SOMETIMES SPILLED MILK CAN BE A GOOD THING.

SOMETIMES SPILLED MILK CAN BE A GOOD THING

This past Sunday I was just about done with my morning shift in the dairy aisle.   Just a touch up or two and I could head out sipping a well deserved coffee. As I was checking the sell by date on a cup of yogurt, my eye caught a father and son up near the milk section. The kid and his dad were checking out the gallons. I’d say the young fellow was maybe eight or so. He could have been older. I don’t tell age that well anymore. The two of them seemed happy enough. There was talk of getting a coffee cake.

Like most kids his age, the young fellow wanted to help. He insisted in carrying the gallon jug. Dad said ok and, off they went walking behind me. At first, the son carried the bottle by its handle but, they do get heavy. To make it easier, he hoisted the bottle onto his shoulder. That’s a kind of macho way to lug anything. Pirates walking kegs of gunpowder or rum up the gangplank carry things that way. John Wayne used to heft cannon barrels to the other side of the Alamo like that.

This is all well and good for pirates and Davy Crockett but, kids holding milk like that isn’t the best of plans. I was going to say something but, gee he was with his dad. They only had seventy five feet to go. I went back to checking for yogurt outdates. Then, I heard it.

The little guy was hollering, “But Dad. It was an accident!!!!” It sure as heck was.

I turned to see the two of them down near the bread section. The kid was almost in tears. He had his hands up in pleading despair. Dad, has his hands on his hips and was shaking his head. It was a scene of total grief and confusion as one gallon of two percent Americas Choice flowed and spread from in front of the rye bread section to well past the Twinkies shelf.

Hands on my hips, I arrived on the scene. The kid was very upset. He hollered, “It was an accident. The bottle fell off my shoulder. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I was wrong to hold it on my shoulder. It just slipped. I’m sorry.” Dad was strangely quiet. His son was on a roll. The kid continued. “What can I do to help?   It’s all my fault!!”

I tried to think before I spoke. Many times in my life, I’ve found myself in the same pickle as this little guy. I remembered how it felt to be standing in front of a broken window waiting for the old guy who lived next door to call my folks. It’s not the greatest of feelings to be caught red handed. I got my hands off my hips and figured it best to stroke my beard instead.

I tried to choose my words. “It’s just a gallon of milk guys. The cows will make more. No big deal.” I saw that they wanted to help. “Tell you what men. You guys stand guard and don’t let anyone walk in this stuff. I’ll go get some warning signs.” I headed off to find a few wet floor markers. You’d have thought that the kid was guarding the president. I found the markers and brought them to the scene. I gave the kid one to place on the far side of the milk pond. He adjusted it just right. I told them to keep an eye on things while I went to get the mop and bucket. The milk was spreading fast.

In the mop room, I chose the red bucket because it sort of looked like an ambulance. With a fresh mop on board, I headed for the accident scene.   The milk had really spread out by the time I got there. This was going to be a big deal.

The kid asked if he could do the mopping. I had to say no because I had to work fast. I didn’t want him slipping and falling into the puddle. I said something about how I learned to mop in the Navy. Unfortunately, that’s about all I learned in the service but, I did learn it well. All those screaming chiefs would have been proud of me as I sopped up that milk in record time.

Still, we weren’t done yet. The milk was up but, old milk residue can get a bit ripe in due time. I told the guys that we had to do a rinse. The kid thought that to be a good idea and said he’d keep folks from venturing into the danger zone. I went off to the mop room for fresh warm water. This was getting to be fun.

The rinse went well. Soon, there would be no chance of foul odors in the bread aisle. In a few short moments once again the aisle would no longer be a danger to humanity. The kid was all smiles. He asked if he and his dad could pay for the milk. I said that wasn’t necessary because it was an honest accident. Now he was really smiling. I think his allowance was going to suffer a spilled milk levy. The crisis was over.

I showed the kid that the right way to hold a milk jug is to always grab the handle. I also told him how once I spilled twenty four bottles of milk back in the cooler. Oh God was that a mess. He said he was sorry one more time and, I said that was ok one more time too. He and his dad went off to check out the coffee cake section.

You know, grownups could learn quite a bit from this wonderful kid. Accidents happen in life. Mistakes are made. But, if you’re sorry, and do your best to make things right and also, learn from the mistake, in most cases the world will keep on turning and you’ll learn a thing or two. I’m proud of that kid. If he can keep that attitude, he’ll goof up now and then, but he’ll be the better for it.

