AJ’s Bass by Jon Hedin

The phone rang and I already knew it was Mark on the other end. E.S.P., I guess.

\”Jon, we\’re still on for tonight, right?\” he asked.

\”Yea, of course, but you mean tomorrow don\’t you? 3 o\’clock in the morning is tomorrow,\” I corrected him.

Mark argued back \”In my book, 3 a.m. is the same as tonight.\” Mark doesn\’t wake up that early too often.

\”Hey, do you have enough room to bring AJ with?\” Mark asked. AJ is Mark\’s 10-year-old son. I drive a 4 wheeler with a King Cab that was produced before there were \’real\’ King Cabs. The truck just has a skinny bench in back of the bucket seats in front.

\”I don\’t know, will he want to sit in the back?\” I asked.

\”He would ride in the box if he had to. He really wants to go,\” Mark went on. \”He\’s been bugging me all week. He says he\’ll be the bait boy, boat boy, and the beer boy.\” We both said \”Beer Boy\” at the same time.

Ding Dang Dong! Dong Ding Dune, the doorbell rang. I jumped up and spilled coffee all over my lap. \”Man, Mark, you\’re gonna wake Kim,\” I whispered. \”Don\’t ring that doorbell ever again.\”

\”I thought you were still snoozing,\” Mark whispered back.

Then came a noise from the bedroom. It was Kim, my wife, who likes fishing about as much as a hooked fish likes fishing. \”So, when are you guys coming back home?\” she growled.

\”Sunday, honey, \’bout noon or so,\” I said, but never got a response. She must have gone back to sleep.

We got the boat loaded and slid it into the back of the truck. Three hours later we\’re at the start of the 2-mile long trail that leads to the lake.

\”My butt hurts,\” a voice complained softly from the back seat.

\”Then you\’re really gonna like this,\” I said, as we drove over a hill and before us was a soft puddle about 30-yards long over the trail. \”You have got to be kidding!\” blurted AJ, much louder now. \”You\’re not really going through there, are you?

\”We have to,\” I explained. \”Unless you want to carry the boat and all the stuff in it the half mile down to the lake.\”

\”Go for it,\” was all Mark said. I shifted into ultra low and stuck it in 3rd gear (my favorite) and stepped on the gas! The little truck jumped and shook and spun right through that puddle and a couple of smaller ones. \”Heeee Hawww!\” yelled Mark. \”Coooooool!\” exclaimed AJ.

We drove up to the camping spot and it looked the same as when we left it two years before. In an hour we had camp set up and were fishing for bass and \’sunnies\’. We were catching \’sunnies\’ one after another, all keepers, and weighing in at almost a pound apiece. I cast my little 1/32-ounce jig next to a tree stump that was sticking out of the water in about 15 feet of water. Tap, tap, tap. I felt on my rod tip, gave it my standard one thousand one delay and set the hook.

\”This ain\’t no sunny!\’ I hollered to Mark and AJ as my drag started singing. \”He\’s coming up!\” I shouted, and just then he went airborne, showing all of his six pounds! I fought that fish for at least 10 minutes with my 4lb. Ultralite pole. Finally he tired and I got him into the boat. It was time for lunch so I thought I would get my camera out of the truck and take some pictures of the big bass before I let him go. Mark took a picture of me with my bass.

I said, \”Hey AJ, you want a picture of you and your bass?\”

\”Mine?\” he asked. \”You caught it.\”

I joked, \”Yea, but only the three of us know it. You can tell all your friends you caught it.\”

\”Coooooooool,\” said AJ. We took his picture and then returned the big bass to the lake.

We caught all kinds of fish that weekend, but never got any more really big bass.

I didn\’t see Mark for a couple of weeks following that weekend. Then one day I stopped over after work.

\”AJ\’s been showing the whole neighborhood that picture of your bass, saying that he caught it,\” Mark said. \”Yea, I told him he could tell his friends,\” I explained, \”but I didn\’t say the whole world.\”

Just then AJ came in the door and said, \”Hey, you seen my bass yet?\” sticking the picture up to my nose.

\”AJ, I was there, remember?\” I told him. He looked at me like I was from outer space. Then he yelled, \”That was the biggest bass I ever caught!\” and ran out the door, back to playing with his friends.

I looked over at Mark. He looked down and just shook his head, then looked at me sorrowfully, like his kid had just struck out in the last of the ninth inning. Then he looked at me again and we both just laughed and laughed.

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