my brother rick's annual bass tournament for his fellow jazz musicians, neighbors, friends, brothers, and daughter suitors was held yesterday.
and what a splendid day on the lake ... nearly ruined.
high hopes to see my name grace the bronze plate on the prestigious lunker cup were dashed without so much as a nibble in the first hours of competition.
a partial recap, if i may:
three newly purchased rattle-trap lures snapped free from my casts, probavly still orbiting earth as i write.
two rubber, liberace-speckled, lizard beauties wrapped around a high wire for all to see.
and one, as rick fondly called it, "phony las vegas worm" impaled on a sunken tree branch some ten feet below the surface.
but it wasn't a total loss.
i did spot a young heron perched along a log, watching in child-like awe at the tangled shenanigans taking place on our modified canoe as we approached him at ramming speed.
the sort of mess six fishing poles, a cooler of heinekens, two manly idiots, leg cramps and an unattended electric motor can get you in.
when things were a bit more stable on board, rick and i marvelled as we spied a young bear bounce along a narrow plank that bridged a spill-over canal at a remote end of the lake.
i even caught a couple of things.
one was a wicked sun burn atop my skull—a rude reminder that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to deny the balding.
but it was the second catch of the day that is the sort that brings me back time after time, like the lone birdie during a round of golf at the end of which the only thing higher than the three digit score is the number of balls lost.
it all began innocently enough.
my brother docked the boat so he could dispense with some of his processed beer.
i took the opportunity to rig up my annual secret lure of the tourney.
to be exact, a sinking, simulated live action, purple and yellow spotted frog doused in bass attracting potion known to bring even the most savvy to their fins.
it had big promises of great rewards written all over it—well. written all over the packaging anyway.
carefully snapped on the swivel, i gave it a mighty whip, launching it in all its psychedelic glory across the wind swept water, plopping down a good twenty yards out from shore.
it sat momentarily, a bubble of vile goop, before it burped and disappeared below the surface.
i counted: one mississippi, two mississippi ...
my fingers instinctively closed the bale and then gently rubbed the reel in wait for retrieval.
three mississippi, four mississippi ...
a bead of sweaty anticipation snaked down my forehead.
i slowly retrieved the lure, imagining how it looked to fish who happened by.
what a prize to pull out in a cloak of solitude.
there would be little resistance to it's unnatural allure, i was certain.
then, without notice—a quick tug.
my pole bent.
i yanked at the pole to set the hook and began reeling in furiously.
oh it fought back like a monster.
i allowed myself to imagine the lunker cup being held high over my head, after thirteen years of follied pursuit.
oh, the sudden pristine clarity in the sharp joy of catching the big one.
my trophy was near now.
a fist sized mouth full of purple and yellow rubbery enticement.
i strained to see it break the murky depths.
and break soon it did.
it wasn't a bass at all!
why it wasn't even a fish.
it was ...
it was a ...
i had dredged up a long lost fishing pole—muddied with line and brilliant green crank bait still attached as if never cast.
probably fell off some loser's boat while unattended.
i let it sink back into the cloud of murk, my purple and yellow polka dotted toad happily in tow.
i sat down along the wall, staring out over the horizon beyond, thinking about the irony of it all—catching a fishing pole.
i waited for my brother to return before hauling my prize up to show him.
i figured it would be good for some laughs anyway.
he returned with a little more balance in his steps.
"what's goin' on? you have that look."
i said, " ya wanna see what i caught while you were gone?"
"what? a bass?"
"a perch? a crappie? what?"
i reeled up the pole.
rick studied it.
his eyes got wide like saucers.
"holy shit! let me see that!"
he reached out and snapped at it as it dangled limply and helplessly before him.
he wiped off the goo-packed reel.
"i don't fuckin' believe it! this is the pole i lost three years ago. this reel is $160 dollars! holy fuckin' shit!"
(he's a jazz musician. that's how they speak when excited ... or when making a point ... or when heir moms aren't nearby.)
"bob! i even won the oops trophy for losing this! and now it's back! i wonder if it even works."
he released the bale and gave it a heave.
the grimy green lure sailed through the air and rested a good fifteen yards out.
he retrieved it smoothly as if showcase new.
"i don't fuckin' believe this!"
"bob, you are fuckin' unbelievable. thanks man!"
there was an unmistakeable sincerity in his voice that only a sibling would be able to determine.
it goes without saying, rick was quite happy.
and as the day progressed and my brother and i cruised up and down the lake with his old pole, reel and crank bait majestically displayed at the rear of the boat for all to see and hear about, i felt that possibly, just maybe, i do have a purpose driven life, albeit hard to explain from time to time.