 

 

 

GOOD, NO, VERY GOOD ADVICE

GOOD, NO, VERY GOOD ADVICE
The other day was about as gloomy as a day could be. Hot and muggy. World news was even more rotten and scary than it usually is. Money was pretty low. Make that very low. I think I had enough cash on hand to get a can of generic canned ravioli. That would be supper. Rumors were heavily afoot that the store I work in might close. I learned that unemployment which I thought lasted two years, only lasts six months now. Listenership at the station was down a tad. I ran into a friend of mine who is a medical technician. He had a patient die on him earlier that day. Trying to cheer him up made me remember some of the times when I would lose a patient as an EMT. Soon, we were both almost crying in the canned goods aisle. If that weren’t enough, my armpits really itched too. Worse than that, the deodorant that might fix the problem, would cost a whole bunch more than I could afford. Even worse than that, there was a problem with my wifes Obama Care. Some kind of glitch in the subsidy data. That would mean I’d be spending the night playing phone pong and being asked to submit once again the data they’ve lost three times in a row now. I wearily faced a weary night in phone jail sitting for hours with itchy armpits. With a heavy heart, I dragged my fanny to the checkout cashier. On the way, I slipped a bit on a grape and sprained my ankle a little. I wasn’t hurt enough to sue. Just my rotten luck.
At least the line was very short. Instead of being thankful for a short line, I figured that short lines all the time were the reason the store was closing. There was no pleasing me. I had a bit of a talk with the cashier. She’s a lovely person named Susie. I thought to myself that Sue, like any of us has, had her times of mostly down too. Funny though, I’ve known her for about eight years and, I’ve only heard her get really upset maybe just once or twice. God knows, she’s been through the grinder too. Most folks wouldn’t want to deal with some of the things she’s had to work out. I was glad she was my cashier.
We got to talking about a mutual friend who has a very rough family problem. Things are getting pretty serious and it’s a shame. Sue asked if I had any news about that person and, I said that all I knew was that the situation looked pretty bleak. Sue started to stuff my can of ravioli into a bag and said that she guessed that person needed a miracle. I agreed and said that she was right. Then, I said how it seemed like miracles were in short supply lately.
Sue stopped and looked at me with my can of ravioli in her hand and said. “Listen to you Doc. No miracles??? You need to go back and read your book.” She smiled and dropped the can into the bag. She nailed the situation. I could have kissed her. She was right and, I told her so. Darn but, that answer of hers came so quick. She’s never read my book. She’s only heard of it. But, she nailed it. With that, I changed my tune and went outside just in time to see the pretty sunset and cool breeze that I would have missed.
I decided to do a show instead of battling with Obama Care. I’ll wait till they send a few more notices. There’s no hurry. It’s government work. I looked at the clouds in the sunset and figured the patient my friend lost and those who I lost are probably hanging out in the sky with God having a ball. I went home and played my favorite tunes for a happy crowd. Except for my itchy armpits, it turned out to be a good night.
Maybe that miracle will come to my friend with the sick family member. Maybe I’m going to have to give Sue a copy of my book for her very own

MY AUTOGRAPH, WOW WHAT A DEAL

MY AUTOGRAPH, WOW WHAT A DEAL

It was a long time ago now but, the Girl Scout Father Daughter dance turned out ok. In fact, a great time was had by all. Basically, the party was thrown by our towns Girl Scout Council. It was like a junior prom but, the girls came with their dad’s. It was my job to provide the oldies and host the party.   I truly enjoy this kind of thing.

The best part was getting the dads to dance. For them, resistance was futile. How do you turn down your own daughter when she wants to twist or do the stroll with you? After a while the dads all got kind of used to looking silly and, the party took off just fine. There was ice cream sodas, pizza, and each other. Who could ask for more?

Some dads came over and begged me not to play a Limbo. They had bad backs and big bellies. I told them I’d make it a girls only event and that dads could join in only if they wanted to do so. When the Limbo call was sounded, those that could, did. All went well. Chubby Checker would have been pleased at the carnage out on the dance floor. Dad’s hitting the floor actually shook the building enough to make my turntable tone arm jump. Cool.

I’ve attended parties during my drinking days that lasted for entire weekends, maybe even longer. They tell me that I had a great time. But I think this particular party was one of the greatest I ever saw. The Girl Scout leaders really out did themselves.   But even a great party has its last dance and, this one was no exception. I looked on as the girls all slow danced with their dads to perhaps Daddy’s Little Girl or a song just like it. I don’t remember the exact song. I was too busy holding back the tears. I choked out a good night and the lights came on. The party was over.

