The Old Man who’d taken charge of the cooking liked Sunbeam loaf bread, he said, because it was consistent. He said most things in life aren’t consistent and when you find something that is, you need to hold onto it, even if it’s just a slice of bread.
The subject came up because I was sitting at the breakfast table and he was dealing bread slices like cards for a hand of setback, a game similar to rook or spades that the old folks used to play. Setback was more complicated than either and required more skill than luck but didn’t involve actual gambling, factors that let it skate by into social acceptability as far as he was concerned.
The bread he was dealing instead of cards was being called biscuits instead of bread, and we were having this as a meal because Grandmother, the usual chef, was lodging protest against this day’s fishing trip by way of her absence. Something or other about the yard needing to be mowed or butterbeans that wanted picking or another project crying out for attention. A fresh crop of catalpa worms was in, though, and this took precedence.
“How many biscuits do you want?” he asked, reaching into the sack.
“Three, please,” I said.
He doled out three and returned to the stove, where a pan sizzled and danced atop a bright red eye.
“The eggs you’re cooking,” I said, “are they actual eggs?”
“What else would they be?” he asked. I was casting about for a way to change the subject when it occurred to me Grandmother usually packed our lunch, too. Things were going from aggravating to serious.
“Can I help gather up something for lunch?” I asked.
“No, I’ve got that covered,” he said.
Around 11:30, after a morning that had involved lines tangled with other lines, a trolling motor that first wouldn’t run and then wouldn’t stop, two or three hook injuries and a water moccasin encounter, we pulled into the shade of the buttonwillows that grew tall in the shallows we liked to fish. The Old Man rinsed his hands in Grenada Lake’s stained, brown water, slung them in the air to dry then reached under the boat seat and produced the lunch he had packed: a large jar of mayonnaise, three or four ripe tomatoes, a sharp kitchen knife and the rest of the loaf of Sunbeam bread.
“Will we still be in trouble for going fishing when we get home?” I asked.
“Probably,” he said, going to work on the tomatoes with the knife, “and whatever it was that needed to be done will still need doing. But at least, this way, while we’re doing it, we’ll know we’ve been fishing.”
Who could argue with logic like that?
“I like all the slices of tomato to be the same thickness when I’m eating them on biscuits,” I volunteered, and the Old Man said he liked them the same. Sometimes it pays to be consistent.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.