The weekender, p.1
Bryan L. Lee
Copyright 2010 Bryan L. Lee
When Clem Jenkins walked into the bait shop with that big red cooler, we all knew what he was up to. He was the best fisherman in the county, and he was about to prove it to us again. "Catch anything?" one of the customers at the minnow pool asked as Clem lugged the cooler over to the scales. Someone snickered. "Of course he caught something," someone else said. "He always catches something." "Just gather round boys," Clem said so everyone would hear, "and I'll show you what's biting this morning."
Truth be told, a small crowd had already formed around the scales. Clem seldom disappointed us, and today would be no exception. He flipped open the top of the cooler, and stuck both hands inside. He paused for a moment for dramatic effect.
"Get on with it Clem," Bill said with a touch of envy in his voice. Clem grinned at him.
"Anybody here interested in bass fishing?" he said, knowing that that was about the only thing most of us were interested in. "Well boys, feast your eyes on this."
Clem stood up and the room fell silent for a moment, except for Fred who let out a long, low whistle.
"Jeez, Clem, that looks big enough to take the state record," I said. I didn't even try to hide how jealous I was.
"It looks big enough, but it ain't. State record's 15 pounds, two ounces. This baby weighs in at 14 and a half."
We all agreed that it was still a respectable catch, and Jim went behind the counter to grab the Polaroid to commemorate the event. Jim always posted pictures of the big catches on the wall behind the cash register. There were a few of me up there, but pictures of Clem and his trophy-sized fish dominated.
"Hell Clem, why don't you come back when you've caught a big one," I teased. It was only 9:30 and there was still a good two hours of fishing left before the water got too warm.
"Nah, I decided to quit early today. It just didn't seem right to catch all of big ones and not leave any for you guys." The guys laughed. I did too, but I couldn't let him off that easy.
"Some of us might have a chance to catch one of those big ones if you'd ever let on where your secret spot is."
"There is no secret spot, Charlie, the secret's in the bait." Several people nodded in agreement.
"Clem you know that's not exactly true. We all use the same bait." Clem was formulating his answer when we were interrupted by the bell on the front door.
Everyone turned to look at the newcomer. He was tall and built like a man who spent most of his time behind a desk. He was dressed like the cover of an Eddie Bauer catalog.
"Yes sir," Jim said. "Can I help you?"
The stranger took the scene in for a moment, then said "Yeah, the lady at the motel said I could hire a guide here to do some fishing."
"Well, she told you the truth. What kind of fishing are you looking to do?"
I could see the question confused him. I could also see that he was going to try hard not to let on.
"Uh, I read that the Bass fishing up here is really good."
"It sure is," Jim said. "You after small mouth, or large mouth?"
Some of the guys had to suppress a grin. The newcomer was what we called a weekender, a tourist who liked to swing down from the city and spend some time away from it all. For the most part we didn't really mind the weekenders. We needed their money. The only problem was, some of them knew it.
"Which one is biggest?" the weekender continued.
"Large mouth," Jim said. "Clem here just caught one that weighed over 14 pounds."
By now, Clem had put his fish back in the cooler, and was busy gathering his things to leave. The weekender looked over to Clem.
"Well, how about it?" he asked.
"How about what?" Clem answered and bent over to pick up his cooler.
"Are you a fishing guide?"
Clem was a licensed guide, and a good one, too. But he didn't like working for weekenders. Clem stood up.
"Yeah, I'm a guide, but my schedule's full right now."
The weekender looked a little surprised. He seemed like a guy who was used to having things his way.
"Well, I'd be willing to pay you something extra to find some time in your schedule."
Clem looked uninterested. The weekender checked his watch. It was a Rolex.
"Look, I've got some things to do today. Why don't you just take a deposit, and I'll meet you back here at 3 to work out the details."
Clem started to say something when the weekender pulled out two crisp hundred dollar bills. He folded them in half, reached out, and stuffed them in Clem's shirt pocket.
"See you at three," he said, and walked out the door.
After he left, Jim spoke up. "Can you believe the nerve of that guy? Driving up here in his Mercedes and acting like he owns all of us."
Bill wasn't too pleased either. "Screw him, Clem. You don't need any money from guys like that."
