The Greatest Fishing Story Ever Told | ch 04




“I’m gonna be the greatest fisherman EVER!” I shouted and shot straight out of bed. But my legs weren’t quite awake, so I tumbled face first onto the floor. Smack.

“Classic,” Hunter cackled as the moonlight lit up our boycave.

It was time – fishin’ time.

Outside, the morning dew soaked the neighborhood lawns. Looked like it rained.

Sniff, sniff.

Ah, I could almost taste the fish in my drooling mouth now.

Grampa packed while Hunter hitched up the blue and white Boston Whaler. That’s a swank ride for you non-boat peeps.

Ol’ Nessie she was called. She was stocky like the Scottish Loch Nessie (another Google moment), and clearly showed her age.

Overstuffed with duffle bags, fishing gear, grocery bags and a loaf of bread smashed into the side window, Grampa shoved one more item – a basket – into the rusty station wagon.

“What’s that, you’re wondering?” said Hunter, eyeing Grampa’s methodical packing skills. For Grampa had a way of squeezing 13 eggs into a carton so you didn’t even notice the difference.

Looked like an ordinary basket to me.

“You’ll want to get a good look at it,” Hunter continued in sly voice. “It’s what you’ll use when you feed Ol’ Gatar. Any Hampton boy fails this task, well, let’s just say failure is not an option. But dying is. Heh-heh.”

Hunter climbed onto the trailer and secured straps onto the boat. He glided with ease, port side to starboard.

Didn’t think I knew this stuff, did you? But as I said before, I’m gonna be the greatest–

Back to Hunter, who glided port to starboard – that’s left to right.

A half hitch here. A slip knot there. A bungee on top of bungee. His superstar agilities will surely land him a million dollar shoe contract some day.

“Gatar’s the least of your worries,” he said. “Mostly, you gotta watch out for the horseflies. They’ll bite, buzz, scratch, scrape, nag, gnaw, pester and peel the skin clean off your hide.”

“THWACK!” Hunter said and slapped at his ankle hard. “Get used to that sound. The sound of battle, of war, of victory. Means you got one. Anything less of a THWACK!, and you’ll be itchin’ yourself to sleep, beggin’ for Ma’s Avon Skin So Soft.”

Skin So Soft?

“I told you, no girlie stuff.”

“Hmmmmm,” he snickered. “We shall see.”

“Get down now,” said Grampa the Grump. He had a voice that stuck, a commanding voice that spoke volumes without saying much at all. Cause and effect. ‘Cause Grampa said so, that’s why.

Hunter leaped right into a Cajun mudpie. That’s when water mixes with mud and just before it dries, forms a consistency equal to, tah-dah, pie.

Hunter stood straight to attention, my shoulders slightly behind his, side-by-side.

Grampa chewed on his morning coffee stirrer and tilted his head. I could see up his nostrils. Then he spoke–

“Three hours . . .”

I felt a lesson coming on.

“Rule number one,” he continued. “Always listen to Grampa. Rule number two: ‘No’ is not in your vocabulary for the next three days. If I ask you to do something, you do it. If I ask you to don’t, you don’t.”

Hunter stood straight. Clearly he had done this with Grampa many times, and clearly I needed to watch and learn.

“Yes, sir,” replied Hunter, standing firm.

“Yes, sir,” replied me, copy-cat firm.

“Rule number three,” Grampa chewed on the coffee stirrer. He twirled it in his mouth, a full 360°. Then his cold eyes turned to me. “Done your businesses?”

I nodded yes.

“No stoppin’ for three hours.”

“I can hold it, not that hard.”

“Hmmm,” he said and paused. “Hardest thing you’ll ever do in life, boy . . .” he grunted, a cause and effect grunt that caused the hair on my neck to rise. Then he added, “is the right thing.”

Yep, and my pee-pee started.

On to underwear numero two.


On to Sun Wake | 05

The Greatest Fishing Story Ever Told | ch 03



I know what you’re thinking. What’s the cause of my meltdown? How is my family so average Joe? Why are you still reading?