I was packing up my gear and getting it out to the van as people came by and said thank you. Some of the scout leaders came over to tell me there was extra pizza if I wanted any. I’m always up for that. Cold pizza is the best. Picture me gobbling down one slice with a second slice in my hand ready to go. I looked like a chipmunk after he’s found a stash of sunflower seeds. Suddenly, two girl scouts come over to the table. They said hello and thanked me. It was hard for me to talk back with a mouthful but, I did my best. I think a pepperoni slice fell out of my mouth but, I caught it. I popped it back into my mouth as the girls each handed me an empty paper plate and asked if I would autograph it for them.

Friends, I almost never get asked for an autograph. It’s very rare that it ever happens. I’ve gone whole decades without even as much as a glance from an autograph hound.  So these girls just floored me. There they were, pens in hand and a paper plate each wearing great big grins. I pretended that I was someone special and signed my name with a flourish making sure that I got the spelling right. I even wrote a little note on each plate too. Just to make it a bit more personal. Then, I handed the plates back to those two wonderful young ladies.

They stood in front of me and gave me a great big thank you. Their dads were calling to them so they turned and headed off. As they left, I could hear one saying to the other. “Wow! We got Doc South to autograph these plates. These could be worth fifty dollars each someday!”

I just went back to stuffing my face. I got to thinking they might be right. My autograph could someday be worth $50 as long as I put it on a check for $100. Still, at that party, for those few hours everyone was a kind of millionaire, myself included.

 

 

TWO GOOD KIDS

TWO GOOD KIDS.

I was working up in the milk section of my dairy case at the A&P just the other day. It’s up near the rest rooms. I paused a minute as a mom and her five year old son approached. Mom stood in front of the case and searched for just the right jug of milk as her son ran into the mens room. Like most kids, he was in a hurry. His mom and I talked a bit while he was indisposed.

Soon, the little fellow came out. He was all grins. In fact, he was more than all grins. I’d say he was jumping for joy as he pointed at his mouth. His lips were a little bloody but, he didn’t care. I saw what it was. He had a loose tooth and he was wiggling it.  It was one of the upper front teeth. This might have been the first of his baby teeth to loosen up.

Mom and I were suitably impressed. The kid was beaming. I think his mom had a gauze pad or a hanky handy to mop up the bleeding. She was dabbing at the little bit of blood when her son just reached into his mouth and grabbed his tooth with his fingers and yanked. The tooth didn’t stand a chance. He looked at it and then held it up for all to see. He was really proud of himself.

I asked if it hurt as mom dabbed at the blood and stuck the gauze into the gaping hole. The little guy said that it didn’t hurt a bit. He wanted to use his moms mirror to see the hole and all the blood. He was mugging in the mirror and sticking the tip of his tongue into the gap. I said something about the tooth fairy but, he didn’t want the tooth fairy to get in on the action. No sir, he wanted to show that tooth off to his pals. That tooth was definitely a keeper.

I said how he looked like he’d lost his tooth in a big fight. He looked in the mirror again and figured I was right. Mom found the milk she wanted and they went on their way.

Later, I had a U boat full of empty cardboard boxes that I was rolling to the back room. I had let the boxes get too high.   I’ll bet they were easily about two feet higher than me. Well, I took the turn around the upright orange juice cooler a bit too fast, and wouldn’t you know it.   Yep! Every box leaned to the right and promptly fell all over the floor. No, I didn’t cuss. It wasn’t that big a deal. Now, if it was a U boat full of eggs, that might have been a different story.

I started to pick up the pile.   There was an awful lot of boxes all over the floor. People passing by kind of laughed. I don’t blame them. This would have been a classic scene in one of those early silent films. Buster Keaton would have had a field day and won an Oscar. As for me, I was just hoping I’d get the mess picked up before one of the managers saw me.

I was concentrating on slugging boxes onto the cart. I wasn’t really looking up or around. This was a time to pay attention to details or the pile would fall again. Suddenly, I noticed that I had help.  From the other side of the mound, boxes were being picked up and placed on the cart. I figured it was a coworker or at worst, a manager.   I just couldn’t see from where I was. The pile was too big and, it blocked my view.

Suddenly, I saw one of the hands of my helper. It was a little hand attached to a tiny arm. I stopped picking up boxes and got up.   I looked over the pile to see a six year old just whistling to himself and stacking boxes one after another. I asked him what he was doing down there.

The kid didn’t stop his stacking but, he did look up at me.   “I thought I’d help you out. This is fun. Do you spill this many boxes all the time?

