Momma might help?
Eunice Faulkner scolded her daughter, nine-year-old Grace, "Child, get that muddy cat out of my kitchen!" Eunice pointed her finger at the back screen door. Grace frowned and whimpered, "But mamma, Fippy needs a bath. It's all my fault. I threw him a fish, it flopped and he flipped backward in the mud." Fippy got his name from the dolphin TV show, Flipper which Grace loved. She couldn't say Flipper so she named him Fippy when she was 4 years old. Eunice dried her hands from washing a skillet and said, "You can wash the cat in the creek or get a bucket from the barn and go to the well. "
Grace had her bottom lip puckered out and whined, "The creek and well water is too cold for Fippy. He just got through stickin' his paw in it and shaking it off. Fippy don't like cold water mamma." Grace held the cat up facing her and said, "Do ya Fippy?" Eunice grumbled, "Out, out, out with that cat right now little miss Grace Goodness Faulkner!" Grace grimaced at her mother and told the cat, "No nice warm sink for you Fippy. Let's go to the creek." Grace dropped her shoulders, held the muddy cat out in front of her, and plodded out the door. Grace made her way around the back of the barn and walked about 30 steps to the creek.
She stood on the bank by her cane fishing pole. She reared back and tossed Fippy in the water as she shouted, "Circumstances sometimes call for strange actions!" Her Grandfather, Albert, had recently told her those exact words when he shot a mean rooster he couldn't catch. The rooster had flogged and scratched Grace's little sister, Juney. Grace didn't even know the meaning of the word, "Circumstances," but she thought repeating what her grandpa said was fitting for the moment. The cat splashed in the water with a screeching, Meeooooww! Fippy swam to the bank and ran away with mud still on his head. Grace didn't even try to catch him. She took a half-eaten piece of jerky out of her brown bib overall corduroy pocket and bit a piece off. She sat on the creek bank, baited her hook from her soup can of worms, and tossed in the line.
Caught that fish!
The tiny bluegill fish she had given to Fippy was still in the muddy puddle by the creek bank. She scrunched up her freckled nose and giggled, "Fippy was afraid of his itty bitty lunch." She felt her pole jerk and saw her cork bobber go under the water. Grace jerked on her pole, stood up, and ran backward fast. Her red pigtails were bouncing as she jumped up and down after seeing it was a big catfish she'd been trying to catch for a long time. She laughed and said, "I got you, Mr. Wadlow!" (Mr. Wadlow was her 3rd-grade music teacher that somewhat resembled a catfish with his handlebar mustache.) Grace danced all around the flopping fish while singing a song inspired by Dr. Seuss, "One fish, two fish, catfish, caught fish."
Grace stepped by the fish and put one saddle shoe in front of the other. She gasped and said, "Wow...almost two whole shoes! That has to be the biggest fish ever caught in Hopper's Creek!" She wrapped the string on her right hand, picked up the fish, and ran to the barn where she saw her dad, Clifford, and Uncle Robert working on their tractor. Grace shouted, "Daddy, daddy, daddy...I caught Mr. Wadlow!" Clifford had the distributor in his hand. He turned and saw Grace running to him. He and Robert laughed as Grace shouted, "It's dang near as big as Juney!"
Robert grinned and said, "Now that's a fish story." Grace was almost out of breath as she stopped in front of them. Clifford smiled and asked, "What are you gonna do with that big fish?" Grace thought for a moment, raised her eyebrows, and said, "Let you clean it, daddy?" Clifford smiled and said, "Honey I'm working on the tractor. Go see if your mamma wants to clean it." Robert snickered as Grace immediately ran to the house with her fish." Robert chuckled and said, "Clifford, Eunice is going to throw it right back at you." Clifford smirked and said, "Yep...she will."
Back to Momma.
Grace tripped up the steps on the back porch and nearly fell but caught herself on the porch post. She pulled open the screen door and ran straight to the kitchen. Eunice wasn't in the kitchen. Grace shouted, "Mamma!" She heard Eunice answer with a shout from the sideyard, "I'm hanging laundry Grace!" Grace ran out the front door to the sideyard and shouted, "Look at the big fish I caught Mamma!" Eunice finished clothes pinning a pair of jeans and said, "Wow...that is a big one." Grace held it up higher and said, "Daddy asked me to ask you to clean it."
Eunice cocked her head to one side, bit her bottom lip, and said, "Oh he did, did he? I'm busy with the laundry and I have to get supper ready." Juney was sitting in the grass playing with her toes. She added, "Maybe daddy should show you how to clean that fish. Tell him that mamma said what daddy likes to say, "Man hunter and preparer...woman cooker." Grace looked a little confused but smiled and sweetly said, "OK." She turned and ran back to the barn. Clifford was wiping grease from his hands and Robert was sitting on the old Massey Ferguson tractor. Robert laughed and said, "Here comes Grace with her fish." Clifford looked at Robert and said, "You clean it for her."