Okay, time to pack.

One pair of sandals. Two pair of socks. Three shorts. Four shirts. And five underwear. Why five underwear for only three days of fishing? Well, if you were suffering from rapid eye nocturnal prepubescence – that’s a fancy bonus word – you’d understand. Google it, if you must.

“Ready, Freddy?” Hunter poked his head in the room. “We’re leaving earlier than the early birdies.” His mouth twitched. His left eyebrow raised high. Something troubled him.

“What?” I asked.

“We’re goin’ fishin’. Not the North Pole.”


“All you really need are these–”

Hunter handed me three items: bug spray, a khaki hat and a canary yellow feather.

“No way,” I shouted. “I’m not wearing girlie stuff.”

Hunter shushed me, covering my mouth.


He let go and whispered.

“Save your life, that, it just might.”

I had never been fishing before. It’d be my first time. So clearly I didn’t know what to pack.

It’s a trip all us Hampton boys take when we turn twelve. So I’m told. Yep, in just four days, 11 year-old me, no more. See ya’, wouldn’t want to sneeze ya’.

“We sleep. We eat. We fish,” said Hunter. “We sleep. We eat. We fish,” he repeated. “Then afterwards, we sleep, we eat, we fish some more. You’ll be lucky if you even change your underwear.”


I was finally invited to go on the family “just men” fishing trip.

That means no Ma.

Which also meant there would be no pain in my foot. Harper.


Just the men: me, Hunter and Grampa Leon.

Grampa Leon Bio: (a.k.a. Grampa Grump), a grouchy, retired, live-and-breathe for fishing Grampa. He rarely ever smiled. He rarely ever raised his voice. He was like a rock. A big, solid piece of matter with absolutely no grass left on the mountaintop. Thus, the need for a hat worn daily, hourly, minutely (if even a word).

At least Hunter was going.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d been on family trips before. I once set a Hampton record for most throw-ups on an airplane. But that’s another story.

This trip was different. Good forced socialization for me.

We were headed into the wetlands, into the Mississippi swamp, into Bayou Vivrè.

An irritating, whiny voice shouted. “I wanna go fishin’. I wanna go fishin’, Hatch’a,” yelled my arch-nemesis, Harper.

Three, two, oops.

The rocketing pillow I tossed just nicked Harper on his backside.

“Eee-waaaaa,” he cried. Harper could whip up a tear faster than bad breath can stank. “Me ma-ma, me ma-ma, Hatch’a hit me.”

Before drama could follow, Hunter had a plan. “Quick.” He snapped a finger and dove into his dirty clothes-covered bed. “Emay ouyay under eetshay, oolfay.”

That’s piggy code for: me, you, under sheets, fool.



In complete darkness. Wind whistled outside the window. Lightning flickered. Fears settled. Then, a bright light flashed in my face. A voice rang out in a deep, scratchy tone.

“There I was, stuck between a rock and a hard place,” the voice said, “staring DEATH in the face!”


The flashlight came off my face and onto Hunter’s as his left eyebrow raised. His teeth chattered. His eyes bulged. He continued in an intense voice.

“Four years ago, I sat right where you are.” Hunter paused, correcting his thought. “Well, actually, not right where you are – tucked in bed, wearing an Oompa Loompa shirt. But, yes! I sat in the same predicament.”

“What pre-dictament?”

“Predicament! An unpleasantly perplexing or dangerous situation,” he exclaimed and continued in a snarly voice. “As I, too, was NERVOUS about the adventure before me.”

“I’m not nervous . . .”

“Shhhhh,” he interrupted and glanced around as if someone were in the room. “Grampa never told you about this ‘cause you would have said o-nay ay-way.”

“Why would I say . . .”

“Sh-sh-shhhhh,” he interrupted again, looking around. This time he high-stepped, tip-toed over and peeked into the closet. “No talk. No whisper. Just . . .” He pointed to his right ear.

In the darkness, Hunter tilted the flashlight so his eyes looked as if they were going to explode out of his skull.

