All of Clive’s friends had been on fishing expeditions and apparently hauled-in some whoppers, or so he was made to belief. Lars stirred his passion even more, with romantic tales of Hemingway sword fishing off the coast of Cuba. He was rearing to go. Now his dad was not the "sporting type". His physically most taxing feat was getting the morning paper of the front lawn. The situation called for a fast remedy. I was in that frame of mind when a friend of ours named Marco called us to announce that he was heading to Catalina for a weekend of fishing. Marco was an ardent and professional fisherman. He caught tuna of Alaska, salmon of Nova Scotia, pneumonia of Santa Barbara, and marlin of Guaymas, Mexico. Clive’s dilemma was solved. Let’s go sword fishing, that’s real sport, Marco exclaimed. Clive’s piscatorial experience up to this point had consisted chiefly of me taking him to a trout pond where you are permitted to catch fish that are so tame they practically lined up in the water.
There it was a chance to be Hemingway, who could turn down an opportunity like that. Friday evening we crossed to Catalina from San Pedro. Larissa (mom), Ed (dad) and Rene (godfather) promised to stay out of the way and take in the sights. Larissa had heard that no visitor to Catalina could afford to miss the exciting rides on the glass-bottom boat, and Wrigley’s mansion.
Marco was up at five Saturday morning, knocking at our door shouting that the swordfish are starting to jump. So Marco, Clive, and I were off on the The Restless. The skipper was revving up the engine when we arrived on the dock. As The Restless headed for the open sea, Clive and I stood on her stern and waved good-by to our families. Our families, however, were unable to wave back, for they were still in their hotel rooms, sound asleep.
“Nothing like the salt air to make you feel good,” Marco shouted over the roar of the motor. “As soon as I set foot in a boat, I forget all my worries. How about you?”
“I feel good too,” I said, filling my lungs with exhaust fumes. Sleepy though I was, I must admit that it was a thrill to hear the skipper announce a little while later that we were in “swordfish waters.” I jumped up from my swivel chair and reached for the deep-sea fishing rod. “I bait your hooks for you,” offered Marco. “Swordfish are about the smartest things that swim. If you don’t bait your hook just right, you might just as well stayed at home in bed.”
I watched Marco bait the hook and toss it into the sea. He advised us to let-out about seventy- five yards of line and then put our clicker on. When a fish strikes, the reel will sing out and he will stop the boat. Then you count to ten, throw on your drag to set the hook, and start reeling her in. Right.
Our blood tingled with excitement of the expected catch. We sat there tilted back in our chairs; blue sky overhead and a bucket of dead fish bait next to us that was beginning to smell.
We were ready!
But the swordfish was not.
By one o’clock, we had forsaken fresh bait in favor of trolling with feathers. And by mid-afternoon Clive was convinced that Marco was at fault. By five o’clock we were heading back to the dock, the closest we had come to a fish was the tuna sandwiches we had brought along for lunch. We were tired, sunburned, and discouraged. But Marco told Clive that tomorrow we would make up for it.
We could NOT go back empty-handed-a failure.
At dinner that evening, we announced that we would go out on The Restless again Sunday morning. Nobody was joyful. Glass-bottom boats only thrill so much.
So, Sunday morning we all went out together the family made it known beforehand that they were coming along only for the boat ride. The moment the sun came out, Larissa, Ed and Rene stripped down to their bathing suits and found a comfortable place on the bow.
That left it squarely up to Marco and me to keep the waves from washing Clive overboard.
The lunch, I had to admit was delicious; and afterward Marco and Clive went to the rods with new hope. I was going to ‘skipper’ the boat.
About five minutes later Clive’s clicker sang out. Marco rushed over to grip his rod. “We got a strike!” Marco shouted. All hell broke loose as the reel continued to unwind at merry clip. I cut the engine and came running to the stern with a gaff.
The heavy rod bowed almost to the breaking point as the swordfish’s frenzied leaps carried him (or her) in and out of the water. For thirty minutes, with Clive jumping with excitement, Marco wound and unwound the reel. An hour and fifty-five minutes later Marco had the classy eyed monster alongside the boat. Rene gaffed him, put a steel cable under his tail, and hauled him on board.
“Congratulations!” said Marco flinging his arms around Clive. “That beauty must weigh at least two-fifty.”
“Can I feel him?” asked Clive.
He stood there gnawing on a piece of fried chicken.
“I am calling the harbor”, Marco said, “and notify them of our catch.”
As The Restless headed for home, with our swordfish pennant flying in the breeze, Marco turned to us and ask what we wanted to do with the fish. Clive without a moment of hesitation announced that he wanted HIS fish to be stuffed, and mounted and hung up at the house, so he could show off to all his friends.
On the dock, a crowd awaited The Restless. Since ours was the only swordfish caught that day, Marco’s ship-to-shore message had been relayed all over the island. Clive’s fish was hoisted up on a block and tackle for everybody to admire. Pictures had to be taken. Shutters snapped as we all huddled around the fish. Clive’s fame as fisherman had already preceded him to the hotel. An announcement in the lobby bulletin board stated:
CLIVE-SWORDFISH-237 POUNDS-TWO HOURS, 25 MINUTES
About a month later, the stuffed fish arrived. Clive insisted to have it hung in the patio for everybody to admire.
This week I started to clear out the garden shed and there in a dusty corner sat Clive’s swordfish.
Clive, what would you like me to do with YOUR fish?