They fished in silence for an hour, standing close together on the beach. The sun set over the sea, flooding the sky with an orange glow. David looked up and down the coast in the fading light. They had the beach to themselves.
"You get any bites?"
Sam shook his head. "No, not yet."
In twenty minutes the sun had gone, and David and watched the white foam on the tops of the small waves shining in the moonlight as they came into the shore. He felt cold. "I'm going to make a fire," he said.
He reeled in his line and walked to their fishing bags and put down his rod. He went up to the high water mark, just below the dunes, to gather driftwood. He prepared a pile of wood on the sand to start a fire, but had nothing to light it with. He shivered, and walked back to Sam.
"Any bites?" he asked.
"I think I got one," said Sam, "just a minute ago."
"Maybe he stole your bait."
"Hey, you got a light?" said David. "I don't have anything to start a fire." He knew Sam smoked, though he tried to keep it a secret from their mother. That meant he tried to hide it from David too.
"Yeah, I do. I thought we might want to make a fire."
David smiled. Sure you did.
Sam started winding in his line. "I'll come with you," he said. "I'm sick of standing here, catching nothing."
When he'd reeled his line in, he showed David the bare hook.
David nodded. They walked together to their fishing bags. Sam put his rod beside David's, and they walked over to the pile of driftwood nearby. Sam lit the dried-out seaweed and grass David had stuffed amongst the smaller pieces of wood. In a few minutes the fire was burning well. They sat as close as they could to the fire without burning the hairs on their legs. Neither of them spoke as they stared into the flames. The fire snapped and crackled. The waves dropping on the shoreline made a constant, beating sound.
Sam spoke first. "Do you have a problem?"
David smiled. Sam was always blunt; never the diplomat. "No, I'm just cold; and, I don't actually like fishing all that much."
Sam shrugged. "Me neither."
"I never fish, actually, except on these trips with you."
Sam nodded. "We used to love fishing, when we were boys, when Dad would take us. We had a lot of fun then, didn't we?"
David laughed at the memory. "Yeah."
Sam reached behind him for a piece of wood and placed it on the fire. Bright sparks jumped up into the smoke and then fizzled out high in the air. "I guess it was Dad who really liked to fish," he said.
"You really think so?" said David. He turned from the fire to study his younger brother's face. "Did you know he never went fishing by himself, after we'd both left home?"
Sam turned and looked David in the eye. "You sure? He used to talk about it."
"He talked a lot," said David, "but he never went. I asked Mum. She said he only ever fished with us. He never even went fishing before we were born. He only bought the gear when I was four or five."
"That's weird. Dad did do some weird things, didn't he?"
"Hey," said Sam, "how old's your little boy now?"
"Frank? He'll be five in a few months."
"You gonna take him fishing, like Dad took us?"
David thought for a moment, staring into the fire. "Yes," he said, turning back to Sam. "I think I will."
"That's good. If I had a kid, I'd take him fishing."
David didn't reply to that.
Sam spoke again. "Do you want to keep doing this; our once-a-year fishing trip?"
"We promised Dad."
"I know," said Sam. "Why did he make us promise, anyway? We don't even like fishing. We haven't caught a thing in years."
"Yeah, but we promised."
"You're right." Sam poked at the fire with a stick. "We'll keep doing it, then."
They drifted into silence again. They stared into the flames, poking at it with sticks, and throwing things into it. David said, "You wanna pack it in?"
"Sure, it's getting real cold now."
They put out the fire with sea water, fetched with the buckets that were meant to hold their catch. They walked slowly together up the beach to their cars. They packed away their gear, then shook hands. David reached forward and hugged his brother, awkwardly. "See you next year," he said.
"Yeah, sure; next year. Look, I'll try to call you, more often."
"Sure, that'd be great. Me too."
This story was first published in Issue 100 of Shift Miner Magazine.