My sport was fishing. I was not physically endowed to handle football or basketball. Fishing didn't care what size you were or your prowess. I gave the sport up for several years, but decided to try it again after starting work at a large Texas newspaper. Several of my colleagues were into it and spoke of their conquests.
"It's fantastic, Jim," said Billy Bob Metilda. "If you like gargantuan carp you've got to fish Lake Livingston."
After awhile I became so excited about fishing that I thought of nothing else. I began reading every fishing magazine and watching fishing shows on TV. The adrenaline was really surging.
I invested an entire paycheck in fishing gear. When I do things I pull out the stops. Sometimes I go overboard. I was now at the point of annoying my friends.
"I wish you would shut up about fishing and just do it!"
I pestered the guys about fishing as a group. Fishing is a sport that requires moral support. It's fun being with a bunch of guys, fumbling around with tackle and camping gear, drinking great quantities of beer and scratching a lot. No matter how old a fellow gets, male bonding remains important. Fishing is just one of those male bonding activities.
I was conscious of the fact that behind the paper was a prominent lake. Town Lake it was called. But other than rowing clubs and family boaters, no one dared venture into its water. It was a vile, polluted cesspool of crud in which three-eyed monsters and other freaks lived. Frequently, full-sized alligators were pulled out coughing and wheezing.
"If you want to fish so badly, why don't you just give Town Lake a try?"
I looked at the senior technician with amusement. "Yeah, right. Whatever thing I catch sure as heck isn't going to be edible."
He tried being serious. "Really, Jim. You've got a fishing license and all that expensive gear and there are fish out there. Why not?"
I became desperate and frustrated as it became apparent that there would be no male bonding. The guys were always busy whenever I proposed a date.
To the untrained eye Town Lake looked harmless. It ran for eight miles through the city, ending at the dam. I seriously considered giving the lake a try. I mean, what if some mutated thing or other rose to the surface and winked at me? Also, maybe the guys were just all talk and the water was perfectly all right.
One night I walked down to the bridge which joined the north and south sides of the city and stared into the water. I was crazy. I wanted to fish so much that I could taste it.
"Hey, buddy. Psst!"
I was unaware of the presence of a bridge lunatic. There were people known to reside under the bridge with an affinity towards trollism. To my left I could make out the form of a bedraggled, smelly man. He was short and appeared harmless. Still I was on my guard. You never know what a person is capable of.
"May I help you?" I tried sounding tough. Some people in fear sound like wimps. Your voice goes into your nose and you sound like Melvin the nerd.
The little man said, "I knew you were coming. You like fishing, huh? It was prophesied that a mighty fishing warrior would come along to tame the great Town Lake. I'm here to assist you on your quest."
As he got closer I nearly passed out from the smell. I have nothing against anyone, but a rank troll in training is a bit overwhelming.
"Why, that's most interesting," I said trying to not irritate my new friend. "Do you know much about fishing?"
With the help of moonlight I had a better vision of the man's face. Though yucky, there was magic about him. Wisdom shined in his eyes.
"Yup. And I can tell you how to catch the big ones. You see that dark thing up there in the sky?"
I looked across the lake towards downtown. Hovering above the tallest building was a dark band that ran north to south. It was a most sinister and predatory thing.
My friend explained, "Only we who rule the night and hear voices and see things know the truth. That's the space thingy that dictates the infrastructure of Town Lake. You see, by day lawyers work in that building. But at night they take off their disguises and become their real selves. They are aliens guarding the lake, ready with subpoenas in case their friends the fish are threatened. Together they plan world domination. Only you, the fishing savior, can save Town Lake and the world from legal/alien domination."
Okay. Time to go. Nothing against trolls but I rather like sanity. However the part about lawyers being aliens seemed believable.
"Well, I've got to go. I'll keep you in mind if I do fish Town Lake. Bye."
As I walked back towards the paper I looked up at the ominous dark formation. Nah. There had to be a logical explanation.
Town Lake had originally been a very nice, pure, untainted lake. It was human intervention that caused the pollution. There are some, however, who believe it's really the angry spirits of frustrated anglers that caused Town Lake to be unfishable.
I thought of my troll friend. What a nut. A raid by the police a few nights later removed the small band of trolls. I heard that most, including my friend in all likelihood, had been sent to a reformation colony where they were cleaned up and sentenced to training as telemarketers.
