Joe is a fisherman. I knew that when I reeled him in, so I can't claim ignorance of his passion. It didn't bother my children Janice and Tom too much either. In fact, they thought that going out in a boat with Joe, hauling fishing poles, tackle boxes and a smorgasbord of bait was great fun.
I even vaguely recall Joe saying something about Musky fishing up North and how proud he is of his trophy fish that costs him nearly one hundred bucks at the fish-fixers. At the time, I let all of this pass over my head without registering it too deeply in my mind, because I was at the stage of love where anything that Joe did or had was all right with me. It wasn't until we had tied the monofilament that it really hit me. Joe is a FISHERMAN!
When we got married, Joe decided to move in with me and the kids since my house was bigger than his apartment and now we needed the room. We endured the trauma of settling most of his furniture in the house. I was dusting off my hands and heaving a sigh of satisfaction when Joe dropped the sinker smack in my lap.
"Uh, hon, there's one thing I forgot."
"Oh Joe, I hope it isn't bigger than a bread box!"
"Well, er, taken as a whole it is, but broken into component parts, it's not so bad."
"How do you break it into component parts?"
"Fin by fin. Scale by scale," he told me.
"Joe, you don't mean you have a fish you've stashed somewhere!"
"Well, honey, it's out in the car. Do you remember that very fragile bundle that I wrapped in blankets and put on the back seat?"
I thought I remembered. "You mean the one you carried out in your arms and wouldn't let the kids breathe on for fear they'd break it?"
He frowned. "That's the one, but you're exaggerating aren't you?"
I learned over for a closer look.
"Watch out, honey. Don't breathe too hard. You might break it," he told me.
I backed away,holding my breath as tightly as I could. He eased the blanket-wrapped bundle out of the car, handling it like a hand grenade. There, he had it out of the car!
"It's okay to breathe now," he said.
"Joe, what are you planning to do with that fish? We don't have a fur-lined room where you can hang it safely. And it won't fit in your drawer under your socks," I teased him.
"I was going to hang it on the wall over the fireplace."
I stared at him. "Over the fireplace! But Joe, my sampler that I needle pointed is hanging there. What will I do with that?"
He frowned again. "Couldn't you hang it somewhere else?"
"Where would I hang it, Joe?"
"How about in the kitchen? Or in Janice's room? She would enjoy looking at it."
"Oh, Joe, a fish over the fireplace??"
"Couldn't we at least try it, honey? It means a lot to me."
When Joe puts things in that light, it's hard for me to refuse him. I nodded and took down the sampler. "Here, put up the fish."
"Thanks, honey." He aimed a kiss in my direction, but I could tell he really meant the fish, not me.
"I didn't bring any of those special screws that you're supposed to use, but for now these nails ought to hold her all right."
Joe pounded them in like he was using a sledge hammer to break concrete. I could see the plaster chipping and the walls cracking right down the middle.
"Joe, don't you think you've pounded them enough?"
Joe stepped back and looked at the nails, now forever a part of the wall. "Yeah, that ought to hold. Now for the most beautiful fish in the world..."
I walked over and pulled the blanket off the fish. Joe snatched it from my hand.
"Be careful, honey. You have to be gentle with her. Just look at those sleek lines and the coloration of the fins. Did you notice he size, the beautiful size of her?"
"Anyone who can get sentimental over a fish is fishy," I muttered as Joe ran his fingers over the back of the fish tenderly and lifted it into its place on the wall. He paced back a few steps and admired it. "Yup, it's hanging just right. Now when the guys come over, I won't have to say a word. All I have to do is bring them in here, stand under the fish and clear my throat!"
Joe fished all night in his sleep,too, and the next morning at breakfast I felt like I should be fixing pan-fried trout instead of eggs and bacon. The kids came running into the kitchen when Joe and I were still sitting at the breakfast table.
"Daddy, the fish is gone!" Tom shouted.
Janice stood right behind her brother. "Daddy, it just disappeared. What are we going to do?"
Joe jumped up so quickly that I got the platter of toast in my lap. "What do you mean the fish is gone? It can't be!"
"It is, Daddy." Two tears slid down Janice's cheeks. "Do you think someone kidnapped the fish and is holding it for ransom?"
"We can give the kidnappers the money in our piggy banks," Tom offered.
By now, I appreciated the seriousness of the situation. I raced to the living room with the rest of my family close at my heels. I stared at the blank wall. The nail was still there, but the fish was gone.
"I hope it didn't swim too far upstream," I cracked.
Joe's eyes were suspiciously moist so I hurried over and put my arm around him. "We'll find it, Joe."
"Here it is! I found it! I found it!" Tom pointed to the asbestos squares in front of the fireplace. Sure enough, there sat the fish in a crumpled heap. Joe ran over and picked it up so tenderly I expected him to put it over his shoulder and pat it on the back. he smoothed it out as best as he could, then I heard a horrified gasp. "The fins are broken off. Both of them!"
What does a wife do when the fins break off her husband's mounted Musky and his heart breaks right along with them?
She takes the Musky to a fin-fixer and has the fins fixed. What better way to say "I love you?"