When Jack pulled up to his dock, there was a short, squat Chipokee girl waiting there with a Royal Mounted Police officer. The kid was about twelve years old and her hair was a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, which probably meant he was some sort of punk rocker. As for the Mountie, Jimmy Wigob, also Chipokee—well, who cares? He plays a minimal role in this narrative and he’ll be gone shortly.
Jack cut the engine and drifted up to the pilings.
“Whatchya Want!” he snapped. It wasn’t a question.
“Greetings, Mr. Nadler,” the Mountie saluted. “I’ve brought Rainbo here to fish with you, eh?”
“Rainblow!” Jack spat. “Now why in blazes would I wanna go fishkin’ with that thar shnotnose?”
“Well, you agreed, Mr. Nadler,” the Mountie replied. “You said you’d spend a week taking this troubled youth fishing as part of the province’s Take-A-Youngster-Fishing Program.”
“I ain’t gots time fer that!” Jack snapped, as somebody else came walking up. “I gots a big ol’ cat-muncher ta takes care of pronto! That fat bashturd is eatin’ up all the copper cats in the lake!”
The girl crossed her arms and stared back with a scowl. She sure did look silly with all that purple and hot pink in her hair.
“But sir,” the Mountie went on, “this juvenile needs your guidance. Her mother is a substance abuser, and she needs a role model to instill her with a sense of respect for society and the law, eh?”
“Ain’t my concern!” Jack squinted. He turned toward the girl.
“Whatchya do, anyways?”
“All I did was express myself,” the girl piped out. “I’m an artist! And an LGBT sympathizer!”
“A What!” Jack snapped again. Again, it wasn’t a question. He tied up and stood up crookedly in the boat.
“You call that art?” the Mountie asked the kid, pointing to the side of Jack’s boathouse, where some sloppy spraypaint graffiti read “KILL THE HATERS!”
“You did that?” Jack asked, narrowing his brow. “Why I otter tan yer hide, misshy!”
“How mainstream,” Rainbo replied, “give me a break.”
“Well, I ain’t doin’ it!” Jack snapped at the Mountie. “I gots bigger fishk ta fry!”
“Oh yes you will,” a voice replied from behind the cop and the kid. Some skinny headed city slicker with eyes set too close together was standing there in a $200 suit.
Jack paused for a second, trying to place the face and voice—and then he made the connection. This was the clown he had made the thirty-pounds-or-less deal with for fishing line in Phantom Loon Lake twenty years ago, under the condition that he safely bring Old Shithead in to spawn (which Jack was going to do anyway, but had played hard to get).
“Well, well,” Jack hitched up his pants, “if it ain’t Govermunt Greg! What the hell you doin’ here? Ain’t I already done enuffk?”
“No,” Government Greg replied, stepping in front of the Mountie.
“Grrrrrr!” Jack replied. “Like I shaid, I gots bigger fishkes ta fry!”
“Exactly!” Government Greg responded to that. “That’s why I’m here. The Canadian government would like to ensure that you catch said ‘bigger fishkk’ quickly and efficiently and with as little fanfare as possible. I don’t care if you do it with a juvenile delinquent or not, I just want to make sure it gets done.”
“Up yours!” Rainbo squeaked, and Jack was swift to take her side.
“Yeah,” Jack added, “go pluck yershelf! Beshides, why should I do anythang fer you, chump?”
Government Greg reached into his breast pocket and brought out an envelope.
“Taxes,” the G-man uttered matter-of-factly. “Plain and simple.”
“But I don’t pay no taxes!” Jack hissed, suddenly realizing the mistake he made, so backtracking to correct. “I mean… I run a baitshop, not no general shtore no more, thanks to that new fangled conveniensh shtore what jist moved in ten years ago! And I ain’t hardly ever open neither! Ya can’t milk a poor ol’ minnow-monger fer cash he ain’t gots, shpecially when he only makes twelve bucks a week!”
“Oh yes we can,” Government Greg smiled smugly, waving the envelope. “We can also send you straight to prison for the rest of your life. It’s all in here, and it will hold up in court. You haven’t paid any taxes for over a decade, Mr. Nadler. That’s a serious offense. Locking you up and throwing away the key would be our last resort, though. We’re asking you to cooperate with us. Otherwise, we’ll be forced to take action.”
By this time, the Mountie had stepped back a couple of paces, allowing Government Greg to assume control. Rainbo, however, was still standing close to Jack, arms crossed defiantly.
“What a lame-ass hater,” Rainbo murmured to Jack.
“Sure as shit!” Jack yapped back. Then scrunching up his brow, he peered sideways at Government Greg. “What’s the shtinkin’ deal with that fishk anyway?” he asked straight up. “Ya knows shumthang y’aint shayin’! Why’s that shtupid fishk in my lake, eatin’ all my catfishk up!? Is this shum short of conshpirashy!?”
“That, Mr. Nadler, is classified information. I can tell you one word, though… ‘garapaima.’”
“Garawhatta!?” Jack spat. “And why does the govermunt give a Wang Dang Doodly Doo!?”
Government Greg wouldn’t reply. He looked at his watch instead, then tapped it to indicate that time was a factor.
“Grrrrrr…” Jack sneered at the man, employing the same expression that sour fish had used on him out in the lake. He knew his hands were tied.
“Okay!” Jack barked. “If I does it, and takes this little criminal with me, will ya both leave me the bejesushk alone!?”
“You betchya,” the Mountie replied.
“You have my word,” Government Greg nodded. Then he produced a cell phone, spoke something into it that sounded like “Johnny Bravo 14 come back,” and cocked his head toward the sky.
There was a speck up there, which quickly turned into a Blackhawk helicopter descending at a rapid pace. It landed right in Jack’s driveway, next to his defunct Plymouth.
“We’ll be watching,” Government Greg said, then waved to Jack, turned around, and headed for the chopper. When he got inside, he looked back toward the dock. Both Jack and that butchy looking Injun gal (that’s how he saw her) were flipping him “the double bird.”
With good humor and high hopes, Spitzer combines the existential struggles of The Old Man and the Sea with the eco-consciousness of The Monkey Wrench Gang, and the youthful energy of The Hunger Games to create Garapaima, a novel that understands the stakes in these grim environmental times. The unlikely protagonist, old Jack, “stiff as beef jerky,” protector of catfish and enemy of Frankenfish, shows the next generation of eco-rebels how it’s done. -JoeAnn Hart, author of Float