Stephen G. Jordan: You can’t always catch what you want
Summer and Maine get to dance together for only a limited time. To a group of my friends and me the all too brief summer means the arrival of our traditional fishing trip.
We rent the same lakeside cabin each year. It has electricity and indoor plumbing. There is radio reception decent enough to pick up Red Sox games. The whole front of the place is a big screened in porch facing the lake. It has a couple of cot/couch type things for sleeping. Inside there is a pair of small bedrooms, a tiny bath, a kitchen with very basic old appliances and a great room equipped with a fireplace.
Three of us, Dave, Jim and I set things up on the first day. Sometimes one or two guys join us midweek. It is a "men only" week. As slightly flawed gentlemen we think it's best that women be sheltered from a group of guys who will talk rough, not shave, bathe by occasionally dipping into the lake, and fart at will.
For the three of us the week always starts off with some Lagavulin 16-year old single malt scotch, a thick porterhouse steak, some kind of salad, fine red wine and a flourless chocolate tort with Chambord raspberry sauce. We're "slightly flawed," but we are gentlemen. We dine as such.
The fishing part of the trip gets underway very early the next morning. We fill a couple Thermos bottles with coffee, board the canoe and shove off.
I've never caught a fish on this trip; however, I don't go away completely empty-handed. I keep a twig as a memento of each creature I hook. I am unsurpassed at catching common lakeside residents, birch trees. It doesn't seem to matter how close or how far from the shore the canoe may be. I can land a crafty birch tree. They put up a heck of a fight.
It was the third day of our trip when Dave caught several fish. The morning haul was enough for everyone to have a fish dinner. We declared the expedition a success and headed back to shore for cold beer.
Dave needed a little help getting himself, his equipment and his fish out of the canoe. Dave doesn't have any legs. He's never had any legs. Something went wrong during his development. He was born legless.
Dave has used his arms as legs his whole life. Think of a person walking on their hands. They are upside down with their legs sticking up in the air. Keep that image. Remove the legs and rotate the torso so it is right side up. That's how he gets around.
He drives. He has thrown his wheelchair on a plane and spent a few weeks exploring France and the British Isles. He has canoed the Allagash more than once. Dave has been involved in enough "story worthy" events, like the time he admitted to a pub full of IRA terrorists the he didn't like Guinness (the official beverage of Ireland). He warrants a tale focusing solely on him. Suffice it to say now that those of us who have known him since elementary school never think about him as disabled in any fashion. We do not make, and he has never asked for, any special accommodations. So, his catch meant it was his night to create dinner. All Jim and I had to do was keep his glass filled with the appropriate amount of bourbon and ice.
Dave and I opted to sleep on the porch that night. Jim took one of the bedrooms inside. When the sun vanished for the day, ambient light from the stars soon took its place. Dave and I put away our respective books. Satiated from a delicious fresh fish dinner, the haunting calls of loons lulled us to sleep.
Dave and me were deep into the kind of sleep that a tranquil lakeside provides when we were awoken by Jim screaming something unintelligible. The yelling from inside the cabin became less random and turned into a world-class rant of expletives. Dave and me were now fully awake.
"What did he say?" Dave asked.
"I don't know. I guess I'd better go see what's wrong with him."
From the middle of the great room I yelled, "Jim! Jim. What the hell is the matter with you?"
"There is something in here!" he howled.
"What? Something is in there?" I took a step towards Jim's room. As I did I heard a sound I couldn't quite place just off my right shoulder. I retreated to the porch.
"Well?" said Dave.
"He's wicked scared. He said 'There's something in here.' I took a step toward his room and then I heard a vaguely familiar sound off my right shoulder. I think he's right. I think there is something in there. It's not Bigfoot, but it's something."
"What should we do? Leave? Go sleep in the car?" said Dave.
"You can go get in the car if you want. I'm staying. If Jim thought he was alone in the back bedroom with a creature he is sure wants to kill him, he'll really flip out." I walked over to the cooler. "Beer?"
"Jim!" I yelled. "Beer?"
"I'm not getting out from under the covers."
Dave and I sipped our beer while thinking things through. It was the middle of the night. So, whatever was in there was nocturnal. It must have come in after sun down even though the front door had been and remained closed.
Dave yelled, "Hey, Jim. Was the back door closed when you turned in?"
"Hmmm. We're gonna need more beer." I observed to Dave. He agreed then restocked the cooler.
I called out, "Jim, exactly what happened? What makes you think you've got company?"
Jim said. "I was just lying here. I think I heard a high-pitched sound, sort of a squeak. Then, I swear to God something passed by almost touching my face. I've been under the covers since."
"Sure you don't want a beer? Steve will deliver it." Dave asked.
"I'm sure." replied Jim.
"Ya know whatever is in there can't be very big.", reasoned Dave.
"Yea. I doubt it's a raccoon or a porcupine." I thought aloud. "What do you think? Should we call the owner?"
Dave thought a bit. "No. It's the middle of the night. It's not like the place is on fire."
Draining my current beer I was suddenly hit with an epiphany. "Wait. He said it passed by his face almost touching him right?"
"Yup." Dave agreed.
"So, whatever is out to get him flies. I bet it's a bat." I deduced.
"Makes sense." said Dave. "You gonna tell him?"
"I guess." I replied. "Hey, Jim! We figured out what's in there with you. It's a bat!"
"A bat? A bat! Holy...There's a friggin bat buzzing me in here?" Jim managed to say from under the covers.
"Yea. Don't worry about it. Why don't you come out here with us?" said Dave.
"Don't worry about it? Easy enough for you to say. You guys don't have a bat making strafing runs on your head. What are we going to do? I don't want to get rabies."
"Jim, I'm not crazy about bats either but, really, there is nothing for you to worry about." I said.
Dave added, "Jim, he knows what he's talking about. Remember, he's got more education than both of us put together."
"Jim, we're in Maine. Right?" I asked.
I heard a tentative, "Yea..."
"The only types of bats that live in Maine eat insects. They don't drink blood. That thing is not going to turn into the Prince of Darkness and treat your jugular like a water fountain. It's probably in there because you're attracting mosquitoes. Look, come out here with us. The bat can have its mosquito buffet without bothering you."
Dave and I didn't hear Jim say anything. Without warning he just appeared in the doorway, a tall, thin, bearded specter with psychotic eyes and armed with a tennis racket.
Dave and I looked at each other wondering just how off kilter Jim had become. Dave looked back at Jim and said, "Beer?"
This time Jim said, "Sure." The normal Jim was on the way back to us.
With Jim now with us, we analyzed our problem. We decided the best thing to do was to make it easy for the bat to self-deport. I went around opening the back door and all the windows, removing each screen as I went along. We opened the porch door. Then, we waited while Dave and I used a combination of story telling and beer to calm Jim.
The eastern sky began to glow. I brewed enough coffee for a couple of Thermoses. It was time to go fishing.
The canoe was loaded. Dave and I assumed our respective places. Jim was ready to shove off.
Dave looked at me, then Jim, then me again. I gave Dave a slight nod. Dave said, "Jim."
"Yea?" Jim replied.
"You're not going to need the tennis racket out on the lake."
He put it down for the first time since he appeared at the porch door hours before. Then, he shoved off and birch trees around the lake trembled with fear.
Stephen G. Jordan is a Maine native. He has practiced and taught law in different states and at different universities. He followed a similar path in the fields of geology, engineering geology and remote sensing. These days he can be found in Rockland living a happy life with his flat coated retriever, Luna. He hopes to someday figure out what he wants to do when he grows up.
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