We left the sheaf-rustling palms behind
under Hwy 1, making our way

from the large Key across the flats;

the water calm, clear, and shallow.


About a mile out we worked
the tide-worn channels,
free-spooling freshly caught
needle fish through deep blue

rivulets running with the Atlantic tide.


The first hit came; a barracuda.
It ran towards the mangroves as I

slackened the drag; the guide

reeling in the other lines so I could

fight around deck.


I kept thinking about dinner

at Sloppy Joe's like Hemingway

after a run to the Tortugas.


The cuda wore after ten minutes,
circling the boat; long, barred, bullet tight.


A brown shadow moved slowly across the flat.
The cuda sensed, stripping line again. Then nothing.


Just as I thought threw the hook,
the cuda shot out of the water five feet from the boat,
sounded, the shadow in tow.


I felt the hit. The line slackened in glistening loops

following the severed head through the air.


Todd Giles