May 21, 201410:09 AM
Running In Fog: HeartLand Boating Humor
Stacey, the Fish and Nuclear Orange
Stacey and I were sitting in the Chinese restaurant. It was a new buffet, with great sushi, delicate and authentic tea and, well, I go there a lot. We were enjoying our lunch together, a rare break from the daily routine. The place was packed, but I am still convinced I was the only one using chopsticks. Stacey popped some raw tuna and caviar sushi into her mouth.
When she finished chewing she said, “Oh, my, that was good. Did I ever tell you about the first time Jack and I went fishing?”
“Nope,” I said, pouring more tea. “But I want to hear about it.”
I can drink about 18 pots of tea during a meal. OK, maybe not 18, but let’s just say that I drink so much “free” tea that I am a very good tipper.
“Well, we were dating. We went to this huge lake. He always loved to fish, but he didn’t have his own boat yet. We had to rent one. It was painted bright orange, so the marina could spot them easily. It looked like they were all painted with spray cans. “
“Spray-can orange boats? That’s a new one. I have heard of putting numbers on the hulls, or the name of the marina, but not spraying them day-glow orange,” I said.
“Oh, day-glow would have been more sedate. This was nuclear orange. It was so bad, Pam, that I was embarrassed to get into the boat. And you just know the life jackets were the kind that went around your neck, and they were the orange kind.”
“Naturally. Seems that rental places always have those lovely orange vests. But better than no vest at all,” I said.
I am pretty ruthless about wearing vests and have even been known to shout over to passing boats, yelling that they needed to get their vests on, pronto.
“Jack hauled all of his gear into the boat and snapped me into my vest. I had only ever fished from a dock or the shore before this, and I was really excited. There were about five guys there waiting to rent a couple of boats, and they started teasing me. “
“Really? What were they saying?”
“Oh, nothing nasty, just stuff like ‘I hope you catch enough for us to all have dinner!’“
“Tell me about the lake.”
“It was nice. It looked like a big puddle just plopped down in the middle of the land. There were no hills, no mountains. Just a great big puddle of water. But it was pretty. People were having picnics, and there were little sailboats all over the place. Jack knew a ‘secret spot’ that he had found out about from a guy he knows. So, we headed right over there.”
Not being a fisherman, or fisherperson, or whatever you want to call it, secret spots didn’t have quite the mysticism for me that they did for her. I guess I should have acted more surprised.
“Pam! A secret spot! Do you know how awesome that is?”
“Uh, no, apparently not.”
Unless we are talking about navigational hazards like rocks, I tend to concern myself with the surface of the water — wind, waves, wakes, people, dogs, boats and birds. Where fish may hang out has never really been of interest. I figure they deserve some privacy.
“OK, the secret spot...keep going.”
“Well, we took our day-glow orange boat to this so-called secret spot and tossed in our lines. I didn’t care what I caught, really. I just wanted to catch more fish and bigger fish than Jack.”
“And we sat there. Nothing much happening. Then, my line moved, just a little. It was like that scene from 'Jaws,' where the line played out just a little, then a little bit more, and you don’t know how big the fish is because the line is going out in such tiny bits.”
She paused, then to look at me. She screwed up her eyebrows.
“You did see 'Jaws,' didn’t you?” (Side note—I don’t watch television and barely see movies. But yes, I did see “Jaws,” thank you very much.)
The tea was making me sleepy. I yawned.
“Am I boring you?”
“What? No, no, the line played out slowly, like “Jaws.” Keep going, Stace, keep going.”
“OK. The line played out.”
“I got that part.”
“Listen, you,” she grumbled, “Just sit there and listen. I will tell this my way.”
I am pretty smart. I know when I need to shut up, and this was one of those times. So I shut up. Instead of talking, I drank more tea.
“I started to reel in my line. It was easy at first. Then whatever was at the other end started to fight. It was crazy. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘Get it, Jack, get it!’ But he would try to grab the pole and I would yell, “No! It’s my fish! Go away!” Then, he would sit down, and I’d yell for his help again.”
Afraid to say anything, I kept drinking tea. If my mouth was full of tea, I couldn’t ask questions.
“So, after fighting this fish for about a hundred hours, I landed it. It was a catfish, the first one I ever caught. Huge. Huge! It was almost as big as the boat.”
“I wanted to show everyone, so we took it back to the marina’s dock with us. Remember those five guys? Well, they were waiting for us. They congratulated Jack on catching such a huge fish! Jack!”
She paused half a second to take a breath.
“Then, those guys,” she said the word ‘guys’ with a sneer, “those guys asked Jack if they could have the fish for dinner. My fish!”
I couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
“Jack’s fish? That was a rude assumption!”
“You are telling me! Well, I will have you know that Jack told them right away that he didn’t catch any fish; that this great big catfish was mine. And they would have to ask me if they could have it for dinner.”
“What happened next? C’mon, tell me!”
“My story, my speed. Drink more tea.”
OK, then, more tea. My insides were feeling a bit like a swimming pool after a hurricane.
“Those guys looked at me in shock and asked if I would give them my fish. They hadn’t caught anything, and they were hungry. I stood up tall, looked them in the eye and said, ‘Go to Burger King, this is my fish.’“
Tea spurted right out of my mouth and across the table. Tears rolled from my eyes. The waitress, in a panic, brought me napkins and another pot of tea, even though there were seven teapots on the table already. And still, I couldn’t stop laughing.
“Whatever happened to your catfish?” I sputtered.
“Oh, I let the catfish go. But Jack? I kept him. He was the real keeper.”