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A bell on the door clanged as Mike and Steve entered the little bait shop up the canyon. No one was behind the counter but there was muffled noise from the back room and after a few minutes, a disheveled old man appeared, grinning broadly.
"Hello, young fellers," he greeted them. "Welcome to Gibb's bait shop. I'm Gibb. You fixin t' do some fishin?"
"Yeah," said Mike. "Trout."
Mike was a man of few words. A man that size didn't have to say much.
"Any advice on where to drop a line?" asked Steve.
"Oh, you'll catch somethin if y' take any of the trails about a quarter mile further up the canyon," said Gibb. "Provided, a course, that y' got the right bait."
Steve grinned and Mike grunted.
"So what sort of bait works best?" asked Steve.
"Well, fer rainbows, I like to use these little red jobbers with either salmon eggs or velveeta on the hooks," he said, showing a bright red oval with three hooks on the bottom. "Fer brown trout, I've had better luck with garlic-scented lures--these little rubber doolies are pretty good."
"A course," he said with a conspiratorial grin, "This here lure is m'favorite."
He pointed to a shiny silver lure hanging behind the counter. "HYPNOLURE" was written across the cardboard backing, the O filled with a black and white spiral. A cartoon fish was staring at the thing with similar spirals in its eyes. 'Fish Can't Resist It!' claimed the packaging. There was a $40 price sticker on it.
Mike snorted derisively. Steve was more forgiving; He didn't intend to buy the thing, but he figured the old timer must have a great story to try and sell the over-priced toy. Steve loved a good fish story.
"So what's the biggest fish you ever caught with the 'hypnolure'," he asked.
"Oh, I ain't never caught a fish with it," says Gibb. "Truth be told, I don't hardly never even put it in the water. Don't wanna risk loosin it."
"Well what good's a lure if you ain't gonna catch fish with it?" Steve asked, perplexed.
"Well young feller, as much a sacralige as I might a once thought it was t'say so, there is one thing in this world more pleasurable than fishin! And God-as-my-witness, this little hypnolure is the best thing a body can have when yer fishin fer somethin that ain't got gills!"
"What the hell you talkin 'bout old man?" asked Mike, his longest sentence that month.
"Glad you asked, young feller. Listen up an I'll tell ya,"
The old man settled in to serious old fart story mode:
Now, I love t' fish--that's why I bought the bait shop! But Social Security don't pay shit so if I'm gonna make a livin, I gotta be here. I can't sell bait 'n' tackle t' gentlemen like yerselfs if'n I'm off fishin, now can I? An what kinda man would I be if I didn't try out new products afore I sold 'em? I got no choice--I gotta fish outta season!"
I always got away with it, too! Old Rex Statin was game warden in these parts fer damn near 30 years an he 'n' I, we were buds. As long as I didn't make it too obvious and didn't over fish any one area, he was fine with it. Hell, sometimes he'd even join me--not like a game warden gets a lot of time t' fish durin the season either.
But that ended when Rex's wife Polly got it into her head that they should retire to Miami. Damn shame, that. I lost a good friend and wound up with a headache: A young spitfire name a Laurie Kettinger, Rex's replacement. Pretty young thing with wild curly hair who filled out her uniform right nicely, but she was a damned zealot about the fish and game laws. That little lady filled out more citations her first year than Rex did in 30. Every sorry sonuvabitch comin' outta the canyon had a sob story about Officer Kettinger levyin $50 to $100 fines and not even lettin 'em keep the fish!
Well, it weren't good fer business but I figured it served um right fer bein stupid enough to get caught. That was, a course, until the day that I got caught m'self.
It was only a week afore openin day and I had me a sampler pack a new lures that this damned salesman kept pesterin me about, askin if I'd tried 'em and which ones I liked and blowin smoke up my keester about how he valued my opinion when we both knew he just wanted me t' sell his shit fer 'im. But rather 'n keep blowin him off, I took the sampler pack and a six-pack a Coors and headed off to try 'em out.
It was a pretty good day, fishin-wise, an a damn near perfect day sittin in the sun and drinkin-wise. Most of the fish I caught were too scrawny an I tossed 'em, back fer catchin later, but I did pull in a bute of a rainbow that was supper material.
I had just finished cleanin the dang thing and was puttin on this here hypnolure to give it a go when damned if that pretty little game warden didn't come along right outta nowhere.
Now when I was a younger man, nobody that hadn't made a deal with the devil could sneak up on me in the woods. I'm part injun, y' know; My papa's mama was Nez Perce. But I guess I'm goin deaf cuz there she was and there I was lookin guilty as the devil himself with fish guts on my boots and m' rod in my hand.
She clucked her tongue in disapproval like a goddamned chicken.
"Shame on you, Gibb!" she says, "You of all people ought to respect the fishing laws! Your very livelihood depends on this area not being over-fished!"
"Now, now, Miss Kettinger" I says, "Don't go gettin a bug in yer britches. I certainly don't mean no harm. I jus' don't get much time t' fish durrin' the reg'lar season what with runnin my shop an all."
She didn't answer me though. She was starin off t' the side a me. I turned but damned if I saw what was so interesin. She just kept starin, though, like she done fergot I was there. Finally I figrued out she was lookin at this here jobby, the hypnolure, as it was a spinnin an a sparklin in the sunlight.
"Thas right pretty, ain't it Miss Kettinger," I says, hopin' t'change the subject and avoid a fine. "They calls it a hypnolure. They say the fish jus' can't resist it."
"Can't resist it..." she says in a dreamy sorta voice.
Now this seemed a might strange t'me, I must say. Here this little spitfire was all set to give me a fine and a sermon t' boot and now she was all smiles and sighs starin at m'bait. It was the damnedest thing!
"Yeah," I says, "They say the fish jus' can't help but watch it. They're drawn to it. One look 'n' they're completely under it's power."
And damned if she didn't repeat me again.
"Completely under it's power..." she says like she's all hypnotized like in them movies y'see on the T.V. late at night.
Now I didn't know shit about hypnosis apart from what I'd seen in them movies, but I figured what the hell did I have t'loose?
"You jus' can't look away from the lure, can you Laurie," I says, "You don't wanna look away."
"Don't wanna look away," she says, sure as yer born.
So I keep goin, I do.
"You want to watch the lure," I tells her, "Watch and listen to the sound a my voice."
An sure as shit she agrees!
"You trust the sound a my voice, Laurie," I says, "You want t'do what I tells you."
An she damn well says that she wants to do as I tells her!
Well, I try t'recall what I seen on the T.V. I tells her that she feels warm and relaxed and happy. Afore ya know it, she's a smilin like she h'ain't a care in the world! I tells her she don't wanna give me no citation, that I'm a special circumstance--and she damn well conceeded as much!
I gotta tell ya, I thought fer a while there that I musta been dreamin. But hell, dream er not, damned if I weren't gonna go with it. An old geezer like me don't find a sweet young thing like Miss Laurie Kettinger in such an agreeable mood every day! I remembered sumpin I saw on the T.V. once an' I figured I'd give it a try.