1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Past Contest Short Story Contest 139: Fish - Submissions and Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Lemex, Jul 21, 2013.

    Short Story Contest 139
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Fish"


    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY!

    If you wish to enter the contest please send me your story via PM for me to enter the story via this thread. All stories posted here will not be counted as entered into the contest. This is to ensure anonymity, and to make this contest fairer for all - having each story judged based on their merits.

    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Unfortunately, there is no prize but pride on offer for this contest. As always, the winner may also PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Themes: "Fish" (courtesy of mbinks89) since the winner of the last, Azalea, does not appear to be with us any more, it's been a week since his last post). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday 4th of August 2013 10:00 am (us pacific time)

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.

    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.





    Thanks, and good luck!
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Fishing is My New Hobby [3,359]

    Quint’s Revenge was docked at the far end of the marina, the boat closest to the bay. The deep sea fishing vessel looked to be around thirty feet in length and had three, large outboard engines on the stern. To most, the boat would look deserted but I knew more than most. I’d been watching the boat and its owner for over a month in preparation for this night. The owner of Quint’s Revenge, a truly despicable human being, had taken to living on the craft. Over the past month of stalking I had followed him to his actual home a few times but over this past week he had not returned there once. Why anyone would choose to live on a boat over a perfectly fine, although clearly dirty, house was beyond me. Maybe his murderous obsession had finally swallowed him whole. Well, luckily for him that would end tonight.

    Some may wonder where I had found the time to spend a solid month of my life doing nothing but following a reclusive deep sea fisherman. To them I would say it is easy, once you lose the job that takes up eighty percent of your waking hours. Believe it or not, one month and one day ago I was clocking in at the local aquarium, slipping into my wetsuit, and preparing for a day I would spend with the only true friends I felt I ever had. Dolphins do not judge, dolphins do not talk behind your back, and dolphins certainly do not fire you. If only my boss had been a freaking dolphin. After that last day at the job that had once been my entire life the stupidest man on earth (aka my boss) basically told me I was more useless then he was and fired me. I knew there was no way that could be a fact but alas I had to bid farewell to my friends and walk out of the aquarium I once called home for the last time.

    After being fired I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. The following day I tried everything I could think of to occupy myself. Movies, books, television, exercise, face-book and even, god forgive me, porn. Nothing could keep my attention. Five minutes into an activity my thoughts would wonder back to my aquatic friends and I would find myself sulking and feeling sorry for myself. Eventually I gave into my temptations and drove to the aquarium. I was waiting in line to enter the building when I finally realized what I was doing. Sure I wanted to see my buddies but why the hell would I ever pay thirty dollars to enter the aquarium when that money would end up in the pockets of the people who betrayed me? The answer was clear, I wouldn’t. So I decided to take a walk and that’s when I stumbled upon the dock where I currently stood.

    That day, Dwayne Richards, the owner of Quint’s Revenge, was returning from a rather successful fishing expedition. As I strolled between the boats, over the warped wooden planks that made up the dock, Dwayne was tying his craft into its designated spot. The ear to ear grin spreading across his face made me jealous that anyone could be so happy on such a lousy day. But as his friend helped him lift his most recent catch over the side of the boat my jealousy turned to pure hatred. The specimen they were carrying was the lifeless body of a large Mako shark. I was disgusted and repulsed when I saw the gashes on the shark’s skin and the blood that was spilling from them and onto the dock. What sort of monster could commit that kind of vile act against such a beautiful, majestic creature? Only the most sadistic and demented of monsters I was sure.
    That was when I began to discover my new hobby. I stalked Dwayne for the next month and did as much research on the man as I possibly could. The man was a local legend and well respected shark killer. Who could ever respect such a man? It was obvious to me only people as despicable as Richards could, but I would get to them later. I was not after the followers; I was after the leader as he was the biggest monster of them all.

    So, here I stand. No more than fifty yards away from the most disgusting person I have ever laid eyes on. I made my way down the main pier and turned onto the dock where Dwayne Richard’s boat was located. My foot steps were confident and sure but light. I did not want to risk waking my soon to be victim. I would surprise him while he slept and force unto him the terror he had forced onto so many innocent creatures.

    When I reached Quint’s Revenge I peered inside the windows to the lower quarters. Heavy, black curtains had been drawn across the glass but there was not a shred of light to be seen within the cabin. One leg after another I creeped onto the deck of the boat. I took a second to steady myself with the rhythm of the rocking waves then made my way down the stairs to where I had seen Dwayne enter the boat earlier that evening. This was not foreign territory. The few times my target had actually left the marina over the past week I had made the best of his absence. The first time I had snuck onto the vessel he had remembered to lock up but the second time Dwayne had left the door to the cabin unlocked. Based on memory I knew that just beyond this door there was a small table, on the other side of which was the only bed on board. The instant I opened the door the light from outside would pierce the darkness like a battering ram and wash over Richard’s face, likely awakening him the process. If I was to surprise him I would have to be quick about it.

    I took one step back up the stairs then turned towards the locked quarter’s door (Yes, I did remember to check if it was actually locked or not). Then I braced myself using the railing that lead down the steps and kicked my right leg out with as much force as I could muster. My foot impacted the face of the door less than two inches to the left of the door knob. I heard the hinges snap as the surprisingly light door was ripped from its frame and flew back into the room. It crashed into the table, tipping it over onto the floor directly in front of Dwayne’s sleeping form. At first, there was no movement. There was no he could’ve slept through… Then he sprung to life and began screaming, slashing his arms wildly through the air in front of him. I kicked the table aside and stepped on top of the splintered door.

