Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It's My Fault

A guest story today from the one and only Jo-Anne Teal.  One of my personal heroes and favorite people.  Thanks for sharing, Jo! 

He’d tried, I knew he had tried his best, but an entire evening was too much to expect. Dinner planned for eight o’clock, dessert with coffee afterwards, the Taylors should have been saying goodbye on our front porch by ten. But when the doorbell rang an hour early, I braced myself.

The evening started nicely, we drank wine while Al drank his apple juice. Barry and Susan didn’t notice. I always make sure to match the colors as closely as possible. As a precaution, I store white grape, cranberry and ginger ale in our pantry too, in case someone brings us a bottle of wine or champagne.

The pre-dinner conversation was congenial: weather highlights, sailing last summer. I should have kept us on neutral topics, but during the main course, Barry began talking about the recent city council election, and Al began to clench and release his fists under the table.

“Geez, when Mark O’Brian said he was going to run for office, I thought he’d stop sleeping on the job like he did when he worked in the warehouse! Man, those city workers never change!”

“Barry, you know that Al works in the city warehouse. Apologize to him.”

“Al knows I’m kidding. Geez, Suzy, calm down! Al, you know I’m not talking about you, don’t you, buddy. I know you gave up sleeping on the job for Lent. Ha ha ha!”

Al smiled his tight-lipped smile, stood up from the dining table and went into the kitchen. I wanted to follow but he’s told me to leave him alone. I’m not to nag or baby him. So I left him alone, to go into the pantry, reach behind the packages of couscous and take a sip of vodka – just enough to take the edge off.

Three and a half hours in, Al had made four trips to the pantry and I was trying to wrap up the evening by clearing away dishes. Al was starting to slur his words. When he disappeared for the fifth time, Barry asked me if Al was feeling okay. I told him Al takes medicine in regular intervals for his migraines, and sometimes needs to go into the cool night air.  Barry nodded his concern, but Suzy looked at me the same way she did in the supermarket when she’d seen Al take a quick sip from his flask. I told her about his medicine then. She must understand medication because she began helping me clean up in the dining room. She didn’t go through to the kitchen though, which I appreciated.
When I closed the front door after they left, Al stumbled through the living room and started up the stairs to bed.

“Be careful on the landing, dear. I put a vase of flowers there, just for tonight.”

“You’re a goddamn bitch. I’ll walk where I want to walk in my own house.”

So you see, it really was my fault. I always seem to get things wrong.

Jo-Anne began writing fiction just over one year ago.  She is particularly interested in telling stories of the hidden, the hurt, the silent, the unheard. Jo-Anne has concentrated on flash fiction as she developed her writing voice.  She is now working on longer short stories and planning her first novel (literary fiction).  Jo-Anne lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where she happily shuffles from one Starbucks to another, drinking espresso, and taking notes while she listens to the conversations around her.  

"Each person I’ve ever met has, in varying degrees, shaped the person I’ve become.  It seems only right that I would want to tell their stories.  Ultimately, their stories are mine too." 

To read more of her fiction, visit:

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Whisky Fish

There are few things I love more than a good fish story. A buddy of mine on sent me this...I was so enamored with it, I asked if I could put it up here. So, here it is folks. (For a story about a small fish, it ain't bad).

It occurred to me upon arrival to the city of Craig, Alaska on the Prince of Wales Island that part of the Alaskan experience is the journey to reach it. While not difficult compared to 50 years ago, it is still a bit of a jaunt by today's standards. 

With the last connecting flight being a float plane, a 50 year old Dehavalin with it's low fuel level light coming on every time we made another wild turn, the young bush pilot was living up to his colleagues wild reputations and clearly enjoying his chosen profession. 

When the plane makes its final side-slipping drop into the bay, skipping like a smooth stone on the water before finally sinking comfortably down to the water line, you are truly primed for an Alaskan fishing trip. 