“The swamp was ANGRY that day, I tell you, or may the heavens STRIKE ME DOWN and grow me a nutria-rat tail. Gnats a nibblin’. Horseflies a bitin’. Catfish a meowin’.

“I stood alone on the back pier when the big red sun dropped like a BANSHEE into the horizon! The air grew heavy with fog, THICK like a winter-wool blanket. And I could tell by the hair sticking up on my neck SOMETHING was afoot.

“When suddenly, the Loup Garou APPEARED!”

Hunter threw his arms high in the air. His head twitched and eyes boggled.

“I had never before seen such a VILE creature. It stood the size of an outhouse. Its yellow eyes could pierce HOLES into your soul. Its jagged teeth were as sharp as kitchen knives – and in need of braces, I tell you.”

He snickered.

“Its stench REEKED beyond a Harper stuffed-up-training-potty. Before I could move a muscle, the shaggy-headed beast stuffed me into its mouth. CRUNCH-CRUNCH!”


Hunter’s face became still. His voice returned to normal. “But not before I plucked the lucky feather out of my hat, and tick-tick-tickled his nostrils.


“I shot right out of his mouth. And right back onto the pier – me fishin’ pole, in hand.”

Hunter smiled, tilting the flashlight off his face.

In a cheerio voice, he said, “Alrightie then. Get some sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”



On to Sun Rise | 04

The Greatest Fishing Story Ever Told | ch 02

ch 02


Gone fishin’ ain’t for the faint of heart. Nor underwear either.

“Hatcher, get your boney bones movin’. Ya’ breakfast is freezin’ over!” Ma’s voice vibrated against the I-can-hear-you-thin-walls of my room.

“I’m up, ma!”

Tick, tick, tick, tick.

My head, meet pillow.

Then blackness again.

The door swung open: enter girl. Her hair was long and red. It matched her ruby red cheeks and red-hot lips. It floated in the clouds on a windy wind day. It was like the color of the sun’s reflection against the bayou waters of late October. Only it wasn’t October. It was June.

She leaned over and stroked my hair. Yes, she actually ran her fingers through my mom-cut, bowl-cut hair. Her head tilted back. Her eyelids rolled shut. And her lips puckered and searched for, longed for, yearned for mine.

When suddenly, I got whiff of the foulest rotten stench. Like the kind of smell you get from leaving an egg under someone’s doormat in the middle of a sticky-hot Louisiana summer just waiting for a crackin’ smash.

Sniff. Sniff.


I peeled my eyes open to the sight of two googly eyes hovering over me. The googly eyes of my four-year-old pain in the foot brother, Harper.

I said pain in the foot because he was always standing right behind me, under my feet. He gets trampled on at least five, six times a day. You’d think sooner or later he’d learn his lesson.

“Hatch’a. Ma said ge’up, Hatch’a.”

“Get outta here, Harper.”

“Ma said, ge’up!”

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, fire! The first pillow missed Harper by a foot.

My room, actually us Hampton boys’ room, was ten feet by ten feet – for all three of us. And I’m not really that bad of a shot either. You get my point? But should I actually ever hit Harper with a pillow, my life would be over in less than three, two, pow!

However, you see, it’s the fear of the pillow that kept Harper in his place.

I know this first hand, of course, because it’s the same fear my older brother used on me. Well, actually, he still uses.

It’s a technique passed down for generations starting with the Neanderthals. Neanderthals were cavemen in case you hadn’t paid attention in Science. They’ve been extinct for about 10,000 years. Except for my Grampa’s Grampa. I heard Ma once talking on the phone about how Grampa’s Grampa was King of Neanderthals.

Of course, Kings don’t come into existence for thousands of years. Obviously, Ma hadn’t paid much attention in school. And I really don’t get her King of Neanderthals reference either. It’s mixing metaphors. Not that I know what a metaphor is. I’m only eleven, remember? But what I do know is, does anyone ever get their Ma?

Now back to my brothers. There’s my younger brother, Harper.

Harper Hampton Bio: An egg-breath, pillow-dodger, pain in the foot brother. A 4-year-old terror still suffering from the terrible twos. A terror that only a mother could love.

