Episode 7, The Fish Grove, Part 2

By: Sarah Bodine

Volume 19, Issue 5, May 2024

See Introduction: Roscoe Fish Stories, January 2024

  1. Episode 1: Roscoe Fish Goes "Boying"!  January 2024
  2. Episode 2: How Roscoe Fish Got His Name, February 2024
  3. Episode 3: The Journey Downriver, March 2024
  4. Episode 4: The Perilous Escape, March 2024
  5. Episode 5: Boying, The Lost Bait Can
  6. Episode 6: Boying - Of Storms and Shoals
  7. Episode 7:  The Fish Grove - Part 1

The Rides

Despite the possibility of meeting Quin, Roscoe was not about to give up his day at the amusement park. He had outsmarted Quin once, and he could outsmart him again. He calmed Rose by taking out the map and showing her the grounds.

“Let’s plan our day to avoid the Grandstand where the award ceremony will be held,” he said. “That way we can have fun in the park and leave without Quin or his family even knowing that we were here.”

When he looked up from the map, Roscoe noticed a bright rotating wheel in the distance. He recognized this as the Estrallita Wheel, one of the park’s major attractions. Atop the mast, above the wheel, flew the distinctive green-and-red flag of the Fish Grove.

“Let’s swim over to the Estrallita Wheel and take a ride to get our bearings,” he said. “The map locates it in the middle of the park, far away from the Grandstand.”

They left the terrace by a side porch, followed a narrow tunnel through the weed beds, which curved up and around and finally opened up into another large plaza, dominated by the shimmering Estrallita Wheel. This magnificent, star-shaped ride, covered with tiny lights, towered far above the park. Cramming the entry was a long line of small fry waiting for the frog attendant to strap them two-by-two onto the wheel’s concave fins.

Roscoe and Rose waited their turn, and when all the fins had been loaded, the wheel – actually a propeller from a huge freighter that had sunk in the seaway and been transported to the Fish Grove –- swivelled upwards and began to turn freely in a dizzying arc. As the propeller sprang into action, gaining momentum, the small fry, dipping and twirling above the lights of the park, squealed in delight.

Roscoe pointed out the sights from the top of the wheel, as Rose remembered her thrilling, bumpy, ride on top of Quin’s head around the Forty Acre Shoal.

During the ride they noticed a sign for the narrow-gauge railroad called The Royal Coachman that circled the park under water. The cars were hooked together by a length of monofilament attached to two reels, like two sides of a typewriter ribbon. Levers wound and unwound the reels, one train going one way and the second one going the opposite way. As the flatbed cars floated by, fish families could slide on and off to be transported around the park. “Let’s ride over to the Wild Muskrat. That looks like fun,” said Rose, pointing to a large dark outline at the other end of the park. “And then, could we get something to eat?” asked Roscoe, “I’m famished.”

The railroad zigzagged in and out of the attractions. It ran right through the ruins of the former Fairyland Castle and passed by the cheese factory, where Roscoe almost fell off, as he reached for the tasty chunks of cheese that dangled in the window. It skirted the Midway with its sideshows and games, and, finally, it arrived at the Wild Muskrat platform, where they slid off.

“Whew,” said Roscoe, stretching his tail fin, “this is a big park. I don’t think we can do everything in one day.” Rose nodded. “I’m glad we took the railroad. This is a  long swim from the entrance gate.”

The Wild Muskrat. Illustration courtesy Sarah Bodine

Since they had arrived early, the line to ride the Wild Muskrat was short. All of a sudden Roscoe heard a whoosh and looked up to see a furry animal fly by just over his head. He flopped flat on the bottom and pulled Rose down with him. “Don’t be silly,” she said, laughing. “That’s one of the Muskrat cars. You see – all the cars are covered with muskrat fur to make the ride softer. Come on, let’s go.”

Roscoe hesitated. The muskrat ride towered above his head – a jungle gym of tangled metal tracks. Little cars were darting around at breakneck speed, going one way and then careening off in another direction. The fish inside each car bumped back and forth with glee. Roscoe swallowed hard and his stomach churned. “Um, Rose, maybe I . . .”

