I miss the Fish-Fucker. Twenty years after his death, I don’t think of him every day or even every month. But now and then, when my face is half-turned or my body settles into the space between breaths, the death pause, I hear his laughter and expect to see his large green eyes crinkling at me. Then guilt rushes in because I haven’t been thinking of him or even missing him. Because I have moved on. Grown away. Like the lover who was once the center of your universe but now you struggle to remember his name.
While the features of his face have become fuzzy, I remember him as Fish-Fucker. He earned that name. It was given by friends one night when life had a summertime feeling of infinity. Love was taken for granted – it was rock solid.
We had gone to our friends for the night. They had a big house with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking their dock. Our usual group of friends had gathered for a potluck and billiards. We drank and ate plenty. The kids were enjoying some Disney Princess tape on the big screen TV covering one wall of the den and we were settling in for the night. Couples had grabbed extra bedrooms. We had lain out our stuff on the beds to drift back to the den.
“Let’s go skinny-dipping,” Peg said.
“Yeah,” said her husband.
“In the pond?” I asked.
“Yeah,” they said in a chorus.
Rod had looked at me. I shrugged. “Go. I’ll stay with Denise and look after the kids.”
“Okay,” he said.
I think the skinny-dippers got naked outside on the dark porch. There was a rustle of leaves and some thuds as they must have made their way down to the pond. Denise and I heard a series of loud and not so loud splashes.
“Guess they made it in. Trevor give your sister back her Barbie,” Denise said. We played with the kids as the tape wound down to the end. Various splishes and splashes were heard from the area of the pond.
The night was dark. No moon or stars to throw light so were we surprised to hear a line of feet running across the deck, hooting and hollering, then a mass of pale bodies streaking across the long line of windows.
“Is that Daddy?” asked Trevor with his toddler lisp.
“Yep,” said Denise.
There was a clamor as doors were thrown open and naked people scattered into their rooms. Denise and I turned to look at each other.
“Kids let’s get ready for bed. First one dressed and under the covers gets a tummy tickle,” I said.
A half hour later, the kids were tucked in as the adults floated into the den, showered and smiling. Smiling pointedly at me. It was unnerving. I looked around for Rod.
“Where’s Rod?” I asked.
“Do you recall stocking that pond with bass?” asked Denise’s husband.
“Sure. We helped build the dock.”
“Well. Something out there said thank you,” said Peg.
Oh no. I walked, walked fast to our room. “Rod honey. You okay?” Muffled sounds came from the bathroom. “I can’t hear you.” Some slight whimpering came from under the bathroom door. “I’m coming in,” I said twisting the door handle.
My husband was sitting in a t-shirt, pant less on the commode. He said, “Something bit me.”
“Something in the pond bit me,” he said with a catch in his voice.
“No I think it was a fish.”
“Where did the big ole fish bite you,” I said in a not very sympathetic way.
He pointed down, down there. “I can’t see it.” Rod tried to bend his 6’3” frame to look at his down there. “Do you think I need to go to the ER?”
“Well. Let me have a look,” I said mentally squaring my shoulders. Taking a deep breath, I looked at his dinkie. Sure enough, Rod had two tiny, really teeny little bite marks.
“A vampire bass?” I asked trying to smother my giggles.
“It’s not funny,” said my husband.
“Okay dokey,” I said trying to assume a serious face.
“It was a bass,” said Rod without a hint of a smile.
“Sure, large-mouth. Uh huh,” I said.
Out in the den, I asked our friends, “Any hydrogen peroxide available. Maybe a bandage?”
Everyone fell over laughing, belly spasming, whooping laughter.
“How is the Fish-Fucker?”
“I’m sure he’ll recover nicely or his dinkie will fall off,” I said. Always the soul of practicality.
From that night on, among a few select friends, Rod was known as the Fish-Fucker. He took the name in the spirit it was given – the good-natured poke of friends. Always responding with the caveat, “It was a large-mouth bass.” I will never forget this memory.
Tonight, to avenge Rod, the Fish-Fucker, I am going to eat fish.