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The Marabou Jig

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Author's Note: I was about halfway through writing this story when the SO reminded me that there is a deleted scene on the DVD of Napoleon fishing, and this story doesn't match it at all. So, sorry, this is film-compliant but not extras-compliant. Oh well.

***

Pedro opened the door to find Napoleon, looking bored, with a tackle box in one hand, two fishing poles in the other, and a large backpack on.

"Do you want to go fishing?" Napoleon asked.

Pedro shrugged in response. "Okay. Do I need to bring anything?"

"Do you have a hat?"

"My FFA one."

"That should work. Hurry up and get it." He let out an enormous sigh. "Sundown is basically the perfect time to catch a largemouth bass - we don't want to miss it. Besides, my backpack is really cold."

***

Sundown at Foster Reservoir was a slow process. The amber of the dying sunlight played on the water's surface, making Pedro imagine he could see fish leaping through the plane of the lake. His eyes could have been playing tricks on him, though, due to the exhaustion from the frenzied pace they had kept from his house to this spot.

They collapsed on one of the grassy hills surrounding the lake to catch their breath.

"So," Pedro asked, "are you catching a fish for Deb?"

"Yeah. I thought about drawing her a minosaur, but I wouldn't want her to get the wrong idea. I decided that nothing really says, 'I'm sorry' like a freshly-caught fish."

Napoleon flipped open his tackle box and surveyed the collection of lures, a wide variety of colors and textures compartmentalized on the top level of the case.

After a moment's thought, he extracted a deep blue and fuchsia feathered contraption. There must have been a hook hiding inside the plumage, because Napoleon drew his hand back from it with an "Ow, Geez!" and shook his hand vigorously before successfully attaching it to the end of his line.

"Pick whichever one you want," he said to Pedro. "I'm using a marabou jig, but they like the rubber worms, buzzbaits, spoons, and spinners a lot, too."

Pedro considered the extensive collection of tackle, before selecting a spoon - a large oblong, silver object that sparkled as he turned it in the dwindling sunlight. "I'll use this one. It's shiny."

As he attached his lure and Napoleon cast his line (not too far out, aiming close to the limbs and roots near the shoreline) Pedro asked, "Where did you get all this fishing stuff?"

"It's my dad's. He and I used to come out here a lot."

Pedro thought about this as he cast, farther down the bank from Napoleon. "Where are your parents? You live with your Grandma, right?"

"I'm not really supposed to talk about it, but they're undercover agents with the CIA. Mom and Dad run all over the world, taking down international drug cartels and busting terrorists and stuff."

"Oh. That's cool."

"Yeah, it's pretty cool," Napoleon shrugged. "I don't see them much, but that's all right. They always bring me cool weapons and gear when they're home."

The boys were both jerking their wrists and slowly reeling in their lines, trying to entice the fish into biting before recasting. The sun had almost completely set, navy shadows replacing the orange present at their arrival.

"Hey! I think I've got something!" Pedro said, wanting to shout but afraid of scaring the fish. He pulled his wrist back, and then gave it some slack, expecting to feel the line start to move away. The movement never came, but when he pulled back again, he still felt the resistance.

Comprehension dawned on Pedro's face. "I think I'm caught on something." Dejectedly, he pulled off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pant legs, and ventured into the water, stepping gingerly in case there was anything sharp waiting for him on the lake's bottom. He found the offending branch, removed hook and line, and returned to the shore.

Napoleon's nose crinkled when he arrived. "Now you smell like the reservoir."

Pedro took a deep sniff. "Yeah. You're right." He started putting his shoes and socks back on.

"That's okay," Napoleon continued. "Girls like guys who smell rugged."

"Really?"

"Oh yeah. You smell like you've been out killing something."

Napoleon's attention suddenly shifted completely to the water. He reeled in a bit and let the line go slack numerous times, playing with whatever was on the other end of the line. Slowly he drew it closer to himself until he tugged hard, and reeled in rapidly, bringing a large fish struggling out of the water.

Pedro had run over to see what Napoleon was bringing in. Napoleon grabbed the hat off his head, and settled the flailing fish into it, giving it an appraising glance. "Pedro! Get my backpack!"

Pedro grabbed the backpack and set it at Napoleon's feet before opening it. It contained an enormous Ziploc bag full of ice. Melted water sat in the bottom of the book bag.

Napoleon removed the hook from the fish's mouth and quickly transferred it to the plastic bag, where it flapped its body furiously for a few seconds before succumbing to the cold.

"What do you think?" Napoleon asked Pedro.

It was a largemouth bass, its white belly and dark green back barely visible in the moonlight.

Pedro looked up at Napoleon and said, in his most earnest voice, "That is a beautiful fish."

"Yeah. Once I caught one that was about three times that size. It almost ripped my arm off to pull it out of the water. My whole family ate like two meals from it. But this one's pretty good." The satisfied grin on his face belied his dismissive tone of voice.

He handed Pedro's hat back, and wiped his hands off on his jeans. "Do you want to do any more?" Napoleon asked.

Pedro took another good sniff of himself and slid his contaminated hat into his back pocket. "No. I think I want a bath."

"If you say so." The boys removed their lures from their poles and closed the tackle box. Napoleon picked up backpack, poles, and box and they started toward town.

"Are you going to give that to Deb tonight?" Pedro asked.

"Yeah. I think I'll clean it and then leave it on her porch."

"How will she know it's from you?"

"Gosh, I don't know, I'll leave a note or something! Who else is going to give her a bass, anyway?"

"I don't know." Pedro shrugged his shoulders and they continued for a while in silence.

Napoleon broke in, quieter this time. "Do you think Deb will stop hating me?"

"Well, my Aunt Clarita always says the way into someone's heart is through the stomach."

Napoleon nodded at this sage advice.

***

The fish was gutted, a gorgeous white slab on a platter in the fridge. All he needed to do was clean himself up, write the note and head over to Deb's.

When Napoleon emerged from the bathroom, however, it was to the smell of frying fish.

He ran into the dining room to find Rico halfway through Deb's present, now a deep golden brown with a pile of bones next to it on the plate.

"Uncle Rico! You idiot! Why do you want to ruin my life?!"

He ran out of the house, with plans to kick an orange van's tires and yell about his wasted evening.