The first day on the boat was amazing. Making our first run to the fishing grounds through the fog, we began to get a "feel" for our captain and guide (Lee); a young native Alaskan, who, upon making a wrong turn in the fog, grinned and explained that he wasn't used to this boat. Hmmm. 

As we made it through the islands and open Alaskan ocean and into the fishing grounds, I looked and saw several other boats drifting through and hooking up with fish, the adrenalin started flowing, and I couldn't wait to get my line in the water. 

After receiving instructions from our guide and one of the other, more experienced, members of our group (Eddie), I dropped in my line and began the "top to bottom" technique that would dominate the trip. This simply means dropping your bait to the ocean floor and immediately retrieving it all the way to the surface and then repeating the process. This gives your bait exposure to the bottom feeders as well as the more aggressive and unpredictable Salmon who, as the captain explained, could be hanging out at any depth. 

I'm not sure if I hooked up with a Silver (Salmon) first or whether it was a King that first took my bait, but catching a King salmon first makes for a better fish story, so I'll stick with that. It wasn't a huge fish by King standards, but it was big and it was a King Salmon and I was thrilled. Time went on, several Silvers were boated and another King was nabbed by Eddie - roughly the same size, and then it happened...

At first, I thought I had just hooked up with another fish, but as the intensity and momentum built, our guide said confidently that I had a King on my line, a big one. He directed everyone to pull in their lines and the fight was on. 

Later, someone would say that the fight lasted for a half hour, another said 45 minutes, again I'll stick with the better story of 45, because afterwards it felt like an eternity. During that time that fish almost spooled me twice (ran out all my line). At one point, Lee said "how much line do you have left?" I looked down at my reel and it looked like a single wrap of cellophane around a thimble. I grunted, "not much!" 

He replied "reel faster" as he gunned the little outboard "kicker" toward the chase. 

At another point, the stubborn salmon ran under the boat. The danger here is that if he rubs the line across the keel or other sharp part of the boat he can cut your line. So all I could do was jam the tip of my rod underwater to try and clear the bottom of the boat. It was at this point that I turned into Captain Quint from the movie Jaws. "He's gone under the boat!" I yelled and I might have even included the pirates "arrg" with it. Lee spun the boat and cleared my line and it was back to work again. 

At one point, I'm not sure of the chronology of it, a snapshot was taken by my brain that will stay with me forever. A picture of a brief moment in time that took my breath away; there in the distance, running directly away from me and toward the open ocean, he broke the surface. With the line singing off my reel, he came out of the water like a torpedo, straight as an arrow and not losing any momentum. As he sailed through the air, something unintelligible escaped my mouth and "click" the moment was eternally captured in the camera of my mind. 

As time wore on, my arms began to burn and the only things that kept me going were pride and the repeated urging from the captain to "reel faster". Then the fish gave me a break. He bunkered up at about sixty feet and took a break. He kept swimming and so kept tension on the line, but at that point the real fight had left him. I was able to shake out my arms and get the blood going back into my hands, sending oxygen to my starving muscles. 

After the short respite, he began again and the gut check was back on. As I continued to make ground on the stubborn fish, I was exhausted to the point of reeling in square circles. A hurky jerky motion no angler would be proud of, but anyone has been there knows what I'm describing. 

Another surreal moment came when at one stage of the fight; Eddie, who was never given over to much exaggeration, quietly and calmly said "Now JT, I don't want to make you nervous but remember that fish you caught a little while ago? (my first King)...well this one's twice that size." 

He made me nervous. 

As the King neared the boat, he gave a few more attempts at escape. It was at this point that I really began to think of everything that could still go wrong, I thought, "don't you dare let him get away" and the terror of losing this fight began to materialise. More adrenalin kicked in and I summoned up enough strength to finish the fight. 

As Lee finally got the net around him and, with help from Eddie, they hauled the fish aboard, I got my first good look at the Whisky Fish. 

