If You Like Florida Keys and Being a Pain

September 2003 Ontario, Canada "Worst Trophy Girlfriend Ever” might have been too ambitious a title. I was a trophy and a girlfriend, but not the worst. When offered an all-inclusive two-week vacation to West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and the Florida Keys, of course, my response had been "Yes, please". Now I was standing in Marathon Florida, facing an angry man from Wisconsin in a lovely condo. I could feel his ire. Coming off him in silence. But clearly there, like the white streaks in his blonde hair. There was no question now. Choosing to fish for “just five more minutes” had been the unpopular choice. I'd offered to help clean the condo and then didn't. He did all the cleaning and finished right before I came in to help. Staying on the dock hadn't been premeditated. The last piece of fish was cast and I was packing up the gear I'd scavenged from someone's tackle room. I was fully expecting to feel the line lightly tug and carefully reel up another small, bright red crab. It would dance in the air for a few seconds before it caught on and realized escape was letting go of the bait. With age comes wisdom though, through experience. So I was pleasantly amused when I reeled up a large crab. It calmly eyed me, reached up with its claw right above the hook, and SNIP! Made off with everything. The dock by the marina was warm in the afternoon sun, a sweet tropical breeze seemed to always be blowing in the Keys. I lazily thought up '....caught crabs in the Keys' jokes when I felt another tug. The first tug can be a fluke, it's the second that makes your heart skip a serious beat. I wasn't sure what it was, but it wasn't a crab. I'd taken to wearing gloves here in the tropics. In case I brought a barracuda or other sharp-toothed creature with a poor disposition out of the deep. As I reeled, the end of the rod began to dip toward the water. Maybe I was snagged? On what? I didn't want to snap the rod. I eased slack off the line, placed the rod on the dock and started pulling the line slowly by hand. Whatever it was, it was heavy! And it kept coming! As I pulled, something large and dark slowly appeared in the water. Mottled and brown in spots, it looked like a piece of wood. It was less than a foot from the surface. Frantically I tried to figure out what it was, and how I would get it out of the water. 'How was it even hooked?' Then it looked at me. One large eye locked with mine. “THAT'S NOT A LOG!!” I shrieked to some pelicans nearby. The fish must have heard me too. It turned it's head, for the first time in its long ascent to the surface and the line snapped like a wet noodle. I watched the only reason I had for not helping clean, slowly swim away. Two weeks later and 1500 miles back in Canada, I opened an email from the Prince of Wisconsin. He'd headed off to South America from Florida. I felt legitimately bad about the condo incident, my unpopular opinions, and hobbies; he didn't fish and it was never 4:20. The newsletter style, group email update about his adventures included several photos. In the last one, I found the reason I would make the same decisions. The reason I would never have regrets in life. It was a picture of him and his next chick on top of a temple in a jungle, grinning ear to ear, his hand hooked on the ass of his latest catch.

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Jane Doe

Aspiring writer, budding linguist.

Cape Town, South Africa