Our appetite had been whetted for fishing when we went out on the boat with Uncle B, so it was only natural that during the last day with grandma and grandpa we went out fishing on their boat.
And why shouldn’t we? Any success of the first trip was totally made up, so it was only natural that if we didn’t do anything but kill expensive Canadian worms this time we could similarly make up gargantuan successes, like the two-foot catfish that we caught last time.
Don’t remember that one? Well, it was there, and you weren’t.
Grandma and Grandpa have a pontoon boat, a very nice affair that they keep down at an expensive marina that is watched over by a lecherous drunk. He lives on one of the spare boats down there, and for a case of beer a month he’ll scare away interlopers and, if needs be, provide jars of pee so you don’t perish at sea.
Not that the second service is usually called for, but experienced mariners are ready for anything that might come up. The sea is a bitch, after all.
We packed the same lunch that Christopher Columbus and his men packed for their excursion to find India: peanut butter sandwiches, a bag of potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Except Columbus and his men called it scurvy, smallpox, and a side of cannibalism.
So armed with our cookies, bait, and pee jar, we set off.
One of the main selling points of the pontoon boat was that it had a potty. The children know this, and for months had been yearning to pee on the boat. So when we forced them to try before we set off from the mainland, they refused, despite the fact that the boy was doing the potty dance.
Being good parents, we forced them to go anyways. Through sheer determination, they did nothing, despite the fact that his eyeballs were starting to yellow from pent-up urine.
At long last we cast off the bow line, stowed the mizzenmast, and did lots of other nautical things like ramming another parked boat and knocking its propeller to Davy Jones’ locker. So I slipped Drunky $20 and told him to tell the boat owner that teenagers did it.
Ah, teenagers: is there anything you can’t blame them for?
My father is ex-Navy, so he steered us out of port and into the waterway. We had the lake largely to ourselves, because it was a hot and humid afternoon. So he cranked the pontoon up as fast as it would go and we took off.
Maximum pontoon boat speed? Slightly more than a duck, but no so much as you’d notice.
Sure enough, as soon as we were underway a fistfight broke out over who got to use the potty first. After much debate, we decided the boy, since he was about ten seconds from peeing himself. While he was in there, his snack disappeared, possibly pushed into the lake on accident on purpose.
But since I have no proof, I couldn’t punish anybody. It was perhaps the only time in my life I wanted to have David Caruso around. On second thought, scratch that: if I want bad overacting I’ll just guilt Wifey into having sex with me and watch the performance she puts on.
After everyone had experienced the joy of potty, grandpa turned to my five-year-old son and said “You wanna drive?”
Have you ever known a five-year-old who didn’t want to drive a piece of machinery? He accepted in a heartbeat. So soon we had Captain Davey Crockett at the wheel, his eyes blazing with wild fury.
Cap. Davey’s first goal was to ram a buoy. Grandpa wouldn’t let him, so Cap. Davey’s second goal was to run over a duck. They proved elusive, though, as the pontoon’s loud motor let them know we were coming.
That, and the girl yelling “Run, little ducks, he’s crazy!”
Unfortunately, though, Commodore Grandpa taught Captain Davey how to use the horn. So every time we drove by a buoy, he would honk the horn, then glare at it as we went by. Several times this had us veering off course, into brushes, brambles, and once a dock, as he gave the buoy the evil eye instead of watching the waterway.
After the fun of learning to drive the boat, we stopped for lunch in a secluded cove. In order to move back the brush, I grabbed ahold of the overhanging tree and made quick work of the branches.
And in the process released 9,682 different types of biting mini-bugs onto my head, and a population of Sumatran Giant Menace Spiders that fell onto my bare feet.
Standing at the front of the boat, with my children, my spouse, and my parents all watching me as I was suddenly covered with bugs that crawled into places that I don’t even like to wash, I went through the five stages of having a creepy-crawly bug on you in front of people that you know and love:
Stage 1: Be a tough guy about it.
You know, bugs get the creepy-crawlies when they see Chuck Norris. But I’m not Chuck Norris. So when I got bugs on me I was in and out of this phase pretty quickly.
“You’re covered in bugs!” yelled the girl. “Gross!”
“No big deal,” I said, shaking them out of my hair into the water. “They’re just bugs.”
Stage 2: Panic.
