Episode 4 – The Perilous Escape

By: Sarah Bodine

Volume 19, Issue 3, March 2024

See Introduction: Roscoe Fish Stories, January 2024

  1. See Episode 1: Roscoe Fish Goes "Boying"!  January 2024
  2. See Episode 2: How Roscoe Fish Got His Name, February 2024
  3. See Episode 3: The Journey Downriver, March 2024

The Plan
“There, there,” said Rocky’s uncle, trying to calm Roscoe, but he understood the urgency. Quickly he drew a map on the sandy bottom, marking with an ‘x’ the location of the entrance to the giant muskie’s cave. “This is top secret,” he warned, “but I’m afraid you are correct about your friend’s danger.” By now, the rock bass family had grown fond of Roscoe and Rose, and Rocky’s uncle had been worried by Rose's lighthearted tale of her encounter with the monster.

“First, we will send a skinny yearling through the narrow short cut to the shoal to spy on the muskie and to see if, indeed, Rose has been lured into his den. In the meantime, because she has disappeared, we will make a rescue plan,” he said.

The scout was called and dispatched almost before Roscoe could nod a grateful yes. Then Rocky’s uncle used his emergency rock-tapping signal to summon the whole family – including Rocky’s mother, his aunts, and brothers. Tap, tap – tap, tap, tap – tap, tap.

Before everyone had gathered, Roscoe’s suspicions were confirmed. The yearling had dashed back with the news that he had seen Rose clinging to the head of a monster fish, riding around the shoal.

Roscoe was eager to storm the muskie's cave, but Rocky's uncle urged that they make a plan to save Rose, or the big fish not only would swallow her but could also possibly trap others in the rescue party. He knew the muskie's habits:  The monster liked to show off his magic tricks – to change his body from stripes to spots, from black to silver to green. He liked to bring his catch to the table and fatten it up before the main course. Rocky's uncle believed that they had a bit of time to put a plan into motion, if, as the yearling had observed, the monster was still in the process of entertaining Rose with the tour of his shoal.

When everyone was assembled, the uncle rubbed his chin thoughtfully: "Someone or something has to act as a lure . . ." he said. Before he could get out the rest of his thought, Roscoe darted forward, volunteering to be anything to save Rose. He knew that he was the fastest swimmer of the group and that he had the stomach to stand still, to "play dead" if needed, a talent he learned from his trout family, who could tread water motionlessly in a heavy current. But Rocky’s uncle had a trick or two under his fin. He offered to sacrifice his cherished trophy lure to tempt the muskie from his den.

According to his plan, Rocky and Roscoe would drag the heavy leader and lure him over to the shoal together. Roscoe would then take the leader in his teeth and drag it inside the mouth of the dark cave so that the lure was left sitting on the rock shelf. He would then stay motionless inside the entrance, until he caught Rose’s attention, and was able to give her the two-bubble signal that she was in danger. Then Roscoe would signal Rocky's brothers to drag a net to the front of the cave – the kind of net that Rocky’s mother knotted in her spare time. (She used such nets in her kitchen pantry to store seaweed strands for the winter, and she sewed the nets into bags for gathering foraged insects and larvae.) Each taking a side, the brothers would stretch the net across the cave’s entrance. The holes in the net would be large enough to allow Roscoe and Rose to escape, but too small for the giant muskie, who would become entangled and helpless.

As soon as Rocky’s uncle finished laying out the plan, everyone jumped into action. Rocky’s mother dashed to her workroom to cut the net she had just finished from its frame, while Rocky’s uncle spun the dial of the lock on his trophy cabinet to retrieve his treasured lure. He admired the precious lure one last time before he held out the copper leader for Roscoe to grab in his teeth. Roscoe and Rocky took off for the muskie’s den, followed by the brothers, dragging a neat package of netting between them.

Illustration by Sarah Bodine

The Daring Rescue

In no time, having memorized Rocky’s uncle’s map, Roscoe and Rocky reached the cave entrance. The fallen log disguising the entrance had been left pushed aside by the muskie in his haste to “entertain” Rose. Roscoe dived down, careful not to snag the lure on any underwater twigs or stones. He dropped the lure on the rock shelf and from there was able to peer farther inside the cave. In the dim light of the plankton chandelier, Roscoe could just make out Rose reclining at the end of the driftwood table. He noticed as well the eerie fish indentation in the center of the table. He had no time to lose. He puckered his lips and blew out two small bubbles – their private danger signal. The bubbles drifted down the wall and landed near Rose’s place. Rose recognized the meaning of the bubbles instantly. She nodded her head just enough to make a vibration that Roscoe, with his excellent hearing, could perceive, but she did not look in his direction.

