NT Franklin has been published in Page and Spine, Fiction on the Web, 101 Words, Friday Flash Fiction, CafeLit, Madswirl, Postcard Shorts, 404 Words, Scarlet Leaf Review, Freedom Fiction, Burrst, Entropy, Alsina Publishing, Fifty-word stories, among others.
Me and Bart Enter a Fishing Contest
Spring came early, summer baseball was a ways off, and school was, well, school. Bart was sleeping over Friday night because his dad was travelling and his mom was ‘out.’ Whatever. My mom was always happy to have me and Bart and we always had a good time on a sleepover.
Bart was still talking when I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning before Bart, thinking of fishing. Why, I wasn’t sure. Bart rustled when I stood up, then spoke.
“Mornin’. What time is it?”
I straightened up and said, “Breakfast time.”
My mom had bowls, spoons, the jug of chocolate milk, and a big box of Wheaties out on the table. “Morning, you two sleepyheads,” she said. “I have a hair appointment this morning, then errands. You two be okay?”
“Yes, Mom,” I said. “We’ll be fine. I’ll be home for supper, don’t worry.”
She smiled and was out the door.
“Whatcha thinking?” Bart asked as he poured chocolate milk over his bowl of Wheaties.
“I dunno, for some reason, I got fishing running around in my head.”
Bart smirked. “Duh. That’s what I was talking about before we fell asleep.”
“I don’t remember it.”
Bart put his spoon down. “Okay, you know how the yellow perch taste so good early in the season?”
“Yeah, and they don’t have worms or anything.”
“Well, there’s some sort of fishing contest today over to the lake.”
I looked at Bart. “We can’t enter a fishing contest.”
He cocked his head and asked, “Why not? We have fishing rods and the backyard is full of worms, we just have to dig them up.”
I drank the chocolate milk out of my bowl, thought about it for one second, and said, “I’ll get a shovel.”
In a short time, we had two old metal soup cans full of worms and dirt. We each grabbed a can, our rod, mounted our bicycles, and were off.
The lake was farther than we remembered, so me and Bart were a little tired when we arrived.
“I dunno, Bart,” I said. “Look at all the boats and stuff. They look serious. We just have fishing rods. Besides, they’re all on the lake already.”
“No problem, we’ll talk to the guy in the white hat, maybe he’s running the fishing contest.”
“I guess. I’ll stay back.”
Bart smiled and marched up to the older man in the white hat. “We’d like to join the fishing contest.”
The white hat came off and the man looked at Bart, then at me. A short, grumpy-looking man next to him said, “Really, do you now? This is a fishing derby, there are procedures, rules, entry fees. The derby’s already started.”
“Cripes, Roger, relax. A couple kids want to fish. That’s what we’re encouraging anyway, isn’t it?” White hat spat tobacco juice on the ground.
Roger jumped back out of the way of the brown stream. “They don’t have a boat.”
White hat ignored Roger and asked Bart, “You two know how to swim?”
Bart straightened up, “Yes, sir.”
“Both of you?”
Things seemed to be improving, so I moved closer. “Yes, sir, me, too.”
Roger was approaching, but another stream of tobacco juice stopped him. “Don’t suppose you two know how to paddle a canoe?”
“We sure do,” Bart said. “My Uncle Bobby has taken us to camp where we paddled a canoe a lot.”
“Well, it so happens I have a canoe on top of my truck. You two help me get it down, promise to wear life jackets all the time, you can use it. Sound good?”
In unison, me and Bart said, “Yes!”
Grumpy Roger piped up, “There’s an entry fee. Do they have the money?”
“Cripes, Roger,” White hat said, “I’m in charge here. Don’t make me drown you in the lake.” He looked at us. “It’s true, there is an entry fee for the fishing derby. It pays out for the biggest fish boated, and the most weight in fish boated.”
“Oh,” Bart said.