    “Hello Dwayne,” I said, “Let’s go fishing!” I put real enthusiasm into my voice. I wanted him to know how excited I was. Then I waited patiently until I saw an opening between his frantic, blind swipes and punched him square on the nose. The impact made a sound that was somewhat like a POP mixed with a little bit of a CRACK. Dwayne’s head launched backwards and bounced off the back wall of the cabin, collapsing him onto the bed. His nose was bleeding profusely and his face was smeared with blood. I would’ve been proud of throwing such a devastating knock-out punch but as I had slipped a pair of brass knuckles over my hand just before the punch I felt like I might have cheated a little. Oh well, I may be a cheater but at least I don’t massacre Mother Nature’s children. As Dwayne’s limp body slid off the mattress and unto the floor, blood pooling under his face, I thought I might not even need the cooler of bait I had brought along.
    -
    Dwayne finally awoke five minutes away from our destination. I saw him stir as he gained consciousness, and then lift his head to look around the deck. I was up above him in the wheel house and I waited for him to come to his senses before I spoke.

    “Just relax down there Dwayne!” I yelled over the boat’s motors, “We’ll be arriving at our fishing spot soon. It’s a good one I promise.”

    I am not the most experienced navigator in the world but I had driven a boat a few times. None as large as this one but I seemed to be doing just fine. Dwayne had entered the coordinates of his favorite fishing spots into the navigation on Quint’s Revenge so I didn’t need much of that navigation experience anyway. I peered down at my subdued and taped victim, enjoying every moment of his terror. I got so caught in reveling in his pain that I almost drove right on past our destination.
    Luckily, the navigation system alerted me to our arrival and I cut the engines.

    After I had thrown out the anchor, readied my fishing pole, and brought my cooler full of fish chum to the bow of the craft I finally turned my attention to the man sobbing in a puddle of his own blood, urine, and mucus.

    “What’s wrong Dwayne?” I asked, “I thought fishing was your favorite hobby?”

    “Who are you?” he choked through the blood and snot clogging his throat and mouth.

    “Me? I’m just a useless, unemployed loser.”

    He groaned, clearly in pain. “What do you want from me? I’m just fisherman man.”

    “I know what you are,” I responded “a god damn monster.”

    His eyes looked towards my face and met my fierce gaze for only a moment, and then they returned to the deck.

    “No… I… I am just a fisherman.”

    “If you say so Dwayne” I said as I looked for the biggest hook I could find one of the multiple tackle boxes that were on board. I could see the panic in his face when I brought out particularly nasty looking one and tied onto the fishing line.

    “So, would you say you are a good fisherman?” I asked.

    “W… what?” Dwayne stammered.

    “I asked, are you a good fisherman?” He just sat there sobbing and refusing to make eye contact.

    “Jesus Dwayne, are you good at your job or not?”

    “How do you know my name?”

    “Answer the question or I will impale you on this hook and cast you out to sea.”

    “I don’t know. Please just let me go. You can have the boat, I won’t tell anyone you were here,” he was begging now. It made me sick.

    “How about that catch you brought in last month? That nine foot Mako? Must have really taken some skill to reel in a beast like that huh?”

    Dwayne looked surprised. I saw a glimmer of hope skip across his face but he still did not answer.

    “How many sharks does that make?”

    “Uhh… thirty five… I think,” he responded cautiously. My god, it was worse than I had previously thought. I knew the man was considered the Wayne Gretzky of shark fishing in this region but thirty five? He was graduating from mass murder to borderline genocide. I realized then that I was glad I had acted on my feelings. If I did not stop this maniac then I doubted anyone ever would.

    “Wow that is impressive,” I said trying my absolute hardest not to let my rage boil over into my facial expressions. “So you are good then Dwayne?”

    “Yeah I guess” he said, openly displaying he pride he had in his work. He had stopped crying, but not for long if I had anything to say about.

    “See that wasn’t so hard to admit. No need to be so humble. But I hope you can back up that talk buddy. Cause tonight we’re going to see how good you really are.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I want you to help me catch a shark Dwayne. One as big as yours was! Can you do that for me?”

    He puzzled this question for a while; deciding whether or not leading me on would be a good idea. If he went with former it would be more fun for me, although, I wouldn’t mind him taking the latter option either. It would make this whole situation play out much quicker.

    “Of course,” he said while forcing a smile. He chose the former. “But if all you wanted to do was go fishing with me, you could’ve just asked politely.”

    Now it was my turn to puzzle. Would it have been better to just ask him to go fishing and then enact my revenge once we had reached open water instead of going through all this trouble? No, ridiculous. Without the element of surprise he could’ve easily thwarted my plan. Not to the mention the fact that there could have been multiple witnesses to see me leaving with Dwayne and returning without him. I was pretty sure I had made the right call in capturing him first so I refocused and returned to the fun at hand, ignoring his remark.

    “Okay well my pole is ready and the bait is in that cooler so let’s do some fishing!” again, I made myself sound excited and snapped out a knife which I used to cut the tape from his wrists and ankles. “You go ahead and get some bait out of my cooler and I’ll bring the pole over. Oh, and don’t try anything funny like jumping over the side. I have a pistol in my bag and I will kill you if I have to,” I lied. I did not have a gun and I was going to kill him whether I had to or not. “Besides, in case you didn’t recognize it, we are at one of your fishing spots, approximately two miles from shore. I doubt you’ll make the swim anyway.”

    “I won’t,” he said, “and no, I hadn’t noticed.”

