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
We went to this Chinese restaurant we like. Well, now it’s called
a “Pan-Asian Bistro”. Anyway, after we had dinner at the Chinese restaurant I went to use the restroom. I washed may hands, and was going to leave when the door handle came right off in my hand! How was I going to get out? How would I let my wife know? We both left our phones in the car to encourage romantic conversation. Now what?
All those jokes about being a prisoner in a fortune cookie factory didn’t seem so funny any more.
We were sitting elbow deep in the pop-corn darkness,
when his deep voice rumbled out;
“Luke, I am your father”.
My sister jumped up and screamed
The manager hustled us both
out the side door.
Waiting on Line
The food truck line was long, and the wait seemed even longer with no shade.
It was forty minutes before my turn, and it was the Blood Mobile!
Well, seemed silly to leave after such a long wait. If I tell them I feel faint,
maybe I’ll get a snack.
Watching the Seasons
Him being more your uncle than mine, you’re close kin and me only poor relations, I thought it best you talk first when he began about his property, leaving a will, what would happen to the land.
Imagine you’d be thinking about horses. You aways been talking about them since you were little. Playing horses. Dreaming horses. Talking horses and living on a farm.
I wasn’t thinking about anything. Coming back and Janie being gone. I didn’t like to think about past or future, they both hurt, so I left them alone.
We signed up together right after she got out of high school. I was a year behind
and quit. So we were GI Joe and GI Jane. Come back in a couple of years, have some money, get a place. Maybe she’d go to school. I’d need a job, farm on the side for us.
We coulda been a commercial on the TV. High school sweethearts off to war, except Janie got killed. Some fool Lieutenant got them all blown up and not half of her come home. Not from the weight of that government rubber bag.
Knew you’d take more than you should from your uncle, but not in a thieving way.
More than your share, is all. You best move in now. Learn your way around, and
no lie, he needs the help.
I’ll stay on, you want. Keep to myself, and watch the seasons.
Hard sometimes, trying to forget and remember at the same time.
Well, huh…. Well, I’d have to say it was back when we were trying to be rodeo
stars, say the second summer of the three. If you wasn’t getting drunk every night and raising hell you’d be looking for something else to do so I started going to these services they got in the back of a big old storage trailer. The guy, Reverend Bob, or Pastor Joe, or what ever the jimmy cakes he called himself back then, would talk about leading a good life, a Christian life, just a life of doing right by others. The Golden Rule and all that. Not that campfire Jesus shit my Daddy always warned against, just being honest owning up to how you carry yourself in this life. So Bob would talk some and pray some, then maybe try and get a old time hymn going.
Remember this one time, well more than the one, somebody started in talking about this reincarnation business, how it was different than the resurrection of our Lord and a different thing too than all the saved folks rising up in the final days.
Said you come back, but not as you was, or even close. Maybe as somebody else
or an animal depending. There were a fair share of jokes about who’d be what,
till I don’t recall who took offense. Some of the boys liked the idea of a second chance at things, then one old hand pointed out us being runaway farm boys, rodeo trash, and day labor we’d do all the same stupid shit all over again.
So at these trailer prayer meeting, she’d be helping out. She was just a kid back then and this would have been late for her. I remember over her pajamas she wore an apron with twin Dutch girls holding watering cans. Her mother had some sympathies with what Reverend Bobby so she and her girl, the two of them, they’d ladle out pink lemonade while the good Reverend would call for a blessing from above. That lemonade hit the spot for sure, being hot in the trailer and all, but yeah, it was all them years back, the first time I saw my Elvie.
He didn’t really cut in front of me at the grocery check out. I was standing a
few feet out motioning to my wife that this would be a better lane, and she
should come with the cart. It was just weird how he had ducked in front of me when my back was half turned. He was about my age with a gray beard more
unkempt than mine. We both wore glasses and knit hats, his black and mine blue,
and we both wore ratty old hoodies. His had oil and grease stains, mine had wood chips all up the front. There were only three things in his basket, milk, hot dogs, and bananas so I didn’t really care if he went first, but I guess I made a face.
“Hey man, sorry I got in front of you, but you know” he said, gesturing
towards his head and widening his eyes,” I was like in Vietnam, you know.”
“Don’t matter” I said. “really don’t matter, and I know what you mean.
Coming in here my wife told me I was driving on the wrong side of the road,
and this morning I had to return a video, and left it off at the wrong place, so
“Yeah, some people. Tell you what, you can owe me a banana.”
He looked around theatrically, pulled a banana off his bunch and went to slide it into my pocket.
“No man, don’t do that”, I said putting it back on the counter with the rest,
“what about the monkeys, don’t want them to go hungry.”
“Yeah, the monkeys, ha-good one.”
By then the cashier was getting impatient with this guy. She wanted him to take his
change and move on, and my wife who had been enjoying the show had finished loading our stuff on the belt and wanted to get going too.
My new friend turns to my wife and says;
“You better keep an eye on this guy! Ha ha, he needs help!”
“ Oh I will” she says, “I’ve been keeping hm out of trouble for a long time.”
During this he had dropped his change on the floor, then drops the rest of his money when he goes to pick it up. I help him, but he has $10 stuck under shoe
and it takes a minute for us to get that straightened out.
“Gheez, you better drive”, he says to my wife.
She laughs and promises that she will.
Mt. Rainier snow line
hooligan crows tumbling
high, high, crystal blue skies
Looking in the rear view
to see what color
that light actually was
Not one parking space
Monday after Thanksgiving
at the YMCA