Now, not being familiar with the term and clearly not aware of what I had just accomplished, I was curious about why the captain was jumping up and down hugging me and yelling, "you got the Whisky Fish!" 

I looked around at my girlfriend Lynn who, only moments before, was struggling against sea sickness, jumping up and down screaming with delight. Stoic Eddie had a big wide grin. Our other group member, Jim, gave me a high five which I was barely able to return with a shaky hand. Only then, did the reality that, hey, this might actually be a really big fish, began to take form. 

After the Captain finished calling his fellow captains from the lodge on the radio and telling them that, not only were we "on the Kings", but that we also had caught the elusive Whisky Fish, the rest of the boat started fishing again. I leaned against the gunwhale and caught my breath and stopped shaking. 

The rest of the day was wonderful. 

Eddie nailed another really big King, but even as he was reeling it in, he gave me a wink to tell me, "don't worry you've still got the biggest fish". He also hammered the bottom fishing out in the deep water and the Silvers were piling up at his feet. 

Lynn bravely fought the sea sickness and continued to fish. And while she boated a halibut and caught a couple monster Ling Cod that we had to cut loose, she didn't have many fish to show for her efforts. She was having fun, but was clearly yearning to catch some Salmon. A curse that she would later destroy on our final day of fishing. 

Jim had a respectable day and went on the following day to catch his own monster King. As for me, that was the last King I would catch on this trip. 

As we finally came back to the lodge, word had gotten out that we had bagged the Whisky Fish, and the dock was filled with the other boat captains as well as all the lodge guests. There was back patting and picture taking and generally a bit of a festive mood all the way around. It was my tiny 10 minutes of fame and it was great. 

But what's with the Whisky Fish? 

After the group on the docks dispersed, one of the deck hands from the biggest boat came over and said that Lee wanted to see me on it. So, I went over and was invited aboard and into the cabin. There sat all the captains from the lodge around a monster bottle of Crown Royale, which we proceeded to pass around as I recounted my fish story. Their excitement was genuine as I told of the various aspects of the fight and they interjected their own fishing tales throughout, with much laughter and many more tugs at the bottle. I was briefly invited into their world as I had passed the test and was temporarily a fisherman in their eyes. The following day I would return to being just another guest, but for that brief moment, I was on an episode of "After the Catch" 

Any fish over 50 pounds is a Whisky Fish and the owner of the boat buys the captain a bottle of Crown. 

Mine was the only Whisky Fish of the season; it weighed in at 54 pounds, and it represented the return of Captain Lee's Mojo. He had been on a losing streak that season and was clearly relieved that it was broken. 

One of the captains informed me that he had fished all his life and his best was 49. 

Sure, there have been bigger fish; Lee bagged a 64 pounder the year before and, further north in the Kenai, they get bigger still. 

All in all it was a phenomenal trip and I am eternally grateful to the Whisky Fish. Cheers! 

Good Luck and Godspeed 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good books and a good cause.

Making a Difference for Kids with Autism

Nicole Storey

When my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, I was devastated and lost.  I had no idea who to turn to for help.  Thankfully, a dear friend advised me to go on the web and search for autism support sites.  I did, and found many parents treading the same turbulent waters.  I was no longer alone.

It is charities such as The GreaterGood Network at The Autism Site that help parents to believe their children can do more, be more, than the doctors dictate.  This charity helps to fund therapy for children with autism: Speech, Sensory Integration, Cognitive/Behavioral, Diet, and so many more.

For the month of July, a percentage of the sales from my books will be donated to The GreaterGood Network to help provide autistic children with the help they need to thrive.  I would love it if you could give just a few dollars and download an eBook or perhaps buy a paperback.  Together, we can make a difference for children with autism!  Thank you so very much!

The GreaterGood Network:

My Amazon Author Page:

I spent years working with kids on the autistic spectrum.  Some of the best moments of my life.  Pick up a good book for a good cause.