|2006 Fiction — Pier
My Father’s Catch
The memory of my distant youth is a vast repository of long, lazy summer days spent at the local fishing pier with my father, Uncle Frank and Grandpa Ray, honing my fishing skills and soaking in the camaraderie of the kind, gentle folks that shared our passion. Having been introduced as a youngster to this informal order of pier dwellers, I now have the dubious distinction of being its sole surviving member. In that capacity, I’ve also become the reluctant, sole caretaker of the recollections of a bygone angling era. As a boy back then, the prospect of a trip to the pier shimmered in my young mind like a golden, epic adventure; where even a mundane visit could billow into the stuff of legend. In fact, our most memorable catch wasn’t a halibut, striper or even a fish.
My father had been struggling to get his snagged shark rig off the bottom when the snag moved, almost imperceptibly. “Dead weight,” he muttered, as he leaned back against the arcing rod. Even snags were of great interest to our group. Beyond the occasional lost rod and reel or other terminal tackle, someone would sometimes bring up something that truly taxed imagination and belief. Once, Mr. Takenaka ran to the rail and spit out his dentures along with a red chile pepper some prankster had tucked into the rice he was eating from his well-worn aluminum Bento box. When Mr. Larson reeled them up a month later, Mr. Takenaka took them off the line, popped them in and declared that they fit even better than before.
While my father slowly reeled, curious faces peered into the water, eager to catch the first glimpse of the mystery at the end of his line. Initially, the object that rose to the surface seemed no more unusual than a large mass of tangled kelp strands. As it bobbed in the swells, the kelp shifted slightly to reveal fabric and then a glimpse of what might have been skin and a head of hair. My father, struggling to keep his line away from the pilings, turned to my uncle and said, “We’re going to need the landing net.”
My father and uncle lifted the net over the pier railing slowly and carefully, as if it contained fine porcelain china. They lowered it to the ground as the circle of curious fishermen closed in around them. My uncle sat with his knee on the weathered planks as he struggled to untangle the tough strands of kelp, puffing as he worked. After a moment, the circle let out a muted, collective cry and then fell silent. Clothed in the sodden fabric was a small human body.
Uncle Frank knelt over the landing net for what seemed like a very long time. Without looking up, he murmured, “It’s a little kid . . . a little girl.” As the men crowded around, I dropped to my hands and knees, straining to catch a glimpse through their legs. Her eyes were open, her stare reflecting the clouds drifting across the afternoon sky above. The short brown hair was slicked behind her ears by the seawater. Her right hand was loosely clenched and she was missing a shoe. The 3/0 hook had caught in one of the sleeves of her rag wool sweater. Uncle Frank worked it free. Mesmerized by the sight, I vaguely felt my father lift me by the arm. He motioned with his hand and said, “Go on and stand over by the fence, over there.”
Someone went to the phone booth beside the diner and called the sheriff. The black and white Ford soon rumbled over the planks of the pier, stopping between me and the crowd of grownups. Dr. Miller stepped from the passenger side of the squad car. I could see the sheriff talking to my father, Uncle Frank and Grandpa. The sheriff was taking notes in a small spiral notebook. Dr. Miller went to the trunk, pulled out a white blanket and disappeared around the other side of the car. Dr. Miller placed the blanket-wrapped body in the back seat of the car and he and the sheriff rumbled back down the pier, and we watched the taillights shrink as they drifted up Monroe Avenue.
We trudged up the hill to Grandpa Ray’s in silence. I watched the sinker at the tip of my rod bob and clank as I walked. My father asked me if I was okay; I nodded yes. At one point, Uncle Frank patted me on the shoulder and pressed a half dollar into my palm and winked. I walked into the garage, put the tackle box on the ground near the wall and leaned the rod and reel against the workbench.
For the next several days, everyone waited for the call of frantic parents or anxious family members. The police checked the coast towns for two counties in each direction, but there were no reports of anyone being swept out to sea or washed overboard. With no hard evidence, only conjecture remained.
There had been an accident further up Highway 1. A Hungarian couple had been driving down from Canada to Southern California when their old Plymouth had slammed into a bridge truss at Johnson Creek. Sandor Teleki, who needed to be in Santa Barbara on Monday in order to accept a metalworking job in a small wrought-iron shop, had driven all through the night. He and his wife, Helen had died instantly. An exhaustive search had yielded no known relatives here or in Canada. Authorities had assumed that only the couple had been in the car. When the Plymouth struck the bridge, could a child sleeping in the back seat have been thrown into Johnson Creek and washed to sea to be reeled in by my father, five miles down the coast? If so, wouldn’t there be more trauma to the body? Perhaps she was a victim of some unspoken crime or an accident. The theories swirled, rose and fell like the tide in the days that followed with no clear leads appearing in the case.