“Yeah, I do.” I answered back. “It happens quite a bit.”

The kid just said, “Kool!!” I guess his mom won’t have to ask twice if he wants to go with her to the store any more.   I thanked him when the job was done. He smiled like the Lone Ranger. Good kid.

So there you are two different kids on the same day. I think both of them will grow up into fine young men. I’m thinking they’ll both someday join rescue squads. It’s in their blood.

 

THE BEST WEATHER FORECAST EVER

THE BEST WEATHER FORECAST EVER

It was a long time ago now that I found myself driving down a long straight road in the flatlands of North Carolina. I think it was in late spring. I was rolling through farm country. Massive fields were on both sides of me. I’d been driving between fields for almost a half hour or so. It looked like I‘d be still driving between fields for at least another half hour to come. This sure was farm country. It looked like they were growing corn and tobacco. One farmer had a crop of cabbages sitting in a five mile by five mile field. That was sure going to be a lot of sauerkraut I thought. I was thinking about maybe having horlooshka for supper when I noticed that I wasn’t traveling alone.

Riding along with me along these long rolling tree lined fields and off to my right, was a lone pilot in a old biplane crop duster.  At first, he snuck up to me from behind and kind of buzzed my Rabbit Diesel. I heard him pretty good thanks to my sun roof being open. He wasn’t much higher off the road than I was. I guess he was heading to a dusting site.   He moved over to the right and flew along my right side matching my speed. I wondered if this was the first time a compact car had a wingman. I stuck my hand out the sun roof hatch and waved. He waved back and tilted his wings a bit. Every now and then, he’d have to pull up fast to clear a tree line. We went like that for a good five minutes or so. I’ve got to think that was some of the best fun I ever had while driving.

In any case, he eventually had to flap wings and get to his job. He kind of pumped his fist which I think is pilot sign language for time to rev up. He waved goodbye, and off he went. That biplane could really move out. He disappeared behind the tree lines and into the horizon. I went back to being a car driver and brought it down to fifty five. There was some pretty good beach music on the radio. I let that take my attention.

So, I’m riding along pretty much to myself and passing a fields’ tree line. I had a full view of the new field. I think it was full of corn about a yard high. The field was about a mile wide along the road edge.  I could see the far tree line in the distance. I could also see some pretty large clouds further off. The next thing I noticed was my crop duster friend popping over the far tree line and heading my way. This time you would have thought he was in the Blue Angels. It looked like he had a bad case of wings do your stuff. He saw me and slowed up a bit and went into a turn so he could match my direction. He came alongside and waved. I waved back. He then pointed to the far distant clouds and gave a thumbs down. Then he kind of made a cut sign along his neck. I had to think a bit and then, I got it. I didn’t need a weather report to know I was heading into a storm. I gave him the three ring sign and waved a thumbs up. He waved, banked, and got out of Dodge.

Sure enough after about three miles, the sun roof had to be closed and the wipers came on. The dee jay on the radio had some pretty good beach music going. The beat almost matched my wipers. He did say something about a small chance of showers. As the wind kicked up and the lightning flashed, I was kind of glad that my own private Guy in the Sky gave me an early heads up.

 

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART FIVE

I realized that this super fish must have studied strategy somewhere. He must have been to school and he was one smart Pickerel. Sometimes a smart person can be lulled into a false sense of security by letting him think his plan is going well when it really isn’t.   I realized that Moby Pick put a high value on the gathering of intelligence. He also by now figured that he was way smarter than me and that things were going his way. I figured that now was the time to let his plan show some good results, deadly results that is.

Sure enough the next sortie was a spy mission. Moby Pick came again from the stern port side this time. His angle of jump allowed him to view the boat and clear the gunwales and fall safely back into the lake. I was ready for him this time. When he flew overhead I was on the deck of the boat hollering and holding my toes and rolling in pain. He saw it all and splashed down with a big fishy grin. I had to hurry. The next attack was coming fast.

I tip toed to the bow of the ship crouching low. I grabbed an oar and waited. It was quiet for a second or two. Then, sure as heck the bubbles were heard again directly to the stern. They were coming fast. I stood up and tried to remember everything my little league coach ever told me. The oar was in my hand like it was two outs and bases loaded. I could almost hear Mel Allen saying, “Here comes the pitch and he swings.”

That’s just what I did. I swung that oar as hard as I could. Moby Pick didn’t see it coming. I heard a splat, and he went sailing over the center field wall about forty feet out into the lake. He wasn’t moving. I set the oars and rowed over. There wasn’t any blood in the water but, he sure was laying still. Very still. The one legged doll was still tangled up on his side. She was a bit flat now. I gave the big fish a jab with my fishnet. There was no movement. I jabbed him again. Nothing.