How can one explain addiction? The mind is a funny thing. It gets stuck on a thought, and it takes a major blast to drive it out. The guys at work became concerned when I spoke of the troll man and the dark thingy in the sky. Perhaps my fishing addiction had finally sent me over the edge. The guys thought I was weird to begin with.
"Have you thought of taking up tennis, Jim?"
So, I started playing tennis and momentarily dropped the fishing bit. I was eating right and getting plenty of exercise. I decided to shave my ear hair and felt that mysterious bump in the back of my head disappear. Most beneficially, I could close my eyes. Wow! Were they ever red and hurt. All the physical problems were solved by simple nonfish activity.
One night I was outside the paper when I heard and saw something most strange. This great big, white thing comes around the corner, stops and stares at me. A giant rat with a massive tail. Most critters run for the woods upon encountering a human being. This thing stood its ground.
"Hey, bud. Psst!"
I shook my head. It was quite late, and I was tired.
Still, the rat said, "Hey, dummy. Psst!"
I walked over to it. It was about three feet long and a foot high. Its voice was a high squeak.
"I've got news for you, Jim. The fish are hot and heavy tonight. You better get busy or you'll miss out. This is your destiny."
I was not amused. Enough was enough. I was weary of silly things, so I said to the albino rat, "You just go away. I'm not listening to any more foolishness. I'm not into fishing, so you just go chase cheese."
Still, the rat persisted. "I know you encountered troll man, but I'm being square with you. You must fish Town Lake. The world is at risk, and your fishing will save it. I mean, let's be honest. If there weren't something bizarre, most unworldly going on, why would I be speaking, huh?"
Everything was in the trunk of my car. My super deluxe, triple-layer tackle box, my Magneto 2000 spinning rod and reel as advertised on the Dick Shick Shyster fishing show. Of my lures, I couldn't lose with the Froggy Bouncy crankbait, guaranteed to stir to a frenzy anything with fins.
I shook my head once more just to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating. Rat smiled, teeth revealing remnants of its last meal. "All right, Jim. It's up to you. You only have six hours to catch whatever's out there and save the world from domination. No pressure, dude."
With my heart beating so fast that I felt dizzy, I hauled the fishing gear out and in pitch darkness stumbled down the path to the edge of the lake, stationing myself between two big trees. I didn't have a flashlight, so I had to rely on faint moonlight. Somehow I managed to get the string strung and the lure on without harming myself.
I peered into the darkness. Where were they? What were they? These certainly couldn't be normal fish. I just didn't know what I was dealing with. I then thought of the words of my fishing guru Achten Ben Johnson, "Use your instincts. Feel the fish, fish the fish. Just cast, stupid!"
Suddenly there was a miracle. Out of the corner of my eye appeared glowing objects gliding majestically through the water. They were glowfish, and they were everywhere. Was Town Lake polluted or what?
I felt overwhelmed. Something inside said this was it. My ship had come in. Do or die. This was a totally different kettle of fish.
My first cast came up short. Still, I could see the lead fish steer in its direction. It was truly beautiful seeing these lights in the shapes of fish maneuver through heavily polluted water. My second cast using the Froggy Bouncy crankbait was a little better. This time the lead fish slammed into the bait, nearly tearing the rod out of my hands. It fought like a monster, but I mastered it. As I hauled it out, it growled and barked at me.
"That's no way to treat a dogfish, you human wannabe fisherman."
I silenced it by praising its enemy the catfish. It got me good when it became very bright, threatening to blind me, and became too hot to hold. I tossed it into a tall tree where it hung as the first of a set of lights. I then continued fishing.
One after another angry glowfish/dogfish were caught and tossed into the tree. It was pretty noisy, as the tree became crowded. There was plenty of whimpering, growling and name-calling. As I moved downstream to try another spot, I looked back. The tree was lit up like a Christmas tree and there was singing.
I had no trouble finding glowfish. They seemed to gravitate more to me than to my lure. Each victory became more vicious as they even made fun of my mother.
Around three in the morning the truly unbelievable occurred. I was now on the north side of the lake. My arms and legs ached. Suddenly the dark formation in the sky tilted down into the lake and little glowing chariots and riders descended into the water. They were here to help their comrades the glowfish in battling me. I could see the chariot riders making suggestions. They spoke a foreign language further made indecipherable by being under water.
"Glug glug....harumph pumph, sneeze, ta tah hah. Hum."