My father’s catch would eventually become the first official Jane Doe in the town’s history. When it became clear that no one was going to come forward and claim the tiny body that lay in Murphy’s Funeral Home, the town embraced the child as it’s own and went about the task of making funeral arrangements. When someone set up an empty water cooler bottle beside the checkout desk at the public library, I dropped in the half dollar Uncle Frank had given me plus a dollar Grandpa had paid me for weeding his garden. The bottle was filled to the neck before the library doors closed at 7:00PM. The town filled another bottle the next day and finally, a third one the day after that.
The following Friday, a crowd that outnumbered the town’s population by more than two dozen gathered at Murphy’s to say goodbye to the little girl my father had reeled in at the pier. The casket rested amidst a sea of flowers that rivaled anything any of us had seen at the Rose Parade. They buried her between a veteran of World War I and a woman who had been my father’s teacher in second grade. I wondered how the girl might feel, lying beside such old people.
After the service, we walked over to Grandpa’s and I followed my mother and Grandma Ginny into the kitchen as they began to make dinner. I sat at the kitchen table and picked over the funnies in the newspaper. For dinner, my mother and grandmother made pork chops, peas and candied parsnips and carrots. My mother fretted and apologized that the pork chops were tough from overcooking, but my father said no, they were fine and then she began to cry and my father wrapped her in a hug. Grandpa looked over at my sober expression, grabbed my arm and told me it was okay. Uncle Frank opened the jar of Bosco and stirred a spoonful of the chocolate syrup into my milk mug. He put some into his beer, took a sip and made a face. Everyone laughed. We ate baked apples and ice cream for dessert.
Later, I went outside and gazed into the open garage. Vaguely lit by the dusk, my fishing rod was still leaning against the workbench where I’d left it. I opened my tackle box, took out my jackknife, cut the sinker from the line and dropped it into the tray. As I slowly turned the handle of the reel, the loose line snaked out of the guides. School would be over in a few weeks. Long summer days spent fishing at the pier were just around the corner.
2006 Fiction — Piers
“We’ll Meet Again”
Buzz Cass was already awake when his alarm went off at 4am and the unmistakable voice of Duke Ellington brought life to his dark and quiet bedroom. He turned on the light and got dressed as quickly as any 86 year old man could that morning. The old clock radio on his night stand made a tired click-clickety-click sound as the seven struggled before succumbing to the eight. It was now 4:18. He reached to turn it off but paused to sing along. “Dah dah dah, perfect harmony, Zing! went the strings of my heart… your eyes make skies blue again…” He hadn’t heard that song in ages but could somehow remember most of the words, although the artist escaped his mind. He thought of Rose. He smiled the smile of someone being touched by a fond memory as he turned off the alarm. Memories weren’t the only thing making him smile today. Today was a special day for Buzz; today Buzz was going fishing.
Fishing was about the only real hobby Lloyd Cass, better known as Buzz, ever had. In the years after his retirement he would take the long walk to the pier before daybreak just about every morning that it wasn’t raining. Now, twenty-five years and two strokes later, he could barely remember his last trip which was at least 6 years ago. He had suffered his first stroke, which left him with limited use of his left hand and leg, 5 years prior to that last trip. His wife, Patty, had finally urged him to get out and try after watching him grow more and more depressed after countless days of game shows and re-runs. Most days he didn’t leave the house and just getting the newspaper from the driveway every morning became a chore. The trip that was supposed to help him just made him realize that his fishing days were over. It ended with a bad fall that brought him back to the hospital, this time for a broken hip.
Usually by now Patty would be up and the kitchen would smell of fresh brewed coffee. Patty was back east visiting her family for the week and the only odor present in the Cass kitchen this lonely morning was that of a half-eaten Salisbury steak TV dinner Buzz attempted to eat the night before. He rather missed the comfortable smell of the coffee even though he never thought it to be particularly pleasant before. Buzz fixed himself his usual breakfast, two pieces of toast with grape jelly and a tall glass of chocolate milk. After his second stroke he had problems swallowing and had to be fed through a tube in his stomach. It was that craving for grape jelly and chocolate milk that gave him the strength to brave months of rehab just to be able to enjoy something so simple as a real breakfast (although Patty would never consider it a ‘real’ breakfast, and let him know that most mornings). Patty called as he was finishing the last of his toothsome breakfast but he let the machine answer as he usually did. She was, of course, calling to remind him to take his pills.
