Tuesday, March 24, 2009


We're still on scary stories from childhood. It's all sounding alike to me. My teacher, Miss Peggy, says "Write! No matter what, write!" Okay.


Margene and I are catching fish in clamshells, our favorite summer activity at 99 Springs. The fattest clams work best because they've got the meatiest insides. We learned this from our teenage cousins who'd stand in the swimming hole clamshells in hand, waiting for little fish to nibble on the pink before snapping shut the shell.

There's no point to it except to be faster than the fish. The catcher whoops and waves the fish, buried to its gills in the shell, then releases the stunned creature back to the water. This year, at six and seven, my sister and I are getting better at it. We've already exceeded the clumsy moves of last year, when we were just babies.

We're supposed to fish clamshells only in the swimming hole with the big cousins around, but Margene and I, we're headed to the Arthur's dock because we've seen bluegills nesting there, silvery scales flashing in the sun.

On the dock, we flatten ourselves to peek through the cracks at the fish below. Dozens of bluegills hover over scooped out depressions filled with eggs, watchful and alert for predators.

Margene drops into the water. I'm scared to go in because it's deeper here and we shouldn't be in the water at all. Our plan was to hang over the edge of the dock. But she's brave, my sister, just 14 months older than I am, and fearless.

I lie flat on the dock, peeking through the crack, watching Margene bend over with an open clamshell in her hands. Tiny fish approach her, but she waits. She wants one of those fat mamas from the nests. I am holding my breath as she is, waiting for the fish to come.

Behind her something moves. It looks like the bottom of the lake is rising. I whisper to my sister, "what's that?" and she says "shut up, I almost got one." I'm riveted by the thing behind her, one braced dock leg over from where my sister stands chest deep in the lake.

Now I can see its head and ancient old eyes peering through slits. Can that be a turtle, that huge ugly thing clawing through the mud toward my sister?

"Margene, get out." My voice is fierce but she tells me to shut up. It is the biggest turtle I have ever seen, at least as big as Grandma McKee's peach basket. Do turtles like clams? They must because it's still coming. "Margene, get out there's a turtle he's huge get out Margene" and she just shushes me. A giant mama bluegill is approaching her tender bit of clam.

The turtle's moving closer and he looks like he could take her hand off. "Margene, now. Get out now. It's coming" but she ignores me, her attention focused on the tentative fish head an inch from her hand. I hang over the edge of the dock and scream and splash my hands in the water. The fish scatter and my sister hollers at me, "I almost had that fish what are you doing?" She's really mad, but when the water clears the turtle is gone. I look for him everywhere. He's really gone.

My sister pulls herself up on the dock and smacks me on the back of my head. "I had that fish, Net, what is wrong with you?" She drops her dying clam on the dock and flounces away, leaving me behind. I stay there, sprawled flat in the hot sun, peering through the cracks, alert to the return of the behemoth in the water.

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Blogger Chris said...

Hey Net, that was too cute!!!! We all have those fun sibling memories...thanks for reminding us!

March 24, 2009 11:18 PM  
Blogger David said...

Love this. I love the tension of the character that doesn't know she is being aided hindering her own safety while the other character, desperate in her powerlessness, tries to act. Good stuff.

March 25, 2009 11:40 AM  
Anonymous ewe said...

My god. You lived the female version of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Priceless.

March 25, 2009 3:38 PM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

holy crap, I was braced for an alligator.

March 27, 2009 5:10 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Me too!

March 29, 2009 5:19 PM  

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