Long ago, when I was a young man I really enjoyed fishing! There was something magical to it, you’d cast a line out and never knew what would appear on the other end. I was a good kid, never really got into trouble then came college. The first college I first attended had a lake behind the campus with “No Fishing” signs all over it. I would sometimes eat lunch by the lake and stare down at the large fish lazily swimming by, staring up at me, really taunting me to come get them. I resisted the temptation for awhile, but over time I grew to believe that the fish were overcrowded and needed my assistance. So, I snuck up to the college very early on a Saturday morning to do a little fishing. I had all my gear in a backpack so I would not look out of place. Even though I hid in some reeds along the edge of the pond, as soon as I dipped my fishing line into the water, the campus police showed up and busted me. They were friendly enough, they let me off with the warning that I’d better never try it again. At that moment, I earnestly and sincerely agreed that I would never fish there again and meant it every word. I was reformed.
Fast forward about six months and I’m in class and a conversation about fishing starts up around me. This led to a discussion about the monstrous catfish in the college pond. One of the guys started grinning from ear to ear and pulled out a picture of himself holding up a huge catfish next to the college pond. The gauntlet had been thrown down, the fishing challenge had to be answered.
First, I had to explore why was I caught fishing before? How had the police known I was there? I had to admit that I was new to crime and likely made some novice mistakes. This was before Youtube, I assume today you can easily find a video on how to flawlessly execute your preferred crime or there’s an app that takes you through it step-by-step. My best guess was that I had imprudently committed my shenanigans in broad daylight. However, cat fishing can be done at night; the darkness would help conceal my sinister acts from the campus police. I also surmised that it would not hurt to have someone smarter than me help plan my next misdemeanor. As a student, I knew that I needed a smart accomplice, there was only one thing to be done— I recruited a young professor from the college for the job. The siren song of catching a massive catfish combined with the danger of being fired for the stupidest of reason was just to alluring for him; he was in! I started second guessing myself now, how could this person really be smarter than me when he allowed me to talk him into doing something so recklessly stupid? Maybe I was just really good at persuading people?
Anyway, my new accomplice and I had seen enough crime movies to know that part of formulating a fool proof criminal strategy involved casing the joint. The plan was flawless and simple. We would visit the pond early one evening and walk around it while looking very innocent. We would scope out a good place where we could hide and catch the largest catfish ever seen by human eyes. After we successfully hooked the monster, we would take a photo of ourselves with the beast for bragging rights and then release it. The photo could also later serve as evidence against us in court, but this all happened before I attended law school and we were novices! Regardless, if we got caught, we could probably have used an insanity defense because our plan was so utterly dimwitted.
So the two members of this criminal enterprise arrived at the pond as planned and began walking around. Within 5 minutes the campus police arrived on the scene. Immediately the cop looked directly at me and said, “I’ve caught you fishing here before. You better not be thinking about it again?” I immediately denied that I was having any such thoughts. I was just out for a quite contemplative stroll with my coconspirator… I mean friend.
Our criminal empire seemed to have collapsed before it even started? Then one of us had the bright idea that the police would never expect us to attack twice on the same day? Surely, they would think that no one would be that stupid? They didn’t know who they were dealing with? We were that stupid!
Our new plan was to wait for it to get really late and then run through the fields and wooded areas that flanked the college and approach the pond from behind. This was a great plan! A get away driver was quickly recruited and sworn to secrecy. The driver dropped us off with our fishing gear at the bottom of the hill around 11pm. The plan was flawlessly executed for about 10 minutes, then it all fell apart! We had hiked about a mile and were only about 100 feet from the pond, when Christmas abruptly arrived early as flashing red and blue lights plus the sounds of roaring engines from two campus police cars raced straight towards us from opposite directions. We didn’t discuss whether to make a stand, without a word, we just both dove behind a huge tree nearby as one of the police cars drove right past us. The police aimed their spotlights near us. We were trapped. I started thinking that maybe we had a rat in the organization, how else did the police find us so fast? How well did we really know our driver? I mean I had only been dating her for a year? We would have to deal with snitches later.