Buzz had spent the better part of the last week planning for this fateful day. He spent much of the day before readying his fishing tackle. The once effortless tasks of tying on hooks and weights would prove difficult for his shaky hands and he knew he’d have to do it at home before he went. After several attempts with the aid of a magnifying glass he was finally able to tie what he considered to be adequate, albeit ugly, knots. He knew he’d have problems reeling and holding the rod but was confident in his solution. He had taken a tennis ball, sliced it and put if over the handle of his reel. Buzz affixed it with nearly half a roll of masking tape. This allowed him to reel in with his left hand as he always had even though he could barely move his fingers on that hand. He had planned on going out to buy some bait but after he found some cocktail shrimp in the freezer he decided to make do with what he had. He didn’t really even care if he caught anything. In fact he almost hoped he didn’t since that would present him a whole new set of challenges that he couldn’t fix with masking tape and a magnifying glass. It took most of his life to realize that fishing was never really about catching fish.
With first blush at least a half hour away he fetched the paper, started the engine and turned on the heater in the red 1987 Cadillac Eldorado that sat in the driveway. Buzz scooted his walker back up the walk and into the kitchen where he tossed the paper on the table. He gathered his small yellow tackle box and his pre-rigged fishing rod from the living room. He packaged up a handful of the shrimp from the freezer in a baggy and stuck it in his shirt pocket. He thought of how Patty always hated when he’d do that. More than once she had inadvertently created seafood chowder in the washing machine. Buzz moved them to his tackle box. He put on his favorite coat and his lucky hat and stopped in the doorway to gather his thoughts and run through a checklist in his mind.
The neighborhood was quiet and shrouded in fog that morning; most residents were still in dreamland or wrestling with their snooze bars. Mrs. Johnson’s kitchen light was on next door though and she’d surely be interested to find out what Buzz was up to if she heard or saw him up-and-at’em at such an hour. She was always kind to Buzz but he never cared much for her or her meddlesomeness. She acted like she was his babysitter whenever Patty was out of town. He didn’t realize this was only because Patty would call Mrs. J every time he didn’t pick up the phone and ask her to check in on him and remind him to take his medications. What Mrs. J thought of as a favor for Patty, Buzz thought of as insulting. Still her presence in the neighborhood was comforting in some ways. Mrs. Johnson was the only one left on the block besides the Cass’s that lived on the street that didn’t spend a million dollars to be there.
Once satisfied he hadn’t forgotten anything (although at the same time his old mind was sure he did) he put his tackle box and rod in the trunk of the rusty old car that was once his pride and joy. He folded up his walker and slid it to the passenger side quickly hoping to avoid the imminent interrogation by Mrs. J if she caught glimpse of him. He never understood how somebody so old could talk so fast and ask so many damn questions. As he backed out of the driveway he was sure he saw her peering at him through her window. Buzz hurriedly made his way past her house and sped out of the neighborhood nearly taking out his own mailbox in the process. The fog gave way to drizzle within a couple blocks and by the time he reached Main Street the drizzle turned to heavy rain. The Caddy’s old tattered vinyl top flapped loudly above his head as it pushed through the quiescent town. Buzz turned up the volume on the oldfangled radio and hit the button marked ‘3’. The orange line slid to the far left and Big Band music began pumping through the doors. “Judy Garland,” Buzz thought out loud. That’s who sung that song that started off the day so pleasantly this morning. He could only remember because she was one of Rose’s favorites.
Buzz and Rose grew up on the same street and had been sweethearts long before high school. He never forgave himself for what he did to her. She was the one for him but he screwed it up and felt more than a little responsible for what happened to her later. Their marriage went through a bad spell and he took to working long hours at the bank. Rose found she could not have kids and Buzz found adjusting his ideas of a family difficult. This was compounded by the fact that a vivacious young secretary at his work named Patty began to have designs on Buzz. He never meant to hurt Rose but when word got out about him and Patty that’s exactly what happened. Rose left him and he let her go. He wished he had tried to save it, like his heart told him to, but the guilt he felt when he looked in her eyes each day would have been too much even if she could forgive him. Rose’s life took a dark turn after that and she spent most nights at the tavern with her lips kissing shot glasses and beer mugs or whatever man would pay to fill said glasses and mugs. She became what Buzz’s friends called a floozy although Buzz never thought of her as such. She died in a car wreck late one night several years later after leaving the tavern with a drunken tow truck driver named Larry. At her funeral Rose’s mother told Buzz that it wasn’t his fault her daughter’s life unraveled the way it did and not to blame himself. If unraveling was the right word for what happened to her he knew he pulled the string that started it all. He spent the rest of his life living with regrets in one way and another.
