“Drop the knife, Boo, and grab the net!”
It was our first strike of the day, and it felt like a big one as I reeled away, having cut the troller motor to set us adrift while tending to business.
Boo nearly fell as he barreled from the seat where he’d been cutting bait to the side of our 24-foot Boston whaler, leaning over the cloudy river water with our net.
“Comin’ up now, buddy. Get the net ready. Get it in the water and come up from behind and lift up. There, you’ve got him. Nice job. Now hold the handle up and close it before . . . ”
Too late. A wave came up and lifted my salmon right out of the net before Boo could react, allowing the fish to throw the hook and flop free.
“Son of a bitch, Boo. We had him right up to the boat. Right in the net. Son of a bitch.”
Arthur “Boo” Radley looked incredulous. It happened so fast he had no idea what he’d done right or wrong. But his eyes showed hurt, misting up just like the morning air around us at Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River. He said nothing, which wasn’t a surprise as he’d said very little all morning except an occasional, “OK then!”
A glum and rather oafish man, Boo never said much at home either, since moving from Georgia all the way across the county after his close kin died and relatives in Portland set him up in group care. But I got him to sorta smile once when he overheard me telling the caregiver she had all of the charm of a drill sergeant but only half the looks. That cost me my working privileges at the home, but not my visiting privileges.
“It’s all right, Boo. We’ll get another fish. A bigger one,” I added hastily, trying to take back the guilt that was cast, as I fired up the motor to get the boat back under control in the crowded waterway teaming with fishing boats criss-crossing from every direction.
The second strike hit Boo’s pole, and he leaped up to grab it and set the hook, just as another boat clipped ours while maneuvering to land a fish of its own.
“Look out, idiot,” said an angler from the other boat, reaching over to grasp Boo’s line and cut it with a knife. “Get the fuck out of the way. We got a fish on here!”
Luckily, the fellow was wearing a life jacket, as Boo suddenly threw himself headlong over our railing and theirs, catching the line cutter chest-high and taking both men over the far side and into the water.
The other guy got fished out, but Boo never did surface to answer the charge of being a crazy, wild-eyed bastard.
“Just a quite guy from one of the group homes nearby,” I told the sheriff. “Seemed kinda shy, in fact.”
(Note: This was written as a Writers Kickstart prompt on the topic: Take a favorite literary character and write about them in a new chapter, scene or circumstance. Check this for a character study of Harper Lee’s memorable boogeyman from “To Kill a Mockingbird.”)