    Of course he hadn’t recognized it. It was pitch-black and we were in the middle of the ocean. It’s not like there was any way to tell where the hell we were. That was something someone as dumb as my boss would say. Maybe he was right, maybe I am stupid and useless. I hate my boss. And I hate this monster in front of me. As Dwayne walked over to the cooler it looked as if he was smiling at me. He thinks he is smarter than me. He thinks I’m dumb. Rage and hatred washed over me, and all of a sudden I could wait no longer.

    As Dwayne lifted the cooler he looked inside and said something about how I had brought the wrong bait. But just as he was about to finish his sentence I swooped the hook attached to my fishing pole in a high arc and stabbed it straight down into the middle of his hand. It went completely through and came out his palm causing Dwayne to let out a scream. I slipped the brass knuckles back over my hand and punched him in the same spot I had earlier. He dropped to the deck but stayed conscious as I had not hit him nearly as hard as I did last time. I wanted him conscious for this.

    I bent down and picked up his legs. Then I dragged him up and over the bow of the boat, letting him drop into the water with a large and clapping splash. Instead of waiting for him to surface I quickly pushed the cooler over to where I had just dumped him overboard and hoisted in onto the railing. His head broke the water after a few seconds and he gasped to take in air. But all he got was the chum I spilled from the cooler directly onto his head. I threw the cooler overboard as well, although I was careful not to hit him with it. Like I mentioned I need him awake for this one and there was no way I was going to let him drown before my friends got their turn at revenge. Once he had resurfaced I waited for him to spit all the bits of chum out of his mouth before I spoke.

    “See Dwayne, I don’t really want you to help me fish. Well, I guess in an ironic way I do as you will be my bait. But whatever I happen to catch I well be tossing back. Because this is not so much a fishing trip as it is a murder,” he tried to interrupt but I kept on talking over him “you have massacred countless numbers of beautiful animals and now those animals get to return the favor!”

    “Thirty- five, not countless!” he yelled.

    That surprised me. It was the first sign of defiance he showed me all evening. However, it was much to0 late for that, the families of the sharks he had murdered were probably on their way already. But I had to give him so credit for the smart ass remark. I liked smart asses and I think they are funny. Just not when their genocidal psychopaths.
    “Regardless of the number, you will pay for what you have done.” I said as I turned around and made my way up to the wheel house. I could hear him yelling and screaming at me from the water but I choose to ignore his pleas and threats. After I started the engines I could barely hear his voice.

    “Oh and thanks for the boat, I think I’ll rename it Jaw’s Revenge,” I yelled more to myself then to him. I followed the statement with a cackling, evil laugh as I backed the boat farther and farther away from my victim. Yeah, that felt right. I never knew I could laugh like that.
    -
    I watched from afar, through binoculars, as Dwayne swam in the opposite direction. As he moved farther away the spool on my fishing pole kept spinning and letting out line. And suddenly he disappeared under the water. A jolt of joy shot through my heart. Their revenge was underway. A well-deserved revenge it would be. I was, quite honestly, very surprised with how well my night had ended up going. My boss was wrong; I’m not dumb or useless.

    I saw a fin splash above the water and then dive back under. The line was being pulled in random directions with so much force I had to grab the pole and actually strap myself into one of the chairs screwed to the deck. I held onto the pole for dear life for a few minutes and then, in an instant, there was no more pull. I reeled in and discovered why. The only piece of Dwayne that remained on the hook was his hand. It wasn’t exactly a trophy catch I could hang on my wall so I dropped into the water and it floated away instead of sinking.

    I was tired; fishing really wears a guy out. I restarted the engines and went where the navigation told me I should be going. I would sleep like a baby tonight, but not as good as Dwayne is going to sleep for the rest of his life. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. My brain can get groggy when I’m tired.
    -
    The following day I had no idea what to do anymore. Dwayne Richards had taken up all of my time and now I was back to the old depressed me I had been when I had first been fired. Then it hit me. I would go buy some paint and rename my new boat. Then, I would continue to practice my new hobby by taking another fishing trip. But this time I would invite my boss.

    The End
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Larry


    “Don’t be a chicken, Larry.”

    “I’m not,” Larry replied.

    “Well then get in the water already.”

    Larry turned to Stu. They were standing on a dock that poked into the Ottawa River. “How about you get in, since you’re so eager and all.”

    Stu sneered, but underneath the roll of his eyes, Larry saw unease. “Fine,” he said. “That’s the job of big brothers anyway. Show their little baby brothers how it’s done.”

    “Oh, screw off,” said Larry.

    “Laramie . . .”

    Larry turned around and rolled his eyes. He knew Stu would be leering at him. He looked over. Stu was leering at him. Larry shot Stu a dirty look, which made Stu’s leer grow into a grin. “I’m going in now,” Stu said, “I actually have some balls.”

    “Stewart!” cried his mother, lowering her sunglasses.

    But it was too late for any reprimanding. There was a big splash, a ripple across the glassy, indigo water, and then Stu’s head resurfaced. Larry could see Stu’s arms and legs flashing and shimmering as he tread water. “Come on, chicken-boy!”

    Larry rolled his eyes but smiled and then jumped in. He saw Quebec, on the far side of the river, then he was eye-level with his raft, and then, just as he heard the splash, and felt the cold water swallow his body, he shut his eyes, and there was nothing but a buoyant blackness. Bubbles fizzed by him. He resurfaced and took a deep breath.

    “See, not so bad,” said Stu, who was doing backstroke.

    Larry saw his brother and grinned, and he felt love stir within him. Even though they squabbled, and sometimes sulked away from one other, all pique and pouts, they were siblings, sharing the same naive perspective of reality, and any conflict didn’t take long to defuse.