But Rose had already given a bunch of tickets to the frog in charge, who wore a furry cap with a long muskrat tail. She was headed straight for the first car on the platform. Snuggling into the soft fur divider –- each car held two fish -– she beckoned Roscoe to nestle into the slot beside her. He had come too far to turn back. So, he wiggled in beside Rose, where, to his surprise, he felt very comfortable.  Before he knew it, they were off, climbing and climbing, and then careening towards the back railing. The car jerked violently as a hot-air hose sprayed them. Roscoe gasped and closed his eyes for the rest of the ride. On the last turn, all the cars suddenly flipped upside down and unloaded all the passengers into a big net, which floated down to the seaweed bed below.

Roscoe squinted towards Rose, but all he saw was her shadow as she vanished under a dimly lit archway. A sign above the arch read “The Riffle.” Following her, Roscoe plunged into total darkness. He emerged in a warm, cavernous room. Over to the left, he heard the pleasant sound of rushing water. As he floated farther inside, he was jostled by the jump and splash of frenzied feeding. To his delight, the surface of the water was swarming with ephemeral flies. He opened his mouth and swallowed a few. On the way out, he spotted Rose. They tore off a few tickets and shoved them into a slot in the top of an old bait can as payment for the quick bite.

Energized, Rose, who had forgotten all about the Grandstand ceremony, was racing towards a signpost that pointed to Frontier Town. Roscoe darted after her and came upon a series of little corrals. Over the tops of the gates peered the miniature heads of three enchanting seahorses, one red, one black, and one white. “Come on in,” drawled a cowboy frog in a fringed vest and a wide-brimmed Western hat.  “Would you like to try ridin’ one of these sweet little ponies? Only two tickets.”

Roscoe was becoming more and more puzzled. “Seahorses? He thought, “Don’t they live in salt water in the ocean? What are they doing here, and how do they breathe?”

But before he knew it, the cowboy had plopped a small hat on Roscoe’s head and pulled on the drawstrings to make it fit snugly. He pushed him up onto a tiny saddle on top of one of the horses and was led around a ring by a cowgirl frog wearing chaps and fancy Western boots. The rhythmic swaying of the horses soothed Roscoe, and he waved at Rose as he passed her trotting by in the other direction.

They sampled the Caterpillar Crawl and the Plein Air Chute, an air-jet machine that bounced them up out of the water; and they toured the bizarre House of Mirrors, where their scales became wavy as they twirled through the distorted mirrored halls. Roscoe had lost all sense of direction when they finally exited, and they practically bumped their noses on the Grandstand. To Roscoe’s surprise, hundreds of fish of all kinds were teeming into the Grandstand arena, including pike and pickerel, walleyes, perch, and rock bass. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the giant Muskellunge who would be on stage to receive the award. Roscoe’s curiosity got the best of him. He inched forward through the crowds, and just as he passed the entry gate, his eyes swivelled forwards. There, lying calmly on the rocky cliff-like stage, was their nemesis – Quin – the immense Muskie from the Forty Acre Shoal. Roscoe knew it was Quin from the jagged scar along his mouth, the scar left where Quin had extracted Rocky’s uncle’s prized Skinner lure.

The River had become dark as the sun had set, and bright spotlights in front of the stage were directed at Quin’s immense head, blinding him to the audience below. Roscoe noticed something gleaming above him, something made of metal. As his eyes adjusted to the brilliant lights, Roscoe realized that above Quin was a huge cage, and that very, very, slowly the cage was being lowered down over him.

A light bulb went on in Roscoe’s head. This was not a ceremony to honor Quin, but a trick to trap him and make him a freak sideshow at the park -– the monster fish with ferocious teeth -– the scary villain of the River with a nasty, jagged scar!

By Sarah Bodine

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.

Those of us who read JK's (John Keats, "Of Time and an Island," 1974) books will smile and thank them for the opportunity to read more - even if in the imagination of Sarah and her cousins. Authors and readers will know that our TI Life articles are usually limited to 1,200-1,500 words - but this series of short stories about Roscoe are longer - long enough for all young River Rats to want more! The good news is there will be several more Episodes!]

[From the Editor: In May we present Episode 7 in three parts.  Why? Well if you are like me, you would not be pleased if you had to wait a full month before discovering what mischief Rose and Roscoe will get into - and so we gave you all three parts in one issue.  Enjoy and promise me you will read these aloud to a young member of the family.]

Posted in: Volume 19, Issue 5, May 2024, Fiction, Current

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