Grace was close enough to hear what Clifford said, "Grace looked up at Robert and asked, "Would you Uncle Robert?" Robert climbed down from the tractor and said, "Sure Grace, I'll help you clean it." Clifford grumbled, "Robert I was joking, we need to get this tractor started." Robert grinned wide and said, "It will take maybe ten minutes." Clifford mumbled a few cuss words under his breath and went back to work on the distributor. Grace was grinning and skipping, cane pole in one hand, fish in the other, as she and Robert went to the pump at the well. She often dragged the fish in the grass.
She laid the fish on the concrete well cap and started to pump because Robert said they needed to clean the grass and dirt from all the traveling off of the fish first. Robert held the catfish in his hands as the cold water gushed from the spout. The hook and line were still in its mouth. The fish flipped out of Robert's hands. He grabbed it again and put his foot on it. He pulled out his pocket knife, opened it, and said, "Wow Grace, he's a lively one!" Grace stopped pumping and Robert looked up at her. She had tears in her eyes. Robert asked with concern, "What's the matter Grace?"
She cried, "I cain't eat a fish that looks like my teacher." Robert grinned and asked, "So you changed your mind? You want to put the fish back in the creek?" Grace nodded her head, "Yes." He let go of the fish and it flopped from the concrete to the grass. Robert stood up, smiled, patted Grace on the shoulder, and said, "Well it is your fish Grace." He walked with her back to the barn and Grace went on to the creek. She stood on the creek bank, looked down at the fish, and said, "Since I saved your life, you need to spit that hook out." She eased to flopping catfish back in the water. It swam in circles and jerked on her pole until Grace got tired of fighting with the pole.
Just like Fippy.
She pulled the fish back out on the bank, held it down with her knee, and managed to work the hook loose with a small stick. She took her knee off of the fish. It flopped in her lap and startled her. She fell back in the same muddy puddle that Fippy the cat fell in. The catfish flopped in the water. Grace tried to stand up but slipped and fell face first in the mud. She screamed, spitting, "Dang fish! Dang, dang, dang fish!" The only part of her that wasn't muddy was the back of her head and her shoulders. She wiped the mud from her eyes with her t-shirt sleeves. She started to cry but crawled out on her knees, stood up, held her arms out, and said with her deepest conjured voice, "I am the mud monster and I am going to mud the world!"
Every step she made squished mud from her shoes. Still holding her arms out, she walked past her laughing dad and Uncle Robert. Clifford asked, "What happened?" Grace grimaced and answered, "I fell in the mud daddy. Had you cleaned that stupid fish when I asked, I would still be clean!" Robert laughed and said, "I thought you didn't want us to kill the fish?" Grace grumbled, "Well it's too late now! It's back in the dang creek!" Clifford and Robert gave each other totally confused looks as Grace made her way to the house. She stood by the back porch and shouted for her mamma.
Eunice opened the screen door, gasped, and asked, "Grace Goodness Faulkner, what in the world?" Grace raised her muddy eyebrows and said, "I fell in the mud mamma...just like Fippy." Eunice took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, "I'll get some washcloths and a towel. Go to the well." Grace turned and plodded slowly to the well. Eunice came back out with a pitcher in one hand and a sheet, towel, and washcloths in the other. Juney was in her playpen on the porch. Grace asked her what the sheet was for? Eunice told her that the sheet was to hide her when she was to undress. As Eunice held up the sheet, Grace took her muddy clothing off. Eunice asked, "How did you fall in the mud?" Grace answered, "I was unhookin' the stupid fish to let it go and it flopped on me. I fell in the mud, then slipped and fell in the mud again."
Eunice looked over the sheet she was holding out with both hands, grinned, and said, "You look worse than the cat." Grace shook with chills as she poured the water over herself and wiped herself down with the washcloth. Grace snapped with a shaking voice, "I, I, I th...th...threw hi...his d..d..dang butt in the c..c..creek." Eunice smirked as Grace poured the last of the water from the pitcher over herself. Grace dried off with the towel and wrapped it around herself along with the sheet. Eunice walked with her and said she would get the muddy clothing and shoes later. As they stepped on the porch, Eunice picked up Juney. Grace looked and saw her clean cat Fippy sunning himself and staring at her from the porch swing. She stopped and Eunice looked at her, asking what was wrong?"
Grace gave the cat a stern stare and said, "If Fippy had not been such a scaredy-cat and just eaten his lunch, I might not have caught Mr. Wadlow and I'd still be fishing." Grace went into the house and put on fresh clean clothes. She came out on the porch in time to see Clifford and Robert drive to the meadow on the tractor. Her hair was still damp and she was still a little chilled. She smiled and waved from the edge of the porch. She looked and saw Fippy still sunning himself and fast asleep. Grace grinned tight, flipped the swing upside down and Fippy fell out. The cat scuttled to the edge of the porch as Grace sat on the swing, grimaced said, "Next time...just eat your dang lunch! My turn in the sunshine, Fippy!"
© 2022 Tom Cornett