He put his hat back on and said, “Since the derby has started and you two are behind, I propose to enter you as an exhibition entry in the derby. You don’t have to pay the entry fee. You can weigh in your catch and all, but you won’t be eligible for the prizes. Is that okay?”
“All we want to do is fish,” Bart said. He looked at me and I nodded.
“Well, you two help me get the canoe off the truck and get going. You have some fish to catch.”
Me and Bart were on the water lickety-split, paddling away with life jackets on.
“I don’t want to look back, I said, “can you see the two men?”
Bart turned around, then back. “The grumpy guy still seems agitated.”
“Yeah, but he’s not in charge.”
We baited our hooks near some trees hanging over the water. A couple nibbles were all we had.
“Maybe they’re too small to get their mouth around the hook,” Bart said. “I’ll tie on a smaller hook.”
Sure enough, a tiny fish latched onto the small hook. “Maybe we should try somewhere else,” I offered.
We paddled for about five minutes and tried again near some overhanging trees. Bam! My bobber was pulled way under the water. I yanked to set the hook and reeled it in. I landed a beauty. “Just look at this,” I told Bart, it’s as big as both my hands.”
“Way to go!” Bart said. “Careful, the back spines can be sharp.”
Then his bobber disappeared, and he set the hook. He landed a nice yellow perch as well.
I had half a worm left on my hook, so I cast out again. The bobber went down before it stopped moving. Another fish on.
We’d hit on a nice little school of yellow perch. Bart fished off one end of the canoe and I fished off the other. The fish were coming so fast, we didn’t put them on a stringer, just tossed them into the canoe. Even with double using some of the worms, we ran out of bait in an hour.
Bart smiled at the bottom of the boat. “Would you look at that? Has to be one hundred fish there.”
I twisted around and looked. “Easy hundred. Too bad we didn’t have the entry fee. We could have entered the derby proper like.”
“Nah, we just wanted to fish. Fishing is fun enough without a contest. Look at these fish. We’re winners.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” We paddled back to shore.
Grumpy Roger was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t mind. I stepped out of the canoe and pulled it up the bank.
The man in the white hat came ovrt. “How’d you boys do?”
“Oh man, we caught a mess of fish,” Bart answered.
He looked at our catch in the canoe. “You sure did. The contestants are still out on the lake. Need any help cleaning them?”
“Sure, mister, that’ll be great.”
“No mister, my friends call me Sam. Let me get my knife.”
Sam came back from his truck with a fillet knife. “This is from Finland, where my ancestors came from. Sharpest knife in the world. No one handles this but me. You get the fish and I’ll fillet them for you.”
I grabbed three perch and carried them to the picnic table. I put one fish on the table and dropped the other two. By the time I picked them up, he was done with the first fish.
“Wow,” I said. “I’ve never seen anyone fillet fish so fast.”
“For years, I worked on a charter fishing boat. You get pretty fast after a few thousand.”
Sam filleted the fish as fast as we carried them to the table. When he was done, he walked to his truck. He came back with two plastic bags. He divided the fish into the two bags and handed them to us. “There you go boys, your first fishing derby. That’s a fine lot of fish. Early spring yellow perch, they’ll be real sweet tasting.”
Me and Bart both said thanks.
Sam stopped us. “I’m sorry, I forgot to weigh your catch in.”
“That’s okay, we just wanted to fish,” I said. I hoped Bart felt the same way.
“Well then, weigh-in will be in one hour. You can stick around and watch if you want.”
I asked, “Will Roger be there?”
“Nope, I sent Roger home. He was ruining a fun day.”
Bart nodded. “I think we’ll stick around.”
The hour went fast listening to Sam tell fishing stories. The boats all came in around the same time.
“Roger would have all those boats in a mess and everyone mad at each other,” Sam said. “I’ll hang back and they’ll sort it out themselves. Best that way.”
Sam was right. The boats came to the landing in an orderly fashion. We were appointed “Special Assistants to the Fishing Derby” and got to write down the numbers of the entrants and the weight of their catch.
