a bird’s nest. Or whenever I chuck a nice $8 Jitter Bug lure straight into a weeping willow. It isn’t right. It isn’t just at all. I should never have to be so effervescent /standing on the side of a thin cold stream/ trout rising to flies/ only to have my nymphs snag up in the branches of some motherfucker maple tree on my third cast.

It makes me hate fishing sometimes.

As much as I love fishing with all of my heart, sometimes I want to burn it all down with a flame-thrower. Sometimes I tie a Zara Spook on real good and tight with an improved double clinch knot and then my heart is pounding so fast because I know that this could mean an explosive burst of a strike from a big-ass largemouth just sitting out there in the shadows of the lily pads waiting to knock the shit out of some kind of lame wounded minnow/ and then I ease her back to cast her/ all fluid like/ one perpetual fisherman motion/ sidearm/ nice and easy now, homeboy/ the weight of the lure and the pull of it’s motion, it’s like a bullet in the gun/ it’s like edging in the bedroom/ you either got it or you don’t, but if you do then you know what to do and when and how even if you want to live in that moment of balance for fucking ever.

Then I close my eyes and I grind my teeth and I feel my chest pounding and make a tiny inaudible grunt and I release.

But what should feel tight goes limp as I watch, in utter disbelief, as the lure slides across the sky like a comet to a point so far away that it’s slight splash landing miles away on the lake appear no different than starling turds splashing down on the glassy surface. The lure is off the line. Forever.

I just stand there cursing out loud, firing my machine gun into the air, shooting bug spray into my eyeballs.

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Serge Bielanko lives in small-town Pennsylvania with an amazing wife who’s out of his league and a passel of exceptional kids who still love him even when he’s a lot. Every week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War and whatever else is rattling around his noggin. Once in a blue Muskie Moon, he backs away from the computer, straps on a guitar and plays some rock ’n’ roll with his brother Dave and their bandmates in Marah