Then there’s my older bro, Hunter.

Hunter Hampton Bio: A fifteen-year-old track superstar, who worked after school cleanin’ fish and shuckin’ oystas to help Ma put food on the table. The superkid I’d want to be if I died and came back.

He’s the coolest.

One year, he rode the whole way to school with his head hanging out of the bus window. He could even spit in the air and catch it, too.

Ice age cool.

Plus, he could drive.

“Race ya’,” said Hunter, waiting for Ma to finish scraping the last batch of scrambled eggs out of a ting-tinging pan. “Betcha’ I can eat my eggs faster than you?”

“Betcha’ can’t.”

“You’re on, Hatch-boy”

As soon as the eggs hit my plate, I shoveled them into my pie hole as fast as a cockroach frenzy at flashlight light.

One gulp, two gulps, three gulps, four.

“Finis. I waaaan,” I said, gloating with a completely full mouth and completely bare plate.

Only Hunter hadn’t eaten more than a nibble of his eggs.

That’s when it hit me.

“Suck-aaa,” whispered Hunter, taunting me in a deep shallow voice. “Yow, baby, yow.” He flicked his fingers and snickered. “Heh, heh.”

My eggs were gone. And now I had to sit and watch Hunter enjoy his breakfast. He licked his lips with every bite, savoring his morning meal.

“Live and learn, Hatch-boy.” He spent extra time swirling the last speck of egg in ketchup. He swirled his fork, round and round, tempting my hypnotic eyes. Then he rocked his shoulders side to side. “Choo-choo-choo-choo, says Mr. Fork to Mr. Mouth.”

Then the eggs were gone.

“Mmm-mmm-mmm.” He puckered his lips, patted his mouth with a napkin and dropped his fork onto his plate. “Live and learn.”

He was totally right. That’s why he’ll always be the ice man in my book.

Not that I have something called a “my book.” Diaries and journals are for kids who get dumped into garbage cans – after lunch. Yick. It’s just a figure of speech used to remind you that this (my life-changing essay) will be 10,000 words no less and absolutely no more.

Ten minutes later, now it was my turn.

“Ma, more melk? More melk, Ma!” Harper whined.

“Hold your horses, Harper” said Ma.

Oh, yes. There’s Ma-ma Leia Hampton.

Ma Hampton Bio: A Ma, three times as old and much prettier than any of us kids. It’s been said by one of our teachers that she’s a real piece of work. Kind of like a Picasso painting with distorted pictures everywhere. Or in her defense, in our family doctor’s words, she suffers from SMOSK (Single Mom of Stressful Kids).

“You’ll have to split the last bit of milk with Hatch, ba-boo.” said Ma, emptying the carton.

“No ba-boo. No Hatch. My melk.”

Ha, ha. Oh boy, this is gonna be great.

“But just so your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach,” said Ma, handing Harper an old cartoon sippy cup, “you’re not leaving this table ‘til your milk’s done. Waste not, want not.”

Grown ups always had to ruin the moment with some type of a lesson. Like we had to learn something every tooth-brushing minute.

Waste not, want not.

There’s starving children in Africa.

Good things come to those who wait.

You’re gonna get an infection if you keep picking that.

“I’m-a-na drink it. I’m-a am.”

Harper had no idea what was coming.

“Harper,” I whispered, “betcha’ I can drink my milk faster than you?”


“You’re on.”

Of course, I waited until Ma cleared the room.

“Three, two, one, go.”

One fake gulp, two fake gulps, three fake gulps, four.

“Yow, baby, yow,” I said to Harper and flicked my fingers one at a time.

Only he was still on his first sip.

This is gonna be the longest breakfast ever.


Life with the Hamptons. Bet it’s not quite the life-changing essay you were expecting.

Me, if you haven’t figured out by now, I’m Hatcher.

Hatcher Hampton Bio: I’m the eleven-year-old, about to be twelve, middle-kid dealing with a serious case of PMS. Poor me syndrome.


On to Satur Night | 03