Bart pretty much looked at the fish and I wrote down the numbers. We were a good team. Turns out all the boats caught more fish than we did, but we were some proud of our catch.
We pedaled home with our bounty, 87 yellow perch. We were excited to be able to provide supper. We’d entered a fishing derby and filled our freezer full of fish. It was a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.
Me and Bart Get Bored
Summer was winding down and school loomed ahead. My mom told me not to be so glum. I waved to her as she drove away to work, not knowing what to do, but for dang sure didn’t want to think about going back to school.
I walked my bike across the street to Bart’s house. He always thinks of fun things to do. Sure enough, Bart was coming out of his door.
“I was coming over to get you to go swimming.”
Of course, I had my swimming trunks on under my jeans. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”
We went to the swimming hole and no one else was there. We swung on the rope and splashed around for a while, but our hearts weren’t really into it.
“Bart, I dunno, something’s wrong. I mean l like swimming; we do it a lot. But today, I’m just not into it.”
Bart climbed out of the water and sat on a rock. “I know. Me too.” He stood up and threw a stone into the water, skipping it four times.
I stood up and grabbed a good, flat, skipping stone. “Cool. Four skips. Wanna have a rock-skipping contest?”
Bart sat back down and rested his chin on his fist. “Nah, I don’t feel like doing anything.”
I threw my rock in a high arc and watched the splash it made. “Me neither. Let’s go.”
We mounted our bikes and headed back, taking the long way because there was no point in getting home fast. We were in front of the hardware store when Bart stopped.
“Hey, I know what. I’m gonna get a banana seat for my bike. Mr. Dorn was over real late last night again talking with my mom and he said I could stop by and have one.”
I got off my bike and put the kickstand down. “Really? For free?”
Bart shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno, he just said stop by and he’ll fix me up. We’ll see.”
Seeing there was nothing better to do, I followed Bart into the hardware store.
Bart approached the counter and Mr. Dorn smiled at him. “Come to get that banana seat, Bart?”
“Yup. If it’s all right.”
“Absolutely.” He handed Bart the seat from a floor display and said, “Have a good day, young man.”
I looked the seat over. “These are so cool. I might get one of these one day.”
We were outside, trying to figure out how the get the seat home when Mr. Dorn popped out of the store. “I’m glad I caught you two before you left.”
Oh boy, all I could think of was Me and Bart going to jail for not paying for a bicycle seat.
I was ready to hop on my bike and escape when Mr. Dorn said, “I just started carrying popsicles. I need some people to sample them. Interested?”
Bart’s bike nearly fell over when he let go of it. “You bet.”
We went inside and I chose an orange and Bart chose root beer. We thanked Mr. Dorn and went outside to eat them.
We sat on the steps and finished our popsicles. I started chewing on the stick and looked at Bart. “Today might turn out to be okay after all.”
I didn’t more than get those words out of my mouth when Fred Wick and Billy Ferber, the two biggest bullies in junior high, were standing in front of us. Now I was sure I was going to die.
Bart looked at them and smiled his sly smile. I knew something was up. “You guys want popsicles?”
“Yeah,” Fred answered.
“I’d give you mine but all I have left is the stick.”
Billy stepped forward. “Trying to be funny, punk? I oughta pound you.”
Bart shook his head. “But then you wouldn’t get free popsicles. We just got free ones. Right here in the hardware store.”
Fred grabbed Billy’s arm. “Really?”
“Yeah, it’s a special promotion. But there’s a catch. You both have to go the counter and say, “I am a giant blue gumball. That’s how you get the free popsicles. Some sort of promotion, I dunno.”
Billy looked at Fred, then at us. “Well, I guess you two squirts aren’t worth our time today. Scram.”
They went into the hardware store and Bart looked at me. “It’s time for us to go.”
I almost peed in my pants. I didn’t need to be told twice. We mounted up and sped off.
Halfway home, Bart started laughing and his bike wobbled. He nearly crashed into a tree and had to stop. I pulled up next to him and couldn’t keep from laughing either.