    “You know,” Stu said, grinning impishly, his eyes shifting side to side, “I hear that down in Constance’s Bay, last week, one of those fishermen caught a sturgeon!”

    “What’s a sturgeon?” Larry asked. Whatever it was, he didn’t like the sound of it. It made him think of a programme he had seen on Discovery Channel, Monsters of the Ancient Deep, which had shown the basilosaurus, a fifty to eight-five foot long ancestor of the whale, save it had been sinuous and reptilian. Larry, just for a moment, imagined one of those twisting through the water, its brown eyes blazing, its snout full of jagged teeth.

    “They’re these really big, really ancient fish,” Stu said, his eyes dancing. “They can be up to fourteen feet long, and--”

    “Oh, shut up!” Larry said. “I’m going to the raft. Screw you.”

    “Laramie, I just thought I’d inform you that sound waves travel especially well over water,” said his mother, not looking up from her Cosmopolitan. Concealing her face, some sexy starlet with glossy lips was promising to reveal twenty-six sex secrets to drive your man wild. Larry thought of his parents doing it -- squeak squeak squeak -- and shuddered.

    “They said it took three guys to haul it up,” said Stu. “And that when they finally drug it out of the water, one guy nearly lost his finger.”

    Larry scowled at Stu, who giggled, and then Larry began swimming to the raft. As he drew nearer to the bed of wooden planks resting on two pontoons, he gazed over it at the Quebec mountainside, a sweep of green and blue, and behind that, the setting sun, spilling across the water, making it peachy and orange and

    -- bloody --

    -- no, stop it, it’s not bloody --

    crimson.

    “And apparently, that guy who owns that convenience store,” Stu called, “he said that it was a girl sturgeon, and that it’d just birthed a bunch of babies, and he said those things grow fast, and that when their mom’s not around, they get really mean against humans!”

    Larry shouted back, “That’s bullshit! Fish aren’t smart enough to get mad at us!”

    “Laramie, watch your tongue or you’ll--”

    Larry’s foot brushed against something.

    He shrieked, and started thrashing. “Oh my God oh my God,” he squealed, slapping the water, peering down and seeing nothing but the gradient’s gradual shift from visibility to an opaque green. “Something stroked me! Some fish hit my foot!”

    Stu was cackling, and Larry’s mother was on the dock. “Stu, get out of the water, and Larry, it was nothing, baby, it was just seaweed.”

    But Larry was already clambering onto the raft.

    “Mom,” Stu whined, “why?”

    “Because you’re being a horror to your brother. Now go upstairs and help you father prepare for dinner.”

    “But mom--”

    “Stuart,” she said, sliding her sunglasses down her nose. “Now.”

    He muttered and started frontcrawling towards shore.

    Larry sat shivering on the raft, staring into the murky water. Surely there was nothing down there, save maybe some catfish and bass, and at worse a pike or a muskellunge, and even those weren’t anything to be afraid of. Larry started to feel silly, and couldn’t help but simper. And he probably hadn’t even touched a fish -- it had to have been seaweed, like his mom said, if it had been anything at all -- didn’t his kicks sometimes cause the water to swirl around and brush against his foot?

    “Baby,” Larry heard his mother say, and he looked up. She was watching him. “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, mom,” he said. “I just got a little freaked out is all.”

    “Well don’t listen to Stuart, he’s just trying to scare you.”

    “Yeah. He always does.”

    His mother smiled. “Well just ignore him, honey.”

    Larry stayed on the raft a while longer, not afraid anymore. The Ottawa River had cast its soporific spell on him, as it had so many other times, and now he was relaxed, his feet in the water, listening to the calls of birds . . . the occasional splash of a jumping fish . . . the rustle of trees. He smiled, and slid into the water. It was cool, and inviting. He began to swim back towards the dock, and as he did, he thought about what he and his family might do that night. Would they have a fire, and gaze at the stars? Or would they curl in front of the small television and watch some cheesy action movie? He didn’t know, but he decided that having choices like that to make was a good kind of problem.

    And as he laid his hands on the dock, he smiled to himself. Nothing had touched his foot. There was no scary basilosaurus lurking in the depths. He pulled himself onto the dock, grabbed a towel, and started drying off.

    “So mom, when did dad say dinner would be ready?” Larry asked, already beginning to feel a little peckish. Just because I’m a young growing boy, he thought, and giggled.

    But his mother didn’t answer.

    Larry dried his hair, swaddling the towel round his head and scrubbing.

    “Mom?” he asked.

    She remained motionless, face lost behind the Cosmopolitan.

    “Mom? Hey, mom?”

    He took a step forward. Suddenly Larry didn’t feel peckish anymore, nor did the prospect of him being a growing young boy make him giggle. It had become too quiet, and too still. He became very aware of the vast expanse of the Ottawa River, now dyed

    -- bloody --

    -- no, stop it, it’s not bloody --

    crimson, the peach and orange faded away, and . . . and why wouldn’t his mother answer him?

    “Mom!” he said, but still, nothing.

    He walked forward and reached out and put his fingertips on the magazine. He lowered it, slowly. He saw her sunhat. He lowered it more.

    His eyes widened. So shrill his screams were, and so loud, they echoed all the way to Constance’s Bay.
    After all, sound waves travel especially well over water.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Practice - 1673 words

    It was 1878—the year the twins turned thirteen—when everything changed.

    Papa’s hobbled horses were grazing loose, as usual, drifting along the high ground above the Arkansas river, searching out the first green blades of spring. The boys were supposed to be watching them, preventing them from straying too far.

