Text and artwork by Leonard Flemming
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Stuckey were on her Sunday afternoon drive to the stables. The sky was pastel pink, filled with high clouds and it was calm, great weather to catch bass on the surface. But Mrs. Stuckey didn’t have a driving licence, so Jim drove her around instead of enjoying his own pastimes, like bass fishing. Jim had the stereo on low volume as usual. He was a quiet, soft spoken man, but enjoyed the buzzing of music in his ears and especially whenever he was accompanied by his wife. He didn’t have a preference; he enjoyed any kind of music.
On that day Jim was listening to a tape of Creedence Clearwater Revival while Mrs. Stuckey was complaining about the lady that lived next door to them:
“I swear she put that lace curtain in her kitchen window so that she can spy on us, she is such a ‘nosy barker’ that woman. I overheard her insulting me in a conversation with her friends over tea the other morning. She called me a stuck-up witch. When are you going to do something about it Jim? Have you mentioned her intruding roundabouts on her roof last week to Officer Louis? Pretending to find a water leak, I know she was up there to see what I was doing in the back yard…And turn that music off, those Creedence boys can’t sing, I can’t stand their whining and screaming…” she muttered while Jim sat peacefully behind the steering wheel staring longingly at the dams they passed on the way. It was early spring, the daisies and poppies on the banks reflected on the mirror surface of the water. Every now and again a swallow swooped to touch the water, the concentric circles turning the flowers into splashes of red and yellow.
Enthralled by the fishy farm ponds, Jim imagined a rise near some bulrushes of a vegetated dam near the turn-off to the stable yard. Mrs. Stuckey’s voice intensified in the background, but Jim’s eyes and thoughts were fixed to the water. It was a small, deep dam and Jim knew that there were big pre-spawn female bass hanging near the edges of the reeds and that they would smash a wooden plug if left sitting dead still on the surface after the cast. Something in Mrs. Stuckey’s voice distracted Jim and brought his attention back to the road. When Jim looked in front of him his left eye brow lifted sharply.
The Chevrolet truck hit the horse hard. The animal crashed through the windscreen and disintegrated Mrs. Stuckey’s scull. A hoof brushed over Jim’s right cheek, slicing it open so that his wisdom teeth were exposed. Another hoof plunged into Mrs. Stuckey’s abdomen, ripping out her entrails which scattered across the cab.
Jim Stuckey was misunderstood by many of Woodcreek’s residents. The people thought that he was a strange character. Although his intimacy with bass gave him a reputation being a fishing nutcase, he was a gifted and friendly chap and he frequently assisted town residents that were in urgent need of help. He once helped dig out the Patrick’s car from the red mud in his choir vestment while the congregation stood and watched. There was also no carpentry too sophisticated for him to repair. In fact, he was so talented with woodwork that the Pilgrims often asked him to renovate collector’s items, such as the ancient doors from Zanzibar. He’d stare at these broken pieces of furniture for hours before lifting his left eyebrow when he came up with a plan to fix it.
Jim’s skill with wood came from his love for crafting bass lures. The Stuckey garage was filled with racks of hand sculpted and painted lures. His collection included long, skinny pencil baits made from Brazilian Rosewood that suspended underwater; African Black Ironwood minnows that plunged to the bottom of the deepest holes he fished, and also balsa surface plugs that popped up like corks. The balsa ‘poppers’ were his favourite lures and the one’s he’d use to fool lunker female bass with before they dropped their eggs. Mrs. Stuckey believed he wasted time crafting lures. In fact, she was so ashamed of all the plugs in their garage she never allowed friends to enter it.
Mrs. Stuckey believed that Jim’s addiction to fishing was an illness. She tried to keep him away from the water in many ways. She even learnt about the weather to intercept potentially good fishing days with a much needed lift to her horse, Gringo.
Gringo was a true blessing to Mrs. Stuckey. The stable yard grooms called the colt a ‘naughty horse’ because it often jumped the pole fence of its paddock out of bad habit. This behaviour demanded extra trips to the stable yard. Catching Gringo was also not an easy task and it cost Jim invaluable time whenever the untrained animal escaped.
Before Mrs. Stuckey acquired Gringo, Jim used to pack in his fishing rod when he went to church. He’d spend the Sunday afternoon sight-fishing to farm pond bass after the service. Mrs. Stuckey quickly ended his routine by swapping her afternoon nap with a visit to the stables, leaving Jim staring longingly at the farm dams situated along Old Mill Road, which used to be his favourite fishing route.
Officer Louis knelt down on the Old Mill Road. Next to him lay the corpse of Mrs. Stuckey. He glanced over her remains with a puzzled look. Gringo’s leg still penetrated her body. The paramedics rushed past him with Jim on a stretcher. They made brief eye contact; there were tears in Jim’s eyes, but he had a smile on his bloody face.