Authors: Katherine Holubitsky
The Big Snapper
Copyright Â© 2006 Katherine Holubitsky
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
The big snapper / Katherine Holubitsky.
(Orca young readers)
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8565.O645B53 2006Â Â jC813'.54Â Â C2006-903447-8
First published in the United States, 2006
Library of Congress Control Number
: Eddie loves fishing with Granddad and listening to his tall tales, but when his grandfather becomes seriously ill, Eddie must find ways to cope with the changes in his world.
Free teachers' guide available:
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Typesetting and cover design by Doug McCaffry
Cover & interior illustrations by Samia Drisdelle
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For baby Sophia
And in memory of Myron Holubitsky,
a much loved grandfather
Eddie peers through the mist toward the rocky shore. He watches to see how long it will take to lose sight of Granddad's cabin. The small gray building disappears in and out of the fog, becoming smaller and smaller. Finally it fades into the larger outline of towering cedars and is gone.
Granddad winks from where he sits with his hand on the throttle of the engine. He steers the small skiff farther out into the dark waters of the bay. Eddie turns to feel the moist breeze on his face as they head out to sea.
The bow bounces in the wake of a sleek white yacht, causing the hull of the old skiff to shudder. They pass a large fishing vessel with many rods fixed to the side.
Eddie runs his hand along the weather-beaten gunwale. He shuffles his gumboots, leaving scuff marks in the dent in the bow beneath his feet. “Granddad,” he calls above the sound of the skiff's engine. “You've never told me about the first time you saw the big snapper.”
“The very first time?” Granddad repeats loudly.
Eddie nods. He watches as Granddad considers the pattern of the water. He watches him judge the distance they are from shore. They have reached one of their favorite fishing spots. Granddad cuts the engine. “Well, perhaps I haven't,” he says. He lets the long anchor chain rumble out.
Eddie fishes in a bucket of water for a chunk of octopus while Granddad prepares the line. He knows he'll hear the story as soon as the line is out. When he is ready, Granddad motions that it is time for Eddie to fix the bait onto the hook. Granddad's hands are shaky, so for more than a year the job of baiting the hook has fallen to Eddie.
Sure enough, with the chunk of octopus well on its way to the bottom of the bay, Granddad settles in to tell his story.
“The first time I ran into that old snapper,” he begins, “I was eighteen years old. I was a strapping young fellow back then with hair as black as a raven, and I stood just over seven feet tall.”
Eddie is clearly amazed. Granddad stands only a little taller than himself now, and he's just over five feet. He'd been measured at school. But he also knows better than to interrupt the story.
“It was on a day much like today,” Granddad continues. “In fact I was sitting right about in this very same spot. I was out in this skiff, which was brand spanking new at the time. I'd bought it with the first money I'd made working at the cannery, and I was mighty proud of it. Not five minutes after I'd dropped my line, the bait was nabbed and my line started peeling off at a terrific rate. I cranked down on the drag, but that didn't do any good. It was running real low, so I cranked down all the way, leaned back and put all I had into it.”
Granddad pauses to open the lunch basket and pour coffee from a thermos. He leans forward. The steam rising from the mug is swallowed by the mist in the air. “Well, that fish had taken
every inch of my line when the boat suddenly lurched forward. The next thing I knew I was skimming across the water at a mind-boggling speed. In no time at all we'd left the bay.”
“Why didn't you cut the line?”
“That would have made sense. But when the boat lurched forward, I was slammed into the floor and I couldn't move. From then on the force of the wind and the speed we were going kept me there. We traveled south, passing the ferry from the mainland. We overtook a couple of speedboats moving at a pretty good clip. I could see the Coast Guard cutter up ahead. Within a few seconds it was also in our wake.” Granddad chuckles. “If only I could have seen the look on the captain's face. I imagine he was some surprised. Everything was passing in a blur, when suddenly I spotted a streak of orange above the waves.”
“Was it the snapper?”
Granddad nods. “It was the snapper. The biggest and strongest red snapper I'd ever seen.”
Eddie's eyes widen. “How big?”
“Well, let's see.” Granddad considers Eddie. “Maybe about the length of you plus half again,
but more the weight of a grizzly bear. Back then the water was cleaner, and there weren't so many commercial boats. The fish had a better chance to get real big. He was a young buck. He had to be to have that much strength. I have to admit, I was impressed. After breaking the surface, he made a perfect arch over a fellow in a kayak. But before he disappeared beneath the waves again, he turned and cursed me with a shiny black eye.”
“Were you scared?”
“Sure I was scared. But I didn't have time to think. We were still moving along at close to the speed of sound. I knew we'd long passed Moresby IslandâI'd seen the totems of Ninstints. We flew past the Sunshine Coast and a parade of coastal towns. The land changed and I had an idea we were skirting the coast of Oregon. But I had little time to think because when I turned forward again, a giant rock rose from the waves. I realized I was headed straight for it. For the second time, the big snapper rose above the surface. This time he grinned, showing me two rows of terrible teethâbetween them was the end of my line. He gave one last yank, let go, veered starboard and dove. But I continued along the path
he'd set me on. I crashed head-on into the island of Alcatraz.”
Granddad motions toward Eddie's feet. “That's how my skiff got that big dent you've got your boots resting in. But if it wasn't for the rock that stopped me, who knows how the ride would have come to an end? As it was, the jolt sent me out of the boat like an arrow. Being seven feet tall you can imagine what a projectile I made. I soared over a high wall and landed on a trampoline.”
Granddad nods. “It was right in the middle of the exercise yard of the prison on Alcatraz. I was surrounded by the most notorious and dangerous criminals in all of the United States. Thick-chestedâbecause they didn't have much else to do but exerciseâhairy guys with tattoos of spiders on their cheeks and no teeth. I stepped from the trampoline and shook myself off. The prisoners fell silent a moment and stared up at me. You have to remember that I was skin-nier than every one of those crooks and murderers, but I was also seven feet tall. Suddenly the ugliest one of them stepped forward. A long wormy scar stood from his bald head, and he was missing half an ear. Grabbing me roughly, he hauled me forward. âThis one,' he hollered, holding my arm in the air, âis on our team.'