It was strange, but Clem was the calmest of all of us. "It isn't anything to get worked up about fellows," Clem said. "The guy wants me to take him fishing, so I'll take him fishing."
Clem and I spent the rest of the morning getting things ready for the trip. Clem had his own boat, of course, but mine was in better shape and had those nice padded seats that Clem liked so much. We had lunch together at the diner, and made it back to the bait shop in time to load up the boat with supplies. Jim always stocked plenty of beer and sandwich fixings at the bait shop. Plus, Clem and I both qualified for the 10% fishing guide discount.
We were outside making the final preparations when the weekender pulled up. He drove a Mercedes alright, but it was the sport utility model. It looked out of place next to my rusty Ford pickup. The weekender got out and walked up to Clem.
"Glad to see you've found some time," he said. "What do I need to take with me?"
Clem said he'd need a license, and might want to buy some bug spray and sunscreen.
"You can buy everything inside," Clem added.
"Fine. How much are we talking about for this trip?"
I smiled. It was always the guys who threw money around who were the most concerned about the price of the trip.
"Trip costs $300. That includes all your gear, plus dinner. I'll also clean and filet any fish you catch, and pack them so you can take them back with you."
The weekender made a face.
"No thanks,” he said. “I hate fish.”
Clem didn't look surprised.
He looked at Clem for a moment, then added “Maybe if it's big enough, I'll have it mounted. Otherwise you can just throw them back"
"Okay then, let's get you a license," Clem said, and walked into the bait shop.
Inside, Jim already had everything laid out. The weekender filled out the license application and paid the fee. I walked back to the storage room and came back with the blue cooler.
"What's in there?" the weekender asked as I struggled through the door.
"Bait," I replied. "Everyone around here knows the secret's in the bait." The answer seemed to satisfy him.
Everything was all loaded up, and I was sitting in the truck by the time Clem and the weekender came out of the bait shop. They climbed into the front seat. Clem had to sit in the middle, but it didn't matter because we weren't going too far. I tried to start a conversation, but was interrupted by the weekender's cell phone.
"Yeah…speak up…I'm on vacation…fishing…no…Monday or Tuesday…"
It went on like that for the rest of the drive to the lake.
The boat launch went smoothly and we were all on the lake by five. I drove the boat, and Clem baited the hooks. The first place we tried was
"That's good for us," Clem said. "The fish start to feed again in the evening."
We settled in, and in just a few minutes, Clem got a solid strike. He was paying attention to the weekender, though, and didn't set the hook in time.
"Damn," Clem muttered, "got my bait."
The weekender was starting to get antsy. "At least you got a bite," he complained. "I've been out here with you for two hours, and haven't even gotten that."
He stopped short of asking for his money back, but Clem and I both knew he was about to.
"Let's try one more place," Clem suggested.
We reeled in our lines and headed out across the lake. It was almost dark, and I had to navigate by the lights of the town on the far shore.
"This is good here," Clem shouted over the buzz of the motor.
I reached out and cut it off. The lake was beautifully calm, and Clem made his way to the front of the boat. He pulled out a flashlight and shined it onto his rod and reel. The weekender picked up his rod also.
"I'm out of bait," he said.
Clem tossed him the flashlight. "Here you go. Bait's in the blue cooler."
The weekender leaned over and popped the lid of the cooler. I watched his face as the light from the flashlight shined inside. I could see his eyes widen, and I hit him hard with the oar before he had a chance to scream. Clem looked at him for a second, then rolled him out of the boat and held him under water for a few minutes just to be sure.
It was pretty late by the time we made it back to the bait shop. Jim and a few of the guys were waiting for us. "Catch anything?" Jim asked. Clem smiled.
"Biggest one yet."
Several heads nodded. Clem paused for effect, then added "The secret's in the bait, you know."
About the Author
Bryan L. Lee is a native Californian currently living in Northern Virginia. He grew up on a steady diet of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits re-runs, and by the age of 12 had a collection of over 500 horror comic books.
If you want to be alerted when new stories are published, send an e-mail to bleestories at gmail.com. No spam and no automated mailings, just a note from Bryan to you.
The Weekender by Bryan Lee / Thrillers & Crime have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on15 votes