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the saltwater confessional

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the saltwater confessional

Postby yak2you2 » Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:53 pm

Mariachi music. Thats what I kept hearing in the back of my head. That and the mental image of dingle balls swaying gently to the beat, were going to get me into a world of pain if I couldn't make them stop.
Trooper Johnson ( name changed for obvious reasons) was one of those rare individuals who had found his perfect calling in life. He would have made an excellent drill sergeant for the Marines too, but his uncanny ability at inquisition would have been wasted.
He had deep dark eyes that seemed to peer into your soul, and read every secret you ever kept. When he looked you in the eye, he made you feel like a rabbit being looked down upon by a hawk, circling high above. Involuntarily, you would find yourself looking at your feet when he talked to you.
Memories of confessing my sins to the priest when I was a kid came flooding in. " Is there anything you wish to tell me before we begin my son?" "Excuse me?" " I said is that all you had was just the one?" " Huh, oh yeah, just the one fish, pretty slow today." After asking a question and receiving an answer, Trooper Johnson had the habit of staring at you for a few seconds before he moved or looked away, and it would invariably make you feel guilty.
It was a routine boarding inspection, conducted at the end of a winter day spent trolling for king salmon. The day had been routine, but the inspection certainly wasn't. At the end of the day spent trolling in the winter, though the hours are short, I usually find myself tired, cold, hungry, and ready to go home. So I was hoping the inspection would go quickly, but Trooper Johnson was not a man to be rushed.
He began by asking if I'd been fishing, to which I replied I had. He then asked permission to come aboard and perform an inspection, and check my documentation. He asked If I'd caught anything, to which I'd answered yes, one king. He then wanted to see it. I felt smug at this point, because it was a decent sized fish well over the 28 inch legal limit size. I remember thinking," good luck finding a problem with that one buddy!" I thought all he'd want to do was look at it in the tub, but that was not to be. As carefully as a surgeon he reached into the tub with his bare hands and turned the fish over, looking carefully at both sides. " I thought what's he looking for a bullet hole?" I reached inside the door and tore off a sheet of paper towel and offered it to him for his hands, but he ignored it, and wiped his hands on his jeans as he stood up. Helplessly holding the towel, and shriveling under the unrelenting stare, I wondered if I'd somehow insulted his manhood by offering the towel in the first place.
It was at this point, that things got exponentially worse for me. It was winter, and an exceptionally cold day at that. People's noses run, even if their faces are made of stone. Upon looking at Trooper Johnson, I immediately noticed that he had a giant booger hanging, swinging actually, from the nose hairs of one nostril.
Now, had this been a fellow fishermen, I'd of delighted in pointing it out, but Trooper Johnson being who he was, I wasn't about to do any such thing.
Fascinating how when we find ourselves in circumstances like this we become so focused on whatever blemish the person we're talking to has that it seems to override all of our other senses and abilities to ignore things. I felt as though I'd instantly devolved a million years in evolution and was now as helpless as a moth is to flame. I didn't want to look at it, but I couldn't stop it either. And then the Mariachi music started. I somehow managed to stifle the burning urge to burst out laughing, but I'm certain I was beet red.
"well," he said, " let's go in and have a look at your papers." He pulled out a tablet and pencil, and as I handed him each document, he noisily, and painstakingly went about writing long notes with each one. And there were many questions. " is this your vessel?" "yes." " Your the sole owner?" Trying not to look at the dingle ball booger, and start up the Mariachi band, I absent mindedly picked another rock out of the bottom of my extra tough and answered, "yes, all mine, sir."
Finally he closed his tablet and looked around. "rifle eh, what's that for?" "deer season, but it just stays on the boat, you never know when a survival situation might arise," I said.
Ignoring the part about survival he said, " deer season was in November, it's February, do you always leave your guns lying around for that long?" Now the eagle stare grew more intense, I could feel it burning me like a heat lamp. Without looking up, because I knew that now that he felt like he had a clue worth following and that if I did look up, I'd see the booger and laugh and make him sure he was on to something, I said, " first, I'm not in the habit of shooting things out of season, and second, I have no raft or other means of getting to the beach, which would make it pretty hard to do any hunting, sir."
After staring intently at me for a few more moments he nodded his head, "well, everything appears to be in order, congratulations on your fish." As he ducked to go out the door, he turned and said, " oh and uh, if you happen to observe anything I should know about, please be sure and let me know." I could feel the stare, and I knew that this time he wouldn't stop until I looked directly at him and acknowledged him. So, I looked directly at him, started to laugh, but somehow caught myself, and it came out as more of a chuckle, and said, " of course I will sir."
I have often wondered if he wrote my little untimely chuckle off as the action of a punk kid, or if the dingle ball booger managed to hang on until he could look in his rearview mirror and understood.
That was a long time ago, but I still can't hear Mariachi music without laughing after all this time.
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