Steak for Tuff
E.N. Heim | Grace Gao
It happened one summer. I got down to the pier at four in the morning, so I could get an early start. I wanted to get a place on a bench, up near the end of the pier. I figured my chances of getting bigger fish would be in my favor. This also was the day of the big fishing competition. As I reached my bench, fog started to come in. Visibility was zilch. The pier pilings seemed to meld into the fuzzy fog, and the water below was nowhere to be seen. That image of those pilings, no water, and fog, mesmerized me. All I had on my mind was the prize—the greatest fishing rod in the world—my dream, my fantasy.
I opened my tackle box, bated my line with a delicious looking lure, and cast out as far as I could. I heard the water splash, and waited for action. I felt nothing. Not even a nudge for the next hour. Was this going to be another fruitless Saturday? Was I going to sit here and see no action for the next four hours? Was I going home without a catch? But, this wasn’t the first time I had nothing to show for dinner. My cats would be angry at me. They expect fish when I come home. My dog Tuff doesn’t like fish. His favorite is a huge beefsteak—juicy, dripping with fresh blood as if it were just hacked right off the carcass ready for his choppers.
It was about seven-thirty, still foggy out when I felt the first nudge, nothing extraordinary, just a small pull from side to side. Waiting for the big one to strike, I looked out across the mist-covered water to see if it would burn off from the morning sun. No, a big fog bank was moving in fast, and I was engulfed in no time. Nothing could be seen, not even my feet. The fog shrouded everything, and I wondered, would I be able to make it down to the bate-shack for live bate, since it was now open. Then all of a sudden, I felt this humongous tug. It pulled hard, then soft, and hard again. I couldn’t believe the strength—was it a wale, was it a shark, or what? It pulled again and again. It jerked at my line. After ten minutes of play, it finally gave up, and I started to reel it in. I looked down to see what I had. At first I couldn’t see through the dense fog. Images of a feast went through my mind. The cats would be happy. The dog, oh well, I’m sure Tuff’s idea of fish is just another flounder, a fluke in his mind. He would be happier if he could have a steak instead of a fresh catch, though.
When I got my catch up to the railing, I stared at it. Perplexed. Amazed. Bewildered. Was I having an eye problem? Astonished, I gawked at a bare-chested woman covered with long silky emerald-green hair. She was about two feet long.
At first, I thought she was covered in seaweed. No, it was her hair—fine strands looking like angel’s hair—shiny and sparkly, as if covered with diamond dust. Her image was effervescent, and made me feel dizzy. I’m sure I was delirious. Nobody would believe me if I told them what I had caught, a mermaid.
She blinked, looked straight at me frantically and pleaded, “Please…please let me go.”
Would you believe what you were looking at, half woman, half fish, all wet and gorgeous? Would anybody believe you? What would you say to such a creature, a mermaid? I said, “Why?”
“Because, I’ll die if I’m out of water too long.”
“Mmmm…five minutes…huh!” I took her arm and pulled her over the railing, and I noticed her fishtail—sure enough, scales and all, flapping nervously. I’m sure with all her anxiety she wanted to be back in the water.
Her eyes were sad, almost as if she were going to cry. I said, “What will you give me if I do let you go?” I knew that mermaids had magical powers, and I was going to get my life long desire, that fishing rod if I asked her—a prize that everyone down at the pier talked about.
She perked up. Her head bobbed from side to side. Her eyes twinkled and opened wide. A sparkle came to her face like the one I’ve never seen before, and she said, “Anything you desire. Your request is my command.”
I perked up. “Anything?” I said.
She nodded. “Yes, of course, anything.”
I thought for a while. Then I eagerly said, “How about steaks for a year…one for each day and…” I paused, she looked at me as if I had more to say, and I excitedly blurt out, “and the greatest pole in the world.”
A twinkle came to her eyes, and she whispered, “It is done. All will be waiting at your home.”
I couldn’t believe what she said, was she going to give me the wish I’d always wanted, that fishing pole—the rod of rods. Was I going to be the recipient of the big prize?
At the end of the day, I went home disappointed. That day sure was a let down, no fish, no rod. But, sure enough when I got home, it was all waiting for me. Today I can boast of having 365 wooden stakes and the greatest rod in the world—a wooden pole ten stories high.