I caught him up in my net and lifted Moby Pick onboard. I laid him down on the deck and started rowing to the home wharf. All the while I kept looking at him. He sure was still and kind of dry eyed. The doll kind of looked at me funny. She looked mad. I stopped rowing for a minute and, I got out my scissors and cut the doll off the fish and got the tangled fish line off too. My toes had stopped bleeding and didn’t hurt that bad. I figured that I should wash my blood off the deck. I grabbed the empty worm can and poured a little water on the little pool of blood. It washed away soon enough. Somehow I felt kind of rotten.

Granddad had once told me that pickerel are very bony. I sure hated eating bony fish. I took another can of water out of the lake and made sure it was clean. Then, I poured it on Moby Pick. To my surprise he started to move a little.   Another can of water made him move even more. His gills started moving too. I rowed out to deeper water and put down the oars.   Gently, I picked Moby up and lifted him over the side and eased him into the water. Moving him back and forth seemed to help. Soon he was moving his tail and his side fins too. I let go of him and he just laid in the water. He seemed to be breathing better. His gills were getting stronger too. I reached into the water and gave him a pat on the back. Gently, I stroked his side.

Moby Pick looked at me for a moment. His eyes were kind of glazed. Then, all of a sudden they weren’t. It didn’t take but a second and the darn fish flipped around and sunk his needle teeth into my thumb. With that, he sped into the depths and I never saw him again.

In time the cut healed. Grandma put mecurchrome on it. Funny but somehow for me after that day fishing was always pretty good at the lake. It was almost as if fish were herded or rounded up over to my rowboat. I threw most of them back.

I heard one day some old timers talking about fishing at the dam. They thought they saw a huge dead pickerel float by them and go over the spillway and into the Pequest River. They said it was the biggest fish they ever saw in the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART FOUR

A v shaped wake followed me out into the deep end of the lake. I knew it was Moby Pick.   I sized up the situation and my chances. I figured it was a good idea to hook him with the lure. That way he couldn’t get away. Plus, it would be a great story to tell granddad if I came home and said I hooked a fish so big that it stole my pole. He’d love a story like that one, especially if it was true. I stopped rowing and hauled in the oars and dropped anchor. I figured that might tire Moby Pick out a bit sooner. The anchor never hit bottom. I was in deep water. Moby Pick would have a lot of room to gain speed and momentum for his dreaded leaps.

I sat in the front of the boat. I remembered that from Moby Dick. That’s where all the harpoonists are stationed. From that point, if the fish starts to pull, the boat has less of a chance to swamp.   I cast the spoon lure out off the port bow about ten yards. I let it sink a bit and then proceeded to slowly wind it in and back to the boat. I held the pole as hard as my ten year old arms could manage. I was wondering if at days end that I’d even have arms or even a throat. I wouldn’t have long to wait. A row of bubbles surfaced and told me that something was going to where I figured the lure should be. The line suddenly went tight. It actually buzzed.   Spray bounced off it and onto my face. The fight was on.

I hollered and held on tight. The bow of the boat turned to starboard or, was it to port. I don’t remember. All I knew was that I’d never seen a fish move a boat before and I’ve never had since. Moby Pick actually moved the boat about ten feet to the west south west and then he dove. The end of granddads pole went into the water right up to the handle. My arms were in the water up to my elbows when the tension just stopped. The line went limp.

At first, I thought that the tug of war between us had just broken the line. Then, another thought came my way. There was a much more sinister reality coming to my mind. What if Moby Pick wasn’t hooked at all? What if he was just tugging on the lure without being hooked? He’d lure my hands into the water and then wait a second or two and then, Pow! I pulled my two hands out of the lake just in time to see Moby Pick come out of the depths jaws open wide.   My hands hit the surface and continued to rise and part away from each other. The fish breeched right between them. He couldn’t decide which hand to bite so, he missed them both.   For my part, the momentum of moving my hands apart and to safety kept me from catching this fish from hell.   We were both within grasp of each other but, we missed our chance. The first round was a draw.   Moby went into the dark depths. I grabbed my pole.

I sat back on the oarsman seat to catch my breath. The net sortie could come from any direction. I just kept revolving my head like a lighthouse beacon. I figured the next wave would come from port or starboard. I was wrong. Without any warning and from the stern, I heard his evil hiss and that gaping mouth open wide as he literally flew over the helmsman seat and back into the water off the port oarlock. What was he up to just then I wondered. He didn’t have a chance of getting me by the throat just then.   Then it hit me. That wasn’t an attack at all. That was just a look around. He was down below thinking and sorting out what he saw.

