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A Fish Tale

Alexander Moyle

To begin with, the bridge rose some fifty feet above the waters. Hauling a fish up to that platform would have required the effort of a god. It’s possible in the slow wanderings of a creek that bent back on itself so often that it never went anywhere; it’s possible that some prehistoric monster evade common witness. But it is only possible that Spidy C. could find him.

The Wolf boys and I worked our way up a feeder run, turning over rocks and fallen logs, stopping for every crawfish, stonecaddie, waterskipper, minnow, tadpole, and mudpuppie we found. The plan was to follow a small stream that led us to a entrance of the high school’s football field. Our hunchedbacked explorations delayed getting us there, till we caught a few notes from the marching band. As we ran to the top of the wood slope leading to the back of the field, I noticed the teams had not yet taken their benches. The crowd was still at the gate, milling about excitedly, awed by something other than football ritual.

Spidy C. commanded the center of the crowd. He was a wiry man of indeterminate age, with a pock-marked face and short mud-red hair. He always sported either a hunting or fishing jacket, lined with licenses and tags. In those days, my hometown was still pocketed with suburban wilds of empty lots and forgotten hollows, spats of tree not yet cleared for lawns. Spidy was its suburban hunter. Along with his customary riffle or fishing rod, Spidy often carried metal jaw traps that clanged as he stalked, paying no mind to backyard borders.

On this day, on the edge of the playing field, Spidy stood like Michelangelo’s David. His right arm was bent back over his right shoulder and, in place of a sligshot, his palm was lodged into the gill of an enormous fish. The huge yellow carp slung over his back hung half way down Spidy’s thigh. The carp was still gaping for air. It seemed to be speaking into Spidy’s ear.

I asked the obvious. "Spidy, did you catch the carp?"

"That’s nothing, compared to the whale I caught. Matter of fact last week I caught a dozen eels at the mouth of Bear Run." He nodded in the direction we just ran from. We had seen no eels and I never thought the run had a name.

The eldest Wolf boy asked, suspicious, "Where did you catch the carp, Spidy? Did you find it floatin’?"

"Behind the park, in that slow water under the bridge, down in the shadows. I thought I had a snag. The line just sat there on the bottom. I was just about to cut my line when this mother leaped in the air to see who’s f-ing around. It took over an hour to bring it in."

I envisioned the fish rising fifty feet up in the air, turning slowing, brilliant like some watery sun, rising to Spidy’s favored perch on the bridge above. I believed him and asked the critical question, “What did you use for bait?"

With a cigarette hanging out the left corner of his mouth, Spidy leaned down close so only I could hear. The fish gasped along his words. "I used a cigarette butt and my secret fish call." He let out a long belch.

Spidy started out normal like the rest of us, until one day Spidy and the neighborhood boys decided to throw sticks and stones at a hornet’s nest that hung in an oak tree on a lower branch reaching out in the middle of the street. The hornets became agitated at the attack, but focused their anger more on the collection of rocks under the nest than at the boys. Still, the boys cautiously retreated from the nest, abandoning their weapons. It was Spidy who decided to retrieve some stones from the street, so as to continue the experiment in tormenting the hornets. He had crept underneath the nest to the stone piles, when the nest spun free and fell straight down on his head. The hornets stung him all over his face. They even went into his screaming mouth and stung Spidy in his brain.

And that explains everything, including Spidy and the flying golden carp. Spidy had caught the biggest fish that I had ever seen.

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