Buzz pulled the Caddy in a spot in the far corner of the empty parking lot at the base of the pier. He would have usually parked in the handicap space up close but for some reason he didn’t this time. The sun was up but hidden by dark clouds that were now dumping hail. He had counted on dealing with a little rain but he could do without the hail. He figured his early start would have to be delayed so he sat there in the car listening to the oldies, singing along the best he could. He began to doze off.
The sound of Vera Lynn singing brought him out of his brief slumber. It was their song! Lot of songs brought back memories of Rose but this was their song! It had to be at least 40 years since he last heard it. He felt like a teenager all over again just hearing the song. There he was, 86 years old and sitting in the parking lot with the radio cranked loud, singing at the top of his lungs. ‘Cadillac karaoke,’ he thought to himself. Buzz barely noticed that the sun had broken through and, in-fact; he couldn’t even see a cloud in the sky. He looked up in amazement and laughed out loud.
Buzz deftly maneuvered his walker along the uneven wood planks of the pier as he continued singing their song.
“We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when
But I'm sure we'll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through, just the way you used to do
Till the blue skies chase the dark clouds far away”
The sun was warm on his back as was the wind on his face. The rain had left the pier smelling clean. A one-legged seagull hoped along the railing next to Buzz looking for a hand-out. Buzz made his way to his usual spot, the bench under the third light-post about halfway out the pier. This was his favorite spot, not because of the great fishing but because of the memories. This was the very spot he asked Rose to marry him over 65 years ago. They were just kids, he was 20 and she was 16, but in hindsight it proved to be the happiest day of his life (hers too, he fancied).
Buzz took his seat on the bench and couldn’t stop smiling. Today he felt strong. Today he felt happy. Buzz couldn’t ever remember feeling so alive.
Buzz was glad the pier was void of people. He liked having the mornings to himself out there. There was nobody to laugh at this old man who taped a tennis ball to his reel and tied ugly knots. Buzz was proud of his inventive senile ingenuity, but would have probably hung his head in shame if anyone else was there to see it (especially another fisherman). When Buzz was pulling a shrimp from the bag in his tackle box he found an old cigar. It was dry as Saharan sand on a summer day but he put it in his mouth anyway and looked for some matches. Unable to find a light he was happy just to savor the cigar’s flavor on his lips. After carefully threading a small shrimp onto his hook Buzz dropped his line into the water and waited.
Even that big ole cigar couldn’t hide the smile on Buzz’s face as he sat, enjoying the splendor of the morning. The jukebox in his mind had their song on repeat. Elation gave way to a very inviting euphoria. Buzz wondered if it was possible to be too happy, before letting go to enjoy the moment. He sung to himself out loud again.
“Yes, we'll meet again. Darlin', I don't know where and I don't know when. But I KNOW we'll meet again one of these good ole sunshiny days. Ya know, darlin', all ya gotta do is just keep on smilin' through you know just like you ALWAYS do, until the blue skies chase the dark clouds far, far, far away.”
Buzz suddenly felt very tired. He realized he couldn’t move. Panic didn’t come though; instead he was swallowed by a feeling of contentment. The cigar fell from his mouth just about the time he could feel his right arm twitching. The compulsion to sleep became more persuasive. He saw what he was sure were the letters B+R 4EVER carved in the railing just in front of him. Before he could ponder the reality of those letters his attention was brought back to his right arm. It wasn’t his arm that was twitching, but the rod that was still somehow grasped in his motionless fingers. The tip of the rod bounced violently. He had a bite! By god he had a fish on and it was a good one! Useless to do anything about it, Buzz again focused on the letters. His mouth no longer reflected the smile he felt. He was still singing their song, but only in his head. The urge to sleep came back stronger and this time he didn’t resist and took a one-way trip into its beguiling
The Angler in Wave to the Poachers
The Empty Bucket
The constant fog of a Monterey summer briefly lifted to reveal a mirror surface on the water. The angler rolled over in bed, looked at his alarm clock and smashed the snooze button down again. His 12 foot Lamiglass custom surf rod leaned against the wall near his bed, a 4 ounce pyramid sinker dangling from the end, still tied on from last night. It was going to be another big day on the peninsula, but not just yet.
After about 20 minutes he stumbled out of bed, hair going in each direction, eyes pasted shut; the consequence of sleeping in a moldy room. He made quick work of breakfast, grabbed his gear and a thermos of coffee and headed out the door. The first stop was always the bait shop on Del Monte Blvd. He wondered if they would ever get some decent bait as he started his pickup and pulled out of his driveway. "I suppose it doesn't really matter,” he thought to himself. Fishing, for him, was more of a secondary consideration.