    Jenő and Józsi kept an occasional eye on the horses, but they became absorbed in exploring along the river’s edge below the embankment. A school of minnows hovered in the clear spring runoff, and the boys tried to capture them using just their bare hands. When that method failed they dug a reservoir in the sand instead, tried to coax the minnows into it—but the tiny fish were fast and wary, and managed to shoot away from the trap’s entrance every time.

    Jenő and Józsi finally gave up on minnows and returned to the horses, to discover that Papa’s new red gelding was missing.

    At first the boys were more annoyed than worried. That gelding dragged a hobble like all of Papa’s horses—it couldn’t have gone far. The prairie appeared flat to the eye, but the boys knew where the sunken places were, places where the horse had probably wandered, seeking better grass. When they discovered the broken hobble lying on the benchland path, however, annoyance became dismay. An unfettered horse as lively as that young gelding could be anywhere by now.

    They trotted along the rough path, anxiously searching for tracks, scanning the river’s edge as well as the whole of the open prairie.

    Voices ...rising from below the lip of the embankment—a man’s laugh—a squeal—

    The voices seemed harmless enough, light and playful, but it was still wild country where they lived, and strangers were not always friendly. The boys slowed their steps, edged forward in a half-crouch—curious, but poised to run, if need be. Comanches were confined to Fort Sill, but every so often a band of their young warriors escaped the reservation and headed north, to taste free life once again. Comanches were always interested in good horses.

    Suddenly Jenő, who was leading, dropped flat to the ground. Józsi felt a twist of fright in his belly and he dropped flat too, snaking rapidly forward to lie beside his brother. Both of them peered cautiously over the lip of the sandbank. A horse—not theirs—was tethered to a leafless willow at the river’s edge. A naked man and a naked blonde girl were lying on a blanket—

    —not—exactly—lying on it...

    Józsi slithered backwards, beating an embarrassed retreat—but Jenő grabbed his wrist, held it, and Józsi subsided beneath his brother’s commanding grip. They both lay close together, pressed flat to the ground—and they watched. Everything. For a long time. Until the soft cries, groans, and frantic heavings below them ceased, and the man and the girl lay still too.

    .............................


    The red gelding returned to the herd before sundown. Mama was none the wiser, but the boys knew they’d been lucky to escape punishment for neglecting their duties. The next day they took it in turns to scramble up the embankment and count Papa’s securely-hobbled horses more often than usual.

    They were settled into their favorite fishing spot, nearly a mile from the house—as secluded a boyish hideaway as the prairie could provide. The new grass at the river’s edge already sprang soft and thick, good to lie on. A single willow dipped its bare branches above their heads, providing dappled shade. They had propped their fishing poles on forked sticks, buried the handles deep enough to hold a good-sized catfish. That way they could fish and keep an eye on Papa’s horses at the same time—without actually doing any work at all.

    Józsi’s head rested comfortably on his rolled shirt. His muscles hung lazy from his bones in the warm sunshine, but his mind and gut still thrummed with yesterday’s secret. The girl’s body had haunted his waking dreams all night—white breasts with exquisite pink tips ...generously wide hips—so unlike his own and Jenő’s—and that magical place between, partly covered by soft golden hair... The vision shook him, even now. If he could touch—

    “We need to practice,” Jenő said.

    “Practice what?”

    “You know...” Jenő’s eyes flickered to catch Józsi’s in the briefest of touches, before returning to study the branches above his head with exaggerated care.

    Józsi sat up—startled. He did know, instantly, what his brother meant, but needed to give himself time to catch his breath, to let the astonishing idea sink in. “Practice ...what?” he repeated.

    Jenő twisted the tip off a low-hanging branch. He lay with one arm crooked behind his head, eyes half-closed, stroking the furry catkins thoughtfully across his chin. “What they were doing.” He smiled. “You know. For when we get women of our own.”

    A tremor ran all the way from Józsi’s chin to his knees. He swallowed, staring down at his brother. “We don’t know any girls—” He stopped.

    “Anybody can kiss.” Jenő slid his eyes sideways again. “We don’t need a girl for that.”

    A crawling sensation hollowed Józsi’s belly, making him want to squirm, or hug himself, or something. He averted his eyes—disturbingly aware of his brother’s.

    “You don’t want women to think we’re stupid, do you?” Jenő added reasonably. “They will, if we don’t practice.

    It made sense, of course, but Jenő’s languid pose, his studied nonchalance warned strongly of danger—as if Józsi’s keen nervousness wasn’t warning enough. Consequence, that grimly inescapable partner of Danger—made an uneasy shape in Józsi’s mind, gray and equivocal. But–

    “There’s nothing wrong with kissing,” Jenő said.

    Józsi’s muscles twitched as if they meant to drive him to his feet, to make him run, but he tightened his whole body to make the twitching stop. There’s nothing wrong with kissing. Jenő was right. After all, he kissed Mama every night, didn’t he? before he went to bed?—and Papa too, if he happened to be at home. Sometimes he even kissed Jenő as well—although not exactly the way Jenő meant this time, and not while they were alone. But ...surely ...there could be no harm in practicing a kiss...

    He’d put his tongue in her, and she’d taken it inside, deep—

    Józsi looked at his brother. Jenő met the look, slow and noncommittal, but the quirk at the corner of his lip deepened, betraying him. Jenő always knew what he was thinking.

    Józsi’s pulse leaped. If he tried—right now—to put his tongue inside his brother’s mouth like that, he knew Jenő would let him—how would it feel?...to kiss Jenő..? A sudden veil of perspiration slicked Józsi’s forehead, and he went rigid, stomach fluttering. Dangling between should and shouldn’t, yes and no—Józsi sat still, and waited for the decision to make itself.