It was just a minute or less when I could hear those bubbles again and that hiss. He was coming towards the stern again. But, this time he came straight up from mid stern and didn’t jump that hard. I thought maybe he was getting tired but no, he was getting smarter. The weaker jump put him right on the deck of the rowboat just in front of my feet, my bare feet. He flopped closer to me and chomped on my left big toe. Then he took a hunk out of the pinky toe on my right foot. As I was holding my feet he flopped back into the water. This was one smart fish is all I can say. I had to think harder or it was curtains for me. That first time was just my toes. The next time would be my juggler vein. If that happened I’d be invited to a fish dinner on the wrong side of the frying pan. I had to think of something. But, what? Then it hit me.

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART THREE

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK   PART THREE

I sat at the oarsman seat when the behemoth Moby Pick flew past my head as if the boat and I weren’t much more than a lily pad.   I think he meant to taunt me. That one jump he did at first just to eyeball me still sticks in my memory to this day. He was sizing me up I’m certain. Then, when I tried to cast but got the spoon lure stuck on the oar handle, he knew he had a target of opportunity. That’s when his first lunge came. That’s when I saw his gaping mouth that could swallow a kids arm right up to the armpit.   Those teeth of his could snap my arm off as if it were a penny pretzel down at old man Shapiro’s candy store. I thanked God I wasn’t already wounded and trying to row out of there with just one arm left and bleeding all over granddads rowboat.

Moby Pick breeched again. This time he came up from between some lily pads. Frogs were jumping for their lives, but he wasn’t after frogs this time. He was after me. He made about a four foot leap out of the water and just eyeballed me again. I didn’t know fish could sneer but, he was sneering. He disappeared below the lily pads and all was still. The frogs were hopping along the pads heading for shallow water or better yet, dry land.   I don’t think the frogs had much to worry about just then but, I sure did. I think that fish wanted me on a platter.

I had awful visions of Moby Picks wife Martha serving me for Sunday dinner. There I’d be in their little underwater home, on a platter with maybe some oregano sprinkled on me. I could see their little green kids smacking their lips and begging for their favorite cuts.   The oldest hatchling was asking if he could have my toes, little sis wanted my ears dipped in butter, and big brother wanted a drumstick. There was this baked potato in my mouth. I really wanted to get out of there.

It’s funny the things that go through your mind as you face certain doom. Part of me wanted to leave right away and never again have anything to do with Lake Lenape.   Fishing was out of the question of course. Hikes near the dam were out too. Moby Pick could leap out of the deep water near the dam and shove me right into the spillway. I’d be carried off by the current and wouldn’t be able to get free. My bones would probably wash ashore down along the Deleware near New Hope. Some decorator would probably take my bones and make a lamp. That or they’d think my carcass was from an old indian burial ground and I’d spend eternity at the State Museum in Trenton. Kids would be writing stuff on my skull when no one was looking. Once that fish had my scent, I could never again go even wading at the beach. He’d know in an instant that I was there and he’d probably sneak up to me and snatch my swim trunks. Why was I even born? I grabbed one oar and then the other. It was time to get out of Dodge. Bugler sound retreat. Feet’s do your stuff.

I just had to get the second oar in to the oarlock. This was the oar that had the chrome and green spoon lure stuck on it. I took a moment and stared at the lure. I got to thinking. The Patrick Henry side of me started to stir from within.   How was I going to tell Granddad that I ran away from a fish? What was I going to do when all my cousins wanted to swimming? How could I go fishing with the grownups and always be looking over my shoulder searching for a v shaped wake approaching the boat. What would they say when I ducked my head into my kapok life vest and screamed that I wanted to go home?

Sometimes even a kid knows when it’s time to take a stand and this was one of those times. My blood quickened its pace through my veins. My breathing grew faster. Soon I was standing amid ships with the oar in my hands. I held it in one hand and raised it as best I could to the sky. The oar was pretty heavy so I couldn’t lift it all the way. But, I lifted it enough and, I hollered too. At the top of my little lungs, I screamed an oath that on this day, only one of us would be alive to see the sunset on this day of glory. This world and the lake was only big enough for one of us, Moby Pick or me!   A lady sunning herself on a nearby float told me to quit hollering. She was trying to take a nap. Much like Admiral Dewy, I rowed off to destiny.  But first I pulled the chrome and green spoon lure out of the oar with my teeth.