He always worked alone and seldom made attachments. Pete at the bait shop was a rare exception. "Morning, Pete" he said as he pushed his way past the cardboard bikini girl beer sign and lifted the heavy door on the bait freezer. "Hey! Nice to see you again", Pete bellowed in his usual, salty tone. "What's it going to be today?” "Not sure, guess I'll head up the beach a bit and then maybe see what's biting off the rocks", the angler said sliding a box of frozen squid across the counter. "You hear about the rockies they been getting over near Lover's Point? It's kind of a shame". The hair began to stand up on the back of the anglers' neck. Rockfish had been in an emergency closure since June. He bit back on his rage a bit and asked, "No really? Where exactly?" Pete gave him all the details. Change of plans.
The angler rolled up on Lover's Point and slowed down to better see out the window. He could make out a few fishermen on the end of the point. They were fishing off the outer-most rocks and he could see at least 1 5-gallon bucket. He got out of the truck, slid his rod bag over his shoulder and headed towards the park. The box of squid sat melting in the sun on the passenger seat.
Weekends in the park are popular with tourists as well as locals. It was a kaleidoscope of screaming children with dripping ice cream cones being pursued by anxious mothers trying to have a good time. Nobody noticed the angler as he made his way around the far end of the rocks. Closer now, he could smell the smoke from their cigarettes and he could hear the men talking. The fog had rolled back in nicely and the sound of the water prevented the men from hearing his approach. "Morning!" he boomed out at them from a rock just above them. Somewhat startled, the men turned around, waved hello and went back to their conversation. "Any luck today?” the angler insisted. One of the men lifted up the bucket so the angler could see in. There were 4 small brown rockfish inside, mixed in with some ice. "Wow. Did you guys know that there is an emergency closure on rockfish? It's illegal to fish for them now".
The man lit another smoke and feigned surprise. "Really? How do you know this?” The angler, prepared for this situation, whipped out a copy of the most current regulations from his pocket and handed it to the men. "OK" said one of them, "so now we know. Thank you very much and have a nice day". As the angler headed back off the rocks he could hear the men laughing in a mocking tone. "That's alright", he thought.
He went back towards the beach and lingered by the kayak rental shop. He could still see the men and they were not leaving. He watched for a few minutes and saw one of the men bend down, stand up again and toss something into that bucket. The angler swore under his breath and then, as he had done many, many times before, started back towards the poachers. This time, he was even more careful not to be noticed as he slipped through the rocks towards the water. From his vantage point on a rock about 15 feet above the poachers, he could clearly see that the new addition to the bucket was indeed another rockfish. He drew his rod from his shoulder bag.
With the 4-ounce pyramid arched behind him, he snapped his arm forward in a swift motion and released his thumb from the spool. The Pflueger made its usual gentle whirr as line peeled of the spool and the pyramid screamed toward the 2 men. There was a sickening thud and then a splash as one of the 2 men hit the water. "What the . . " the other man yelled as he turned and got up to face the angler, who was now charging at him whirling his pier gaff over his head.
Thinking quickly, the poacher reached for his net and swung at the angler's legs. It was not a heavy net but it was just heavy enough to send the angler reeling into one of the big, jagged rocks that Lover's Point is famous for. The poacher reached for his Boga grip and pounced on the angler. He had the angler where it counted. The angler tried to get away but was held in place by his own weight tugging at the grips. He could see the other man climbing up the rocks, soaking wet and rubbing the back of his head. This was dire.
The two men together easily subdued the angler and dragged him to his feet. "I thought I told you rockfish were out of season", said the angler as he struggled in their collective grip. "And I thought I told you to have a nice day" grunted one of the men as he punched the angler in the stomach. Hard. About 100 yards away, the children in the park played happily as the angler suffered a beating unlike any he had received since that one time at summer camp.
As the angler transitioned in and out of consciousness, he noticed it getting dark. "That's odd," he thought to himself. "I must be getting hit in the head." But he realized it was not the knocks to the head...It was an enormous wave building in the distance behind them. SNEAKER! He had told himself to always be aware of these unexpected large waves that were infamous for snatching people off the coast but, until today, had never seen one. He noticed a large pinnacle jutting out from behind his head and a smile started to grow across his face. The men, disturbed by this, stopped their activity and asked, "What are you so happy about".
When the wave receded there was a lone, drenched figure clinging to the rocks. Gone were the men, the gear, and the evidence. Even the bucket was gone. He waved weakly at the children in the park as he stumbled back into his truck, which now smelled strongly of thawing, low quality bait squid. He tossed the squid into the trashcan in the parking lot and climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine. "I'm not sure if I like fishing, really, but I hate poachers" he thought to himself as he started home.
