Episode 1: Fish or Cut Bait.
Have you ever worked a twelve hour shift, and lost money? I have, and it all happened before the sun was even up. We had a terrible day; pulled the nets in and had pretty much nothing. I barked at Andy a bunch. I’m probably going to need to apologize. At one point, after he let the anchor go untied, I told him, “if you’d quit poppin your zits then maybe your hands wouldn’t be too greesy to hold onto the rope.” I know that sounds harsh, but we’re brothers… so. I don’t have no axe to grind, and It wasn’t his fault anyway. I just flew off the handle on account of the crappy day. Hey, every dog’s got a few fleas.
I’m tellin ya, Them fish were scarce as hen’s teeth. I can’t remember ever having a day where we caught nothing. We’ve had low numbers before; like the time I had that hang over and hit the buoy. Even then we managed to pull in a few hundred kilos. So yeah… it was bad. It was like taking a kick in the pants, over and over, for twelve hours straight. I was tired, sore, and in no mood to be bothered.
Most my friends are still in school learning to do- well I don’t guess I know what they’re learning. Me and Andy, though. We chose the family business. Boy aren’t we livin high on the hog… yeah right. Some days it’s great, but today I’m preachin it: Stay in school kids, or you’ll wind up like ole uncle Simon.
Ok so there we were mad, heading back to the port, and itchin’ to get a few drinks in us.
When we got back to the dock we could see a tangle of city stooges with cameras and what not. It was a big ole’ wad of folks all lathered up about something. They were being freakin’ loud too. I thought about dropping my net on em’ and scoopin em’ all into the water, seein as I hadn’t really gotten to make use of my net all day.
I was in such a bad mood I was grinding my teeth hard enough to get a hemorrhoid. The last thing I wanted at a time like this was an audience. We tied off and started stowing gear. We didn’t really have any fish to unload, but we didn’t want to go home right off either. Imagine telling a hungry wife, “we got nothing all day.” So we were marking time, doing a half massed job of cleanup. We were about as good as a peg leg in a hundred yard dash. we watched the crowd as we slopped up the wreckage of a wasted shift. The crowd was surrounding someone. I thought it might be the guy that had been dunking folks in the water here not so long ago. I just wanted to steer clear of them and get home. They looked like a stampede waiting to happen.
My brother Andy went and rubber necked a little. He said there was some dude that was talking stories. He thought he might be a movie star or something because people were taking his picture and stuff.
Bout then James and John and their dad came back in their boat and docked next to us. They had a really bad day too. Nothing in the nets. We talked to them a bit while they cleaned up. We all agreed that It was weird. You usually catch something. Mr. Zebadee, John and James’ Dad said he’d never seen anything like it. They said they had caught 3. I had to ask “like 300 kilos?” He said “no just three fish.” … sheesh. You’d have to go back more coon’s ages than any of us could count to hear of such a bad catch.
So, we were all in a daze; just chewin the fat. With nothing else to do, we watched the crowd for a while. I noticed they started to move down the dock right toward us. Oh goodie, bunch of yuppies lickin the boots of some out-of-towner. Through the crowd came this guy. Blue jeans and a white shirt kind a dude. Looked like a construction worker or something. I realized I’d seen him before. In fact he grew up a few towns over. I’d never shot the breeze with him or anything, but I recognized his face. I figured that he’d been some local boy who’d gone off to Hollywood and by the time he came back he was in high cotton.
Main thing I noticed was his hands. Sounds weird I know, but it’s always something I look at. His hands were like boot leather dried in the sun. Looked like he could bend steel pipe with those finger wrenches. He wasn’t no movie-star pretty boy. This guy had worked; most his life by the look of his mitts. Honestly, he didn’t seem all that special from where I was standing. He wasn’t the kind of guy you think of drawing a crowd, that’s for sure.
He walked down the pier and came right to our boat. I was eyeballing him hard cause I was pretty pissed from our awful haul from the day. The crowd was all going nuts. Basically drooling on themselves. They wouldn’t give him any space. Everyone wanted to get in closer than a tick on a mules hide. I’d be throwin’ an elbow if I were him, but he stayed chill.
What he did next made me ball my fists. That sucker just jumped up on the front of my boat. I stood real quick and gave him a look like “stay off my boat, dude.” He looked me in the eye. Not aggressive exactly; just gave me a long look. I nodded. I don’t know why. Usually I wouldn’t let someone just jump on my boat but he seemed like he had a reason. Once he was aboard, he had this kind of ‘inside-joke’ grin. There was something he wasn’t telling us. He asked me to let out a little line from the dock so the crowd couldn’t squeeze in so close. Now, that sounded like a good idea. I didn’t want any of these city yo-yos gettin any bright ideas and climbing aboard. To this guy I’d give a pass, but if any of them so much as touched a toe on my bow, I’d chunk there a… (I told my wife I wouldn’t cuss, cause my kids might read this.) Point is, I’d chunk em’ in the water. I ain’t in the tour boat business.
