The water was cold and the current strong, but Goober stood firm, confident he could noodle out a big catfish from the indention in the bank. Pastor Jerguson’s old waders that Goober found in the church dumpster were keeping him dry, at least from the chest down. The rip torn in them when Goober baptized Francine Peters had a generous hump of duct tape holding back the river. Because of the current, Grady had tied a rope around Goober’s waist and held him securely from the bank.
“Alright,” Grady said, “I’ve got you. Reach in there and wiggle your fingers around. When you feel that old catfish take a bite, just pull him out. Ain’t nothing to it.”
“Wait a minute. I thought I was just supposed to grab him, not him grab me.”
“Too slippery,” Grady answered. “Anyway, his teeth will latch hold long enough for you to pull him out then you can grab him with your other hand and throw him up here on the bank. Just don’t get stuck with one of his fins.”
“What? I ain’t so sure I want to do this anymore.”
“Of course you do. Just stick your hand in there and wiggle your fingers around. Trust me.”
Goober looked into the murky water rushing past him, took a deep breath, closed his eyes and stuck his hand into the bank. “You wiggling your fingers?” Grady asked. Goober slowly spread his fingers apart and extend them, then pulled them back. Nothing. He tried again and SNAP!
Goober’s scream was something between a cat getting his tail underneath a rocker and a two year old seeing how high her voice can go. He jerked his hand back. “Throw me the fish,” Grady said. But the oblong, four-footed creature attached to his hand wouldn’t let go. “Goober, that ain’t no catfish, it’s a snapping turtle. Let go of it and go after the catfish.”
“I’ve done let go of it,” Goober yelled. “It won’t let go of me!”
“Well, shake it real hard.”
Goober tried but the turtle was securely latched to his hand.
“Need thunder,” Grady offered. “Snapping turtles won’t let go till it thunders.” He looked up to the sky. Totally clear. But as he did he let go of the tension in the rope.
Goober felt the current taking him downstream. He staggered over some rocks and went under. The waders quickly filled with frigid water and began dragging him down. He forced himself up, coughed and sputtered, then went back under. Grady looked back down from checking out the sky and Goober was gone. He heard the splash and looked down river. Goober had lodged himself in the fork of a tree limb. The waders were floating on by themselves. He hung there shivering.
Grady walked out on the limb and pulled him up. “Where’s the turtle?” he asked.
“Guess he let go at some point,” Goober said.
“Good, now let’s go and noodle out that old catfish.”
The second scream was more like a wounded wild cat about to spring ferociously on its attacker. Grady felt it best to quickly find his way back to the truck. Goober was right behind him, yelling, “You want to see some noodling?”