Dragonflies hovered and darted above the riffles like NASCAR drivers anxiously awaiting the green flag after an overlong yellow. The light of dawn made reading the water a challenge - but a challenge was just what Steve was looking for after 40 hours of sitting on his fat ass staring at a damn computer monitor. Little did Steve know that sun glare would be the least of his worries -- not when stinking, putrid death was lurking inches from his ankles!
Dr. Merv Rettenmund, an Ear, Nose and Throat man at Putnam Hospital, noticed the smell first. "Jesus, it smells like rotting fish!" he exclaimed between puffs on his Newport Menthol.
Gravity sees to it that all watery things merge into one, and a river runs under it. It was an old train trestle bridge that never seemed to get used by a train. The river was the 18 Mile Creek, cut by a glacier 47 billion years ago from the igneous spawn of long forgotten volcanos. The steady flow of the mighty river was the timeless result of countless rainfalls, culverts that kept the highways passable, the outfall from the Town of Olcott sewage treatment plant and hundreds of failing septic systems located throughout the valley.
After he buttoned his supple, calfskin glove he would hold his rod straight out in front of him, where it trembled with the beating of the blood in his veins. Although it was 8.5" long, it only weighed four and half ounces. It was wrapped with red and blue silk thread and, the wrappings were carefully spaced to make the delicate rod powerful but not so stiff it could not tremble.
But that was earlier, back in the bathroom of Room 7 of the Lighthouse Motel, and Steve was now thigh deep in the middle of a cold river in western New York State. Still, Steve remembered the good old days when he could get off with nothing but spit, his bare hand and the lingering memory of Katie Couric.
The stink of fish flesh brought him back to the river. The river often smelled like a mixture of ripe cheese and warm piss in a pair of worn corduroys, but this stench was nose bleed awful. Steve was a Catholic and a bait fisherman. His first cast of the day sank a sack of brown trout eggs right in front of a Steelhead Trout. The big fish swam like a bat out of hell that was being chased by a legion of the Devil's own zombie assassins. Steve chuckled. "That fish will be in Lake Ontario by noon," Steve thought to himself, "Next time I cast I'll have to place it a little further away."
There was a muffled cry from behind the railroad trestle that was a good thousand yards away.
Dr. Rettenmund cursed, "Damn amateurs." He fired his butt into a fast moving current and lit up another one.
Dr. Rettenmund saw the first zombie fish. It was alone and swimming slowly and methodically right at him. "Damn, unusual for a salmon," he muttered. Dr. Rettenmund was a Presbyterian and a fly fisherman. His rod rocked back and forth to an unheard four count and the Royal Coachman landed at the strange salmon's nose. That was the last cast Dr. Rettenmund would ever make but thankfully, it was a beauty.
There was a gurgle and the good doctor was gone.
Steve looked up in disbelief. "Zombie salmon from hell!" he shouted. An overpowering stench rose up out of his chest waders. It was not the foul smell of zombie fish or a fart ignited from last night's Hommel Chili with Beans. Tough guy Steve had crapped his pants.
He started to the nearest shore but the zombie fish had him cut off.
A big ugly mother came right at him. Steve stumbled on a rock and twisted his ankle. "Ouch," he thought and fell into the water.
An eye drawn way into its socket looked at him vacantly as 100 sharp little zombie teeth bit into his face.
Buddy was sitting in the warmth and comfort of his dad's Honda Pilot listening to Linkin Park as he explored the contents of the glove compartment. The high pitched scream of a woman rose up from the river.
"That's Dad!" yelled Buddy. "And he's in trouble."
Buddy burst from the SUV and headed down the steep embankment. At the shoreline he saw Steve, no more that 50 feet away, struggling in the water. Buddy raised his Crosman 1280 Break Barrel pellet gun up to his shoulder. He sighted down the blue steel and let out a long breath. If he was less than an inch off, he would take out his dad's eye and that meant no trip to Wal Mart and no Pokeman cards. Buddy pulled the trigger. There was a sudden cloud of pink salmon flesh. Buddy pulled the trigger again, and again, and again, and again.
This was the best fishing trip ever! After a return visit to the Pilot for more ammo, Buddy finally cleared the nearby water of zombies. He struggled into his chest waders because his mom would kill him if he got his new basketball shoes muddy, then he waded to his dad.
"Dad looks terrible," thought Buddy. "I mean he always looks terrible but now he really looks terrible." Buddy found the inner strength to drag the massive bulk of his overweight dad onto the shore.
"Don't die, Dad!" Buddy was about to cry but if his dad wasn't dead and saw him crying? No trip to Wal Mart.
Steve opened his one good eye and watched a single tear travel down the flushed cheek of his only son. "What are you a pussy!?!" Steve yelled, but he wasn't really mad. It was a joke.
That night there was a trip to Wal Mart and dinner at Outback. Steve finished a third beer as Buddy finished a second sundae. "Hurry up son, I have to go to work in the morning."
The mind-numbing monotony of work would never be so good.