Jesse's Girl - Cover

Jesse's Girl

Copyright© 2022 by Dyspneic

Chapter 6: Gollum

The Bronco was loaded up with all their camping gear and they headed out early Friday morning. Jesse and Maia sat up front with TM and Fug in the back. Linda begged out and told them to have fun. He had yet to install a decent sound system, so they made do with the original 70’s era AM/FM/8-track unit that came stock with the truck. It took them 3 hours to reach the Reservation and another 30 minutes to make it to the lazy river campground. After checking in and paying, Jesse drove around to the tent area and parked across the road from the riverbank. It was early enough that most of the spots were still empty.

Fug about knocked him over rushing to get out of the back seat and into the great outdoors. He commenced sniffing around in circles, marking everything, while the rest of them began unloading.

“Blow up my innertube!” TM demanded as she began shedding her outer cloths, stripping down to her swimming suit. “I wanna go float.”

“Hold on.” Jesse grunted as he lifted out the cooler. “We need to set up camp first. Why don’t you unfold the chairs and set them around the fire pit?”

Maia pulled out the dome tent and carried it over to the cleared area. She wore a bikini top and daisy dukes. Of course, her feet were bare. She sang a sweet tune as she began setting things out and arranging the tent poles.

Soon everything was set up and they sat around their table enjoying a light lunch. Jesse and TM ate tuna salad sandwiches while Maia munched on cucumber slices and hummus.

“How about shrimp?” TM asked.

“Nope.” Maia replied.

“Egg salad?”



“Oh yeah.”


“Rainbow rolls are great!”

The precocious 11-year-old had a hard time understanding Maia’s aversion to meat and couldn’t see how she subsisted on strictly vegetarian choices. Jesse just tuned them out after a while. As the day grew longer more people started showing up and the campground began to teem with couples, families, pets and laughing children.

While Maia and TM opted to go float around in the river, Jesse decided to park himself on the bank and fish. There were several other people doing the same, but they gave each other a respectable space. He fished for over 40 minutes without getting a nibble. There were several people swimming further upstream to his right and a few others floated about on tubes and rafts. Maia and TM lay back in their tubes swimming in lazy circles around each other. There were rows of trees lining the far bank with overhanging branches that dipped down into the water providing convenient hand holds when they felt like resting from the slow current.

“Hey Jesse!” TM ribbed him. “Catch anything yet?”

It was especially annoying because everyone else around him was catching trout and bass, while the only action he got was an occasional splash as a fish jumped out of the water near his bait. Fug was laying on his back beside him warming his belly in the hot sun. Jesse ignored his kid sister and grumbled as he reeled in his line. His power bait was gone again.

“Didja try the Cheese whiz yet?” She yelled.

“Fish don’t like Cheese whiz stupid!” He growled back, ignoring the grins from the other guys fishing nearby.

“How do you know? Are you a fish?”

He scrounged through his tackle box ignoring the yellow glop she put in it, beside his other baits.

“You should try the cheese whiz baby.” Maia called out. “Nothing else worked.”

“Yeah yeah.” He grumbled. With a resigned sigh he tore off a ball of yellow cheese and packed it around his hook. He set his bail and cast far over the water until his hook splashed next to the far bank.

“Have you tried calling for them?” TM yelled.


“Here fishy fishy!” She called with her hands cupped over her mouth. He ducked and shook his head as several of the other fishermen laughed aloud. It didn’t help when Maia started calling as well, adding her sweet musical voice to the mix.

Even the fish quit jumping as he sat there, holding his pole dejectedly.

“That’s how it goes sometimes.” Said an older man to his left. “Some days you’re the dog ... some days the hydrant.”

Jesse chuckled as he pulled back on his pole gently. The girls continued their ridiculous fish calls as they paddle backwards against the flow of the water. He stood up and splashed his bare feet in the water to cool them off.

Further downstream several fish jumped out of the water.

“Maybe I should try down there.” He muttered.

More jumped further upstream then several others broke the surface.

“Something’s chasing those.” The man beside him commented as they continued jumping further and further upstream.

“Probably trying to get away from my smelly cheese.” Jesse replied. Maia and TM grew quiet as they watched the small fish skipping towards them.

“Jesse you’re scaring all the fish away!” Teetee called to the amusement of the others on the bank.

Suddenly he saw his line pull across the surface away from his pole. He gripped his pole excitedly. “Hey! I think I got a bite!”

“Oh yeah you do.” The guy beside him agreed. “As soon as you feel it, set that hook hard!”

Jesse nodded as he stared at the tip of his pole eagerly. It bent suddenly and he jerked back sharply. Almost immediately his pole was yanked back down, its tip bending sharply.

“Jeezus H!” He cried out as he felt himself being pulled towards the water. Fug yelped in his sleep and rolled to his feet in alarm.

“Whoa!” TM yelled excitedly. “Jesse’s got a fish!”

“Woohoo baby!” Maia exclaimed. “Pull it in!”

Despite his strength, Jesse found himself struggling to hold his footing as the pole continued bending further and further.

“Set your brake!” His neighbor called.

“What’s that?” Jesse cried near panic as he was pulled closer towards the bank.

“The spoke on the side of your reel. Turn it and give him some slack.”

Jesse fumbled with the side of the reel as he held on desperately to his pole. Suddenly a loud buzzing noise sounded as his line began zipping away into the river. The bend in his pole eased considerably and he regained his footing with his bare toes in the mud.

“Good son. Let him run with it.” The older man encouraged. “When he tires, start bringing him in again.”

Jesse stared over at the man flummoxed. “What if he doesn’t get tired?”

“Well then you may get wet.” He replied with a laugh. He had reeled in his own line and set his pole aside. “My name is Dan by the way.” He greeted. “I assume you are Jesse.” His humor was contagious.

