If you are new to the Fairly Tales, I suggest you click on that category above and read the stories in order from earliest to most recent.  About a week before I post them here, I send each story to my daughters and son to read to the grandchildren.  If you pay close attention, you will find references in every story to the grandchildren and other people they know.  The sugar bush and the rest of the setting is real and located near where I grew up.  Stephanie is unreal, in more ways than one.

 

Stephanie and the Fisherman

Once upon a time, there was a fairly named Stephanie who was fairly curious.  She had never heard the old expression that “Curiosity killed the cat,” which is pretty violent for an old expression, but is quite fitting for someone who lives in the Catskill Mountains.  Good thing Tigger and Grandma and Grandpa’s cats don’t live there!

She was curious about many things, but mostly Stephanie was curious about bigginses.  She knew that they didn’t make good pets (and that’s why she had a grub farm instead).  And she knew they lived in square houses out in the open, instead of in round houses under maple trees.  She knew that when the apples in the old orchard got ripe and fell off the trees, bigginses might come and pick up the drops.  (Stephanie liked to get her drops from the spring; it made the apples juicier.)  And, of course, the bigginses would come to the sugar bush in late winter to tap the maple trees.  It made quite a noise, and Stephanie had to stay inside while they were setting up or emptying their buckets; but it was better to do that than to be a sap.

And starting around April Fool’s Day every year, some bigginses would come to the babbling brook to try to catch some fish.  (There weren’t any big lakes nearby like where Emilie and Dawson and their Mom and Dad catch their fish.)  They called it “fishing”, but Stephanie thought it probably should be called, “getting wet” or “standing around with a stick in your hand”.  And Stephanie knew that she should always stay out of sight when the bigginses were around, but, as I said, Stephanie was fairly curious….

So one day Stephanie went for a walk down by the babbling brook.  She thought about trying to bounce a flat stone across the water, but decided to skip it.  Then she saw a fisherman, and got very still.  He looked old, wearing a hat and boots, and he had a long, bendy stick in his hand, and was waving it back and forth over the water as if he were trying to do a magic trick.  Stephanie guessed that it was working:  magically, all the fish disappeared.

But after watching the fisherman for a few minutes, Stephanie noticed that he had an old metal box that looked like it had been tackled more than once.  The cover was open, and there was an amazing collection of colorful items inside.  There was a knife, and several spoons, but no fork.  There were rubber worms, and plastic worms, and gummy worms—in case the old man got hungry, she decided.  (She knew that she and her friend Joshua loved gummy worms.)  But the most interesting things were in a little tray right on top:  a collection of dead bugs.

There were blue bugs, and red bugs, and fuzzy bugs and bugs with wings.  Actually, she saw, they weren’t dead bugs–they were fake flies, and they all had a sharp metal hook running right through their fake little hearts.

She crept nearer to get a good look, and was standing over the box of flies when she saw the fisherman turn toward her.  She made herself very small and lay down in the box to hide.  Now, maybe you didn’t know that fairlies could make themselves small; but since they are mostly air and imagination, when you squeeze those things out, what’s left isn’t very big.  So Stephanie squeezed herself very tiny and hid in the box.

“Oh, where are my glasses?” muttered the old biggins as he struggled to unfasten a fake fly from the string on his long fishing pole.  He stopped and patted his pockets, then frowned and said, “I must have left them in the truck,” and went back to squinting and struggling and finally getting the wet fly off the line.  “Ouch!” he said as he stuck the tip of the sharp hook into his thumb, and then popped the thumb into his mouth for a moment.  Stephanie thought only baby bigginses did that.

He dropped the bug into the box right next to where the fairly was lying very still, and said, “Which one should I try next?  Hmm…that looks like a good one,” and he reached down and started to pick up Stephanie gently between two fingers!  She was very, very scared, but as he lifted her out of the box she grabbed the fuzzy bug she had been lying on and hugged it tightly.

“Seems a little heavier than most, but maybe that’s what I need today,” the fisherman mumbled and proceeded to thread his line through the hook, being careful not to squeeze too hard so he wouldn’t hurt the fly–which was fairly lucky for Stephanie! She was still very, very scared, but she stayed quiet and did her best not to cry.  She didn’t like it when the biggins was touching her, and was relieved when he let go of her.  But that was when her trouble just began.

She dropped a couple of feet straight down—and then was jerked up over the fisherman’s head.  She hung on to her phony fly as tightly as she could as the biggins flicked his stick backwards, then snapped it forward, and then jerked it backwards, and then sent it flying forward toward the water.  Stephanie was terrified, then a little sick (like Grammie gets on rides at the Fair), then terrified again; but before she could feel sick again, she landed on the water with a little splash and decided to let go.  The fake bug started to fly like a real bug back toward the fisherman; and the real fairly started to fly like a real stone toward the bottom of the babbling brook.

But before she had sunk even an inch, she bumped—hard!—into something racing upward.  With a thump and little splash, she bounced from the water onto a flat rock at the edge of the brook.  For just a moment, she saw Tommy the Trout jumping out of the water and snapping at the fly—but by bumping into her, he had slowed down just enough that he missed the bug with its dangerous hook!  She could see shock and wonder in his eyes when he understood how close he had come to being caught for someone’s lunch.  He swam toward her rock and blinked his eyes in surprise when he saw Stephanie and realized that she was the one he had bumped into.  (If you’ve never seen a trout blink his eyes in surprise, you should try to see it some time.)  He stopped by the edge of the rock, and Stephanie reached down and patted his nose.  “I’m sorry if I hurt your snout, Tommy.  But thank you for saving me.”

Tommy opened and closed his mouth, and thanked her for saving him from the fisherman’s trick—I mean, he would have thanked her if trout could talk.  Then he swished his tail and disappeared downstream.

“Well, that was a bumpy ride,” Stephanie said to herself as she stepped behind a bush, took a deep breath, and used enough imagination to get herself full-sized again.  She had no curiosity to go back and see the old biggins.   She had no curiosity to go back and check out his collection of fishing things.  She did have just enough curiosity to go in through his truck window and find his glasses and his cell phone on the seat.  (She didn’t know what a cell phone was, but it looked interesting, so she picked it up to take it home.)  She knew that the biggins would need his glasses in order to drive home, so she put them outside on the ground in front of one tire where he couldn’t miss them. 

So she went home to her house in the sugar bush, with an exciting story and a new toy.  And she was never quite as curious again—at least when bigginses were around.

 

Next time, as long as the brook is still babbling and the cell phones are still selling, I’ll tell you the story of Stephanie and the Fairly Bad Call.

 

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