    Jenő flipped his twig into the water. It rotated in the even current, caught, then floated away. He sat up. “I’m not going to bite you, Józsi...”

    Lips—cool—strangely cool ...careful against his own— Józsi closed his eyes ...lower lip ...upper lip ...lower ...he didn’t know what to do, so he did nothing, just let it happen. Fingertips brushed his jaw, thumb tilted it—a command, a caress, he didn’t know which—flick of tongue ...teasing wet, fleeting, bold ...no harm, no harm—ow!—

    “See what I mean?” Jenő murmured darkly. “Practice...”

    Józsi chuckled in spite of himself. He rubbed his bumped nose—letting his brother’s joke dissipate the awkwardness between them. He took a deep breath, made himself relax. It’s only Jenő. When Jenő moved towards him again, Józsi tilted his head to receive his brother’s kiss at a safer angle. He parted his lips too—experimenting—and found the kiss fitted better that way. “That’s it,” Jenő told him, breaking off for breath after a few minutes. “You’re getting the idea. You kiss me now. Use your tongue.”

    They were unable to practice kissing for much longer, before Józsi needed to do more. Pressure between his legs swelled and swelled—he couldn’t endure another second—Jenő—stop—I can’t— He pulled away, clawed at the front of his pants. His penis sprang into his hand—never so solid before, never so hot. He knelt, gripping it, trembling, waiting for his brother to free himself too, then they began pumping themselves—hard, harder, each matching the other’s frantic rhythm—faster, faster—fasterfasterfasterfaster. Józsi whimpered, watching his brother’s hand blur, thigh muscles quiver, tighten—fasterfaster ...gathering, gathering—fast faster faster fasterfasterfasterfasterfasterfaster— Jenő’s head whipped back—he cried out—everything swirled red—shuddered—and burst free—

    They collapsed into unbelieving giggles, bellies dripping warm with each other’s juices. They had shared this pleasure many times before, as they shared everything. They usually made it into a contest between them—faster—farther—but this—this was new. Kissing made it different. This time, it seemed the natural thing to crawl together afterwards, to kiss again, then lie with arms and legs affectionately entwined, limp with shared relief while they waited for their breath to come back. Nobody cared that nobody had won.

    Afterwards, they plunged—whooping—into the river. While they were waist-deep in the sluggish water, a catfish struck the end of Jenő’s line, bent his pole nearly double. They floundered back to shore, hauled the thrashing fish out of the water—careful to avoid the flexing fins—and Jenő smashed its flat gulping head with a rock to kill it. Then they put their clothes back on, rounded up the hobbled horses and walked them home together in the long dusk, carrying the heavy fish between them by its wide, protruding lip.

    As they walked—matching steps as usual—they grew oddly conscious of the space between their bodies. They tacitly maintained that small distance the whole way to the house, as if they had suddenly grown shy of each other, as if they were now afraid to touch.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    A Fish Tale


    The broad leaf trees of Parker's home were always a lush canopy of dark green rolling along the tall, great hills by June before the fireflies died off. There were still some sweet spots in the hollers near Berea Kentucky that he new about, private elbows in the Red River that snaked its way through the valley. The cricket song and the chirping of birds always made him envision more exotic locals and wonder as to what the differences between a jungle and forest actually were.

    He marveled again at the mystical experience dad and grandpa ascribed to fishing without realizing it. There were times that they stood, casting all day in their waders without saying a word. Other days they spoke the whole time if something needed to be said. As the years went on he learned more than he ever wanted to know about them and beer, appreciating the latter more. Only when almost an old man himself did he understand them. Fishing had become a hole in his life that he could crawl into where nothing else mattered.

    He could hear them chiding him now for being out here alone at dusk so off the beaten path casting and drinking, the river high and fast from a torrential Spring. They always did. More than once after a few beers they both hinted at it being more than just about his safety. They always let on to some greater secret reasoning like a family ghost tale imparted to keep kids in line, or simply terrify them for amusement.

    There would always come a time when they spoke of the river in hushed tones, arguing with each other, always saying, he'd understand some day. He never did though. The closest, he ever came was one evening when grandpa got particularly buzzed and worked up.

    “He's got to know if he keeps coming out here alone damnit!” he said to dad. “It's going to happen eventually when he's alone. He'd better be prepared!”

    “You're only going to scare the shit out of him and stop him from coming out here anymore.” Dad said. “Is that what you want?”

    Grandpa would grimace, shaking his head, downing his beer before extending his hand for another with a great belch. Neither made it long enough to come back out here with him after he left for college and then his “fancy job” in California, writing computer programs. Time got away from all of them as it has a way of doing with age. By the time he'd made it back for dad, he was too weak to talk about much other than mom and Kelly. He'd missed grandpa's sudden death at sixty-seven all together; it sounded so young now to his forty-seven year old mind when contemplating it.

    Then something hit his heavier rod propped on the bank so hard, he thought, he might be losing it to a wayward branch in the currant. Parker dropped the fly rod, diving for it, reaching it in the nick of time. He rose, yanking the line to set the hook. He felt the sway of a big fish fighting him and the current to get away. The damn thing was strong pulling him out further from shore just to reel in a little bit. That was the game, reel in a little, slack out a little less than you drew. Reel, slack, angle toward shore.

    The bastard had to be huge he thought as it drug him further into the racing current off shore. That's when another huge bass leapt straight out of the river, smacking his shoulder with an oddly discernible, “Pa—.” He was off balance only momentarily though as he thought about the oddity of it. Then he noticed rough bumping against his legs. The bumping turned into a swell of slapping against his legs and groin knocking him off balance, “What the hell...?” Parker said aloud to the fish. He could see them roiling all around him just beneath the surface.

