He is in my fishing spot. A kid. Blonde. Freckles. He is eating Doritos.
The kid fishes with frozen shrimp from a Ziplock bag. His cellphone is beside him, blasting modern country music.
I’ve been fishing this wooded grove since before the earth cooled. And I’ve always called this “my spot” even though it doesn’t belong to me.
The kid is sitting in a dry-rotted plastic lawn chair I placed here years ago. He is sort of smiling, cranking his reel.
The Choctawhatchee Bay has strange powers over boys.
I approach slow. And even though I claimed the exact place where he sits long before Lincoln was sworn in, I ask the boy if he minds letting me fishing next to him.
This is a custom among fishermen. You would never fish next to a fella without asking. Such barbaric behavior would be worse than taking your buddy’s mother to prom.
We shake hands. We introduce ourselves. We talk.
The kid says, “Did you hear they caught a GATOR in this bay?”
This is male conversation at its best.
Murderous creatures with jaws big enough to crush average-sized Buicks. Men in boats, wielding heavy artillery.
“It was HUGE,” he adds. “Like sixteen feet, I think.”
“Wow,” I say.
Actually, the gator he is referring to was only twelve-foot long, but who’s counting? The thing was caught months ago, and it was a big deal because gators are not common here.
Though, in my youth I heard plenty of gator stories. I never put stock in any of them.
I once knew an old-timer, for instance, nicknamed “Snoopy,” who claimed he caught an eight-foot gator. I never believed him because Mister Snoopy also claimed he invented the first pay phone.
The kid asks, “You ever seen gators in this bay before?”
“Nope,” I say. “But upshore from here, about twenty years ago, my cousin and I saw an elderly couple skinny…