You gotta save a monster that everyone is afraid of, do you have the courage?
|I am so excited, I couldn't sleep last night. I have had my fishing gear packed for two days. Daddy drove me over to Pops and Grandma's house on the lake. It's going to be just me and Pops fishing. this time. He promised we'd stay out until we caught a "wall hanger". He says that's a huge "son of a fish"!!!
The sky is blue with huge white clouds. Pop's boat is a big ole 24 foot with comfortable furniture and plastic, like glass, around a Captain's seat and more comfortable seats plus a table. All four of my cousins and Pops can lay around and stay dry in the rain. It is seriously awesome!
I'm always looking for the "suck monster". I've been doing it since I was a little kid. I know the monster lives close to the dam. That is where the water is deepest, about one hundred and fifty feet or even more. Water that dark and deep gives me the creeps. I don't want to find out what it is like down there. I like being out on the lake in this boat but I like swimming pools where you can see everything, I would never tell Pops that though, I am not a baby!!!
Pops has never seen the monster but all fishermen seem to know about it and tell their kids who tell their kids. The story is the monster is bigger than a whale and real ugly with sticky suckers all over it. The suckers pick up lake garbage so I think it must smell really bad. His skin is kind of slick like machine oil. Someone told me it has one big black bloody eye. I wonder if something got stuck in it. That would make any thing mean. It has a snout and slimy whiskers, kind of like a walrus or a catfish. Also a huge tail with giant thorns and when it moves there is a wave across the lake. The mouth has razor sharp teeth that can crush up metal like mashed potatoes. I have heard that it can even eat a boat.
I don't know if it is really mean or not. It sounds like it looks scary and parents threaten to throw their "misbehaving" kids to it. It may not even like the taste of kids. Not all monsters do.
Pops puts a squirmy minnow on the hook of my fishing pole. I wonder if it hurts the little fish. He promises it won't. I still don't want to stick the hook through the fish. Someday, I'll do it!
Pops helps me get the pole in the best place to catch a great big striper. I know I can do it! It will be even bigger than the one Pops or Daddy brought in. It will take both of us pulling because you have to tire them out and that wears you out. It is the greatest feeling in the world to see the silver fish splash back and forth fighting the hook through the water. It is a battle between you and nature as Pops always says. I think Striper bass are awesome with silver shining scales, like rays of the sun.
The water in Lake Allatoona is kind of muddy some days but you can see small fish close to the top. Fish like brim and small bass are the kind anyone can catch. That is why Pops always goes for a Striper. They are what he calls a "challenge". That makes the waiting to catch them worth it. Sometimes you feel that strong pull and you wrestle for a long time and get a "bottom feeder" like a catfish or carp. They are ugly fish but people eat them. Yuck! I don't like the taste of fish anyway!
The two of us sit with the stereo playing Pop’s favorite rock like ZZTop and Hendrix. Grandma packed bologna sandwiches, barbeque chips, deviled eggs and brownies. It is awesome out here. The sun is going down and it looks like God used my biggest crayon with "Midnight Blue" and "deep purple' to color the sky.
Then I hear it. A deep scared voice, from under our boat.
"Hey kid, help me!"
Pops is just sitting there, real quiet.
"Hey, Pops, you hear something?"
"A voice say"help me" '?"
"Too much sun, kid….didn't hear a thing."
I listen to the waves hitting the side of the boat. Guess I’m imagining things.
Then that weird gravel voice again.
"Hey, kid, I need your help. The man can't hear me. Only kids can."
"What do ya want?"
Pops turns around and looks at me really strange.
"Yes sir, I need to go in, get outta the sun.Can ya watch my line?"
"Sure thing.. doodlebug. Bring me a Mt. Dew when you come back, ok?"
I go in the enclosure and open a zipper on the other side of the boat. Now Pops con't hear me over the trolling motor.
"Yea, is something there?"
"Yeh! I’m in big trouble! Caught in a net, can't get loose."
"What are you?"
"People call me Suckmonster. I catch bad things... save kids."
"I don't believe you!"
"Remember that kid, Bobby Ware? Last summer he fell off a boat into super deep water?"
"He fell a hundred feet - hit his head on a rock. I carried him to the surface - put him in a tire…pushed him hard to land on shore where people were camping. Heard he didn't wake till later, didn't remember a thing."
"The Coast Guard said it was a miracle. WOW! You did that?"
"Bobby has a big ole scar on the bottom of his right foot bout two inches deep. He was holding his teddy bear but it got lost."
I remember that. My Mom cried when she heard. Bobby was real little, about three and everybody was sure he was dead. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The Suckmonster that everybody thought was a terrible monster was a Super Hero!
"You know I can't help anybody when I am caught in a net. Please do something!"
"What can I do? I'm just a lil' kid!"
" You need tools, sharp stuff to cut this net, and, most important, a way to get to me."
“I don’t know, dude. No one is gonna believe me, ya know?”
“I've an idea, this'll sound crazy but lots of stuff down here adults can’t imagine. Only kids, so I knew you could help! There is this fish lady, I call her “Eve”. She's kind of human cause she has these arms that move and reach, cool, huh?”
“A mermaid, I saw the movie!”
“She never said she was in a movie. Huh! Anyway, she hangs out in Cades Cove usually, has a friend there I never met. We aren’t real close but she could free me. I can’t get to her but you could”.
“How? Is she just gonna start talking to me like you did?”
“No, probably not. You’ll have to bait her, something she’d try to get when humans aren’t around. She likes girlie stuff, jewelry lost in the water. Gotta fortune of jewels in her cave, that one! You might could put something real sparkly close to the waters edge but she can’t breathe outta water long.”
