Balloons belie innocence...
This was my favorite book, and I hated it.
And then I met Jay.
And then I started fishing with Jay.
I knew what this man did --- he fished for pike. I had read his articles, watched his videos, and looked through his pictures. They didn't help assuage my fears. No, no they most certainly did not. "You know, there is this children's book......" I said, trailing off into the mistake of telling my pike phobia to a man whose life mantra is "chase the fear." I got this feeling that he was going to make me chase mine right into, and out of, the cattails. He would make sure of this. And oh, how I dreaded the day. Maybe he would forget? Yeah, maybe...
But of course he didn't. Jay Zimmerman forget? Nah. He's like an elephant. "You're going to look a pike in the face" he said smirking staunchly, like a parent telling me I was to overcome my fear of eating vegetables ---> eat the broccoli! Pretend they are trees. Hold the pike! Pretend it's prehistoric. Prehistoric is cool. This didn't help.
For a few months now, I've had my old ratted copy of Jiggy's Treasure Hunt, opened to the centerfold, propped up on the bookshelf in my bedroom. You know the trick, desensitization dealt through mental games. When I went to bed; when I woke up; when I changed clothes; when I wrote....I looked at the pike, and the pike looked at me.
Tuesday, April 26th --- rods were strung and ready and we stood on a pre-dawn rocky berm at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Well, Jay stood. My head was fuzzy, my eyes burned with unfocused thoughts, the rod and line were bigger than I was used to, and I couldn't cast the rigging worth beans. My ankles tweaked, giving me away towards the unhappy pike partnership I was sure that was to come. It was like walking down the aisle to a butt-ugly groom. Ah, but he has a good personality. But pike? They can't even claim that.
I thought about Jiggy (and yes, I am just that kind of grown woman who stands fishing, thinking about fictional talking squirrels)....
"As the little squirrel stared, puzzled and disappointed, a large paw patted her on the shoulder, and she looked up into the striped face" and I felt a hand upon mine, and looked up into Jay's. He said I looked dejected. "I'm getting snagged up too!" he reassured, pointing to his line leading to brush behind him. "No worries, let's take a walk to the other end." I grabbed his hand. I tried to balance. What the heck was wrong with my ankles?!
Standing on the far end's bank, I hauled out more line, aiming into the murky cattailed waters. "Pike are all that is evil, and mean, and dark, and lurking in the depths" I said. I heard Jay snicker, and with his sweatshirt hood pulled over his ball-cap he looked sinister, like the Emperor Palpatine...."maybe that's why I like 'em."
My ankles seemed to be having a bit better go of it here, and my eyes went out to the lake's surface, glazed with storybook pictures. There was Jiggy. There was her little nest-boat with a maple mast and acorn leaf sail. "The badger started to laugh, 'There's your treasure right before your eyes.'"
And there was.......
Not in my head, but in the water -- and he was following my fly! I was scared. Bite. Hook. Set. Pow! Jay was yelling instructions excitedly. His casting strategy had worked. "No slack....no slack!....if he runs, give him line!......get him on the reel....fast!" But my head was the one reeling, trying to process and make my hands do. Before I knew it, Jay had his boots off, jeans rolled up, boyish grin on, and had jumped into the cattails to untangle the pike from the shoreline reeds, so I could hold it.
And I did. Chasing the fear.....chasing the fear...
Jay said he was proud.
And I think Jiggy would be proud too.