Steven Wright (1955 – )
When I was young there were many things I envisioned doing when I was older, fishing was never one of them. Standing around the waters’ edge, holding a stick with bait on a string, starring at the water imagining the thoughts of a creature dumb enough to fall for it. Time after time re-baiting the string and casting it back into the waters because, after all, the dumb creature was indeed smarter than me. The fish and perhaps his friends would be down there laughing at me, taunting me, sneaking up and stealing from me. To be constantly out-smarted by the likes of a creature, with a brain smaller than the size of the bait, was not the way I longed to spend an hour, much less a day. Yet that is precisely what I found myself doing one Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago.
My parents live a few miles away, in the same town, but we never seem to get together often enough. One year as my father’s birthday approached, I found myself contemplating a present. I wanted it to be something different, something unusual, something that would make up for the fact that I forget year after year. Getting him a present at all, would be both different and unusual but I suspected it would not make up for the missed opportunities. It was too late to replace me with a more thoughtful, considerate attentive son, that should have been done years ago while I was still young. He would catch on if I did it now.
My answer came to me when I learned my mother would be out-of-town on my father’s birthday. I imagined he would be home alone, left to his own devices, walking around dazed and confused, with no direction,no hope no purpose……he would sit on the couch and enjoy a good ballgame in peace and quiet. I would come to the rescue, with the help of my son (now 30 something), we would have a “boys day out”, a little male bonding, some “us time”. We eliminated our first choices right off the bat. Sky-diving, gator wrestling and mountain climbing were all activities the women would disapprove of and we were to chicken” to do anyway. We live in Florida so deep water fishing somehow became the next best thing to do. I had never gone because I suspected I may be susceptible to sea-sickness, and don’t fish! My father does fish, but knows he gets seasick! My son, also gets seasick but heard, deep-sea-fishing involved an open bar! It was decided my father’s birthday present would be a couple of hours out on a chartered fishing boat. It would be a nice and relaxing time, teasing some fish.
On the eve of our “two-hour fishing outing”, we were informed that due to lack of interest (it was the “off-season”) and the bad economy (no one was booking the charter)…..it would now be an “eight-hour fishing outing”, so that they could combine the whole days‘ reservations into one trip out to sea. We would go further out to sea, for a longer period of time and in deeper waters, for half the price. We were told to plan accordingly, so I went out and bought the economy size box of Dramamine and sunscreen. My father surmised it would be too late, to learn to swim and Phil (my son) heard, “open bar for a longer period of time”. We were set for our “day out on the open seas”.
The morning of the fishing trip, we took our Dramamine, applied our sunscreen, packed our bags, basically prepared ourselves for battle with nature. We talked of what we would do with all the fish we would catch……. how we would clean them, cook them, freeze the extra…..we had plans. We talked about what fish would be “running”…Bass, Flounder, Fluke, Shark, Wale, Snail every manner of sea creature. We would catch them all, share them with family and friends alike. We were now fishermen after all.
We arrived at the docks early, forgoing breakfast just in case. Lunch, bait and fishing gear were all to be provided. We soon identified the real fishermen. They showed up just in time, with their own fishing gear, lunch and two coolers, one for their catch and one for their beer. We had Dramamine, sunscreen, sunglasses and a couple of towels. As we boarded the boat , we got to pick out our fishing gear and to stake out our spots on the deck. I picked my “tool”, as if I knew what I was doing. I looked all the rods over for a while, inspected every inch. I checked the lines, spun the reels and flexed the rods. I was determined to pick the best rod and reel. After careful deliberation, I determined black would look best in my photographs. Phil and Poppi were not as careful with their selections, but also came to their conclusions…they picked the black ones also. We then picked our spots. I don’t know stern from bow, so I just picked the right side of the boat, in the shade. The “fishermen” all went to the back of the boat. I guess We would just have to get to the fish first. The boat then pulled up anchor, pulled out of the slip, turned around and headed east, straight into the sun. It was nice and shady “in the back of the boat”, under the overhang of the top deck, from which the boat was piloted. We applied our sunscreen.