When we both got our breath back, I asked, “How are we gonna to put the seat on? You need tools and stuff.”
“No problem. We’ll go to Mr. Green, he’s helped us out before.”
We pedaled to Mr. Green’s garage and he had the new seat on Bart’s bike in a jiffy. It looked even cooler that we’d imagined.
A new bicycle seat, popsicles, and whatever Mr. Dorn said to the bullies, which they’ll probably never tell anyone. It was a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.
Me and Bart Go to a Baseball Game
I’d been waiting all week, but it seemed like a month. Saturday morning finally came, and I dashed across the street to Bart’s house.
I burst through the door and saw Bart at the breakfast table pouring chocolate milk over his Wheaties. Bart’s mom said, “My, aren’t we up early?”
I caught my breath and answered, “Good thing, too. Otherwise I would’ve woken you. Is Uncle Bobby here yet?”
She smiled and put her coffee cup down on the table. “Not for quite a few hours. My goodness, you two boys spend most of the summer playing baseball. Why are you so excited about another baseball game?”
“Another baseball game?” Bart spewed chocolate-covered Wheaties all over the table. “This is a professional baseball game. Uncle Bobby said so. Minor league, but they get paid. This is what we’re going to do when we grow up.”
“Gross,” I said, as I grabbed the dishcloth.
“See, Bart, some young men clean up after themselves.”
I put my baseball glove next to Bart’s and kinda blushed as I wiped off the table. “So, when’s he coming?”
Bart swallowed this time. “After lunch, Dad said. I hope he still has his big green truck. It’s cool.”
“I’m going to get one when I drive,” I said.
Bart’s mom rolled her eyes, “I suspect he still does and will be wearing his uniform of blue jeans and flannel shirt.”
I sat at the table and couldn’t get the grin off my face. “I’ve never been to a professional baseball game. Minor league is okay with me.” It was better than okay, because I didn’t have any uncles, and my mom didn’t do stuff like professional baseball games.
“You two, shoo,” Bart’s mom said. “Go do something. You’re going to drive me crazy waiting inside all morning, checking the clock every ten minutes. Go, now.”
We rode our bikes up and down the block, keeping an eye out for a green pickup truck. Time was going slow, so we decided to have lunch at my house.
While Bart poured milk, I cut our cheese sandwiches into lots of pieces. I thought it would make us eat slowly. But it didn’t. Afterwards, we went outside and stared at our bikes.
“Nah,” Bart said, “no more bicycles.” He lay on the grass with his baseball glove as a pillow and looked at the clouds. He pointed and said, “Looks like a bull up there.”
I flopped down next to him. “Yup, just like a bull. Look – his tail is disappearing.”
With the warm sun beating on me, I must’ve dozed off.
The next thing I knew, someone was standing next to us. “Pete and Repeat, I thought you guys wanted to go to a baseball game, but here you are sleeping.” Uncle Bobby, wearing a red flannel shirt and blue jeans, was holding three tickets fanned out in his hand.
Bart jumped up. “Uncle Bobby, you’re here!”
“Yup, how you been?”
“We’ve been waiting for you, now we can go to the game.”
We grabbed our gloves and followed Uncle Bobby to his truck.
“We’re going to see the Great Lakes Loons,” he said, opening the door. They’re the Dodgers’ Single-A club.”
“Oh, cool,” Bart said.
I would’ve been happy to see any team, well, except the Yankees.
We arrived at the stadium and went through the turnstiles holding our gloves up high. We each got to hold our own ticket. The ticket taker asked, “Gonna catch some foul balls today, boys?”
“I hope,” was Bart’s answer.
Me and Bart got to the top of stairs and the field came into view. We both stopped and stared. The outfield grass was perfectly cut and smooth.
“Bart, look! The pitcher’s mound is a mound and the infield is perfectly flat. No holes.”
“Come on, you two,” Uncle Bobby said. “You’re jamming up the line behind you.”
