A Holiday Poem: Fishing, An Epic

A holiday poem from Kevin Kling about the world's oldest profession... fishing. It's a cautionary tale with a bit of mythology mixed in.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And now a winter tale about a real catch in the form of a poem from storyteller Kevin Kling.

KEVIN KLING:

Up North, where the Snake and the Red Rivers flow, up where they still use real carp in their carpaccio, lived an old angler named Ron, who honestly thought there wasn't a fish on the planet that could not be caught. Ron's grandpa had got the Timbered(ph) and his dad, the Iron Ore(ph). But up in the shadows of the glaciers lived a creature named Thor, down deep where the prehistoric traffic, out of the pages of National Geographic, 500 pounds of muscle and scale, 25 feet from lip to tail, mean as a pit bull, crazy as a loon, crusty as day-old Hormel chili on a daredevil's spoon.

Thor's name went back, it was said, to the day he bested Eric the Red. Forty-seven lures adorned his chin, a lantern on his head for vision, old as the world's oldest profession, if by that you mean fishing. French trappers dubbed him Poison Roy, the Fish King, and in his belly on a finger was a wedding ring.

Ron set up a shack by the dam where the ice was thin. It was cold, as cold as an Eskimo's ex-wife's grin. The radio said, `Now remember the rule of thumb. If you're in pain and misery, you won't succumb. But if you're happy and the world is fine, that's hypothermia talking. You don't have much time.' So he turned on his stove and he hitched up his pants, augured a hole, got ready to dance, hooked up a lure guaranteed to incite, entice, enrage, abuse, confuse, seduce, induce appetite. Set the humble to rumble, the pies to bingeing, powered by a three and a half horse Briggs & Stratton engine. It even emitted a pheromone that would draw the poor fellow like a moth to a flame, like a Lutheran to Jell-O.

Ron hooked up the lure and gave it a kiss for luck, dropped his line through the hole, went for a beer in his truck. And suddenly the ice cracked like a shotgun blast. Ron ran back inside to see his line running fast. The spool was spinning, the bobber gone. Ron set the hook, and the fight was on.

Now, at first, he let old Thor run, figuring to tire him out some. And as the line ran, dreams began to fill Ron's brain. Think he'd finish the basement, put up paneling, maybe a nice piece of carpet over the oil stain. A catch like this would give him a new lease on life, get in good with the kids, out of dutch with the wife. He'd make wise investments with a confidence game, find his biological parents, get his basset hound trained. Oh, the dreams he dreamed while that big fish ran.

`That's enough,' thought Ron. `Time to put you in the pan.' And with that he set the hook. The spool smoked, the handle cooked. Any other line would have snapped right then, but Ron had wisely invested in true-test super triple X 100 monofilament line using NASA engineering and a patented design, guaranteed not only to give the angler perfect pitch, but it'll put your Winnebago out of the ditch. Yeah, there was nothing quite so fine as true-test super triple X 100 monofilament line.

All right, the battle was set between these two giants, one using strength and cunning, the other the wonders of science. For days it went on till Thor took the notion to suddenly switch to a lateral motion. And like a knife through a hot butter, that line cut the ice. Like a band saw gone crazy, it started to slice, cut Ron's shack in two. And then if that wasn't bad luck, it circled his pickup and sank his new truck. `Huh, go ahead,' shouted Ron. `Take the truck, take my finger, too, but I'll have that wedding ring back from you.' And Ron, latched to his chair, hung on tight to Thor until two wooden slats snapped from the floor and skidded across the lake, like a sleigh ride from Hades or a bearded Cleopatra in flannel on a frozen Euphrates.

When word got out, from the four corners of town people ran, an angry group from animal rights, a tourist bus from Japan, a SWAT team, fire department, every kind of law enforcement. True-test line sent a crew and a chopper for an endorsement. And as the copter hovered, written in the ice when viewed from above, it read, `Abandon all hope, from Thor with love.' `You got nowhere to go,' cried Ron, `except the obituary,' when the fish pointed his snout toward a tributary that flowed north from the Snake into the Red. And off they shot up into Hudson's bay, where it fed, into the North Atlantic Ocean and over the horizon, and that's the last anyone of Ron has ever laid eyes on.

Since that time there have been sightings from outposts and stations. More than one cruise ship patron has stated, `Yeah, made our vacation.' And even to this day up North an angler will think he's in luck, and he'll reel in a can of beer or a license plate from a pickup truck. And, meanwhile, somewhere in the Indian Ocean lives a man set in his devotion. And his last words are all that remain, `Tell the wife to get a nice piece of carpet for over the oil stain.'

So be careful, young anglers, in what you fish for. Be careful this holiday in what you wish for. It's possible you'll get what you desire. And as you sit snuggled by your cosy, warm fire, remember, some things are meant to last and others break with time. This story brought to you by the good folks at true-test super X 100 monofilament line.

NORRIS: Kevin Kling writes stories and plays and poems in Minnesota.

ROBERT SIEGEL (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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