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART TWO

All was still on the lake as I started to put two and two together. I remembered one evening not that long ago as we all sat around the campfire.  Granddad blew the fire off his marshmallow and looked over his shoulder just to make sure the women folk weren’t around. He was making sure they weren’t within earshot. Then, he got all hunched over and as the firelight glowed on his face and erie shadows played across his face, he told us the saga of Lake Lenape’s underwater monster, Moby Pick.

Moby was the oldest and meanest pickerel that ever lived in Lake Lenape. To this day, he’s never been taken dead or alive. He’s the scourge of the lake. Granddad said how he was wading near the beach eating a cheeseburger when all of a sudden he looked out at the lake and saw this wake coming his way at top speed. All granddad could remember was seeing this huge fish sail right out of the water and fly right by him. The fish landed five feet up on the beach and with one huge flop did a flip right back into the water. Granddad didn’t notice it at first, but he soon realized that his cheeseburger was gone. Only the onion was left hanging from his pinky.

Moby then swam out to the swimming float. He kept circling the float so, no one could jump in and get back to the beach. Some of those folks got horrible sunburns as a result. A few people had to really visit the bathroom too but, they couldn’t risk the swim back to shore with Moby around. They just had to squirm on the raft and beg to be saved. The lifeguards were powerless. It was one of the worst days in the entire history of the Lake.

My kid brother Ed was tried to wipe charred marshmallow goo off his face. The goo wouldn’t come off. It would soon be bath time. Ed asked Granddad about the one legged doll stuck to Moby Picks side. He wanted to know what happened.

Granddad popped yet another marshmallow into his mouth and continued. He said that about twenty years ago two brothers were teasing their sister down at the beach. Moby Pick was young then himself. Still, he was a fish to reckon with and had grown to almost full size. The brothers wanted to be the ones to capture Moby but first, they needed some bait.   The two of them hatched an evil plan. They went and kidnapped their sisters favorite doll. They also stole some fishing line from their dads tackle box.   Then they took it all down to the swimming dock at the beach.

On the dock, they tied the fishing line to the dolls waist and lowered her helpless into the drink. Granddad seemed to be getting madder at those two brothers as he continued.   He said how the boys dangled the doll just inches above the waterline and sometimes let her fall into the water. They leaned out over the docks edge with tennis rackets in their hands waiting for Moby Pick to come and eat their poor sisters doll. Sometimes the older brother would hit the doll with his tennis racket to get it to holler “Mama.” Granddad said how it was a miracle that those two bad kids didn’t get sent to reform school.

Suddenly, the water got deathly still. The boys saw a wake forming and approaching from about thirty feet away. It had to be Moby Pick. He sped up as he went into a wide counter clockwise turn. He was going faster by the second. Instead of ramming into the swimming dock, Moby was going to make a wide turn and run parallel to the dock with his jaws wide open. He smacked his fish lips and hit ramming speed as he opened his gapping jaws.

The two brothers weren’t ready for Moby’s approach. They had to switch position. One brother still had the doll on the string. He tried to lift her a bit. The older brother tried to swing the tennis racket but, he swung too early. With that, he lost his footing and fell off the dock. The kid brother lifted the doll just as Moby Pick broke out of the surface of the water. The doll went flying in the air as Moby flew by with his mouth wide open and bit the brother on the dock on the finger. The kid brother screamed and lost his footing and started to fall into the lake too. He had to let go of the string. Soon, the doll, Moby, and the two brothers were in this awful swirling whirlpool of fins, feet, tennis rackets, cries for mama, sharp teeth, screams, splashing, and gurgling.

In time, Granddad said that it all got sorted out. Moby Pick got away but, the doll was stuck to his side from then on. The fishing line just got too tangled. The two brothers got spankings and sent to bed without supper. The only one who made out fairly well was the little sister. Her Daddy got her a new doll and took it out of the brothers allowance.

My brother asked if one of those brothers was our father, and was the younger brother Uncle Don?

Ed also wanted to know if the little sister was maybe Aunt Jean? Granddad was silent for a moment and then sadly shook his head yes.   He said it was all he could do to keep his two sons out of reform school. Doll napping was a pretty serious crime back in those days.   Plus hitting a fish with a tennis racket was pretty serious stuff too. We all had one more toasted marshmallow and then it was time to hit the hay. Ed had to get in the shower first.

