"Oohthat's rank!" Red exclaimed, turning away from the rotting fish.
"It's ruined for sure," Bodie added.
"I don't think that my taxidermy guy can fix this," Tommy whined.
"Take that nasty thing down to the dock and let the crabs have it," Red snarled.
"I can't believe that I wasted the biggest fish I've ever caught. And you were right Bodie, I should have let it go," Tommy whined.
"Nothing you can do about it now," Bodie told his friend. "Just do what Red said and get rid of it."
"I'll be back in a few minutes. Tell Eloisa that I want the fried shrimp plate with fries and hushpuppies," Tommy called back climbing into his truck.
Bodie and Red walked back inside and sat down to their no-longer cold beers. Red asked Eloisa to bring a couple fresh ones and when she set them down she asked where Tommy was. Bodie explained and Eloisa shrugged her shoulders, "If he has a photo and knows the length he can have a replica made."
"Hey That's not a bad idea," Bodie agreed.
"What's not a bad idea?" Red asked.
"We could have a replica made of that fish. I have pictures of it on my phone," Bodie said with a grin.
"What's this we stuff you're talking about, Bodie? I ain't buying that freak of nature a replica of a jackfish," Red shot back.
"Aw, come on Red, it won't cost us much and we could have Eloisa hang it over by the pool tables and just sort of let Tommy discover it," Bodie grinned back at him.
Red thought for a minute, "What'd you say the length and weight of that fish was?"
"Well, I believe it weighed around forty-two pounds but I didn't get to measure it," Bodie replied.
"I see," Red answered in a softer tone. "Let me take care of this Bodie, I owe Tommy so I'll have the replica made out of my pocket. Let everyone but Tommy know and we'll surprise him with it on the wall."
"Mighty nice of you, Red," Bodie said surprised, still unsure what he was up to.
Tommy walked in just as Eloisa was bringing their food, looking like he just lost his best friend.
"Cheer up and enjoy your supper, Tommy Boy," Bodie encouraged. "You'll get another big jack someday."
"He's right about that," Red added. "The bays are full of them."
Tommy fiddled with his dinner and then announced he was going to take his food to go and eat later.
Eloisa boxed his meal as Tommy bid his friends farewell.
"He sure is taking this hard," Bodie remarked between bites of chicken-fried steak.
"He sure is," Red groused. "Why look here, he plumb forgot to pay for his supper."
The next morning Red drove into town and visited the shop of a taxidermist that had done some work for him. After exchanging pleasantries with the owner, Ben Seton, Red laid out his plan.
"I need to price something out and see if it can even be done," Red told him.
"Red, you just tell me what you want. If I can do it and you have the cash, it will be done pronto," Ben assured him.
"I need a replica of a jackfish for a friend," Red explained.
"Heck, that's no problem. All I need is the weight and length and I can order the form. When I get it painted up it'll look like the real thing."
"Well, the fish was forty-two pounds but he never measured it," Red explained. "But that's not really all that important because"
"Sounds a bit fishy, Red, but you're buying. I'm just the taxidermist."
So Red explained more precisely what he really wanted.
"Oh, I can do that alright. But the detail and all and the time involved won't be cheap."
"Right Just give me a good estimate of the price and I'll either say yes or no," Red snapped.
Ben noodled on a scrap of paper and announced his price. They shook on the deal and Red departed for the trophy shop on the other side of town.
Red knew the shop owners but didn't see either of them as he walked in. The young lady behind the counter smiled and asked if she could help him.
"Where's Don and Shirley," Red asked the cute teen.
"Oh they had to run to Houston for some things but they'll be here tomorrow morning," the girl replied cheerfully. "But I can probably help you. I'm Tammy, their daughter."
Red looked at the girl and shook his head. The last time he had seen her she couldn't have been but four or five.
"You're Tammy, that little tomboy I took fishing with her daddy?" Red asked.
"Oh I remember you now, you're Captain Red," the girl exclaimed. "I thought I recognized you but it's been so long. How have you been?"
After a brief conversation Red told her what he wanted and she offered her suggestions on what the plaque should look like and the best font style for the engraving.
"If it's going to be on a darker wall you really want to use a brass plaque with enameled lettering," she advised.
Tammy's comments got Red to thinking that a small light mounted on the wall to illuminate the plaque might be a good idea and she agreed. They discussed the size of the plaque and the wording Red wanted.
"Oh, we'll have it done in no time," Tammy assured him with a smile.
"There's no big hurry," Red said. "I have to wait for the taxidermist to get done."
Red thanked her and left the shop, chuckling all the way home.
"I sure do hate it about my big jackfish," Tommy said sadly.
"Try to forget about that danged jackfish and concentrate on the trout you're not catching," Bodie said to his friend, stringing his fifth trout while Tommy finally set the hook on a nice yellow mouth.
"This is a good one, Bodie. I sure hope this rod will hold up as well as my old Skinny Rod did all those years," Tommy moaned.
"You've already caught a lot of fish on that rod Tommy, you know it will hold up," Bodie said, rolling his eyes.
Bodie waded back to the boat and was finishing a cold drink and contemplating a nap when Tommy strung his final fish.