“You’re letting it get away!” TM cried.

“No, I’m not! I’m letting him run!” He snapped back.

“How do you know it’s a ‘he’?” She demanded.

“Yeah.” Maia echoed. “It fights like a girl.” Judging by the laughs, a sizeable crowd was growing nearby. His focus was on his pole and the water before him.

An enormous splash occurred further downstream, and he felt his line go slack, so he began cranking furiously on his reel. “Did you see that?” He yelled. Fug began barking excitedly at the river as he stood protectively beside Jesse.

“Wow! That’s a bigun!” Dan agreed. The other lines were all being retrieved as Jesse continued his battle.

Abruptly his pole bent sharply once more, and his line began screaming from the reel. He didn’t even notice that he was standing up to his knees in the river. “What the hell!” He cursed as he struggled to hang onto his pole. Fug was beside himself jumping excitedly back and forth along the bank.

“C’mon Jesse!” TM screamed. “Show her who’s boss.”

He could feel the excitement from the spectators behind him. Sweat began running down his face as he wondered what he got himself into. “A freakin piece of freakin cheese!” He muttered through his clenched teeth.

The line slackened again, and he resumed reeling as if his life depended on it.

“That’s it son!” Dan encouraged along with several others.

The fish broke the surface, much closer this time, only 30 yards away. It rose up out of the water until it seemed to sway on its tail. The head was immense and there were several screams of disbelief from the crowd behind him. It turned and dove back in, jerking his pole nearly from his grip and pulling him up to his hips into the river.

“What the hell is that thing?” He cried out.

“It’s a fish you big idiot!” His little sister yelled back drawing laughs from all around him.

“You better hope I don’t lose him little sis!” He shot back. “That is a river monster that could eat you whole!”

TM went pale and screamed in terror as she released her tree branch and splashed furiously towards the bank. “I don’t wanna get eaten!” She cried hysterically. Maia just shook her head with a grin and followed her.

“Uh oh,” Someone muttered nearby, “here come the Po-po.”

“Relax son.” Dan said. “It’s just fish and wildlife.”

Jesse was too busy fighting for his life to look back. Fug continued to offer barks of encouragement as he waded back and forth in the muddy water.

“Got him big one, eh?” A deep voice observed behind him. “You got your fishing license on you son?”

“Really?” Dan turned on the short, uniformed Ranger. “Now?”

There were several disapproving voices muttering behind them.

“I can wait.” The cop agreed calmly. “Just doin my job.”

“My back pocket!” Jesse gasped as his line began hissing back out again. “I got a temp permit at the park office.” He felt a hand press against his back while another groped his butt.

“Hmmm.” Maia hummed as she felt about in his pocket. “Here it is.” She held up the soggy receipt and turned back to the shore. The water was up to her armpits as she stood beside him. Many pairs of eyes watched her as she waded and then bounced provocatively out of the deep water in her bikini. She handed the dripping permit to the officer, just as the fish breached for a third time 20 feet away. There was an outcry from the gathered crowd and Jesse nearly lost his footing. Fug braved the water up to his chest as he continued barking excitedly. His enormous tail sent water flying with every wag.

Several smart phones were recording the entire event as Jesse backed up, drawing his catch closer to shore.

The FWC officer scrutinized the paper and then shook his head. “This is no good!” He said. “I can’t read it, it’s so wet.” This caused further grumbling from the crowd.

“If he got it at the office you can easily verify it.” Dan replied with disgust in his voice.

“That maybe so, but the boy can’t fish without a valid permit on hand.” The cop argued. “And this ain’t valid.” He waved the sopping paper. “If he gets me a copy, I’ll only fine him $50.”

Jesse cursed as he stumbled backwards into shallower water. Everyone could see the giant fish reluctantly following him just beneath the surface.

“Fifty Dollars?” TM Yelled in outrage. “You’re a crook!”

Maia looked up at the cop with a cool expression. “Really?”

“Sorry Miss. Them’s the rules.” He adjusted his ball cap and reached for his ticket book.

Dan walked up to the FWC officer. “Can I speak to you privately for a moment, officer ... Light Feather?” He glanced at his nametag. The two walked off.

There was a collective gasp from the crowd when Jesse crouched down and lifted the fish’s head from the water. It appeared to be a giant catfish and it looked at him balefully as it opened and closed its huge mouth. It was as long as he was tall.

“Holy Cannoli’s Batman!” TM cried. “It looks like Gollum!”

Fug was completely hysterical as he backed away from the fish, whining and barking.

“C’mon Fuggy!” She admonished the big mutt. “Don’t be such a chicken!”

Maia had run to grab her camera from the Bronco. “Hold still baby!” She smiled. “I’ll get a picture of you!” Jesse looked up with a wide grin as he held the catfish’s head up.

“I want a picture with Gollum too!” TM yelled and ran into the river to stand beside her brother.

“Its name is not Golem.” Maia retorted as she snapped a few more shots.

“Yeah?” His little sister argued. “What is it then?”

“You couldn’t even say it. Here, take the camera and get us together.” Maia said as she pressed herself against Jesse’s side.

“Can I get a picture too?” Asked a boy about TM’s age.

Jesse nodded but TM held up her hand. “Five bucks kid!” She demanded. There were grins on the faces of the crowd gathered around them.

“What?” He yelled. “Five bucks? Where’s your five bucks?”

TM kept her hand out defiantly. “I get the family discount. Five bucks.”

“That’s not fair!”

“Life’s not fair kid. Pay up.” She replied smugly.

“Hey, I got five bucks!” Said an older guy, one of the other fishermen. He handed it to her with his phone and waded over to Jesse who grinned and handed him the pole, stepping out of the picture.

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