Story telling can be great fun, especially when it comes to fishing stories.
“Look,” Uncle Gene said in a church voice. “A Blue Heron.”
I heard ‘whoosh, whoosh, whoosh’ but I couldn’t see anything in the puffy clouds rising off the lake.
A long dark bird flew out of the mist. For a moment it hung in front of the dock, neck tucked back, beak stuck out like a sword. Then it was gone.
I ducked behind my uncle.
“Wow!” we both said at once.
I peeked out at the lake, steamy as a bathtub. Were there any more surprises out there? This was my turn to go fishing with Uncle Gene. Yesterday, Charles went. He always goes first just because he’s older. Seven bluegills. Charles caught seven. And I had to eat them for supper.
Nothing exciting happened for a long time.
“Shoot, Michael, looks like they just aren’t biting today.”
Man, I’m wasting my turn, I thought, I’ll never catch more fish than Charles. I haven’t even had a nibble yet.
Six Canada geese flew from a raft. One bird took longer. He hopped on one leg before taking off.
“How come?” I started to ask.
“I don’t know. Maybe it was born that way, or had an accident, or got it bit off by a monster pike.”
We watched the geese land near some lily pads.
“Let’s try over there,” Uncle Gene said.
As we got closer, I watched the geese swim away. The one-legged goose swam in half circles, one after another, making ripples like a stretched spring.
As soon as my bobber hit the water, it went under and whipped sideways.
“Whoa, that’s no bluegill. Point your rod toward the sky and hang on.”
That’s when I felt the fish. He was heavy and mad, tugging and pulling, trying to get away. The line felt light for a moment while he jumped out of the water – dark brown with black stripes on top, golden and white underneath, sparkling drops flying off.
“It’s a bass – a huge smallmouth!” Uncle Gene shouted. “You’re doing good. He’s getting tired. Reel in, slowly.”
He wasn’t as strong or as angry as before. I could feel him tremble. When he got near the boat, I watched him spit out a mouthful of small, chewed-up minnows. He was so scared that he threw-up his breakfast.
Uncle Gene held the fish by its gills. It hung way past his elbow. “Man, he’s a beauty. A three pounder at least – enough supper for all of us.”
Supper. He wasn’t a bluegill. Not even seven bluegills, all small and fried on a plate. My fish was big. Beautiful. I removed the hook, felt his belly – smooth and strong, still trying to swim. “Do we have to eat him?”
“No, we could just take a picture and let him go.”
“Yeah. Let’s do that.”
At the breakfast table, Charles said, “They didn’t catch any. Not like us, huh Grandma?”
“Too bad, honey. Maybe you’ll do better another time,” Mom said.
“Tell them about the heron, Michael,” Uncle Gene said.
I thought for a second. “We were like at Jurassic Park in a foggy, swampy place with mist and clouds all around. I heard a loud whooshing sound deep in the fog and, all at once, a big pre-historic bird flew right at me. His eyes were small and yellow and his long, pointed beak was aimed right at me. I shoved Uncle Gene to the side, then dropped to the dock to keep from getting speared.” Uncle Gene winked at me. Grandma stopped stirring the orange juice. Momma held her coffee cup halfway to her mouth. And best of all, Charles stopped chewing right in the middle of a mouthful of pancakes.
“Yeah, but how many fish did you catch?” Charles mumbled.
“Tell them about the goose,” Uncle Gene said.
I got up and stood on one foot. “There were these geese, see? But one of them only had one leg. Probably got bit off by a Pike or something.” Grandma made a face. I hopped in ‘C’ shapes around the kitchen. Momma smiled. “It couldn’t go in a straight line, but it kept up with the other guys. Wasn’t that something?”
Charles looked at me sideways.
This is more fun than catching bluegills, I thought.
“Yeah, but did you catch any fish?” Charles sneered.
“Yeah, he did,” Uncle Gene said. “And it was big.”
“Yeah, well, where is it then?”
“It’s still out there,” I said.
“All the big ones get away.”
“Who said it got away,” I replied. “But I don’t want to talk about it now. Maybe later, when we get the pictures back. Right now I’m hungry.”
The Storyteller – Study Guide
1. Where does this story take place?
2. Who is telling the story?
• Is it first person or third person?
3. Are Michael’s parents separated?
4. Is Michael’s portrayal of life as a second child accurate?
• Does the older sibling(s) take the fun out of new experiences?
5. Have you ever been at an inland lake first thing on a summer morning?
• Is it misty?
• Is the water warm?
6. Do you know the animals and fish in the story?.
• Blue Heron?
• Canadian Goose?
• Blue gill?
• Smallmouth bass?
7. How does Michael feel toward the handicapped goose?
• Does he think his efforts to swim are funny?
• Does he admire the goose’s efforts?
• Is it okay to laugh at handicapped animals?
• Is it okay to laugh at/with handicapped people?
8. Why did Michael let the fish go?
• Would you let the fish go?
9. Michael found he could do something special? What can you do that’s special:
• In your family?
• At school?
10. Is it more fun to experience things or tell stories about the experience?
• Is telling stories a form of lying or just exaggeration?
11. What kind of professions are built on storytelling?