While Tommy was wading to the boat Bodie's rod building friend called and said the rod he'd ordered was completed and ready to be picked up. Bodie thanked him and placed his cell phone back on the center console and reached for Tommy's stringer.
"Nice string of trout my boy," Bodie complimented him. To his surprise Tommy was suddenly cheerful and happy.
"Sure is, and even though it took me longer than you, I think I got me a heavier stringer," Tommy joked.
Happy that his friend was back to normal, if Tommy could ever be, Bodie fired the boat up, raised the Power Pole and headed back to port.
Red was working in his shop when his cell phone rang. It was Ben Seaton calling to say that his replica was ready. "I'll be there in an hour," Red told Ben with a laugh.
Red stopped by the trophy shop and picked up the plaque. He visited with Don and Shirley for a bit, complimented them on raising a wonderful daughter and then rushed off to the taxidermist.
"Well here it is," Ben said to Red. "Sure is a lot of money but there's a bunch of work that went into it."
"Money well spent, Ben. And it looks fantastic!" Red proclaimed with delight.
Red drove as fast as he dared to Haddon's, hoping Eloisa was there. She was getting ready for her lunch crowd when Red showed her what he had and got her blessing to hang the stuff on the wall.
"There's a plug high on the wall where you can plug that light in," Eloisa said, pointing near the ceiling. "Never knew why that plug was way up there but you're welcome to use it."
Red went to work, showed it all to Eloisa who just shook her head and laughed. Red covered everything with an old bed sheet and whispered as he was leaving. "Mums the word," with his index finger across his lips. "Not a word to anyone. I want this to be a big surprise this evening."
Haddon's parking lot was overflowing and Bodie had to park on the side of the road. "Wonder what in the world is going on to have a crowd like this on Wednesday night?" he mused.
Making his way through the door it looked like half the town was there. Eloisa saw him and waved him over. "Saved you a spot over near the pool tables so y'all can be close by when Red unveils Tommy's trophy," she giggled above the hubbub.
Taking a seat, Bodie noticed the sheet on the wall and wondered what Red had up his sleeve. Red came in and strolled to the table. "He's grinning way too big," Bodie thought to himself. "He's got to be up to no good."
"What did you do?" Bodie asked.
"What do you mean, what did I do?" Red asked incredulously. "I had a replica made of Tommy's jackfish and a brass plaque engraved with the weight and date that it was caught. I even bought one of those little trophy display lights so everyone can see it better."
Bodie still had a hunch–Red was grinning too big.
Tommy came in and made his way through the crowd. People were patting him on the back and congratulating him and Tommy had no clue what the heck they were talking about. "Is everyone in here drunk already or what?" he asked Bodie and Red. "And what are you so happy about, Red?"
"I'm happy because you are about to be famous hereabouts. We're going to show the world your jackfish replica mount and a special plaque that I had made for you," Red chortled.
Red got Eloisa's attention and she handed him the karaoke mike. "Y'all shut the hell up and listen" Red's voice boomed through the tavern.
"some of you might not know, but our friend Tommy Meyers here caught a forty-two pound jackfish on his favorite custom trout rod a couple weeks ago. And in doing so the rod was ruined," Red informed the crowd. "And due to a really hot day and too little ice, the jackfish turned into rotten crab bait and Tommy couldn't have it mounted. So I have taken it upon myself to have a replica mount made for him. So Tommy, come on up here and help me unveil this for everybody to admire!"
Red walked over to the sheet and Tommy all red and blushing from the attention slapped him on the back, saying, "You really shouldn't have," as Red jerked the sheet down.
It was a beautiful replica of a jackfish, of that there was no doubt. The colors were perfect, the blending of paint and the application was flawless. But the replica was six inches long while the plaque underneath was twelve inches long.
The crowd roared with laughter as everyone came closer and squinted at the tiny replica fish and read the plaque. Bodie just stood there frowning.
Red was laughing so hard that he was in tears but Tommy just stared in admiration until tears came to his eyes, too.
"Red this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me," Tommy said. "Why to go to all that trouble not to take up a lot of space on Haddon's wall and to have such a perfect miniature of my fish made, a thing of pure beauty. Why this is one of the nicest things you could have done for me. You got the weight right, and the date, even spelled my name right. I just don't know what to say!"
Tommy grabbed Red and gave him a big hug, Red tried to get away. Bodie was laughing so hard he had to sit down.
Red was confused at the backfire of his prank while the crowd all admired the beautiful miniature replica, heaping praise and congratulations on Tommy. With all that going on Bodie slipped outside to grab Tommy's new custom rod.
"I have a little something for Tommy too," Bodie announced as he strode toward his friend. "The exact length and action of your old Skinny Rod–but even better!"
Tommy cried a little harder and Red muttered some things that shouldn't even be said in a bar. Bodie laughed and the crowd couldn't get enough as they continued the celebration.
"That was a really nice thing you did for Tommy," Bodie whispered in Red's ear.
"Yeah, well let me tell you what he can do with that new rod," Red grumbled.
"Oohthat's rank!" Red exclaimed, turning away from the rotting fish.