Elle MacNab

Flash Fiction

They hoped the fish would be biting that day. They needed the fish to be biting that day, because it was Woody and Guila's annual fish fry; a feast that the family and all the neighbors within shouting distance counted on. 

"Did you get to the bait shop?" Guila asked as Woody steered the pick-up down the dusty road alongside the river.

"Heck no. I's goin' to use the scrap from Ma's Sunday dinner," said Woody with a wink and wry smile as he kept the truck going straight.

"I don't remember eatin' worms for dinner Woodrow George." Guila shook her head and rolled down her window ignoring the dust cloud that billowed inside.

"Well, no we had a chicken dinner and I snuck out all the scrap. I put in it my pocket when Ma wasn't looking. It would have just gone to the dogs and swine, I had  a better idea...Bait!"

"Woody that is the strangest thing I've heard. Chicken and fish. How's that going to work?" Guila bit her lip and looked away.

"Oh it will work, Guila Marie, it will."

Woody turned toward the river. There was a break in the vegetation and the gleaming navy blue water begun to call for the day fishers. Woody pulled the truck to a stop on the shoulder of the road. He and Guila grabbed their fishing baskets and poles and walked toward a little known peninsula just before the ox bow. 

Guila and Woody Stroope, circa 1940
The fish seemed to be jumping from the water waiting for their meal as Woody pulled a rumpled piece of foil with bits of chicken skin and discarded meat from his basket. The scrap had started to rot and a moist stench drifted into the air as the foil was peeled opened. He offered the bait to Guila. She pinched a bit of the meat and laced it on her hook saying, "I'm still not sure about this."

Woody ignored her comment. He knew that Guila was a better fisherman than any of his friends. She always fished without any intention of being good, which in turn made her great.

He watched as Guila cast the trusty red pole hard. The hook sank and the pole immediately started to pull and shake. Guila reeled in the line as Woody gently coached, "there you go, keep it coming." A strong colorful rainbow trout came in with the line. Woody took the fish off the hook and placed it on another line wading in the water. He then cast out and just as quickly was able to reel in a stunning rainbow trout. "See, I knew fish liked chicken." He called over his shoulder as he cast out his pole again.

This same easy catch happened over and over until the sun let them know it was time to stop. In all, Guila and Woody had caught 23 fish, more than enough for a fish fry. 

As they drove home Guila mused. "We did well today Woody. It was almost as if the Lord had a hand in our day by the river. The trout just s
eemed too happy to come in."

"Or maybe it was the chicken." Woody laughed waving off Guila's glares. "Yee-haw! That Buck is never gonna believe all these fish were from one day. I've got a new secret and I ain't sharing."

"Don't be so ornery!" Guila scolded swatting the air toward her husband.

"Well, I know one thing, we've got to invite everyone we know over tonight, even the guys from the bait shop. It'll be a hoot!" Woody pounded the steering wheel in a sort of celebration.

"Let's make sure we get a picture of the catch before we prepare supper," Guila proposed.
"This may never happen again."

*This short piece on the fish fry was a writing exercise based upon the photo of my grandparents. There were many fish stories I was told growing up. I took bits and pieces and found a story in the photo.

The Lead
The review of Desert Cabaret in the morning paper was a sign that I had landed. I was home. I slowly read the words, which filled me with pride: “The lead stole the show, his sparkle lit the night."

Desert Cabaret is now showing in ‘the biggest little city in the world'; Reno. I moved here because I answered a call. I grew up in Chester, a small town i
n the Sierra Nevadas. I never fit in at school and besides mom, my only ‘friends’ were the school nurse and an English teacher from freshman year.

The day after high school graduation my mom found me lying in bed. I was depressed and staring through the window without much thought; my leg was hurting more than usual.

“You should try Reno,” she said. Mom knew I would never be happy in Chester. The smart kids were off to college and the stout ones had jobs in the lumber mills; I was neither of these.

I rolled over, “Why Reno?”

She bounced out and came back to my room with a crisp newspaper. “Look at this terrific ad,” she chirped, “it’s asking for ‘actors of every make’, that’s you.”

A new casino had taken out a full-page color ad in the local paper. The newest card house was to focus on ‘Vegas style shows’. The call asked for everything from actors and singers to comedians and dancers. I sat up straight and read the entire ad; trying Reno seemed plausible.

Throughout high school, mom had always urged me to audition for all school plays. The lead was never mine, however and I blamed it on my limp. I was cast in endless minor roles: the keystone cop, the odd-uncle, the little brother. They were small parts, but I always transformed them into memorable moments on-stage-- small moments that made us both proud.

Mom drove me to Reno to audition. I could not drive, because we did not yet have a car fit for my leg. When we reached the city, she pulled off the freeway and into a sea of crawling cars. The slow traffic and ticking clock required me to walk the last few blocks to the casino. I emerged from the car at the nearest curb and like a tumbleweed, walked with gusts of wind toward my destination. As I neared the entrance, I felt suddenly at home and began to walk a little straighter. Young men and women gathered on the sidewalk leading toward the entryway. I saw many familiar faces, but yet none known.

I dazzled on stage and found the lead. Did the director notice my limp? I wondered just once.

Reno is now my home. My first floor apartment is where I sleep and eat and the casino theater is my living room. I re-read the review as I pulled on my knee-sleeve and prepared my leg for the day. I didn’t need to send the article to my mom, she knew without reading that I was in the right place. Reno called and she helped me answer.
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