It’d been months since we’d gotten out as a family. The last time it was when Halloween and Election Day got combined. Voting in costume was quite a sight, or “quite a fright” as cousin Dickie said when he saw all those vampires with their plastic fangs and their “I Voted” stickers. With fuel bricks for the car being in such short supply me and Dickie ride our bikes mostly, but Mama and Jupie-June need the car to get around. The Sportsman’s Club across from the lake advertised a “Fisherman’s Breakfast Special” and nobody is going to say that a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll served with a bottle of imported beer isn’t worth $5. Today being opening day they had a crowd. The start of Fishing Season and Easter are combined on the same day now.
There was an egg hunt next to the lake. It was fun for the kids, once they got used to the smell. Dickie went off to get us four breakfast specials and by the time he was back I had Jupie-June and Mama all set up in lawn chairs down by the water. There’s nothing worth catching in Lake Elmo, at least nothing you can eat, but the ladies had magnets on their lines instead of bait and we casting for those electronic mud skippers. They were robot fish who’s batteries had died years ago. The ladies would take them apart with pliers and use the pieces for making jewelry. They had a stand out on the state road and sold vegetables, fire wood and crafts to the summer people. Jupie-June loved making up “Ancient Legends of the Lake” to tell the tourists.
Stories about the gods of the lake or alien visitors from space, and all these gods and visitors had faces exactly like the robot fish! Her best sales pitch story was for the earring and necklaces.
Tourist ladies could wear then with the heads pointed up as birth control, or with the
heads pointed down to promote fertility. If you wore some up and some down I don’t know what the hell would happen. For the gents Mama had come up with these two headed money clips.
She always called them “Big Money” clips, implying that having one in your pocket was bound to attract riches. Between the jewelry and the produce they made out all right.
Now the story I heard about the robot fish, maybe true and maybe not, was the government dumped them into the lake years back to destroy the underwater marijuana crop the kids planted in the muddy bottom. They’d planted the seeds hoping things would go unnoticed with all the duck weed around. I don’t know much about hydroponics, but seems like all that would do is get the frogs high (as if you could tell).
Now Dickies gone back for at least thirds on breakfast, claims sea gulls or maybe crows
stole the first couple when he wasn’t looking. Doesn’t seem real likely. I’ll believe it when the birds bring back the empties for the deposit.
I’ve never been good at putting two and two together, understanding the logic of the next step. When I was a kid, fishing was constantly on my mind. I liked the idea of going fishing and was fascinated by the endless minute variations in the paraphernalia. What I never imagined was catching a fish. The cause and effect, go fishing, catch fish, never occurred to me. What to do with the fish I couldn’t imagine catching was even farther from my grasp.
For months I’d been doling out my allowance on fishing supplies, the finest the five and dime could provide. I had a plastic tackle box and spent many pleasant hours arranging my cheap lures, bobber floats, lead weights, and rubber worms. Why would anybody put a weight and a float on their line at the same time? I didn’t know. Somehow I got a rod and reel. The reel fascinated me and I never did figure out how it worked. All spring and into the summer I enjoyed my afternoons playing with my fishing gear, being careful not to get caught on the sharp unused metal hooks.
My mother became exasperated. Beautiful summer days and all I wanted to do was stay in to read comics and play with my tackle box. Now and then she’d prod me out of the house
insisting I just go out and fish. Even with a stream in our backyard and a reservoir less than a twenty minute walk away I’d still wander around for hours looking for the right place.
I’d find some pond and lay out all my stuff. One by one I would attach my plastic bugs and rubber worms in different combinations, giving each one a turn at being cast and getting wet. I was careful to wipe them dry afterwards and remove any grass or mud. One afternoon against all odds I caught a fish! A brown brook trout about eight inches long.
I showed my mom the fish. She said it was very nice, then wrapped it in foil and plunked it into the big chest freezer out in the garage.When my dad came home I told him. He agreed my catching a fish was nice, but no, he didn’t need to see it. Over the years my fish worked it’s way lower and lower in the freezer, sinking deep into the permafrost. Years, then decades went by.
Time passed but not for my fish. Eventually my father passed away and it was time to sell the old house and move my mother into a nursing home. I hired a local company that does estate clean outs to the place ready for sale. Dividing the contents into keep, sell, donate and trash. Part of the donating plan involved the non-expired food in the freezer. Part of the trash plan was to scrap the heavy old rusted appliance. I wasn’t thinking about the fish. It was over fifty years since I has accidentally caught the fish. There was some misunderstanding or scheduling change that came up and the freezer went off to the junk yard still full, liberating my fish from it’s earthly cycle. A long delay, but the little guy was finally on his way to fish heaven.
So deal with my undergarments and pull up my pants.
Tuck in my shirt tails and do the button.
Fiddle with my belt and I’m done.
That’s enough, I’ve lost interest.
The zipper can be for another day.
by Doug Mathewson