Richard Montgomery Weatherby
“GET OUT! GET OUT, NOW!” Donny yelled as he pulled the trucker from his cab. “Now you just sit here. You don’t move. You don’t talk. You don’t call nobody. You don’t do anything until you see the sun in the sky, understand?”
Donny enjoyed robbing. I guess you can’t let it bother you if it’s your job. But for him, it was just plain fun. It didn’t matter what it was. If it was in a truck, it was worth the time to hi-jack. In this case it was a truckload of salmon. Now to some this may be a dilemma. I mean how do you unload 2500 pounds of salmon? No problem. Donny had a guy in the local meat processors union. This guy had a scam running fish out the back door and supplying it to the local eateries along the Presidio. As well as some of the high end spots up north in the wine country. He would use these contacts to unload the fish directly for a buck a pound. Eight hours later, the fish was distributed; Donny had 2500 with 500 going to his union guy and a G going to “Fatty” Levotta, his boss.
This was a good score. It was quick, easy, and not really all that risky. “I gotta find more like this.” He said to himself.
Now he had heard some rumors about a scam going on around the shores of the Sacramento Delta. Apparently, the Russians had put something together. Generally involved in gambling and shylocking, the Russian faction had expanded into poaching sturgeon for caviar. To say this was a lucrative gig would be an under statement. But the problem of spoilage continued. In steps, Donny.
Donny makes contact with this Russian guy known as “the hack.” Apparently, in his early days, he had a habit of hacking off the right hand of people he was ordered to hit. I guess he parlayed that into hacking up fish. Donny says to the guy, “look, I have this distribution thing going on. We also control the docks, the meat processors union and a whole slough of trucks. I think we can help each other out.” The hack was a bit skeptical, but he went with it. Levotta was happy, and this made Donny happy.
Now at this point Donny had become known. He was a made guy who had rep going back far before his association of “our thing (Cosa Nostra).” He had files with the ATF, FBI, local law enforcement and later on it would appear, unknown to him or anyone else, that the Department of Fish and Game now had him under surveillance due to his association with The Hacks crew.
The season was slowing. Fish were much harder to come by. They had to put more people out there and had to offer more money to anglers to get them to sell. This meant a smaller take for everyone. Donny was not happy. He had to go see this for him self.
So here he is, with this 20 something eastern European named Vova, in this little beat up S10 cruising the hot spots looking for anglers that may give up a fish for 50 bucks. They approached a few folks, successfully. “This ain’t too hard” Donny thought. When they came across an old man. This guy was frail, bent over, hardly someone you would see fishing for such a strong species as sturgeon. But, whatever. They walked down the bank.
“Hey grandpa. Why don’t you let me take that fish off your hands? I give you fifty.”
The old man glared in their general direction for no longer than 3 seconds before turning his back to them and facing back toward the water focusing on his line.
“Hey grandpa! Grandpa, You def or what!”
“F*&% off” the old man said. “This is my fish! My shore! My home! I know what you jerk offs are up to! You want my fish? Come and take it.” He said, as his stance quickly became a defensive one, swelling his chest and maneuvering into a sideways half-cocked position.
Donny was impressed. “This guy must be Italian.” He thought. But, no. The guy had actually just spoken with a DFG agent and happens to know that he was watching the shoreline from his truck about a quarter mile down the road. So at this point, the old man had balls bigger than any sturgeon in the Sacramento Delta.
“Alright, then.” Donny said as he motioned to Vova to grab the fish. The old man wasn’t having it. As Vova bent down to grab the beasts tail, the old man hit him in the side of the head with the butt of his pole. Vova was taken back by this. What was he supposed to do? Beat down the old man?
About this time the DFG warden sees what’s going on. He’s done his little radio dance and has a couple sheriffs on the way for back up. He’s going in, now.
“O.K. that’s enough!” Donny yelled. With that he pulled his .357 out, hammered the old man with the butt of the gun and put two behind his right ear.
Vova turned white as the flesh of the fish they were poaching. “You shot him for fish?”
Just then the warden pulled up. Right along side him 2 sheriffs with guns drawn. They were pinched. No getting out of it. They had a body, a gun, and a witness that was also a law enforcement official. Yup, no way around it, they were pinched.
Although bargains were offered, Donny didn’t turn. He was Cosa Nostra. This was “our thing.” And in “our thing” you don’t turn, no matter what. This was especially true for a friend of ours.
He has just begun his sentence of 20-life. It’s rumored that he already has a crap game going on the inside. Surely, it won’t be long before he has a complete racket going on inside the confines of the prison walls.
