This weekend I was consulting myself at a local pond. The sun was particularly angry. The fish were curious.
After half an hour, standing on the same shore upon which I've stood for eight years, I spotted a brown-haired little boy walking towards me, staring intensely. He stops a few feet away and inquires as to my opinion of Ninja Turtles.
"They're pretty cool." I was partially baffled, partially amused.
"This one's Raphael..." He trailed off, spotting an elderly woman walking her dog. He rushed off to display his action figure.
Later he stood by me and watched, asking questions and occasionally demanding to know why I wasn't catching anything. He had the affect of a first-grader; I wondered if he had mental handicaps or just the speech impediment.
"So you put the pretend fish on your line and bring it in and the real fish come up to it and they eat it?"
"I have a fishing pole, but my mom, she won't let me fish."
He attacked me with questions about everything from my rod and reel to the Redwing Blackbirds that were perched nearby. Eventually I hooked a little bass and raised it out of the water so he could see.
"I've never caught a real fish, only tadpoles. What kind of fish is that? It's bigger than tadpoles."
"It's a bass."
Tommy ran to his house to retrieve his two-foot-long purple Scooby-Doo rod and reel which he had never used before.
"I've never fished, so you have to show me how to fish, can you show me?"
After ten minutes of casting instruction he was still sword-slashing with his rod and making "ninja attack" noises every time he slammed his lure into the water by his feet. I figured he was content just to be talking to someone and wasn't very concerned about catching fish. I resumed fishing and left him to his own devices.
"My dad, he got sick from smoking cigarettes."
" 'Sokay. I want to be with him, but I can't when he's in the hospital."
He looked at me in his bewildered, uncomprehending way and I understood why he had been talking to a stranger for two hours. He asked me more questions, and I answered.