Fishing For Coffee

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a cup of coffee today.

Submitted: December 09, 2018

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Submitted: December 09, 2018

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All I wanted was a cup of coffee.

Not as easy as it sounds, when you live in Roque Bluffs, Maine, population 303.  And it’s the middle of winter.  The three feet of snow from last night meant I couldn’t take the Jeep or the snowmobile to Mackey’s General Store.  I strapped on the snow shoes and trudged down the road.

“Sorry, Roddie, I’m fresh out of coffee.  Not sure when the next delivery will be, everyone is snowed in.  Sold the last can of Maxwell House to Old Man Withers.  Maybe he’ll share with you.”

That was a serious dose of bad news from Mr. Mackey.  Henry Withers was the meanest SOB in Washington County.  I’d been on his bad list since childhood, when I may or may not have been involved in a prank involving his pickup truck.

One July afternoon, me and my pals were hanging out in the park.  Mr. WIthers thought our boombox was too loud and called the Sheriff.  That was the end of our picnic.  The next morning, he called the Sheriff again.  This time, because the wheels of his pickup truck had been replaced with cinder blocks.  An anonymous phone call later that morning let him know where to find the wheels.  That was thirty years ago, and he hasn’t forgotten about it.

I considered my options.  No doubt there were other Roque Bluffs residents who drank coffee.  But the stuff was as good as gold during the bitter winter.  Finding someone willing to part with any, while we were snowed in, might not be easy.  I swallowed my pride and pointed the show shoes toward the Withers estate.

“Well, if it isn’t the tire thief Roddie Wilson.  Should I go ahead and call the Sheriff now?”

“Come on Henry, give me a break.  That’s ancient history.”

“I remember it like yesterday.  Is there a reason why I left a toasty fireplace to answer the door?”

“I need a favor.  Joe Mackey says you got a can of coffee yesterday.  I’m fresh out.  I’ll buy half the can from you.  Name your price.”

He looked down at his shoes for a moment before he spoke.  “I got no need for money.  But I do have a driveway covered with snow.  Tell you what.  You clear my driveway, I’ll give you half of the coffee.”

“You got a snowblower?”

“Yeah but it doesn’t run.”

“There’s way too much snow between my house and here, no way I can bring my blower.”

Old Man Withers pointed across the street.  “Jay Fielder has a four foot blower hooked up to his tractor.  He’s one of your tire thief buddies.  He’ll let you borrow it.”

I crossed the street and knocked on Jay’s door.  This was going to be awkward.  

Mr. Withers was right, Jay and I were friends back in the day.  But we both ran for mayor a few years back.  I may or may not have said some things during the campaign questioning his character and integrity.  It got kind of ugly, and as a result, neither of us won.  We haven’t spoken since.

The door opened.  “Well, if it isn’t lying Roddie Wilson.  Did your conscience finally make you walk here through the snow to apologize?”

“Come on Jay, give me a break.  You know politics is a dirty business.  That’s all water under the bridge.”

“Maybe so.  Why are you disturbing me?”

“You got any coffee?”

“Naw, I gave it up when Doc Ratchet started pestering me about my blood pressure.”

“Old Man Withers has some, and he’ll share with me if I clear his driveway.  He says you’ve got a snowblower setup on your tractor.  What would it take to let me borrow it?”

“Hmmm.  I’m almost out of pellets for my stove.  Bring me a 40 pound bag of pellets and you can borrow the tractor.”

“Damn it, Jay.  Hauling something that heavy from Mackey’s store, through all this snow, would probably kill me.”

“Go talk to your fishing buddy Hal Dutton.  He’s just two doors down.  He always stocks up on pellets at the beginning of the season.”

I cursed my luck as I made my way to Hal’s house.  He’d won the annual Roque Bluffs bass fishing tournament ten years in a row.  Until last year, when he caught 33 pounds, 2 ounces of striped bass.  I beat him by one ounce.  I was reeling one in when the time limit may or may not have expired.  He claimed the last fish shouldn’t count.  The judges decided to allow it.  He’s still ticked off.  I pushed the doorbell.

“Well, if it isn’t cheating Roddie Wilson.  If I’d have known it was you, I wouldn’t have gotten out from under my electric blanket.”

“Come on Hal, give me a break.  I won the tournament fair and square.”

“I don’t know about that.  You better have a good reason for bothering me.”

“You got any coffee?”

“Yeah, but not enough to share with someone who cheats at fishing.  Go pester someone else.”

“Okay, how about you sell me a bag of pellets.  It’s not for me, it’s for Jay Fielder.  He’s running low and says you’ve got plenty.”

Hal stroked his beard with his thumb and forefinger.  He always did that when he was thinking.  “Well, I’m not inclined to sell you anything.  But I do have a hankering for some fresh bass.  I’ll tell you what.  You catch enough for a meal for me and the missus, and I’ll let you have a bag of pellets.  You can borrow my gear.”

His property backed up to Englishman Bay.  I wouldn’t have far to go.  But there was at least a foot of ice floating on the water.  It would take 15 minutes of pounding with a hand chisel to open  a hole big enough for fishing.  He gave me the key to his shed.  I gathered up what I needed and went down to the shore.

I’d gotten a pretty good workout by the time I’d pounded a hole in the ice.  Power bait is essentially worm-shaped gummy bears for fish.  Perfect for ice fishing.  I set up my gear, baited the hook, and lowered the line into the water.  Now it was a matter of watching and waiting.

By the time I hooked a proper sized bass and wrestled it out of the water, I was shivering from the cold.  But I was making progress.  I had the fish I could trade with Hal for a bag of pellets, which would get me Jay’s snowblower, which I could use to clear Old Man Withers driveway, and finally get my coffee.

I heard a woman’s voice and looked up.  It was Jane Dutton.  She was walking toward me, carrying a thermos.  “Yoohoo, Roddie.  Hal told me what he’s making you do.  I swear, sometimes I wonder if that man has a heart.  Here, I brought a jug of coffee for you.”

Finally, I’d get what I was after.  Maybe this day would finish better than it started.  I took a step in Jane’s direction.  Then, there was a loud cracking sound, like a gigantic tree splitting in half.  The ice began shaking and I fell down. 

After a moment of disorientation, I realized what had happened.  The ice shelf I was on had broken free, and the current was pushing it out into the bay.  In a matter of seconds, there was ten feet of water between me and where Jane was standing.

She shouted, “Don’t worry Roddie, I’ll call the Coast Guard.  They’ll send a boat for you.”

There wasn’t anything I could do but wait.  After what seemed like hours, a Coast Guard cutter pulled up and rescued me.  The galley was small, but it had what I was hoping for.  A coffee machine.

So here I sit, shivering, in the galley of the USCGC Portland.  The sensation is slowly returning to my fingers and toes.  I’m sipping coffee from a mug that says “I Love The Coast Guard.”  Life is good. 


© Copyright 2019 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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