It got more difficult for me as they tried pulling me in. The little chariot men sent some sort of nonelectrical current up the line causing me to sporadically jump three feet in the air and only alleviated by singing the first verse of "I love you." Yeah, if the children's favorite dinosaur Barney had to battle these things he'd probably be singing "I hate fish, so do you. Let's fry 'em up and serve 'em in a stew."
Let me describe the scene for you. I fought the unholy fish for four hours. I'd made it two-thirds the way around the lake. Trees lining the lake are so bright with hanging glowfish that I have no trouble seeing. Presently glowfish assisted by chariot riders are attempting to conquer me.
A thought occurred to me. This had to be a plot by unnamed forces. I say unnamed because the glowfish and chariot riders are merely the fighters. What I gather as I converse with them is that they have heavy political beliefs. Maybe they transform into human form and take political office. That would explain considerable. I've often wondered what planet some politicians are from.
Suddenly the water started bubbling and rolling. Something new and weird was happening. The light from all the fish was blinding me. Instead of many glowfish it was now one massive glowfish. They had merged to become a mess of a glowfish with multiple eyes and fins. This big boy now sprouted legs and emerged from the lake. At this point I gave up fishing.
Several chariot riders rode the monster fish's back. One had the reins and was steering it.
"Give up, human," I heard one of them say. "See the evil in your human values. Dogfish rule!"
The giant glowfish had incredible speed as it raced me up to the bridge. I was frantically looking for a policeman. It seemed to me that as bright as Town Lake had become someone would have noticed and called the police.
The mutated fish probably measured ten feet long and five feet high. At first it gasped for air, which being a fish out of water, it most naturally would. But the longer it was out the easier it became to breathe.
As it chased me around the lake, the glowfish I'd thrown into the trees jumped off and merged with the big one to make it even bigger and powerful. I started to cry.
Reciting from the 1989 Fishing Guide for Fools: "If all methods and lures fail and you are confronted by a freakish, unearthly mother of a fish, you are no longer the fisherman but the one being fished. Refer to the 1989 Hunting Guide for Fools, page 108, for using bazooka on abnormal species rather than on deer." Right. Like I had time to refer to any of that. I mean, where's a bazooka when you need one?
Allow me to update you on the scene. I have abandoned fishing, perhaps for the rest of my life, am being hotly pursued by the largest glowfish (though apparently it likes going by dogfish) ever to crawl out of water. This sucker is so bright that night has become day. With each glowfish I'd caught and tossed into a tree now joining the big one, the monster glowfish grew. And the thing is that I seem to be the only human being aware of the situation. Thank you police. It has to be political.
The fish was now singing a silly little tune. The chariot riders joined in. It sounded to me like that silly gimmicky sixties song "They're coming to take me away, aha." What a silly song to be singing. Still none of this made sense.
I kept shouting at it, "Shut up with the singing!" Still it persisted.
About the fifth time around the lake I realized that as it grew it became slower. Simply too much weight. A couple of the chariot riders got off thinking this might help, accept by my reasoning, a chariot rider is too small, maybe weighing at best five pounds.
As I thought over my predicament it occurred to me that if the fish got large enough it might not be able to get under the bridge, which was roughly ten feet high. Maybe it would chase me under it and get stuck. It was my only hope. It sure would scare the troll people, the few who had returned having become disillusioned with telemarketing.
I stumbled over some rocks and fell flat on my face. Looking back I saw the silly fish smile.
"Now I'm gonna get you, sucker. Doo wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo," it sang.
At that moment when the jig seemed to be up, a voice said to me, "Get to your frigging feet. How embarrassing being eaten by a dopey, political, alien glowfish. The shame."
I got to my feet and raced towards the bridge. Sure enough, in the shadows were some troll people. The looks on their faces were precious. There was absolute, confounding shock at seeing this little dude being chased by a massive glowfish with tiny chariot riders mounted on its back singing silly, obnoxious, gimmicky sixties tunes.
"Get out of here!" I yelled at them as I raced past them. I was now directly under the bridge. The shock made several freeze in their tracks. However, as the fish closed within feet, I found most shooting past me.
"Ugh. Uh, uh."
Just as I hoped, the fish had grown too large to make it under the bridge. Still it strained and pushed with all its fishy might. The chariot riders got off. Some pulled on the reins as the others pushed from behind. Finally they succeeded in getting it stuck.
"There, you fools. Let's see you get out of this one!"
I was jumping up and down in insane excitement. The chariot riders swore at me. They didn't have any more happy songs to sing.
