I was twelve when Shemp ran away. It’s been 35 years but the memory is burned into my brain with vivid clarity. Glen and I biked to the lake that morning, the dogs chasing each other in circles. We held fishing poles outstretched beside us like lances and a forest green tackle box was bungeed to Glen’s banana seat. It contained a myriad of lures and assorted wares, most of which he never used. Now it bounced and clattered along behind him.
The morning air was chilly. It was mid-September and just getting light. The dogs scampered in front of our bikes and we could barely see them. I said, “Shemp, knock it off!” but he didn’t care. Neither did Glen’s dog, Herman. They frolicked about causing us to lock the brakes repeatedly.
There was a stiff breeze blowing in from the lake as we laid our bikes down at the landing. I could see cars dotted about the lot and, through thick fog, the tiny red and green lights of a boat on the horizon. Otherwise, we had the shore to ourselves. I impaled a squirming worm onto my hook and cast hard but the wind caught the bait and it splashed into the water twenty feet out.
I noticed an area of violent bubbling to the right of my bobber of maybe three feet in diameter. I pointed this out to Glen saying, “Look at those bubbles over there. What do you think that is?”
He was wrestling with a lure. He always used exotic lures but never caught anything with them. Inevitably, he’d switch to live bait but I knew better than to tell him this. “Aerator?” he said without looking up.
“No, the aerator is over there,” I said pointing down the shoreline to the left.” And they turn it off after Labor Day weekend.”
He swore at his rod and ignored me.
“Can’t be plants,” I continued. “Plants don’t make bubbles like that.”
Glen had pulled several feet of line from his reel and was trying to wind it tightly. He insisted on using an open faced reel which he wasn’t very good with. As often as not, his casts fell dead at his feet with a pathetic thump. This was followed by frustrated swearing and, ultimately, tears but I didn’t try to intervene. Once, I had told him to switch to a closed faced Zebco like mine, that it was easier. He sneered at me and explained that he was a “real” fisherman.
“Have fun with that,” I told him.
Shemp and Herman splashed after each other on the shoreline, neither willing to swim, it was too cold.
Deciding I’d re-cast at the bubbles, I began to reel.
They followed my bait.
“Dude!” I said. “The bubbles are chasing my line.”
This got Glen’s attention. He looked up from his snarled reel. “What?”
“The bubbles, they’re following my line. Watch.”
I began reeling and the bubbles inched closer. When I stopped, so did they.
“It’s probably a turtle,” Glen said but he didn’t sound convinced.
“That’s a pretty big turtle,” I said. “Have you ever seen a turtle make bubbles like that?”
Glen shook his head, staring quietly as I began to reel. The bubbles moved toward the bait again. “Go slow. See if you can catch it.”
When the bubbles were a just a couple feet from my line, they stopped and Glen swore loud. He picked up a stone and hurled it into the water.
Then Shemp was in hot pursuit, throwing himself into the lake.
“Shemp, no!” I yelled. “Here, Shemp!”
The bubbles were on him with remarkable speed.
And he was gone.