    They began to leap out, slamming into his neck, face, and shoulders with an unexpected force. He was losing his balance. Each uttered a new sound, single syllables with the expelling of air.

    “Pa—”
    “—ark—”
    “Pa—”
    “—ark—”
    “Pa—”
    “—ark—er”
    “Pa—”
    “—ark—”
    “Pa—”
    “—ark—”
    “Pa—”
    “—ark—er”

    Disbelief immediately gave way to panic as he noticed that the school had shoved him deeper out still, roiling about him, pounding at his lower back, neck and face. Hundreds of them were leaping from the water all about him now until their sounds of expelled air grew into an unmistakable cacophony... “Parker—Parker—Parker!” in a barking, inhuman tone. Then he realized... his waders began filling with water. Many a lone fisherman had died out here by a similar fate. Chest waders for a man his size were good for an extra forty pounds when filled. He sank beneath the torrent, battered by the huge school of fish, drinking the river.

    He instinctively pulled his fileting knife from his belt, cutting the wader shoulder straps. He quickly kicked his shoes off directly after. Going for his pants next, Parker realized that he still had a white knuckle grip on the pole. The line was no longer taught. He struggle to the surface, desperately casting it haphazardly toward the low hanging trees. He snagged something, affording him a grasp to pull himself to the surface.

    He held the line, wrapping it elbow over elbow as he swam desperately for shore. Once propped on the muddy banks, surrounded by mayflies, water spiders, and toads, he gasped, turning back just in time to see the school of jumping fish calling out his name subside. All quieted again except the crickets and racing Red River as fireflies dotted the quickly darkening wood. He began laughing uncontrollably, coughing up the river, overjoyed with his new appreciation for life, thinking of grandpa's and dad's.
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    An odd fish (1885 words)


    “Are you sure this a good idea?”

    Davo was nervous. Nick knew his tell. Davo was rubbing the scar on his head with the back of his hand. Something he always did when he had a bad hand at poker. He probably would do it if he had a winning hand, too.

    But his brother never had winning hands.

    Nick had been lumbered with his older brother since he had the bike accident. He wasn’t exactly Special, but he wasn’t that bright any more. It was a pain in the arse having him around, sometimes. But he had his uses. He had taken the fall for some of the things Nick had done: he served his purpose.

    Nick smiled, what he hoped was a reassuring smile and leaned back in his chair, trying to give Davo the impression that he was feeling more relaxed than he actually was. That he wasn’t shitting it just as much as Davo.

    “We haven’t got a choice, Davo. We’re in too deep. And she won’t help us. It’s time: she’s served her purpose, bro.”

    Davo nodded, the look on his face said he didn’t know what Nick was talking about. That was just fine with Nick.

    “Drink up, Davo,” he said. “He’ll be here in a minute.”

    Davo took stopped rubbing his head and picked up his pint. His hand was shaking and beer slopped onto the table.

    Nick shook his head and checked his phone. No text. His contact said the bloke would text him when he was outside the pub, and they had thirty seconds to get out and get into the car, or they would miss the chance. This guy was serious, he was told. A professional. He didn’t suffer fools at all: gladly or otherwise. They were under strict instructions to wait in the pub. Not outside. Under no circumstances were they to wait outside.

    His phone vibrated: a text. The number was unknown. He stood up, reading the message as he did so: “Red fiesta.”

    Strange car for a hit man. Nick shrugged, pulling his jacket off the back of the chair. Probably stolen for the job. He pulled the jacket on heading towards the door.

    “Let’s go, Davo,” He said over his shoulder. He didn’t need to look to see if Davo was following him.

    Davo always did as Nick said.

    The Fiesta was waiting at the kerb. The street lights reflected off the window and Nick couldn’t see the driver’s face. He walked round to the passenger side and opened the door. A smell of cooking oil wafted out. He heard Davo open the back door, behind the driver and the car sagged as Davo flopped into the seat.

    Nick got into the car, without looking at the driver. He hoped to appear casual. Like he did this sort of thing all the time.

    “Alright mate?” Nick said, as he pulled the door shut.

    “Seat belt,” came the response. Nick did as he was asked, as he did so, he glanced at the man he was sitting next to.

    He was short and thin, with closely cropped hair. Just above the neckline of his plain white tee-shirt Nick could see a tattoo of fish bones.

    Even without the tattoo, Nick would have recognised him: Billy Jones. Known locally as ‘Fish’, he ran ‘The Codfather’, the fish and chip shop on the high street, with his old grandmother, Ma Jones. Everyone loved Ma, she looked, and acted, like a Hollywood stereotype of a grandmother: plump, grey hair, glasses on the end of her nose, a kind word and smile for all.

    Her grandson was a different story, however. Nick had known him for years. He was strange character, always had been. They had been in the same class in Primary School. Their teacher had once called him an ‘odd fish’. It stuck. It was that throw-away comment, and not his job, that had given Fish his nickname.

    Fish was weird, strange and a loner.

    But a professional hitman? Nick didn’t see it.

    Fish put the car in gear and pulled off.

    “Hello Fish. Long time no see,” Davo said, leaning forward.

    Nick saw Fish’s eyes flick to the rearview mirror, and then back to the road.

    “You were in last Friday. Cod and large chips,” Fish said.

    “Oh yeah. Good chips, Fish. You do the best chips.”

    Nick heard the seat creak as Davo sat back.

