Vern looked up. His buddy was struggling to free himself from a hook caught in his lip. "Hold on, Clem, I'm a comin'." Like a torpedo, the bass swam out of his hiding place and straight for his bass friend. He grabbed Clem with both fins and wiggled him until the hook tore free.
"Ooww, that hurt," Clem complained.
Vern shook his head, "Well, dad burn it, don't you know what day it is?"
"Uuhhh, no," Clem answered.
"Clem, Clem, Clem," Vern said as he shook his body. "What am I gonna do with you? Today is the day of the big fishin' tournament. Everybody on this side of the lake's been talkin' about it for weeks. Even Pastor Billy spoke about it at Fish Chapel last Sunday. I heard that the pastor at Hollow Log Baptist Fish Church warned his congregation, too."
"Why?" Clem asked.
Vern looked at his dense friend. "You've got to start hangin' out around the school of bream a little more often. Maybe some learnin' would rub off."
Clem just looked at Vern. "Okay."
"Anyway," Vern continued, "In these fishin' tournaments, men try to catch the biggest bass they can, and as many as they can. You and me, we're the ones they want. We've been swimmin' these waters a mighty long spell and we're just the size they're lookin' for."
For a moment, Clem thought.
Vern shook his body. "You're still not getting' this. Listen up. You know how Pastor Billy tells us that we should watch out for Satan's traps?"
A light went on inside Clem's head. "Yeah. He preached on that the other day."
Vern got excited. "Okay, you're with me." He pointed his fin toward a boat-shaped shadow on the top of the water. "The guy in the boat, I know him"
Clem interrupted, "Is he the one with the bumper sticker that says 'Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he disappears for a weekend'? Cause we don't like him."
"No," Vern snapped. "Just pay attention. The guy in the boat is a professional fisherman. He makes a livin' catchin' fish like me and you. Are you with me so far?"
"Uh-huh," Clem nodded his body. "That guy wants me to strike at his bait."
A relieved sigh slid out of Vern's gills. "That guy is like sin. He hides hooks in all kinds of purdy-colored pretend fish and worms. Then he drops them in the water for us to snap at."
"Ooohhh," Clem said, "That's what happened to me just now. I saw that purdy little fish and wanted to see if it tasted as good as it looked. I ain't never eat a purdy little fish like that one before."
"That's why we shouldn't go around trying out things just 'cause they're purdy. We need to stop and ask ourselves, does this fish belong here, or could it be a trap? If it doesn't swim in these here waters, we need to keep our mouths shut and not strike it. Still followin' me?"
Clem shook his whole body.
"Once you take the bait, you get pulled into a whole 'nother world. There, you'll be stripped, cut, and thrown into a lake that's so hot, it's on fire. You cain't swim in them waters."
"You cain't?" Clem asked, mesmerized.
"Oh, no, no, no," Vern replied, "It's a lake of grease. It's too hot and too thick to swim in. Once you're in that lake, you get charred. Then, Satan and his buddies have a big feast with you as the main course. Now do you know why you don't bite at strange, purdy little fish?"
Clem nodded. "Uh-huh. The fisherman is Satan, and he uses little fake fish with hooks to trap me, and if I get caught, he's gonna take me to his world where I'll burn to a crisp in a sea of hot grease, and then he'll eat me."
Vern looked at his buddy. "Yep, Clem, I think you learnt somethin' today."
Clem looked at Vern, "You coulda just said what mama always says. A fish won't get in trouble if he keeps his mouth shut."
Vern shook his body. "Go hang out with the bream."
(c) 2007, Rhonda Clark
Rhonda Clark is a stay at home mom of two and a freelance writer. She and her family makes their home in Bartlett, TN. For more information about her writing visit: www.freewebs.com/rhondaclark or contact her through www.faithwriters.com