(To be read aloud)
"WE caught all kinds of fish that year, some too big to believe. The best was probably the huge, hard-fighting seventeen-footer; biggest of its kind I've ever seen. Its mouth alone was big enough to swallow a whole hog whole - even a fat old sow. It's teeth - why it gave you the shivers just to look at 'em - hundreds sharp as hacksaw blades. But the worst thing of all was the eyes. Those big brown eyes could look right into the depths of your soul so far you sensed a cold mist envelope your heart, so for an instant you thought you'd died. Just then, when you knew you'd never cast another lure it released you, having learned all there was to know of you, what kind of a fisherman you really were right down to the knot you tied your leader with and how often you sharpened your rusty old hooks. One thing I realized right then and there, was don't stare back into those bottomless brown eyes that look so friendly and innocent, but aren't. Cause it'd have you, no two ways about it.
"You probably recognize the fish I'm talking about though you never saw one so huge - they don't often grow to such dimensions and certainly wouldn't be taken by no amateurs - not that I'm saying you ain't great fishermen, but if the truth be known you'd probably all admit that the big one you caught has continued to grow even after you dusted it in flour, pan-fried and ate it. Uh-huh. As I was saying, you're seen these fish before, this kind of fish leastwise, hanging around your boat anchored up in any cove in the Sea of Cortez. Those are small ones, but exactly alike in every feature except size and ferocity. For instance their favorite foods are cabbage and tortillas, which everyone knows, except what everyone don't know is what literally sends 'em into a feeding frenzy - remember now I'm sharing with you absolutely free of charge a for-real, honest-to-goodness fisherman's secret - what they absolutely cannot resist, even the giants of the deep, is leftover beer batter pancakes. Of course the one thing I cannot reveal for free is the secret recipe for those pancakes. Later on I'll tell you how you can obtain a copy of my little book titled, "Fisherman's Fantasy - The Incredible True Killer Recipe".
"As I was saying, that morning the pancakes had been the finest ever, and I was feeling fit for a fight. My pole stood tall in the cockpit as if at attention waiting for orders, the reel polished and oiled, shiny parts reflecting back the early morning sun golden as any jewel-studded chalice to touch the lips of ancient kings.
"It was then I looked over the side. Something had caught my eye. Oh there were the usual small-fry swimming about waiting for another hand-out. It was more than that. Some call it intuition, some a sixth sense, some - those ignorant in the mysterious ways of the sea - call it luck. Call it what you will, my pulse quickened as my gaze went past those small fish that dwell like little worries on the surface of things. I looked deeper and deeper into the very bottomless spaces of the sea and knew, though I couldn't actually see him with my eyes, I knew, as if some silent signal had been transmitted through my tall pole direct to the core of me, that he was down there, lurking - waiting.
"I took up my pole and surely, deliberately checked the line, attached the swivel, the leader, the hook, and with a reverence almost fanatic broke off a hunk, exactly correct in weight and proportion, of the leftover beer batter pancake which I affixed securely to the line. As I lifted my pole I dangled the "bait" for a moment just above the surface of the water. There is no other way to describe that moment, the way it looked - it was, a work of art.
"I hesitated for one more instant, and the small-fry scattered as innocent town folk might when the Marshall steps into the street and calls out in sure voice to the bad guy waiting alone in the saloon. I released the brake with a lightning move, and the reel began to freewheel, the glistening line carrying that hook straight down, like a bullet inscribed with a name, delivered direct as fate to the pent-up fury of that monster waiting far below.
"Well the rest is history, the hours of battle basically inconsequential to the story, because as great and glorious a battle as it was - and it truly was a battle unseen in modern times at least, clashing the ruthless, wild, cold malice of the primitive sea against the steadfast courage of gallant man, until the sea literally boiled like molten lava, crashing with atoms at the very heart of life, that battle raged - but the outcome was never at doubt!
"And so I conquered that world-record, seventeen-foot, nine inch Giant Puffer, the largest of its species ever landed. I say to you in all humble humility, that beast was a worthy opponent, and I was proud, am still proud, to have been the one."
Murdoch Hughes (Murdoch_Jan@msn.com)
Contributed June, 1998
Copyright © 1996-1998 Murdoch Hughes