Summer Catch

Here's a piece of flash fiction that appeared in Florida Writer magazine in June 2015. Just thought I would share. I hope you enjoy it.

Summer Catch

The lantern-jawed seadog went by “Turbo,” an apt moniker because his criticism came quick, like a minnow running the shallows. He closed his cooler, looming nearby with the sun glinting off his Ray Bans. Dark clouds gathered over his shoulder, squatting over the steamy Florida coast we’d left behind. My back and arms ached from my ongoing fight with a fish.

“Keep the rod up, youngster.” Turbo demonstrated with his hands. “If the line goes slack, the fish will spit the hook. You didn’t pay me for sightseeing.” He cracked open a Budweiser and took a long swallow. “I’ll get you a catch. One you can take a picture with to show the folks back in Indiana.”

“Michigan.”

“Whatever.”

I scowled, but swallowed my retort. It was a long way back to shore, and I didn’t want to upset the guy who drove the boat. Besides, I’d paid a hundred-and-fifty bucks for my first saltwater charter—a summer splurge.

My fish took on line and I hauled it back. The boat rocked, waves lapping against the fiberglass hull like the beat of a bass drum.

Turbo sauntered across the deck. He rested a beefy hand on the rail, hawked, and spat over the stern. “Keep at it, rookie. Remember what I taught you.”

I wiped my brow with the back of my hand. “Damn thing is trying to out-think me.” I cranked in more line, pulling the rod up to keep the fish from getting its head down.

Turbo shuffled to the captain’s console. “She’s gone under the boat.” The engines thrummed and water churned. Diesel fumes mixed with the tang of brine.

I pulled the line with a gloved hand while my other turned the reel handle. The merciless sun’s light reflected off the waves into my eyes. “If this thing turns out to be something I gotta throw back—”

Something breached a few yards from the stern, a flash of white and brown splotches against the surface, a slosh, and then it vanished. It left an eddy that disappeared quicker than a hiccup.

“Did you see it?” I asked.

“Yep,” Turbo said. “Nice fish. Gag grouper. Not long now.” He tapped his shirt pocket. “Got the camera right here. Get you a good picture when you haul it up. Something to send back to your friends in Grand Rapids.”

“East Lansing.”

"Whatever.”

The fish appeared again. I spun the reel, excited to win at last. A beautiful spotted fish floated an arm’s length over the side.

Turbo hovered with his phone, snapping pictures. “Nice job, yankee. Get it in the boat.”

My pulse raced. I sucked in a shallow breath. My friends back home would be jealous. I grabbed the short gaff, hooking the grouper by its bottom lip, mimicking Turbo’s earlier demonstration.

The water beneath my catch exploded in a flash of grey. A gaping maw filled with jagged teeth snatched my prize away. A wicked tail slapped at the surface then grazed my arm. The torpedo shape disappeared beneath the surface.

My feet slid, and I teetered on the brink of falling overboard. The deep blue sea loomed.

Turbo hauled me backwards by my belt, grunting with the effort.

I staggered away from the stern. “Sonovabitch! What was that thing?”

Turbo chuckled. “Mako. Big one.” He jabbed one finger. “You’re bleeding.”

A long thin cut along my arm burned as blood dribbled onto the deck. I pressed my towel against the wound.

“I got it on camera,” Turbo said, winking at me. “Just wait till your college buddies see this. Wolverines, right?”

“Spartans.”

“Whatever.”

I sighed. “Thanks for saving me, Turbo.”

“You betcha.”

THE END


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