99. The Fisherman and His Femme Fatale

99. The Fisherman and His Femme Fatale

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

The Fisherman and His Femme Fatale

It’s not where you go or what you do, it’s who you take along with you.


I saw her across the room, sparkling with sequins. She flipped her eyes up at me under a heavy fringe of false eyelashes and my knees turned to water. Patting her bouffant hairdo, she wiggled her way upstream, through the crowded party, toward me. She looked like an enchanting mermaid in that silvery dress, and as she neared I felt for the first time in my life like a piece of bait.

It was Halloween 1964. I was wearing hip waders and a fishing vest because my passion in life was fishing, and I indulged my passion every opportunity I got. As she neared, gazing at me hypnotically with her sea-green eyes, she told me she was born under the sign of the fish. I laughed, not knowing whether to believe her or not. One thing I knew, I was in trouble. She told me I was tall, dark and handsome. I told her she was bewitching. By the end of the evening she had me hooked, and by the end of the following summer, she had me landed in a small courtroom, slipping a gold ring on her dainty finger.

On our honeymoon I took her from the lights of the city to a remote valley nestled deep in the heart of grizzly bear country. For one week, we pitched our tent by an emerald flowing river and fished to our hearts’ content. But wait. She liked to fish too, didn’t she? I asked somewhat belatedly as we rumbled down the dirt road in a battered pickup truck. Her answer? She batted her magical eyes and just smiled.

Every day of our honeymoon, I fished. Every day, she also fished; precisely at noon, she donned a fishnet bikini, toss her gleaming black hair down her back and walk barefoot to the river. I, too, was in that river, chest deep, casting my line far downstream. She always managed to lure me to shore. Well, almost always. Sometimes a line would tighten, or a reel would spin crazily, a conquered fish leaping to the surface. At those times I’d see her shrug her shoulders and head back to the tent.

I took her canoeing and she managed to look impressed at the salmon I threw at her pretty painted toes, telling me I looked like a Greek god throwing tribute at her feet. One day we rounded the corner, heading back to camp and saw the savage evidence of a grizzly bear foray. Our belongings were strewn everywhere as if they had been chewed up and spit out. Upon investigation, I noted claw marks imbedded deeply in the lid of our food chest. Giant paw prints in the soil left no doubt whatsoever as to whom the predator had been. She broke down in tears and started to pack.

I prepared an airtight plea bargain that got me three extra days on the river. That evening she dabbed on her favorite perfume and I smiled as I hung my chest waders in the log cabin I rented for her.

The day of our departure arrived, and I didn’t share her feelings of elation at going back to the city. As I closed the truck door, I tried not to appear morose. Looking longingly at the crashing waterfalls that tumbled over the majestic mountains, the deep secret forest and the shining river that I loved, I asked what she thought of the valley.

“Very beautiful,” she replied absently, checking her makeup in the windshield mirror. I thought she was beautiful as I saw the eagerness on her face.

I made up my mind then and there, kissed her soundly and told her bluntly, “I’m glad, because this is where we’re going to live.”

A look of horror crossed her features as I realized my blunder. That eager look of hers had been to high-tail it out of the wilderness, not live in the wilderness. Desperately, I began to play my line. I was a new stepfather to her five children — I had to think of the welfare of my new family, didn’t I? In the valley there was no danger, except for bears, and I had a rifle. There were gardens, and game to hunt in the fall. I always hunted with a fishing rod in one hand and a rifle in the other, because I never knew when I might run into a stream. There would always be plenty to eat for the children. And — I told her dramatically, saving the pièce de résistance for last — I would build her a dream house.

That did it. She agreed. But somehow I suspected she knew the real reason for my wanting to move the family twelve hundred miles — for the fishing. I hadn’t mentioned that little fact, but if she had asked, I would have confessed. I knew I had married a wise woman when she didn’t ask.

Happy with her dream home — a beautiful custom-made log cabin — we moved the entire family to paradise. On our first Christmas, I bought her a fishing rod. Now she could fish with me! Our girls took me to task, and on her birthday I bought her perfume with the money from the sale of the rod. But, to her chagrin, I also bought her a canner to can the steady supply of coho and spring salmon I regularly brought in from my daily forays to the river.

She always wondered where I got the feathers to tie my flies. One day she pulled her hatbox from beneath the bed, lifted the lid and gazed into it, stupefied. Like naked chicks, embarrassed for lack of feathers, laid her hats. One by one she picked them up, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. A lone feather floated to the bottom. I had forgotten one. She picked it up and stuck it in my wallet beside my credit card. That year she had the best vacation ever.

Time passed. The children left home. She packed away her false eyelashes and got rid of the bouffant hairdo. I packed away my rifle, but there was no way I was going to get rid of my fishing rod. As much as my declining health allowed, I still fished.

On our thirty-fifth anniversary, outside a log cabin not far from where we had once pitched our honeymoon tent, I unwrapped a framed collage of photographs. Stormy rivers bleak with snow, rain swollen or hotly sun dappled, fishing through the years, casting, reeling, angling, in the glory of it all, I stood. Wiping a tear from the corner of my eye with an arthritic finger, I told my femme fatale that she was the best thing I had ever caught. Then I kissed her and together we walked into our log cabin and closed the door, forgetting my fishing rod outside.


~Graham Hall
Chicken Soup for the Fisherman’s Soul

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