Vova? Well, that’s another story. He’s currently in negotiations with the FBI looking to make a deal that would effectively shut down the Russian organization, nail his boss and a number of other lieutenants. In effect the sturgeon ring had been stopped, as had the bay area distribution ring. Unfortunately, the effects are still felt.
A Rising Tide On Jether
Glenn J. Langnes
"We're fixed for tackle today Pete," Monty said, "I have limited overall gear, generally speaking...weight restrictions you understand."
I nodded. "A constant battle. Product verus Personal. Necessities versus Comforts. Even when transports do have room, it gets way too spendy. And forget it when I'm on the job... can't take up the client's storage." I looked out at the dim light. "I'm sorry I can't ever seem to return the favor."
"Bah," he said waving it off. "Glad to do it! I haven't been able to show this off to anybody yet. Nobody has any interest in fishing at all around here... too busy working, boozing or sleeping one of the two off. I
was out just yesterday and they were real cooperative.
This is going to be great," he added gleefully.
With a half day of free time until I shuttle the United Colonies Security Rep back to the station, I thought I would check up with my old friend. Once again he proved to be very generous and great company. I met him years ago when after he heard I was taking a big wig Senator to Zuzim, he asked me to drop off a package of kid's clothes to a friend of his in need
there. I managed to squeeze it in, and he reciprocated with a weakness of mine... a very large package of cinnamon. His ability to find connections
was nothing short of amazing. And apparently he has not lost his touch.
But time was tight today. I barely stripped off my flight suit and got into street clothes when he met me at the rental lockers at the port. With a vigorous handshake and multiple heavy slaps on the back he welcomed me and immediately offered a morning of fishing. "Great timing! High tide will be starting just about the time we arrive at the beach."
"I'm hardly dressed for this," I said pointing at my loafers for emphasis. "Ahh come on, you love roughing it!" he said rapping me again on the back. "Enough talk! Time 'n Tide ya know."
We continued down a path that followed a trestled pipeline to the shore. I pointed a question. "A supply line for a de-salinization plant inland," he
said. "It's about the only landmark I can use around here. It stretches out over the water quite a ways. I'm sure it provides good structure for fishies I
haven't checked out yet." He passed me the thermos of coffee. "The only interest anyone has right now in this planet is in mining. Prepping for the scheduled colony on neighboring Meunim in about fifty years."
The light was getting better as we neared the beach. Of what I could see of the trees speeding by, they were wispy and uniquely tall. "How did you know the tide was ready for us this morning?"
"I made out a tide table. Got some figures from a tech and did the math. It's been pretty accurate so far. Heck, it's not like I was trying to work out
Shaharaim's." 'Good God' I thought. 'Calculating a tide table for a planet with binary suns and five moons...' It made my brain hurt. "Here we are," he exclaimed pointing at an abrupt horizon of land ahead, with dark
blue water beyond.
Monty followed the service inclines cut into the cliff and came to a stop at its base. He centered the joystick and turned off the fans. The hov-cart sighed as it settled on the golden sand. Opening the doors, we stepped out to a cool light breeze, the roaring of the waves now clear... and what waves! I watched as they crested higher than they had any right to and run up the shore farther than you would expect, all with a slight slow-motion effect to them. It was unsettling.
He gestured to the sea. "Pretty wild looking eh? Nature never fails to amaze. Remember, we have 82.7 percent gravity here on Jether, by Terran reckoning
Being a pilot I had to be aware of this planet's stats, but keeping your mouth shut and listening to the locals is always the best way to go.
Monty faced the ocean, spread his arms wide and took in a deep breath of the fresh salt air. He turned with a smile. "Makes ya feel alive don't it?
Now then, let's get the gear."
He drew a canvas tackle bag and two long rods out of the rear hatch. Both rods sported level wind reels, rigged and ready to go. I recognized them from the river fishing we did at Me-zahab. The line was light but not overly so. We took off our shoes and walked down the gentle slope to the water.
"They're not easy to spot... they're about the color of the sand, but slightly metallic."
"We'll be fishing by sight?"
"Nice huh?. I haven't really seen them school... kinda doubt they do. You'll usually see the hump of their back as they feed in the shallows. Especially as the water recedes, they go back nose first, straight in. Pretty good numbers yesterday."
Water rushed up to my feet, then receded. It was brisk. "Real shallow then?"
He nodded, "That's right, that's where they're feeding. They're not as spooky as you might guess.
Probably cause they just don't see us as a threat."
He said 'They' again. "Do you know the name of these fish we're after?"
That stopped him for a second. "You know, I never thought about it. I don't think much of a study has been made on the sea life here yet, much less name anything."
