Early this week, I was fishing for Kenai River silvers from a neighbor’s dock in Sterling. It felt good to be on the river, but the salmon were being stubborn.
An hour of staring at the tip of my fishing rod went by. I knew silvers were in the river. I also knew that, if I kept my bait in the water long enough, I’d probably catch one. Still, I found myself thinking about things that I’d rather be doing.
If you’ve ever taken a kid fishing, you know how quickly they become bored. When my daughter, Laura, was little, I told her stories to keep her mind occupied until a fish would come along. The first fish she ever caught was a silver salmon that picked up her bait when I was about half an hour into a story. I like to think it helped to teach her that patience has its rewards.
Being patient helped me on Sunday. My wife, Sue, had come over to the dock see how I was doing, so I invited her to sit down and tell me a story. From past fishing trips, she knew what I needed. Without hesitation, she began.
“Edna was a sprightly 60-ish woman who lived alone in Bakersfield,” Sue said. “Well, not quite alone. She had a dog named Fred whose mother was a Chihuahua and whose father was an Australian Shepherd. Fred looked like a Chihuahua, but he had a strong herding instinct. He took great pleasure in rounding up all the neighborhood chickens.
“The trouble began when Edna met a woman named Sara at the weekly senior-center Bingo game. Sara was younger by several years, and quite forward.
“‘Do you like going to casinos?’ Sara asked.
“‘I don’t gamble,’ Edna said. ‘A single woman has to watch her pennies.’
“‘That’s true, but a woman also has to have a little fun. Tell you what. Let’s go to to the casino in Elko and play the slots. My treat. We can take my car.’
“‘Oh, I never leave Fred alone,’ Edna said.
“‘He can go,’ Sara said.
Edna reluctantly agreed. Sue continued the story, going into great detail about one thing and another. For example, Sara’s Beetle, a ’56 model, was “held together with supermarket produce department twist ties and U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail shipping tape.”
“To make a long story short,” Sue went on, “the two women went to the casino in Elko and played the slots. When Sara was down to her last dollar, she won a jackpot of $4,000. In the parking lot, Sara told Edna that she was ‘strongly attracted’ to her. Edna asked if the attraction extended to splitting the four grand with her. When Sara said no, Edna pulled away, and swung her purse at Sara, striking her on the head. The purse contained several rolls of quarters. Sara was dead. Edna, with Fred’s help, dragged Sara’s body into the VW. Edna drove out into the Nevada desert, and, again with Fred’s help, buried Sara’s body in the sand. Fred loved to dig, and this was the first time he’d been able to really put his heart into it.”
I stopped Sue once to suggest that something in her story was a bit unbelievable.
She gave me a look, and said, “You never know what an older woman might do when there’s no one around to watch her.”
As wrapped up in the story as I was, I couldn’t help but see the tip of my fishing rod bouncing up and down. I pulled upward to set the hook, and felt the heavy weight of a large salmon. I reeled it in, Sue netted it, and we carried it triumphantly home, where we discussed the importance of story-telling over a glass of the house’s finest box red-blend.
Moral of the story: If you’re patient enough, good stuff happens.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.