Tu"le (?), n. Mex. Bot.
A large bulrush (Scirpus lacustris, and S. Tatora) growing abundantly on overflowed land in California and elsewhere. -Webster 1913
Jim Lerner had a fixing for fish early Sunday morning. Sendy and the kids were at church so it wasn’t no thing to load the old tin boat into the Chevy and drive down to the river. It was an old boat with a small motor. He had bought both off of the hard working retard fellow from the Res for twenty bucks and a ride to K-Mart.
“Fine day to be fishing,” Jim said, humming along with the good old-fashioned western music coming from the radio he had placed in the passenger seat. Western Music, he would correct. Stuff about gunslingers, and big irons, and idiots who went to El Paso to die. No boots under beds or songs about pickup trucks. That shit was as banal as shit.
He parked the truck along the river bank, threw his rod into the boat and slouched the entire ordeal along into the river. Soon he was basking along as the current carried the boat down stream.
The river was high today. Surrounded by short, stunted trees and crowded by bulrushes along the bank, Jim had to carefully maneuver his boat to get out to the center of the river, avoiding clumps of reeds all the way.
He attached a bright green lure with his favorite blade. He never failed to catch a fish with this blade. He was proud of it, the blade had cost him more than his boat.
He cast his line out near the toolies. Bass always liked to hide in those spots. Big bass, the kind you could cook and eat and not bother to throw back ‘cause of small size. He reeled the line in slow. He was hoping for a bite on the first cast. He’d done that once while fishing with his boys and the admiration in their faces was all he’d needed for a week.
He cast again, but fouled up the release. The line overshot and landed in the toolies.
“Damn it,” he said. “Son of a bitch.”
That kind of cast was rare for him. He started to reel in, but line came short. Since this was a “no-snag“ lure, he supposed he had tossed it into some pretty mean bush. He switched on the motor and pulled in toward the bank.
The line had caught far back in, so he had to wedge the boat into the toolies a good ways. When he saw what he’d hooked, he gasped. The lure was stuck on the boot of a seriously dead fellow. Fresh dead too, hardly decayed though bent at extreme angles. Jim tugged at the line, but the blade held the laces.
There goes a good day of fishing, he thought as he fumbled out his cellphone. His call was greeted by one word.
“Hey, Pearson, this is Jim Lerner. I’m out fishing and--.”
“What the fuck are you out fishing for?” Pearson said. “Did you get a license since last time I caught you? Ain’t no way you drove all the way to Sputnumburg in one weekend.”
The current spun the boat slightly and Jim adjusted his grip on the fishing pole to keep his line from further tangling.
“No, I ain’t gone to Sputnumburg,” Jim said. “Listen, I found a--.”
“Look, I gotta give you a fine this time,” Pearson said, cutting him off. “The town select man is real strict about this sort of thing. I can’t give you a reprobate just because you’re married to my aunt’s husband’s sister.”
“Damn it all,” Jim said. “I found a dead fellow out in the toolies.”
“What’s he doing there?”
“How do I know? I found him ‘cause my blade’s caught in him.”
Long pause. The sun continued to dapple along with the water, the bulrushes swayed in the breeze, and the man stayed dead.
“Your blade is caught in him?” Pearson asked finally.
“My fishing blade. My lure. It’s like a spinning, dammit. It’s like a hook. I made a bad cast, it landed in the toolies, I went to get it, and I found this dead fellow.”
“Say what now? You know I ain’t never kept no truck with fishing.”
“Damn it, I found a dead fellow.”
“Comes from not going to church. Be glad I can’t fine yo for that. Where’re you?”
Jim told him and Pearson hung up. Now that was a ruin of a good day. Made a fellow not want to fish. If the man had died a few feet back or twelve feet down the river Jim never would have found him, and the genteel day would have continued as genteel as any day before it, and his good blade would not be stuck in a dead man’s shoe.
He gave his line a tug. Boot and blade moved not an inch. How long until the sheriff got here?
Jeez-us, he thought. If I have to go piss before he arrives, I’ll genteelly wet myself. If he could only get that blade out, he could fish the far side of the river while waiting.
He narrowed the boat in closer, hoping the toolies weren’t all that was keeping the dead fellow out of the water. The reeds were too tight to reach the boot, so he hooked his pole into the edge of the blade and pulled. The lure went flying up, but he was able to reel it in.
Getting the boat out was harder. The motor didn’t have reverse and the toolies didn’t offer any resistance to push off from. The bank was deep enough that the oar the boat came with couldn’t find the bottom and the toolies fouled up rowing anyhow.
“This is your fault,” Jim said to the dead fellow. “If you hadn’t…” taking a look at the twisted limbs, “… been fired out of a cannon, or stuffed into a… cannon, I wouldn’t be stuck here with you.”
The corpse’s hair tossed along with the toolies seeming to give nod to Jim’s declarations. Jim nodded back and returned to fishing careful not to swing his line too far behind his head when he cast to avoid catching the toolies.
And what fishing!
Twenty, thirty, forty fish before the sheriff arrived. Not just small mouth bass, but large mouth, trout, catfish, and two turtles. One fish, a cat, must have been twenty pounds. Never had he caught anywhere as many fish as with the dead man.
“You leave any in the river?” Pearson asked as he was escorted up by Dave Hawk, a fellow who owned a fishery up river.
“That is a lot of fish,” Dave said. “Are you going to share?”
“He’d better,” Pearson said. “I’ll tell my wife I caught it. That one right there.”
They argued about the fish for five hours until Dave said, “What about this man in the tules?” They eventually pulled the out the dead man, who wasn’t identified and whose killer was never caught, but everybody around remembered Jim’s catch and years down the line he would joke and say, “Yessir, if you ever want to catch a bunch of fish, just put a dead fellow into your boat and you’ll pull ‘em out so fast your line’ll barely be in the water.”
The next day, a certain somebody in town saw the news about the dead fellow and how Jim caught forty fish and remarked to his stone-drunk cannoneer of a friend, “At least the bastard was good for something.”