Once upon a time Uncle Jim was eaten. We were at the family cottage in Arkansas, as we were every summer since ’98. That day Uncle Jim and I took the boat out onto the lake at dawn. The early morning light blinded me with its reflection on the immaculate mirror of still water.
“The hell you squintin’ for, son? You look like you been hit with the ugly stick,” Uncle Jim guffawed, slapping his sizeable belly. He wasn’t the most eloquent with words. Not that I was a heck of a lot better, but I liked to think I was losing the twang as I got older.
“Well, you’re fat as a tub o’ lard,” I countered in good humour, mocking his drawl, “And you sound like a damn redneck.”
“I am what I am,” he declared, puffing his chest with pride and rubbing his middle affectionately. I liked Uncle Jim. He was a good man, even if he was as smart as fish bait, as Aunt Louise would say.
We sat in the boat in comfortable silence for a moment, holding our poles with gloved hands, though the gloves were doing very little to stave off the glacial cold that seemed to radiate from the lake. It seemed colder than usual.
I felt a light tug. Then another, stronger than the first. I gasped, preparing to reel in my first trout of the season. But before I could do anything the tug on my line simply vanished. I sighed and Uncle Jim reminded me to be patient and reassured me that I’d get one next time.
“I got a real hankerin’ for some trout,” Uncle Jim said after a while.
As though ordained by some divine power, something tugged on his line with so much force that he lurched sideways, nearly capsizing the boat.
“Well slap me 'round and call me Susan!” Jim howled excitedly, though his expression transformed to one of worry when he realized that trout should not possess this sheer amount of strength.
“What in tarnation –” A fish the size of a small car latched itself onto Uncle Jim’s fat arm and pulled his enormous fleshy body overboard. The splash resulting from the collision of his rotund figure and the icy water soaked me from head to toe. Pathetic bubbles came to the surface as Uncle Jim and his executioner dove deep into the depths of the lake, the last sign of Uncle Jim’s portly existence.
It ate Uncle Jim. I knew Bubba and Lou were going to get a kick out of this one, at least until I convinced them it was true. As I rowed the significantly lighter Jim-less boat back to the cottage dock, a humorous and embarrassing notion entered my mind for the briefest of moments: He thought he had a hankerin’ for trout, but the trout had a hankerin’ for him.