So I let out the line a little and let her drift back from the dock. When I did he started talking to the people that were there. He told them stuff like the guy that had been dunking folks in the water. This guy though, he wasn’t nuts. He was like listening to a movie or something. It’s like his words made pictures in my brain. err… I don’t know. It was crazy, he just said stuff that made sense. He was a preacher kind of guy. But not like most of the preachers that you see or whatever. He was just different.
He talked to them for a long time and they all listened. Some took pictures while he talked but mostly they just paid attention. Rare to see folks not distracted by something. When he got done talking to em’ he turned to me and asked if I would take him out into deep water. I was thinking, “this ain’t a ferry, dude.” but I didn’t say it cause of the way he asked. He wasn’t telling me to do it like you might think a movie star would. He was asking. So I did it.
Really I was ready to get home by now. My wife has been taking care of her mom since she got sick so I try not to stay out too late. I know what you’re thinking, I’m too young to be married. Well if I’d only stayed in school, but I won’t preach that sermon a second time. Also I’ve stopped going to the bar with Andy after work. Anyway, I just wanted to go home but I felt like I should do what he requested. Mainly I wanted to know what business he had going out to deep water but I didn’t want to ask. This dude was really intense. I don’t know it’s weird.
Anyway. I took him out into the water. Oh yeah, Dad got off before we went, but Andy came along. We got out a few kilometers maybe, before he told us to stop. I killed the engine. He didn’t even look over the side of the boat or anything. He just said. “drop your nets here for a catch.”
I said, “dude we’ve been trying all day, there’s nothing to catch.” He just of stared at me. I didn’t like being stared at, and I was in a pretty rotten mood. It was like he was saying, “is that your final answer?” with his eyes. I figured the quicker I did what he asked, and proved to him that there was nothing to catch the quicker I could be at home with a cold beer.
“ok, cause you’re some kind of teacher movie star guy, I’ll do it – but then we’re going back,” I told him. He kind of gave me this smile and just waited.
You’re probably going to think I’m making this up. Believe me, I’ve told some fish stories in my day. I told my brother once, that I caught a twelve foot Largemouth Bass off the coast of the mediterranean. Thing I didn’t know at the time was that Largemouth bass only live in freshwater and ain’t nobody ever seen one get past four feet. So I’m no stranger to telling a little slippery fib. I swear though, this ain’t no joke.
We did as the man said and put our nets down. It was freakin’ weird. The fish were trying to jump in even before we got it into the water. They were swarming in like red-necks at a Lynyrd Skynyrd show. It was the biggest catch I’ve ever seen. Our crane winch jammed cause it couldn’t lift it. I don’t know what the winch drum can handle, but I’m sure it’s got to be at least a couple tons. I told Andy to get on the radio and get John to bring his boat. In a few minutes they were there and helped us get it in. Our boat was riding super low because of the size of the catch. The motor was groaning like a rutting hog. There were so many, there’s no way I could ever count em’ even if I took my shoes off.
Both John’s boat and ours was chugged full. We were as busy as a stump-tailed cow in fly time. It was scary weird. As we drove the boat back, I thought about it from every angle. That dude had done a miracle I guessed. He’d done it as if it were as easy as sliding off a greasy log backwards.
When we got back to the dock, I was a wreck. right there in my boat I flopped down in front of the blue jean wearing miracle-man. I said, “I’m real messed up, I don’t know who or what you are, but I know I don’t deserve to be near you, I’m nothin but trouble.” Bout that time John and his brother James hopped on our boat and Andy came forward to the front where we were. We all just waited for him to say something.
He said, “Don’t be afraid, From now on you will catch people.” Then he looked at each of us for a second and said, “come follow me.” I had to pick my jaw up off the deck. Out of all the folks this guy could have picked for roadies, he had handed a golden guilded invitation to my sorry self. Me and my boys were fit to be tied.
Now we caught so many fish with that one haul that we could have put our feet up for the rest of the year. Heck, we might could have retired. Even though we’d just pulled the catch of a lifetime, we didn’t care. It didn’t take us two shakes of a sheep’s tail to decide. My parents thought we were nuts, but we just left the boats there at the pier and followed him out of there. Teenagers want adventure right? They say, either fish or cut bait. Well I guess we cut bait today, possibly for good. Don’t worry, the business will be fine. John’s dad can hire more. Despite all my bad mouthin’ the business does pretty well. I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I’m down for it. He filled those nets like it was nothing. If he can do that, maybe he could change things in this rats nest of a country. I can see him make the long haul all the way to capitol hill. Man wouldn’t that be something. And just think, he invited me and my boys along for the ride.
He also gave me a nickname. I’ve had some nicknames before, most of which I probably should’nt say on account of my kids reading this and all. Anyway, He’s calling me ‘The Rock.’ He called James and John ‘Thunder boys’
Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!