    Nick fidgeted in his seat. It was one thing to get someone killed. But quite another thing to discuss it with your local fast food merchant. A portion of chips and a side order of murder, please. Plenty of salt and vinegar on the chips.

    “How do we do this?” he said, his hand going towards his jacket pocket.

    “Not here,” Fish kept his eyes on the road.

    Nick was getting annoyed now. He’d known Fish for years. Fish was a nobody. How dare he talk to Nick like that?

    He stretched his leg out and kicked against something on the floor. Looking down he saw a pile of flyers for ‘The Codfather’. The car hadn’t been stolen to order: he was sitting in Ma Jones’ old banger.

    His contact had made a mistake. He had said his guy was a pro. But seriously, what kind of pro drove his grandmother’s car on a job?

    Nick thought about telling Fish to pull over: tell him to forget the whole thing.

    But he had no choice. He and Davo were up to their ears in shit. Forget the paddle, they didn’t even have a bloody canoe. This really was their only hope.

    The street lights vanished, as Fish drove them out of town. He took a turning on the left. A dirt track. Nick knew the road: it led to what used to be called Lovers Lane, but now was known as Doggers Dale. Nick had been up there once, to see what it was all about. But he didn’t get off on watching other people shagging in the back of cars, and he certainly didn’t want people watching him doing Mandy.

    Bloody perverts.

    Besides, Mandy had complained the whole time he was humping her. She said the smell from the maggot farm, further up the track, put her right off.

    He had dumped her shortly afterwards. She’d served her purpose.

    Fish pulled the car over to the side of the road, tyres crunching on gravel. Nick jumped as the car door behind him opened. He turned in his seat. Ma Jones grinned at him. The same grandmotherly smile she’d had for years. He swore she’d always looked eighty.

    “Hello boys,” she said. Fish waited for her to put her seatbelt on, before pulling off.

    Nick couldn’t work out what was going on. Something was very wrong here.

    “You got a job for me?” Ma Jones said. She was leaning forward, speaking into Nick’s ear. He could smell something rancid, he couldn’t quite identify, on her breath.

    “You’re the hitman?”

    “I prefer ‘problem elimination agent’, sweetie. But yes,” Nick could feel her breath against his ear. “I am the hitman. Or hitperson, I should say. Political correctness, gone mad!” She cackled. There was no other word Nick could use to describe the laughter. She sounded like one of those witches on the Bugs Bunny cartoons he used to watch as a kid.

    This was getting too weird.

    Not knowing what else to do, Nick pulled an envelope from his jacket pocket. He turned in his seat, so he could see her.

    “What’s this?” Ma Jones said. Nick said nothing. She opened the envelope and pulled out the piece of paper with the name on it, and the money. He watched her lips move as she read the name. She smiled. She counted the money. Nick held his breath. The smile died on her face.

    “What’s this?” she repeated.

    “I know it’s a bit short, but-”

    “A bit short is an understatement, sweetie.” Nick flinched as she leant forward. “I am ‘a bit short’, young Billy there is more than ‘a bit short’. This,” she thrust the notes into Nick’s face. “This is a fucking insult.”

    “Once it’s done, I’ll have the money. I can pay you everything. And a bit extra.”

    “You have been a thorn in my side for years, you know that Nicholas? You owe me so much money, it’s become embarrassing.” Ma sat back in her seat. She opened her handbag and pulled out a gun. Nick’s eyes widened. “You owe me poker money, drug money, and,” she said, leaning towards him waving the gun under his nose. “You owe me for that whore you damaged.”

    “That wasn’t my fault, she-” Nick took a deep breath. Start again. “I’ll get you the money, I’ll-”

    “I’m sick of hearing it, Nicholas.”

    “But you can’t kill us, you won’t get away with it.”

    Ma laughed.

    “I own this town, dear. No one is going to question the disappearance of a couple of losers like you. I would have had you killed years ago, but I didn’t want to upset your dear mother. Glenda begged me not to do it. I expect she’ll forgive me when I show her this.” Ma waved the paper with the name on it. “You should be honored: I don’t get my hands dirty much any more. But I owe to to Glenda to make sure it is done right.”

    She turned to Davo.

    “Your brother was always a trouble maker, David. But I am so disappointed in how you turned out.”

    “Sorry, Ma,” Davo said.

    “We’re here Ma,” Fish said. He turned off the engine and leant over Nick. Casually he opened the glove compartment and pulled out a gun. For a fleeting second Nick thought about wrestling him for the gun, but by the time he’d thought it Fish already had the gun in his face.

    Fish opened the door, and motioned for Nick to do the same. The smell hit him, and he gagged.

    “Get him away from the car, it takes ages to get the smell of vomit out of the fabric.”.

    Fish maneuvered Nick over away from the car, Davo joined him. Fish pushed Nick onto the ground. He felt the cold of metal against his head.

    “You will pay back your debt,” he heard Ma say, a few feet away.

    The gun came away from his head. Just for an instant he thought there was a way out, that this was just a warning. Or better yet, some cheesy presenter off the telly would step out of the shadows with a camera crew, and they would all have a big laugh at the piss now staining the front of Nick’s trousers.

    Ma wasn’t a killer, she wasn’t a gangster. She was just an old woman who ran a chip shop, with her slightly strange grandson. Everything was going to get back to normal.

    He felt the barrel of a gun return to the back of his head.

    “The circle of life, Nicholas,” Ma was standing directly behind him now. “You will feed my maggots. My maggots will help catch fish. Maybe your mother will eat a fish from my shop you helped catch.”

    He heard a metallic click, and he smiled.

    At least he’d serve his purpose.
     

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