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  • The Scrivener

Story: THE NAMING OF VEHICLES, Part 3 (of 3)

In the RV park north of Mobile Alabama my trailer turned into little more than an office. Once you got the PC and the printer set up on the dining table you could not easily convert the dining suite into the queen size bed it was designed to become.

So I slept over at my girlfriend's place. It was more spacious, and it had partitions between the living spaces.

"Midge says she likes you okay," Caroline said. Midge was her daughter.

"That's good," I said. "She's kind of quiet; it's hard to know what's going on there sometimes."

"She was quite ill a year or two ago. She got a little serious after that."

Then Caroline said, suddenly: "Do you ever go fishing?"

"I used to go beach fishing in England, a few years ago."

"What about pond fishing?"

"We did some bait fishing. At a little lake on the north side of Hastings, on the south coast," I said.

"Did you ever catch anything?" Caroline asked.

"Yeah. We caught some small stuff," I said. "I think like carp, and tench. -Why?"

"Midge used to drag her dad out to the pond to go fishing. They never caught anything. He only went along to keep her happy.

It occurred to me that you would make a very good impression if you took her fishing and actually caught something."

"What do you use for bait?" Midge said.

"I brought along some sweet corn. -And some Spam. We can cut the Spam into cubes."

I showed her how to set up the float, and how to take some slack from the line between the eyes of the rod and weight it with a folded business card.

"What does that do?" Midge asked.

"Well," I said, "when the fish hits the hook it pulls the line tight and the card snaps up against the bottom of the rod. Even if you don't hear it you're bound to see it; especially since you'll be watching for it."

And that is what happened. Something hit the hook and took off across the lake. The card snapped up against the underside of the rod, and a long straight piece of the line pulled out of the water in an explosion of water droplets, with the line and the beads of water shining silver in the dust-laden sunshine.

Midge was pretty pleased. "What is it?" she said.

"I think it's a Bluegill," I said. "You can tell by the black spots behind the gills."

"So how come I came here half a dozen times and never caught anything and the first time you get involved we get this Bluegill?" Midge said.

"Fish are kind of weird," I said. "They have this telepathic thing. They seem to sense when you know what you're doing and it's almost like they respond to that."

" So you're the big expert then, huh?" she said.

" I didn't mean to make it sound like that," I said. "If you or your dad had had some experience, you'd probably have got something. There's something about the uncertainty of being a novice which communicates itself to the fish."

"Really?" Midge said.

"Maybe the anxiety telegraphs itself down the fishing line. Fish aren't people; they operate on a separate, more primitive network."

"You think they can tell when you don't know what you're doing?"

"I don't know. Something like that. Maybe that's part of the attraction of fishing. Like probing the mystery of an unfamiliar intelligence."

As we were walking back to Caroline's trailer I said: "So why do they call you Midge?"

She said: "It kind of grew out of Madge."

"So your name is Madge?" I said.

"No," she said. "My name is Marjorie."

"Marjorie?" I said.

"Yes," she said. "My dad's mom and grandma were named Marjorie, and he wanted to carry that on. It's kind of an old-fashioned name; so my mom started calling me Madge."

"And then Midge?" I said.

Yes," she said solemnly. "And then Midge."

Midge's mother was right. After I made the big impression with the fishing we all became pretty much family and I became a parent, albeit a rather ancient and somewhat ineffectual parent. Fortunately that didn't seem to matter.

So I guess the Marjorie thing ended okay. Whether you regard Midge as some kind of re-incarnated doppelganger for Aunt Marjorie, or whether you regard the name thing as just a weird coincidence, the loose ends seemed somehow to have been squared away.

One way my acquaintance with Aunt Marjorie was resurrected through Midge.

The other way Marjorie's protection on that long scary journey from Worcester to Port Townsend was just paid forward.


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