 

 

 

 

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART ONE

THE TALE OF MOBY PICK PART ONE

About the closest I ever came to living like Huck Finn was my summer days at Lake Lenape. It’s this small lake up in north Jersey. My grandparents had an old log cabin there overlooking the water and the mountain across the way. Shoes were frowned upon at the lake. Barefoot was considered high fashion. I think my uncle Don even got me a straw hat. I wore it a lot, especially when I went fishing. Most of Granddads old fishing poles were made of bamboo and the bait of choice was worms.

Granddad and I had a secret worm patch out in the woods. It was a few yards off the road along one of the creeks that fed the lake. It was a small patch of topsoil all stirred up with coffee grounds and dead leaves. We’d sneak over there with a tin can and a small weeding fork in hand. Two minutes later we’d have a can full of night crawlers ready to rumble. Granddad would stick some more coffee grounds in the soil and I’d cover the patch with leaves. We’d then sneak out of the woods unseen by worm poachers and hop in the car and drive off. It was a secret patch. I still know where it is but, I’m sworn to secrecy. I took an oath to never reveal its location.   The worms now live in peace there. It’s only right.

Granddad had a big wooden row boat. It was just a foot or two smaller than the Titanic. Every spring, before we’d put it in the water, we’d turn it upside down on saw horses. Then, we’d caulk the seams and scrape the paint till the sides were smooth. We’d dab on a new coat of Navy Grey boat paint and, she was ready for sea duty. We’d flip her right side up and grease the oar locks. My Uncle Don would break an empty beer bottle on the bow and, she’d slip into the lake ready for yet another summer at sea.

Kapok swim vests were standard issue to all kids under fourteen. I was the oldest at ten years old so, that meant all kids wore vests. These were the ones that had those awful straps that dug into your crotch. After a bit the pain would shift from your crotch to your fanny crack and then your armpits. The floating pads scraped at your chest and waist something awful especially if you had a bad sunburn. I guess it was better than drowning. I guess.

Granddad said it was ok for me to go out fishing by myself. I had passed all the required seamanship tests. I could steer forward and reverse. I had dead stop down pat. I knew my port from my starboard so, I was cleared for solo in the twelve foot craft.   I also knew to stay clear of the dam if water was going over the spillway. I got to say, I loved having Granddads trust. He loved that boat with all his heart and yet, it was ok with him for me to go out in it. Boy, that was cool of Granddad.

So, one day I’m out in the lake about fifty yards off shore in water depth of two fathoms. I was trying my hand at spin casting and getting some pretty good throws. I believe I was using a green and chrome small spoon lure. I had the pole with the heavy pound rating filament line. I figured that I had caught enough sunfish. The worms needed a break and, so the lure would do. The game fish were jumping. It was going to be them against me.   Funny, but I thought I saw a fish out of the corner of my eye do a wild jump.   It happened so fast but, I thought it seemed to hang in the air and actually look around at the scene above the water line. On the second jump, I think it actually made eye contact with me. It sure was a big fish.  I didn’t see any more leaps but, there was a kind of funny feel to the lake all of a sudden.

I sat there thinking. Gee wouldn’t Granddad go nuts if I brought home a fish like that. He’d probably get the head stuffed and we’d eat the rest for breakfast all month. Wow! There I’d be in the family photo album grabbing this huge fish by the gills. There’d be no other photos on that page. It’d be just me and that fish. Grinning at the camera.

The bottom of the rowboat felt warm on my bare feet as I rechecked the knot on my lure. Everything checked out. I thought I saw a large v shaped slow moving wake of the starboard stern. That big one was circling the boat. I hit the cast button on my reel and prepared for my best shot. I whipped the rod just as hard as I could aiming for a few feet ahead of the wake. This was going to be tricky.

The lure hit the oar handle and got stuck. “Crud”, I muttered under my breath.   I reached for the oar handle. Boy, that hook was stuck. I reached for my needle nose pliers. I didn’t see the wake approaching from behind at ramming speed.

Remember that scene in Twenty Thousand Leauges Under the Sea? You know, where Captain Nemo is ramming that dynamite ship. Well, that’s sort of what I saw coming my way. There was this approaching wake with a dorsal fin in the middle, off the port bow aiming to hit right at the port oar lock.   The water parted about ten feet off port and, all I saw was teeth and fish sailing out form the deep and breeching into the air. I found myself looking down the mouth of a green stripped three foot pickerel. It hissed at me just before its evil head dove into the water. It seemed to take at least an hour for its whole body to loop back into the depths. I think there was a one legged doll stuck to its side. It looked like the doll was tangled up in fishing line and stuck to the behemoths flank. The doll gurgled “Mama!”