“Ok, I gotta find something of Mom’s or Grandma’s and do it tonight. Do I write a note?”
“Don’t know if she reads. Best just plant it ,then watch for her. You gotta be very quiet or you’ll scare her away. Say you know me. Name is Charlie to her and my friends. Tell her I’m in big trouble, you’ll get her the stuff I need, like a sharp hunting knife.”
“We can mimic any animal, even humans! They’re easy!”
“Ok, I promise to help as soon as I figure this out. Wish you had a cell phone.”
“I’ve seen those down here but don’t think they work now! We do ok without that junk! Humans cause lots of dangers with their trash they think so much of and fast jet skis, big ole motors and all. Don’t get me started, I’ve lost a lot of friends thanks to you humans!”
“Ain’t your fault, kid, just do better than your parents, ok? “
“I’ll do what you need and then we can be friends, k?”
“We’ll see, you know ya can’t tell anyone about me or that’ll break the law down here and I'll vanish! This is serious stuff, I have been around since guys used to just use little boats with oars and fish just to eat. That was before skis and powerboats and those big houseboats. All that junk people think makes them happy!"
“Gotta go, get back to Pops. You can count on me. Pinkie swear!”
This was the biggest thing I'd ever done and I was scared to death. I couldn’t even tell anyone. The very thought of going out at night alone was creeping me out but I had to do this. I could feel sweat and knew it was from fright. But I was determined.
That night, Grandma and I watched “The Shining”. It was an old but very cool movie. We had stuffed ourselves with pizza and everything was cool. Grandma was getting sleepy. She would shut her eyes.
“Hey, Grandma! You’re falling asleep again!”
“Oh no, I’m not!"
She would be upset that I caught her. It was funny.
Grandma finally gave me a kiss and headed up to bed. I usually slept on the sofa, or the floor where we had laid quilts and spread out while eating popcorn and watching movies. I like staying over here, it is kind of quiet and I get a lot of attention.
It was about two when I Looked in on Pops, he was downstairs doing his thing. Usually football was on or a loud action movie and he would be snoring away.
Getting old is just weird!!
Sneaking out was easy, climb right out the bathroom window and I really didn’t have far to go. I had my phone flashlight and another one that Pops used that was really bright. I didn’t want to scare “her” away. I was sweating and had a sick feeling in my stomach.
This was the biggest thing I'd ever done but what if I failed? I sure didn’t know nothing about mermaids, maybe she might hurt me.
I looked up at the moon and stars, they seem to wink at me. I need to think about this right, I am saving a true HERO!’
Everyone would be proud if they knew. I’d be on TV and they’d make a movie but that won’t happen.
I found the perfect place, I quietly crept down to the lake’s edge, took out the big ring that Grandma let me play with when I was little. It was in the bottom of a toy box she kept for me and my cousins. It was as big as half of my finger. Grandma said it was a kind of fake diamond some women wore. I propped it on a rock so it looked like a lighthouse lamp that caught the moonlight.
I went to hide and watch. At first, I could hear boats in the distance, maybe guys like Pops that fished at night. Then the waves began to hit against the rocks. I hoped it wouldn’t knock the ring off.
Suddenly, I saw the most beautiful silver fish. It was huge. The fins were as big as divers use but they were like chains of silver.
I have seen pictures of mermaids before that are half human and half fish. This wasn’t like that, it had a fish like body all over except for strange things that looked like arms with scales. This fish looked like it could pick up stuff with weird fingers. It’s head was more like a fish, no long pretty hair but it was awesome looking. The eyes were huge and sparkling bright blue, with long lashes and the silver scales were more beautiful than the stripers Pops caught. It looked right at me as it grabbed the ring. Then it made a sound, like it was my Mom humming softly.
I took a chance and called out, “Charlie said your name was Eve. I won’t hurt you, I promise. Charlie's in big trouble and he said you could help him.”
“You know Charlie?” She sang words softly to me, “I thought he was hurt and I was scared. What can I do for my friend, little human?”
“He’s caught in a net out by the dam-where the eagle’s nest is, and I have a knife you could cut him loose, ok? Can I bring it to you?”
“If you’re a friend of Charlies', you’re a friend of mine. Just lay it down so I can see it.”
“Okay, I am walking to you” I start to move slowly and she just winked with one eyelid.
“This is so cool, kid, and I thought it would be a boring night. I found a pretty thing and I can help Charlie!”
I laid the knife down and backed up.
“Yes, I see what I need to do, I have seen this stuff before and watched humans open my friends up.” Silver tears fell from her enormous eyes.
“But you ‘ll be saving Charlie with it, Eve.”
“Ok, I love Charlie but promise me something. You don’t ever tell anyone about me or Charlie or we won’t be here anymore. Be good to the lake and the land around it always, ok?”
“I promise, pinkie swear.”
She turned around really fast and sprayed me, lake water with silver glitter in it. I was a real HERO!!!
I climbed back in the window at the house, went to sleep on the sofa, I was so tired.
I dreamed about a land under the lake with awesome colorful creatures and caves of jewels.
Grandma shook me awake.
“Your Mom and Dad are coming to pick you up, babe. What do you want for breakfast? James, were you in my craft stuff last night? You have sequins all over you and …..well, kid, you stink like the lake. What did you do last night? Oh, never mind! Just go get in the shower!”
I stood under the water and my muscles really hurt. I don’t know what happened to me last night. I don’t remember anything but my heart felt like it was soaring!
Can’t wait till Pops and I go fishing again, maybe I’ll catch a whopper!
By Kathie Stehr
Jan 22, 2021