Then I felt one wriggling between my butt cheeks, and another biting me in the webbing of my toe, and what must have been a tick sizing up my jugular vein to spill my lifeblood on the deck and infect me with Lyme Disease, Agent Orange, and all sorts of other fruit-related complexes that you only want other people to get, preferably those that you don’t like so much.
So I panicked.
“Oh my God get them off me!” I yelled, flailing about and slapping at my back. “There are a million billion bugs on me and they’re going to give me filthy diseases in my privates! And I need those to properly enjoy internet porn!”
Yeah, I said this in front of my parents and my children. It’s not like this is an after-school special; this is real life.
Stage 3: Crying.
Quickly Wifey sprang into action and began dousing me with bug spray. “Hold still, you baby!” she shouted. “I’ll get them off of you!”
“The bug spray is making them angry!” I yelled. “Stop it!”
Then something with sixty thousand legs crawled up my shorts. I felt every single one of those prickly things biting into my skin, probably laced with some kind of dirty monkey feces that was going to give me lupus or erectile dysfunction.
I started sobbing like a baby. I later blamed it on the bug spray, but since I was wearing sunglasses and Wifey was spraying my legs, nobody bought it.
Stage 4: Leap into the water and hope that either they or you drown.
Finally I just dove off the boat. Listen, they’d fallen out of the bug tree, so I was figuring that they didn’t like water. I jumped in happily, confident that I could easily get back in and that my lifejacket would protect me from harm.
As I hurtled over the deck, I saw my lifejacket, sitting on the bench where I’d taken it off to stay cool in the ungodly heat of the day as we ate lunch. Then the slimy lake water closed in over my head.
You know how whenever you watch a movie the lake is totally clear and you can see to the bottom of it, which is rocky? Well, this wasn’t one of those kind of lakes. It’s ten feet of slimy green water laying on top of six feet of fish poop and dead worms.
And when your bare feet hit that mixture, it’s grosser than having a million bugs in your shorts.
I surfaced and made my way to the boat, a growing circle of bugs swimming away from me for shore. I drowned as many of them as I could as I went, because the little buggers deserved it.
Stage 5: Total loss of respect before your family and peers.
This isn’t so much of a stage as a result, but it’s true nonetheless. Grandma even took a picture of me for posterity.
I’d dried out pretty quick, and then after lunch we headed to a fishing spot that grandpa assured us would be our best chance to find something to catch. Along the way, I used the binoculars to check out lakeside houses and see if any young adults were frolicking nakedly with the windowshades open, because I was pretty sure the Internet would be off-limits to me for a while.
Turns out that not only was everyone clothed, but they were not particularly attractive, either. Oh, how I missed Carlsbad Caverns.
Once we’d arrived at the fishing spot, we passed quite a while throwing worms into the water, then watching as the sun cooked broiled our brains inside our skulls. This is why fishermen are inveterate liars and continue the habit: the heat has pretty much cooked out any intelligence that they might have had. Although anybody who thinks that fish eat worms is pretty much not thinking clearly to start with.
As we sat, a squall appeared on the horizon. It was one of those storms that you get in the south, fifteen minutes of hard rain that comes from nowhere and then returns there quickly.
Only to my children, this was like the loss of the Titanic. We were doomed, and no amount of praying was going to save us.
“We’re going down!” the girl yelled. “We’re all going to drown!”
“Help!” the boy yelled to another boat. “We’re sinking!”
Judging from the problems the two half-drunk rednecks were having bailing the water out of their boat, they were in no position to assist us anyways. Nor could they hear him, holler and honk though he might try.
The boat was tossed mightily, eventually running into a rock on the bank. Now I became worried: hole in a pontoon and we will be swimming.
So once again into the breach I rushed. Armed with the pole, I bravely headed out into the raging storm, getting soaked to the bone, and I pushed us off of the rocks, fighting against the heaving waves and the howling wind.
Wet, cold, unhappy work, but I was ultimately successful: the boat, and all aboard, survived the tempest, with me riding out the storm at the front fending us off of rocks, trees, and the occasional duck seeking shelter.
Finally the storm passed and we took stock of everything: nobody injured, the boat okay, and the only real loss a bag of goldfish chips that had been filled with water when we forgot it on decks.
Everyone thanked me for my job and gave me great praise for my hard work and perseverance during the troubles.
“The best thanks you can give me is to never mention the bug thing again,” I said.
“Forget that,” said grandpa. “I’m telling that story at the next family reunion.”
You know what? I’m a strong swimmer. I should have let the damn boat sink.
Tomorrow: Sis-in-law’s or Bust