It was first light on a warm summer morning in South Carver, Massachusetts, and I was fishing. I promised Dad I’d bring home enough bass for a family fish-fry, one that would feed all six of us. To make things even better, there was an awesome top-water bite with fish exploding out of the water on each pass of my Jitterbug lure. It was a thrill on every cast. I waded out knee-deep so I could make longer casts to the drop-off where the big fish lived.
One fish quickly went on the stringer, then two, then three and four. Within two hours, I had twelve fish on a stringer tied to the exposed root of a tree at the edge of the water. Cranberry bog drainage ponds, like this one, held lots of fish, but the bass never got very big, so I figured I’d need about twenty-five to feed our clan.
All morning long, lily pads parted, and...wham...just as the pad started returning to its position, an aggressive fish would burst from beneath to crush my lure. I was having so much fun that I lost track of time and only paid attention to my stringer long enough to add each fish.
A little before noon, I realized it was time to get back to camp and clean fish for lunch. I knew I had around twenty-five and I envisioned me, the conquering hero, striding up to our tents with a stringer of fish so heavy I had to drape it over my shoulder. Dad would be proud. Mom would be grossed out. And, my little brothers would be excited. That was the fantasy.
Have you ever tried to intimidate a raccoon? I learned that day, raccoons are not the least bit afraid of people, especially a skinny boy slapping the water with a cheap fishing pole and shouting curses at them. Nope, nasty beast growled at me while following my stringer from the base of the tree. It waded into the water and began munching on the closest bass to shore. I hoped it would be sated after one or two fish and go away, but that wasn’t in the cards. The stinking <expletive deleted> bit through my cord! I watched helplessly, as one fish after another wriggled free and returned to the depths of the pond.
I arrived back in camp with two feet left of my six-foot stringer, no fish and a missing tennis shoe that got stuck in the mud when the pissed off raccoon chased me down the bank. Little did I realize back then, that some day I’d be a writer, struggling to build a “limit” of good words, only to have some damn editor yank the stringer right out of my “catch” with the same disregard for my feelings as that coon showed.
“This is a plot hole. Rewrite it.”
“Your pace is too slow here. Rewrite it.”
“Can’t you delete this unnecessary scene?” That scene just happened to be one of the most masterful pieces of writing I ever penned, or so I thought. Now, this all-powerful editor, this demigod of publishing, guts my painfully crafted genius from the story. That’s just not right! Editors, and raccoons, need to leave my shit alone. I say, “Let it be!”
Then again, that raccoon had teeth, some nasty looking teeth. So does my editor, but his teeth aren't the white kind. Rather, they are green...the green of money. You see, the editor controls an author’s purse strings, so I guess if he wants my stringer, he can have it. Maybe with some of that green, I'll treat myself to a new pair of tennis shoes. Hmmm...stupid raccoon...took me fifty years, but I got my shoe back!