Kustow, the oldest and wisest resident of Lake Lure, had been the much-esteemed School Master since way before Squirt wiggled his way free from the nest. It was common knowledge that Kustow had been something of a rascal before he saw the Light; word was he had bit off more than his share of lures. He had the scars to prove it.
Kustow was lecturing about temptation, junk food he called it:
Now listen when I tell you, small fry
'Bout the stranger-danger lurking nearby.
Shun that fancy-smancy, purty-frilly fly,
Dancin' all around the lake to catch 'ur eye.
Good Book says Ol' Devil's mighty sly,
Offerin' baits to lure a savvy guy.
But, in the end, leaves belly-up to die
And to this Eden, forever a 'goodbye'.
Squirt knew he should take note of the warning, but, he had heard it all before. So what if the lake were abundant in algae and easy-to-catch small aquatic insects and flies. Squirt was drawn more to those bright, flashy, darting ones that skimmed the water's surface. He'd heard catching hold of one of them was a trip he'd never forget.
“Eat your veggies, Squirt. You're not going out flippin' and jumpin' til you do! Look at SueShe and Toona. Why can't you be more like your sisters?” Gypsy had tried to be a good mother to her brood, but, she didn't think she was getting through to Squirt. If only Fin were around more; boys need a father's guidance.
“I don't like it! It's garbage! When I grow up I'm gonna' savor all the delicacies and sweet morsels I can find in this ole' pond. I'm tired of the same ole stuff!” With that Squirt scooted past his mother and sisters and shot out into deep water.
It wasn't long before Squirt came upon the gang led by Kreacher, a cool cat, that patrolled the depths. He was flanked by his sentinels, Hoover and Jonah.
“Who let this small fry in? Whatcha think yer doin in my 'hood boy? Ya have to prove yerself to swim with the cats.”
“I'm not afraid.”
“Ummm...whatcha think boys? Should he prove himself?”
Crabby sidled over, looking Squirt all up and down. “He ain't nothin' but a minnow. Oughta eat him myself. Tell, you what. See that odd, purple fantail fly that keeps flittin around us down here? Now, I'm thinkin' if you can catch it...”
The words had no more left Crabby's mouth before Squirt dashed off chasing the fly. It was all he could do to stay near it before it darted away. Come to me, you sweet morsel. You're mine.
The next thing Squirt remembered was dangling in the air, high above his warm home. His mouth was hurting bad and he couldn't breathe. The sun was in his eyes and he was flipping for all he was worth, to no avail.
“Daddy! I got one! Look! I got one!”
“Hold him, son! Don't let him get away! That's it, reel him in. Take your time. You're doing so well.”
“Wow! He's something, huh, dad?”
“Terrific! But, I think he's just a little too small to be a keeper, don't you? Let's throw him back til he grows a bit.”
Squirt remembered hitting the water hard. He blacked out for a minute, floating at the surface before he caught his breath and dove deep. Swimming as hard as his little fins would carry him, he made his way back to his nesting place.
Gypsy saw her young son slide back into his place at the family dinner table, take a large helping of algae and gulp it down.
“Squirt, what's got into you? I'll never understand you if I live as long as Kustow. Where've you been? You been runnin' with that fool bunch of bottom feeders? What's with your dinner? Since when do you eat your veggies?”
“Mother, have I told you how good this is? It's outstanding! Oooh, yes, outstanding!”
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