“Quin,” she chortled politely. “It’s been such a glorious evening. What delicious food – you are certainly a wonderful chef! But I must excuse myself, for it is time that I get back home.” She fluttered her little orange fins in farewell as she used her tail fin to push up from the table.

"For information about Skinner Spoons, visit this link: https://fishinghistory.blogspot.com/2012/12/voices-from-past-gm-skinner.html

Sensing that Rose had realized the danger, Roscoe prepared for action. He shoved the lure onto the middle of the ledge and secured the leader in his teeth. Quin was taken off guard by Rose’s hasty farewell. He had sunk his big body comfortably beside the table in one of the rock alcoves and was watching her eat. But Rose wasted no time. In a flash, she had joined Roscoe on the ledge. Together they turned and zoomed towards the entrance of the den, Roscoe dragging the metal leader behind him. The golden Skinner spoon bounced up, swiveling and dancing like a circus clown on a tightrope.

With a mighty whack of his tail, Quin leapt into action, overturning the driftwood table and sending the dishes flying. Thinking he saw the gleam of Rose’s scales, he started towards the ledge, his eyes ferocious and his sharp teeth gnashing. In fact, he had seen the shimmering spoon, which, in his rage, he chased blindly.

Rose plowed through the water curtain and neatly navigated her way through the net, with Roscoe close beside. Just as he cleared the mesh, Roscoe opened his mouth to drop the swiveling leader that dragged the lure behind. The lure caught neatly in the net, dangling and glistening in the half-light of the waterfall. All four fish – Rocky's brothers, who had been holding the stretched net taut across the cave entrance, Rose and Roscoe – veered off to safety at the foot of the shoal, while Quin, transfixed by the lure that spun and sparkled in the light of the full moon, surged ahead out into the deep channel’s swift water, enmeshed in Rocky’s mother’s skillfully knotted webbing.

On their way back to Bass Island, Roscoe and his friends gazed up at the bright stars in the sky through the clear water above and breathed a sigh of relief. Their plan had succeeded. They had outsmarted the monster, and no one had been hurt. Quin would be able to free himself from the netting, and his pride might be wounded for a short time, but he would be more careful in the future of what and whom he tried to eat for supper.

The next morning, after a filling breakfast of worm porridge smothered in slime syrup, which they consumed in Rocky’s mother’s cozy kitchen, Rose looked gratefully at Roscoe. "We’ve been though some rough times together," Rose said, "and I already think of you as next of kin. I have heard of a place further east where we could find refuge among the islands. The waters are deep, with lots of rock ledges for shelter. Food is plentiful. Would you like to go on one more journey?" Roscoe sighed, relieved that his traveling companion was back, safe and sound. Yes, he would be very happy to leave the giant muskie’s den far behind.  

Thousand Islands postcard

So they set off, Roscoe and Rose, waving a grateful goodbye to Bass Rock and their brave, clever, and generous hosts. Although they were once again swimming into unknown waters, they were confident that together, they could find a place to call home.

[Illustrations by Sarah Bodine, ©2024.]

By Sarah Bodine ©2024.

Sarah Bodine is a writer, editor, designer and book artist. She spent the summers of her childhood at her great-grandfather’s house, known as Cliff Cottage, on the Ontario side of the St Lawrence River near Rockport. The three Keats children were her cousins, and she often ran an outboard across the Canadian channel to spend the night on Pine Island. John Keats, fondly known as JK, made Roscoe Fish the main character in his bedtime stories, which were loved by all the children. To this day, the next island generation is forever looking for Roscoe under the boats in the slip.

[From the Editor: Again, for Episode 4, we send deep appreciation to Sarah Bodine and her Keats cousins. We split this Episode into two parts, 3 & 4 - Each is a story on its own.

Those of us who read JK (John Keats, Pine Island) books (one being, Of Time and an Island) will smile and thank them for the opportunity to read more - even if in the imagination of Sarah and her cousins.

See Episode 1: Roscoe Fish Goes "Boying"!  January 2024

See Episode 2: How Roscoe Fish Got His Name, February 2024

See Episode 3: The Journey Downriver, March 2024

Posted in: Volume 19, Issue 3, March 2024, Fiction, Places

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