The only direction available for us to run was towards the pond itself. This had been our dream destination only minutes earlier, but now it seemed like the last place on earth we wanted to be. We just looked at each other then just started sprinting towards the pond and jumped into it feet first. We were now waist deep in the water and concealed in the tall reeds. For a split second, relocating ourselves into the pond seemed like a good decision. This was very short lived. We immediately noticed that what was seconds earlier a silent and dead still pond, was now a choppy, wavy, loud cauldron caused by us just about cannon balling into it. The spot lights instantly turned towards the pond. I turned to my right to look at my coconspirator, but he had vanished. It was as if he had teleported out of there, he was just gone. I desperately looked around and soon realized that he had kneeled down in the pond. The water was now up to his lips as he hid next to me almost fully submerged. I decided that this must be the best action to take, after all he was a college professor, he’s suppose to know things. I allowed my knees to buckle until I began tasting the pond water on my lips. I considered whether we should make straw snorkels so we could fully submerge ourselves?
It seemed like hours passed, but it was only a few minutes, the spotlights turned their attention away from the pond and the police cars took off in different directions. Without speaking, we looked at each other, wondered how many leaches might be on our bodies and agreed that this was a horrible idea. We were idiots! We also discerned that this was our chance to make a break for it. We jumped out of the pond, which only caused a resurgence of waves, and we began running towards the wooded area that we had escape from just minutes before. It was as if two giant pond slugs were running for their lives, leaving a long wet and slimy trail behind them and headed for the cover of the trees. I imagine that this is how evolution occurred, two scared dimwitted slimy water creatures trying to escape some peril. It’s possible that a few leaches fell off us as we slithered along.
As we neared the trees, the police cars once more headed straight towards us. We immediately dove behind different trees as one car approached and stopped just feet from where we were hiding. The spotlight scanned our surroundings and stopped directly on the tree that my coconspirator was hiding behind. Through the bullhorn an authoritative and familiar voice said, “I see you hiding behind the tree. Come out.” My partner sheepishly stood up and did a squishy perp walk towards the cop car with the flood light illuminating his sulking posture. I could see that he was a wet muddy mess. I think the cop took one good look at the nauseating pathetic carcass standing before him and decided that he did not want it inside his car! The cop told him that he knew we were there trying to fish, they were willing to let him go, but that they wanted me because I had been warned before. They asked him about my whereabouts? My heart sank! Was my partner a snitch? Do I shank him before he squeals? No, he was a stand up guy. He denied that I was up there with him. He told the police that we had intended to fish earlier, but called it off after being warned and that he had returned only to retrieve some fishing tackle that we had left behind earlier. The cop said that he didn’t believe him and that they knew I was up there too. How? Was it the driver? Did I forget her birthday? My friend was still free to go. It was a huge relief to hear that my collaborator was not being taken down, but things were far from over for me.
I heard the gushy footsteps of my accessory fade into the distance as he walked down the hill towards sweet freedom. My partner in crime was safe, but I was now reenacting every prison break movie I had ever seen. I kid you not, it was a full moon, the brightest moon I’ve ever seen. The kind of bright moon where you can easily see your own shadow.
Beyond the trees near the pond, my escape route was a trek through an open field with low grass and a few random shrubs. I sprinted like a madman from bush to bush and kneeled silently each time for several minutes as I vigilantly schemed my next sprint. I thought for sure that each time the police drove nearby that could they would hear my heart thumping or my heavy panting.
The bushes seemed to be far apart? I started pondering that maybe I should cover myself with bush branches? Then once perfectly camouflaged, I could simply slowly walk towards the road, perhaps occasionally freezing in place if a police car was nearby. Yes, there was a good chance that I would replace the leaches with ticks, but this was no time to get creeped out by parasites.
I decided against the camouflage since I lacked cordage to secure the branches to my body. I resumed my escape, but things were starting to feel different. At the start, I was miserable because I was muddy and soggy, but now as different parts of my body began to dry out, the sandy mud was causing a bit of chafing in delicate and personal regions. It took over an hour of running from bush to bush to traverse what had only taken 15 minutes on the way up, but I made it to the bottom of the hill where the faithful getaway driver, whose loyalty I never doubted, was waiting for me along with my co-conspirator.
We made it back to our lair around 1AM. There was no loot to be split. We had utterly failed in our criminal objective of earning bragging fishing rights, but we were very successful in becoming extremely muddy and stinky. We laughed at our own stupidity. We kept asking ourselves which one of us had the bright idea that the police would never expect us a second time? We were not even smart enough to remember that! We grabbed a hot shower, put on clean clothes, and laughed some more at ourselves over a couple of beers.
We did have to pay for our crime though, the next day we spent several hours scrubbing and cleaning the interior of the nameless driver’s car who threatened to turn us in if we did not do a good job.
Now if you’re thinking of buying or selling a house, please don’t let my criminal past discourage from hiring me, I’ve been on the straight and narrow since that faithful night, unless of course you have a koi pond in your backyard, then I might relapse?