We settled into row 8, right behind third base.
“Great seats,” Bart said.
“Oh, yeah,” I agreed. “There must be three thousand people here.”
Bart stood and pointed at the field. “Look at the foul lines. Real chalk. And the players are so big. Professional athletes.”
Uncle Bobby smiled. “You two stay here, I’ll be back.”
Like me and Bart were going anywhere with the game about to start.
He returned with six hot dogs, two huge Cokes, a beer, and a bucket of popcorn. He was an acrobat balancing all that in his arms. This was turning out to be the best day ever.
We snarfed the hotdogs and slurped the Cokes. Me and Bart agreed we’d never had better hot dogs. Food tasted better at the stadium.
“I’ve never seen hotdogs disappear that fast,” Uncle Bobby said. He tipped his beer toward us and said, “I can’t watch a game without a beer. That okay with you two?”
We both nodded as the players took the field.
“Look – there’s the mascot,” Bart said.
“Yup, that’s Lou E. Loon,” Uncle Bobby said. “Keep watching, he’s funny.”
I, for one, was going to watch baseball, not a mascot.
But, in the middle of the first inning, the mascot ran around the diamond, racing some little kids from the audience, and he was funny. He did something different between every inning.
After four innings, it was 3 to 3. We saw a home run, a stolen base, and a runner thrown out at the plate. We cheered for the Loons, but for both teams really.
The starting pitcher was tiring as the balls were being hit hard. A left-handed batter pulled a ball foul that bounced off the dugout railing and up and over the stands.
I looked at Bart. “Things really move fast here, don’t they?”
Bart nodded and studied the pitcher’s delivery.
I was thinking that maybe I could fit another Coke and hot dog in and digging into the bottom of the popcorn bucket when the next batter stepped in.
I looked up at the gasp of “oooh” from the crowd.
A line drive screamed at us. Bart jumped up and caught the rocketing missile that was headed right at a lady with a baby behind us. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to react.
The ball nearly tore Bart’s glove off his hand. I looked down to see if I peed in my pants. Dry, phew.
The crowd momentarily fell silent, then let out a huge cheer for Bart. The batter tipped his helmet to Bart and some of the players on the field tipped their caps, too. It was an amazing catch, maybe even the best of the day. Bart was keeping that ball, that’s for sure. We were like celebrities.
The people around us stood and patted Bart on the back, shook his hand, and said nice catch. The lady with the baby said thank you, closed her eyes, and bowed her head to Bart. A stadium official came down and talked with Uncle Bobby, who nodded and pointed at us.
The stadium official returned with four more hot dogs and two Cokes and handed them to us. We were celebrities. This was living.
Bart took the ball out of his glove and let me hold it. It looked and felt like our baseballs, but this one was special. The game sped along with no more incidents and the Loons were ahead 6 to 4 in the top of the ninth. Three up and three down and our first real baseball game was over.
We moved to the aisle and were met by a stadium official. He spoke to Uncle Bobby and the three of us to walked down to the edge of the field.
There, the batter that hit the line drive shook Bart’s hand and thanked him for the catch.
He looked at me and asked, “You need a ball too, don’t you?” Then he flipped one to me. My baseball reactions took over and I caught the ball. Now me and Bart both had one!
“Uh, thanks,” was all I could get out. I stared at the ball. It was a used game ball. Used by professional baseball players.
The ride home was like riding on air. Bart relived his leap and catch, and we held and stared at our baseballs. Uncle Bobby smiled and laughed so much, I think he had as much fun as we did.
“My mom will be so impressed,” I said. “Thank you so much, Uncle Bobby.”
“Yeah, and we caught balls!” echoed Bart.
Uncle Bobby laughed some more.
We got home and piled out of the truck. Uncle Bobby shook my hand and said he had a great day, too.
I skipped across the road where my mom was waiting in the driveway. I regaled her with the events of the game and how the ball would have a place of honor on my trophy shelf.
My first professional baseball game and a baseball. It was a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.