JUST FISHIN’ (Part 2 of 2 Parts)
Last week, we met the little town of Left Bank’s gang of six-year-olds: Charlie Schmidt, Harley Jenkins, Dickie Duggar, Jackie Sousa (the only girl), Willie Williams, and John Kuppernick. Only a third of the way through summer vacation, they’re already bored. Part 2 of our story takes place on the little dock down at the river where the group usually hangs out after chores are done. Charlie’s got his nose out of joint because Harley claims he’s fishing even though everyone knows there are no fish in this part of the river. Charlie called for a vote on whether Harley’s fishing or just wasting time. He didn’t get a vote; he got arguments. Let’s Pick up the action.
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Nobody was sleepy now. We were all on our feet, wide awake and ready to boil over.
DickieDu tried to put some rational reason into the thing. “What does it matter, anyway?”
I was having none of it. “It’s all about being right.” I started for Harley, who was still sitting on his post, back to me.
DickieDu stepped in front of me. I pushed him. He pushed me back. I popped him on the cheek. He slugged me back. Then we were all over one another, grappling and getting in a few insincere punches. I accidentally got him on the nose, and he started bleeding.
During the pause that followed I saw Willie and John rolling around on the dock with Willie knuckling John’s ear. I didn’t understand that one because they both agreed with me. Jackie finished tending DickieDu’s nosebleed and cast a baleful look in my direction. I backed away as she advanced on me. I caught a glimpse of Harley as I retreated to the edge of the dock. He looked peaceful and unperturbed just like a fisherman doing what he was supposed to do. Fishin’.
I halted and watched with trepidation as Jackie walked up to me. I’m taller than she is, so her nose was about on a level with my chin. I watched in something akin to terror as she slowly put a hand to my chest… and pushed.
I hit the water with a squeal. The day might be muggy, but the water was cold and the current was tugging at me. I started making for the landing when something bit me. I let out a yelp and frantically splashed around looking for a water moccasin or something equally deadly.
“I got something!” I heard Harley shout. Then my butt caught fire as he started jerking on the line.
Splashing and yelling for him to stop finally got his attention. Five pairs of eyes peered down from the dock as I fought my way against the current to the landing. After a couple of false starts, Harley understood he had to pace me along the dock in order for me to reach dry land.
Me’n my soaked pants and one sneaker—the other was floating down the river—made it to dry land, and I cautiously walked up onto the dock, wincing once in a while when Harley inadvertently—I think—drew the line too taut. They put me face down on the deck, and the five of them went about discussing my butt. It was hooked, they all agreed. DickieDu tried to pull it out, but I screamed for him to stop.
“That hook’s barbed,” Jackie said. “We need to cut off his pants and see how bad it is. Who has a knife?”
“Nooo!” I said… yelped… screamed. I didn’t want Jackie staring at my bare butt.
“Then we’ll just have to push the hook out through the flesh so we can clip off the barb and draw it out.”
“Stop!” It was a scream this time. Pure and simple. “Don’t touch me! Somebody go get my mom!”
I don’t know how long I lay there, hurting and mortified as more and more townspeople showed up, drawn by that invisible, inaudible call of someone in distress. I hid my eyes with my hands and stopped looking.
My mother’s voice, when she arrived, didn’t provide the comfort I’d expected. Her “Charlie, what have you done now?” seemed a bit harsh. I left the explaining to the others, refusing to participate until someone suggested calling Doc Merton down here. Then I objected. He’d cut off my pants and give half the town a good look at Charles Blake Schmidt’s bare butt firmly snagged by Harley’s fishhook.
I ended up limping three blocks to the doctor’s office with Harley trailing along behind with his fishing pole. I don’t know why someone didn’t cut the line and free me of the tether, but they didn’t.
After Dr. Merton hemmed and hawed for an ungodly amount of time, I felt another bite as he shot me with something to deaden my right buttock. Then he adopted Jackie’s suggestion and shoved the barb through the flesh so he could cut it off and remove the remainder of the steel hook. Anesthesia or not… I felt it.
Thank goodness it was still summer vacation so I didn’t have to face down the entire school. Even so, lots of kids showed up to see how I was doing and snigger behind their hands My butt throbbed from all the stares it was getting. Felt like everybody could see through my PJs to the real thing. I got a whole bunch of cards, most of them all right—you know, “get well soon,” that kind of thing. But a couple had crude pictures of a bare butt skewered by a gigantic fishhook. Someone even left a big rhinestone pin in the shape of a fishhook. The jokester didn’t even have the guts to sign his—or her—name to the box it came in. Loretta Sue Hogg, who fancied herself a poet, wrote a verse about “Charlie Schmidt, the Boy with the Barbed Butt.”
But the unkindest cut of all came a couple of weeks later when I heard Harley Jenkins telling some girls, “I was just fishin’. And guess what I caught?”
Was it worth waiting on? Let me know at the email address below.
Once again, I’ll leave the links to me and my writing plus the DSP Publications buy links I included last week. I can use the plug for The Bisti Business.
DSP Pub paperback: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-bisti-business-by-don-travis-361-b
As always, thanks for being readers.
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