I heard a screech overhead while Monty bent down scooping a handful of sand. Shielding my eyes from the gaining light I saw a half dozen long-winged pure white birds flying high overhead. Very fast,' I thought to myself.
He probed the sand in his palm with a finger. He held out his hand, revealing a compact, segmented shelled, multi-legged beasty about the size and shape of the ham of my thumb. "This here is what they like.
The waves churn up the sand and exposes these guys for a bit. Haven't tried lures yet. Probably best to learn off the local stuff first anywho. Heck, I'm lucky to have the gear I've got now much less shelling out God knows how many credits for shipping the heavy stuff. I barter with a metallurgist at Heinlein City. He makes me iron sinkers and I keep him supplied
with vegetable seeds," he grinned.
We walked along the beach while showing me how to hook the bait, down through the head, up through the tail end... but my eyes were mostly focused on the
water. "There! Is that one?" I asked pointing ahead.
"Where? Umm... Yeah! Good eyes! Nice size too!" The back of the fish slid smoothly into the surf.
"Now, run inland a bit and get ahead if it. Cast into its path, but not too close."
I ducked low as I moved forward, not knowing if it was really necessary but figured it would be playing it safe. I looked for the free spool button and pressed it. Here I was, not having touched a rod for about a year, and now supposed to perform without even a warm-up. I cast the approximate distance into the surf that I saw the fish last.
Monty came near and spoke in a lowered voice, a habit of anticipation rather than a real need for stealth. "That cast was good... Not too close. You should feel a couple soft but quick pecks when he hits. If he picks it up let him go a bit then thumb the spool. Let him take up the slack then nail 'em."
The feel of the line moving this way and that through the waves was a new sensation.
He anticipated me again. "No worries of mistaking a bite for a wave. We're not really out far enough for the waves to be beating on the line anyway. A wave gives a dull sort of thud, where the fish bite will
have some authority to it," he said illustrating with a hard twitching of his fist.
I saw the line moving out of range. "I should bring it in now, right? Reposition... Hey, there!" I pointed with the rod.
"Whoa! It's another one! Bigger too! Give it another go!"
I reeled in and quickly, checked the bait and let loose another passable cast. Thank God for motor
memory, I murmured.
The fish slipped into another low wave but was on track to the bait. There was a slow churn of water and a peek of tail fin.
The line started to move diagonal from the waves.
"Monty..." I said as my heart slipped into overdrive, "he's got it!"
Monty just watched. I put the reel in gear, saw the line tighten, clamped my thumb on the spool and hauled back setting the hook hard.
Simultaneously the rod lurched forward - the line sizzled as it cut through the water - and Monty let out a war whoop. "There ya go! He's off!"
"Yikes!" I cried as it took a quick turn and paralleled the shore, the drag singing.
"Don't let 'em get too close to the pilings! You'll lose em for sure! Forget about the hook pulling out... they have a mouth as tough as an old boot!"
I kept the pressure on but trotted up shore to keep the distance as short as possible. It turned again and headed for the open sea. I moved to a point directly behind and added drag with my thumb.
It slowed and seemed to stop. A small slow motion wave smacked me in the thigh and dowsed my whole front. I wiped the stinging brine from my eyes and spat. "Hah! You're getting the full baptism eh?" Monty
The fish started to give up ground... so to speak. I began to take in line for the first time since hooking him. It then sped up, and sped up some more!
I frantically reeled trying to keep up. The slack of the line bowed behind it. He turned again heading down shore from the trestle and cleared the water! I gasped and Monty whooped again. The slack now gone
and the drag whining again as it gave me a real surprise.
It unfurled wings! I never saw anything like it. It soared over the water then began flapping and gained altitude setting course straight out again. It dove down into the face of a far cresting wave and came out the other side. It banked right, closed its wings and plunged straight into the water with nary a ripple.
I was able to pump the rod and gain back line, it's strength apparently waning.
Monty stood by as I brought the fish close, slid my fingers under its belly and quickly brought it to shore. I was surprised its size was only just longer than my forearm.
Its body was streamlined for a bottom feeder. In spreading out the wings, really just elongated pectoral fins, they glowed like bronze in the sun.
Monty stepped back a bit, aimed his watch at me and pressed a button. "I'll message this holo to your ship so you can show it off. A fine fish Pete!"
I lowered the fish into the water. It meandered for a second then shot away.
"I didn't want to give away the finale. To be fair, they don't take to the air ALL the time," he said as he cast out. "I'm thinking of opening a tackle shop when
I retire, you know, once Jether stops being just a company run planet and people start settling in proper. But soon I'm gonna find somebody to do a
chemical work-up on these guys and see if they're O.K. for eating. I need to get a bit more bartering done," he said smiling wide.