Not on my Planet, You Won't.
Where in the seven hells did that come from? he wondered.
Seconds ago he had been doing what he loved more than anything. Fishing. On the Looking Glass River. In Michigan. It was past dark and he knew it was time and more to go home, but just one more cast ... That would be the seventh ... one more cast. The hand carved 1926 Fred Arbogast Jitterbug flew out from the rod tip ... Daddy's favorite lure ... and plunked into the water just like a frog jumping off the stump he had been aiming at ... The lessons in the backyard came back to him ... they always surfaced when he cast his Father's Shakespeare rod and high end reel.
"Don't reel," his Daddy said, "Frogs don't swim away right after they hit the water. They freeze ... they wait ... if they have a shallow ledge just under the water to perch on, they sit ... they wait. They wait for the ripples of their splash to go away"
The back lawn was a combination putting green and casting practice lawn. Charles Austin bought the house in 1936, hung out his shingle Law Office, and had the weed seed yard scrapped until there were no more roots showing. A complex drain system was installed. It fed to an eight inch pipe drain that emptied in an underground aquifer. The same aquifer that held the well that Father had had drilled three hundred and twenty five feet deep and piped to a pump house in the garage. It was water out, water in.
After the yard was weed free, drained and sculpted, Daddy had a greens mat laid over the whole thing. Then gravel from the pit north of town was brought in and spread. Not one glacially washed and tumbled pebble was larger than 3/8 of and inch or smaller than a quarter inch. The underlayment was three inches thick. Then it was rolled, by hand.
Above that were two inches of 1/8th to 3/16th washed pea gravel ... then coarse sand and a sandy peat mix, just enough to hold Penncross Creeping bentgrass seed. As it sprouted and grew reseeding sparse areas was done.
Instead of mowing, Daddy had more peat spread, raked until just the tips of the two inch tall leaves were exposed, rolled and allowed to grow. The edges of the yard had irrigation sprinklers. The kind that slowly cover an area and ratchet back quickly. One on each corner. After four years of covering the grass with new peat and rolling it hard, daddy had it mowed with a reel mower with a clippings catcher. It was billiards table smooth, billiards table green and as convoluted as a Michigan backroad. By the summer of 1941 he was chipping and putting every night after work ... best thing about it, he said ... it cost about a thousand dollars and he'd collected that much charging people to use the green. "I don't have to drive to get to it."
The County Country Club was nine miles out of town.
David was six in 1948, "Come on, David, lets teach you how to fish."
David had to admit he was lost when they went out in the back yard and his father started casting hookless Arbogast wood plugs at rings he'd thrown out on the green...
"Fishing?" David asked.
"That comes later ... first you need to learn to cast." He presented David with a stubby South Bend rod ... five feet long ... as long as he was tall ... plus two feet.
"This is a 1920 Shakespeare Wondereel. I went through it last night and oiled it. It's a little old but it works ... and No, you can't use my 1932 Shakespeare Tru-Axis reel."
The Other reel was a thing of beauty and American engineering.
The Wondereel was the beginning of David's casting education. Practice, practice and more practice.
David learned the true meaning of bird nest ... sometimes he had to get out the scissors and chop it all out. The cut out black braided line that was scattered in the roses was usually gone in a couple of days. To be found when he was climbing trees.
"Daddy ... the robins have been picking up my cut string and lining their nests with it," he told his father, more than once. "I need more string."
"Line, David. Run down to the hardware store, Mr. Dean has been saving the stripped line for you."
So, David learned how to wind new line on ... even if the line he was winding was another fisherman's last years line, he was still learning how.
His Father took the hooks off old bait plugs and David learned what wind did if it caught the metal 'popper' just right. Casting, casting, casting ... casting at rings, casting at cardboard squares, casting at metal cups. The first time he put a plug in the cup he was aiming at he peed his pants. It was that exciting.
His thumb figured out tension and he started casting into the wind ... sidearm, right and left ... underhand ... overhead ... look behind you ... it's no fun when the plug hits a tree and bounces off your head. Casting was done with the wrist and not your body.
When he was getting a birds nest snarl once every hundred casts ... and learning how to actually untangle the mess, his Dad gave him fifteen dollars and sent him down to the hardware store. Mr. Dean was waiting and they used the machine to put new line on his old reel.
"You ever want to sell that old reel," Mr. Dean said, "Come see me ... I'll give you a dollar and a coke for it."
The coke sounded good but this was Pop's reel and he wasn't ever getting rid of it. "Thank you kindly, Mr Dean. I'll never sell this reel."
He came home and his Dad said, "What do you think? Want to go fishing?"
"Get in the car. Vera ... we're off."
They went to Bay City ... oh god ... the holy of holies for Bass fishermen. Largemouth Bass. Smallmouth bass are bait. His dad told him that. They were there about Six.
"You ready to eat?"
David was always ready to eat. Growing boy and all that.
"You keep your mouth shut about what goes on here ... understand?"
GAMBARDELLA'S was tiny outside and big inside. Sit read the sign inside the door. His father took a seat at a table.
"Damiano!" he hollered. "Get your scrawny ass out of the kitchen!"
The whole place shut up.
Damiano Gambardella stalked out of the kitchen with a cleaver in his hand. He was as wide as the batwing doors and ugly as sin. There was a jagged scar running from a thatch of white hair on his coalblack head. It split his left eyelid and ran a zigzag down his cheek across one corner of his mouth and ended at his chin. Fists the size of hams were balled up ready to hammer somebody into the ground.
"Who calls Damiano? Who?" he shouted and said a few words David was positive were taking the Lords name in vain in Italian.
His Dad stood up..."I did."
In for a penny in for a pound, David stood up too.
Gambardella spun on his heel. "Who da fuck ... Charlie!! Angelo ... momma ... Charlie is here!! God Damn, Charlie, where you been all these years?"
Angelo Gambardella was just as wide and Damiano ... and momma wasn't as big as a toothpick ... tiny woman. There was a lot of hugging and even some cheek kissing. They finally got around to David.
"Who is this brave young man? I see he had your back."
"Mrs. Gambardella, May I introduce my son."
His Father had his hat in his hand.
Damiano translated for momma.
Formal, classic, Emily Post style, David was introduced the the Gambardella family ... the restaurant Gambardella's ... there were the Gambardella men engaged in other endeavors and the Gambardella daughters. David was too young to meet the daughters.
David and his father were moved from the front to the family table in the back where David was introduced to his real father ... the Charlie Austin who augmented his income selling Canadian Whisky to his Fraternity brothers.
The Charlie Austin who paid off the cops.
.... There is more of this story ...
Science Fiction /