Suddenly the fish began flapping its fins and barking in desperation. I was touched by its sad eyes yet repulsed by its odor. It was working on my sympathy.
"You human. You think you have us," said one of the chariot riders. It was hard taking him seriously when he sounded like a Smurf. "We have connections within your government. We all come from water. You think cleansing this lake will stop us?" His laugh sent a chill through me. He continued, "You must be an avid and committed fisherman for we exist everywhere. You think some Froggy Bouncy crankbait is enough?"
Just then the bridge started to buckle from the stress of the fish. Instead of going forward they decided to back out. As the fish successfully but not gracefully wiggled free, the chariot riders let out a cheer, and I knew then there was no stopping it.
I'd parked my car on the farthest end of the paper's parking lot. Though exhausted, I started the car and burned rubber. Looking in my rearview mirror, I could see the growing glowfish lay waste to my former place of employment.
My radio came on and a very pronounced alien voice said, "We may be slow, earth dude, but there is no stopping us. You better run."
Why was I alone? Why weren't others aware of this gigantic glowfish threatening our very existence?
I thought of the many dangers of fishing. There's the danger of getting a hook in the ear and losing your fishing pole and tackle, which makes the hook in the ear attractive. How about fishing without a license? There you are on the lake, you haven't caught a bite, you've lost that expensive spinning rod and reel in twenty feet of water, and to top it off you have a third degree sunburn. Suddenly some funny little man in a boat putt putts up to you and asks to see your fishing license. You may very well have one but it's for another state.
"But I thought, officer, that a fishing license was like a driver's license. Good in any state." Wrong.
All these dangers pale to that of encountering a freak fish. Mine was the glowfish that couldn't accept no. This was the fish you wished would get away. I would much rather take the hook in the ear and the loss of a valuable rod and reel and tackle.
Life never was normal after fishing Town Lake. The glowfish and riders chased me around the world. It stopped growing after it hit the size of a mountain. I was always just one step ahead. I tried warning people. It was useless. Towns and countries were devastated. Other glowfish rose out of every ocean, lake and stream. I hoped that if I could reach my fellow fishermen we might be able to fight the glowfish.
"You are one crazy dude," General Raphael Herrerra of the Costa Rican Air Force complimented me. "You want me to use my air force to help you destroy glowfish?"
My travels had earned me contacts with men high in command. I learned that the General was not above approaching or reproach.
"You've seen the charts and statistics, General. Most of Europe and Asia are awash in light. Now the upper part of North America is being threatened. Fishing has all but been banned. Massive airstrikes are our only hope."
All glowfish from around the world had converged to join forces in order to take over the world. I found it personal in that wherever I went they followed. They struck so quickly that no one took action. No one believed what he or she saw. Giant glowfish? Right. You be the first to admit that you see one.
With the help of a box of quality cigars and a lifetime subscription to TV Guide, the General agreed to my plan.
Starting late Tuesday night bombing runs were made over Canada. The excitement in the pilots' voices told the story.
"They're all over the place," announced one pilot. "There was no possibility of surprise. The fish had the sky lit up for a good five miles."
There was a momentary ray of hope as the bombs appeared to take out a great many glowfish and their riders. However, this just broke the big one into its many individual fish and many of these made it back to water where they merged, or reconstituted themselves into another giant glowfish.
I was a man on the run, and I was quickly running out of places to run to. I understood that the fish and riders were fighting for an unknown power. Whoever or whatever alien force I had yet to discover. What I did know was that this power was setting up a political system that had to do with a love for chess, tofu and talking in inconsistencies.
So I run and run. Lately the bad guys have attempted to make friends with me. They have promised all kinds of incentives, one being limited fishing of, yes, catfish. I can't give up. I am the ordained fishing savior, and as long as there are devout fishermen I will fight. I pick up allies along the way. We gather as much data about the alien power as we can.
Currently I am stationed somewhere in Australia. I'm working on a possible solution with a nutty scientist named Professor Uck Uck. Our theory is this: The evil alien power loves silly gimmicky sixties tunes. Using pirated airwaves we have played various styles of music. Our spies say most don't effect the bad guys. However, heavy ****l and some polka music have brought us positive results. We've heard the growling, barking and whining which proves their dislike for these forms of music. We're hoping to make it so painful that they'll vacate this planet and go to one that doesn't mind their type of music. We're very hopeful. It will take time and that's what we're worried about. Fortunately there's plenty of bad music to choose from. It shouldn't take that long to find the one it really can't stand.