Excerpts from “The Girls Go Fishing”
Early on as they set out to sea:
Allison settled into the chair centered at the stern of the boat. Captain Jack was at the wheel above, over her right shoulder. Rachel had climbed the stairs to sit along side the craggy, older man and Allison could hear her asking questions about the harbor rules, the green lighted control panel, and the distant cloud bank coming in from the north. She smiled, acknowledging Rachel’s savvy. The budding writer had an instinctive feel for people and knew that to ask the outwardly gruff captain anything of a personal nature would immediately shut him down. Allison guessed that by the time the Lovely El was heading back to shore later in the day, Rachel would have enough information for a colorful character in her next screenplay. Allison couldn’t imagine an uglier business to be in than the movie industry but she knew Rachel would have to find that out for herself. In the bow of the ship, Troy was busy preparing the rods and reels, carefully tying hooks to lines and arranging them upright in the wooden rack on the side of the boat. Jill was busy asking Troy questions, but unlike Rachel, her motives were not script driven.
“If Rachel were smart, she’d observe how that scenario unfolds, if her intent is to sell a juicy blockbuster in Hollywood,” Allison mused to herself.
Below deck Ann finished rewrapping the lox and cream cheese with Laurel close by chattering away between bites of her second hollowed out bagel.
The boat motored slowly through the harbor on its way to a distant dock to purchase fresh bait for the day. It passed a single kayaker silently gliding by and two stoic pelicans perched like two granite lions at the public library. With her hat squarely placed to block the morning sun and black rimmed RayBans, Allison stretched her legs, rested her feet on the railing, and looked over the quiet harbor.
Allison’s reflections on the day:
“You’re going. Why I’d go myself except for the damn monthly regent’s meeting.”
Dean Ashcroft had been Allison’s unofficial advisor and friend since she became tenured at the university. Even though they were only two years apart in age(Marianne Ashcroft had turned fifty last month with much fanfare, both on campus and off), Allison admired and respected the combination of the woman’s intellect and street smarts. The dean had grown up spitting distance from the Rio Grande on a ranch she described as harvesting “dirt in the good years and dust in the bad.” Sporting a slight Texas accent that was always exaggerated after returning from her vacations on the panhandle or when she was angry with bureaucratic red tape, Marianne was respected internationally for her published works. One of her stronger suits, which virtually ensured her position at the university for as long as she desired, was her ability to raise monies; huge sums of monies, in the private sector. Her charm and wit amazingly worked to her advantage with both the liberal left and conservative right communities. Allison admired her most for her personal happiness. Of all her married friends in Beverly Hills, including the women on the boat today, Marianne Ashcroft and her life partner, Janie McConnell, were the happiest couple she knew.
The “girls” experience their first catch:
“Laurel, Laurel. Come quick. Look at Jill.” Ann was literally dragging Laurel by the arm to the front of the boat. “Girl, when you concentrate, you block out the whole world.”
“Yeah. I guess so.” Laurel, momentarily lost in her thoughts, quickly came back to the present when she heard the whir of the line being pulled out to sea.
Troy had his arms around Jill, steadying her from behind. Even though she was a tall woman her sense of balance seemed more than a little precarious and he had no desire to fall overboard, particularly with all the hooked lines still in the water. Being snagged by an over anxious Beverly Hills socialite wouldn’t feel any better than being on vacation in the Greek Isles, when his mother had cast off the rocky shore and hooked Troy soundly behind his right ear.
“Steady now. Reel him in slow. It looks like you picked up a halibut off the bottom and he’s none too thrilled to be joining your fishing party.”
Captain Jack peered down from the wheel at the activity. He had been preparing to move onto a better spot. Even though the radar indicated there were fish in the area, they weren’t cooperating with his wishes. It was just a little past nine o’clock and he was as anxious as the women to get some activity going, but he decided to cut the engines again until the halibut was reeled in.
“Keep her steady, Troy,” he hollered, more a reminder to the boy to keep his distance from Jill rather than the tension on the line.
Troy heard him loud and clear and reached for the net. “Wow. This is a beaut. Looks like a good twenty inches.”
Laurel couldn’t stop herself, “My God, every woman’s nightmare!”
The women collectively whooped and laughed as Troy blushed almost imperceptibly.
“Careful, ladies.” When he removed the hook, the fish flopped out of his hands and onto the deck causing the women to jump and squeal.
“Quick, get him into water so he doesn’t die.”
“Look out. He’ll get hurt.”
“I got him. I got him.” This was Ann. Down on her knees grabbing futilely at the flat, sandy colored fish. “My God, I did get him!” She held him by the tail with both hands and lowered the tired fish into the large bucket Troy held out to her.
“Well done, Ann and well done, Jill. This is one fine fish.”
“Well, he’s yours for dinner,” Jill looked into the bucket placing her hands on Troy’s bronze back. “I’d have never caught him without your help but there’s no way I could eat him now that I’ve looked him in the eye.”
“Thanks, Jill,” the boy smiled. “A few lemons and a bottle of white wine and I’ll be in heaven, almost.”
She let her hands linger on his back softly massaging him.
“Photo-op, photo-op.” Laurel pushed her way between the two. “Let me take a picture of you and THE fish. Since you’re giving him away, Dr. Mark might think little Flipper here was a figment of your imagination.”
“Come, Troy. Be in the picture, too.” Jill grabbed his muscled forearm. “You have to hold the fish up for the camera.”
“Ready? Say tarter sauce.” Laurel snapped the Instamatic just as Troy lifted the fish out of the bucket. “Well done you two. Now look out fish,” Laurel hollered at the open sea. “We’re coming to get you.”
As Laurel reached for her pole Captain Jack yelled from above, “Take a seat for a few minutes, ladies. We’re going to find a better spot.”
Troy went from rod to rod, making sure they was secured to the rail and flipping the tired bait into the ocean. The women gathered midship sitting on the bulkhead.
Generously reapplying her sun block, Ann cautioned her friends. “Don’t think because the haze hasn’t burned off that we’re not going to get burnt to a crisp. Skin cancer, you know.”
Rachel took the tube from her. ‘Ah, the joys of growing older. Skin cancer, sunspots, facial hair. You know they should have told us about whiskers and moustaches in health class but no. Wait until we’re hitting our sexual prime and all of a sudden get that early morning wake up call, one long errant hair curling from your chin. Who knew that one hair was not an aberration but a forewarning of unflattering, hormone induced growths.”
“Oh, you poor young thing,” Allison laughed. “You don’t even know the half of it. Wait ’til you find yourself getting up three times in the middle of the night to pee, even though you make a point of not drinking anything after seven o’clock at night.”
Ann interrupted, “Ladies, ladies, please. All I was suggesting was that we put a little lotion on. I don’t think we need to go into the various physiological changes in our bodies.”