“Oh, no!” I stammered, horrified that my germinal “change of voice” had chosen that very moment to change. In addition to eliciting a couple of guffaws from the crew, I managed to momentarily rattle the two seminarians, or whatever they were, which allotted me a few precious moments to calm down. “Actually, the priest who runs this place is a friend of my dad’s and he invited me to fish here with some of my friends, I replied, greatly relieved that my voice stayed within bounds. And who might that be?” one asked, while the other made a great show of rolling his eyes.
“You mean the priest who runs this place or my dad?” I asked.
The smirker replied, “We would assume, nay, expect you to be able offer up the name of our fearless leader, But bestowing upon us your father’s name? Why, that would be worth bonus points.”
I was drawing a blank. What a time for brain freeze! But then I remember my dad remeniscing about the days when dad and the priest whose name escaped me were teammates on Xavier University’s basketball team, the Musketeers. My dad acquired the nickname, “Twisty,” in homage not to his prowess on the court, but by virtue of his curly black hair.
“Tell him that Twisty’s son is down here fishing with some friends,” I said.
Excepting Ron, who was sitting morosely at the site of his second fall, arms around his knees, all eyes were on the two men and myself. Everyone tried to act nonchalant, but only Tom and Gary were pulling it off. Indeed, RC and Steve looked poised to bolt at the slightest pretext.
“Twisty, Huh?” the smug seminarian finally said, directing his querry more tp his partner than to us. But rather than waiting for my response, he shifted his gaze to Ronny, who actually waved at them, and then asked, “What’s the deal with that kid.”
What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, not that it necessarily matters to you guys, but he appears to be bleeding rather profusely out his nose.”
Sure enough, upon closer examination, Ronny did appear to have a red mustache, the perfect compliment to the little red bib he seemed to be wearing over his dinghy white T-shirt.
“Hey, kid, come over here, if you’re able to,” Smug’s partner summoned.
This time all eyes truly were on Ronny as he hobbled toward the two men, who, for all he knew, were some manner of church cops.
Ronny, with his bloody nose, mud-smeared T-shirt, and missing one shoe, came face to face with the two seminarians.
Regarding for a moment, Smug said, “Two things, son. First, enlighten us as to what just happened to you, because it’s looking like, whatever it was, you came in a distant second.”
With nary a moment’s hesitatuin, Ronny said, “I tripped and fell, fathers.”
Smug snorted, “Hey, pardner, we’re Jesuit brothers. We work for a living.”
“Seems like you might need to visit a hospital,” Smug’s partner, the “good cop,” said.
“No, I’m fine, sirs,” Ronny stammered. ” I’m sort of clumsy. I’m used to bloody noses.
The two men we now understood were brothers moved a few feet away from us and quietly conferred.
I noticed RC and the two Tims also were whispering to each other. I was certain they were still on The Beach only because they knew they couldn’t mount their expensive bikes and skeedaddle quickly enough to elude the brothers, both of whom appeared to be on the muscular side.
After what seemed like an eternity, Smug called over to us, saying, “Oh, by the way, the second thing I wanted to say to our misbegotten lad, but which I can say to all of you, given the public nature of this impromptu forum, is that you boys are knowingly trespassing, and that we do prosecute trespassers.”
I had been on the verge of chiming in, but Smug’s partner had already pulled him aside for another private conference.The session was brief; moments later, Smug walked over to me and said, “My esteemed brother in arms is intrigued by the Twisty component of your improbable equation. While hasten back to run it by the big boss man, you boys might want to take advantage of what I would say is a rare, unexpected, but brief, window of opportunity and clear out. And make sure this serene, contemplative site is as serene as it was before you all showed up.”
With that, thy departed. Even after they disappeared around the bend, we could clearly hear them crunching the numerous pieces of loose gravel on the road. The moment we could no longer hear them them, Rick and the two Tims were busily re-tying their rigs to their bikes. “Gotta go,” RC announced. “Me to!” Steve added.
I was relieved and heartened to see that Tom, Gary and Ronny seemed to be staying put. Apparently, they trusted me.
We sort of stood around for a couple of minutes feeling awkward (at least I did). I stole a glance at Ronny; he had cut the line on the dead carp and was now fumbling with his reel, obviously attempting to fix it. I had decided that Ronny hadn’t acted differently than any of the rest of us would had acted under the circumstances. Not only that, Ronny had played it cool when the two brothers were interrogating him. I’m not sure what he would have gained from snitching on us; the brother were basically jerks — Smug, because he truly was a jerk whose self-regard for his wit bordered on the delusional, and his partner, for never once stepping up and telling Smug to just put a sock in it, for the love of God. Nonetheless, I sort of admired Ronny for his ability to seemingly shrug off the cruel prank just played on him and shift his focus to trying to fix his reel. I also sort wished all of us, or at least one of us, could could boost his morale, commend the stand-up way he dealt with the Jerk Brothers.
I sauntered over to Ronny and said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that kind of Zebco reel start coming apart when some poor sucker’s trying to land a fish. Here let me show you what happened.” He handed me his rig. “See that little nut rattling around in the reel case?” I asked him. “All you do is position the spool so the reel handle can click back in place, and then you just screw the nut back on tight enough to keep the reel jiggling. Then you just screw the front of the reel and rod section back on, tight, but not too tight!”
Ron took his rig back, gave it a quick inspection and said, “Thanks, man.” He then asked, “You weren’t just shiiting us when you said,your dad’s friends with whoever runs this place, and that we were allowed to fish here. were you?”
“Hell no!” I shot back, feeling a little indignant. ” I wouldn’t fart around with my friends like that!”
“Hey it’s cool,” Ronny responded. “I know you’re good people. It’s just there’s a lot of bad people out there. Bad people that can really trick you, well, not me, per say, but, you know, people.”
Ronnie was reaching out to me. It was obvious. I tried to think of the right way to respond, but I suddenly started feeling incredibly awkward. “Tell me about it,” was the best I could come up with, and I knew that was weak.
Then Tom shouted, “I got one!” And sure enough, he landed a spotted bass, maybe eight inches long. “I got it on a gold Mepps spinner!” he exclaimed. And so the bite was back on. Tom lent Gary one of his gold Mepps spinners, and I Ronny one of mine. “With a reel that finally worked like it was supposed to, Ronny was able to get a cast out at least to the near edge of the main channel, where all the action was, so he ended up catching a spotted bass, along with a rock bass, and even a nine-inch walleye. Between Tom, Gary and myself, we caught three smallies, several spotted bass, and a couple of nice crappies. Oh, and a channel cat that had to go at least five pounds, and that Tom held onto for what seemed like days (Trust me fishing can seriously mess with time!) until it finally rolled, no doubt exhausted, under a submerged ledge. Tom waded out to where the water was waist-high and moving briskly in an attempted to somehow dislodge the cat, but he finally came to his senses after the three of us insisted he was an idiot who was on the verge of getting sucked under, at which point he slowly back-stepped to more more manageable water and then did what every fisherman hates to do more than anything else: force the line to the breaking point, thereby intentionally losing a trophy fish because there simply was not another option. it was almost like a brand new day, that additional two hours that we caught the Little Miami River in a generous mood. And we were undisturbed for the duration.