Harold had a lifelong obsession with fishing over the bright waters of the Caribbean…
…and other saltwater environments that held his obsessive Bonefish (Albula vulpes). Traveling to all ends of the earth, suffer any expense and level of inconvenience to make destiny with but the chance of hooking up. Harold was a bonefish addict. He openly admitted it. Even flaunted it. His wife left him long ago.
No, not due to divorce, she died early. And Harold, a truly kind and considerate man, decided to never put another woman through the challenges, to which he remorsefully admitted submitting his wonderful Alice. As Harold put it, “No man is entitled to be so consumed by an obsession as to halt the desires of any more than one woman; peradventure she didn’t kill him first.” He knew it. By his own admission, Harold ‘tread upon sharp coral with thin-soled shoes’, in that department. Harold was not a man to press his luck. At least, off the flats.
But being a bonefish addict, it was only a matter of time before Harold would exceed even this bit of long-held wisdom. The day he stepped onto ‘Life’s own coral reef’, was the day he entered the waters of Allusion Creek. He did not notice the change, for this is the very reason he was even here in the first place. Harold tossed reason and instead embraced his desires.
The day was high-sun; boring a hole through the atmosphere like a diamond-tipped drill. No ease. Sheer brute force. Baking all in its path. Searing the very air. Making it hard to breathe; not enjoy. Harold was honed, long ago, to the tortures of reality. He endured all, for but a brief moment, the pleasurable bonefish hook-up.
The tide was leaving and knew his time was short. Mid-cast to a tailing-pod of bonefish, Harold saw it. At first, he thought it was nothing more than a mirage. It was hot; the tropics; monotonous, near-endless horizon; ripe-for-mirage. But this was different. The mirage was waving to him. Not the undulation of heat waves wafting in the columns of super-heated air. No, the female form was actually waving – and did he hear his name being called…
“Harold? Is that you? Are you still out here? C’mon dear. Come home. The bonefish will wait another day. I am here but a short time. What do you say?”
He, couldn’t help himself, He even heard the statement as he said it. He analyzed the insanity of it and yet, gave the all-clear to say it… “Just one more cast…..”.
Yep. Harold was toast. He had just opened, stepped through and was falling out the other side of the door marked EXIT, but was oblivious. He did not see it coming.
Harold Steppes was a dentist by trade. But a totally irreverent and unflappable bonefish addict by desire. He would – and did – just about anything to satisfy his habit.
He was on his 26th trip to the Bahamas when he got a cell phone call that his wife had passed. In all fairness to Harold, he was emphatic with Alice about staying,
“Alice, dear. You know I will cancel my trip to the Bahamas in a heart beat and stay with you. Just say the word.”, he blustered, biting his tongue to near severance.
“Oh, Harold. You are such a dear man. But I just could not ask you do this. I know how much you enjoy, and are energized, by the trips after those little bonefish critters. The practice and your patients are just so much better-off when you get back. That will do my heart good to know they are taken care of; and you of course.”, she said, with an archive of Harold’s life passing before her frontal cortex in the process.
Harold would have canceled the trip and stayed with her if that was what she wanted. But Alice knew. She really knew just how much those bonefish-trips meant to him. Without saying so, she told him as well that she understood her place in his priority list. Yes, it was painful for her to see him go, but it would have been even more difficult to see him wither, missing his bonefish trip and waiting for her to die. But more than this, she just knew the practice would suffer — and so would the monthly profit margins. For you see, business and profits were Alice’s secret addiction. Yes, secret, most of all, from Harold.
This may all seem a bit odd to most who read this account. But, rest assured, it was not odd-in-the-least, for Alice. She knew at the outset Harold was not going to be a ‘regular guy’. It was this awareness that drew her to him. He was, in her eyes, like the stray puppy that shows up at the back door. You have two choices: a) knock him in the head and be done with it; or, b) take him in and provide him whatever it is he needed to live a comfortable life. No. For Alice, there was never any thought of just shuffling off this duty onto someone else. This was Alice’s view on such things as shelters, rescue centers, half-way-houses, social agencies, and euthanasia.
So she, from-the-get-go, decided she would take Harold on as her Personal Project. Giving him whatever he needed; as well as grooming him to provide her what she needed. Alice had it all planned out. Harold was totally clueless. He only saw one thing: bonefish. Yes, even as that young man standing on, the brink of his dental future and the steps of the medical library at IU Dental School, in 1968, Harold had no clue what future Alice had in store for him. But Alice did. Somehow, she knew this guy was going to be a money-making-machine. And she was prepared to do whatever it took for her to enjoy the part of Harold she could do the most with: and Alice knew this would be his money. And boy, did she enjoy his money.
When Harold went off to battle his siren Bonefish, Alice was headed off to some other spot of her calling. Alice was not a Johnny One-Note like her husband, Alice was a lady of many tastes and talents. So her trips were are varied as Harold’s, monotonous.
It was in their 5th year of marriage that Alice made her life-changing decision to let Harold have his bonefish and she would take his money. It was the glue that bound them together.
Right out-of pre-med and into the first day of graduate school, Harold and Alice met on the steps of the IU Dental School Library. It was fate at first sight. Alice was a very fetching young beauty, with all the requirements to catch a young man’s eye and lust; with a dash of je ne se quoi lagniappe added. Yes, Alice did have the ‘little something extra’, that all men look for: she knew where she was going and how to get there. Utterly clueless are most men. They have no idea what it is they find so irresistible about a woman; least wise not until it is too late to realize the fullness of the meaning of, ’till death do us part’. But they still fall prey to it when the trap is set and tripped. That the bait is so irresistible as well is not to be discounted. And Alice had the bait and was very good at presenting it. So, Harold was toast. And this was not the last time he assumed that consumable position.
Their romance through graduate school was anything but typical. People were amazed at the ferocity of their relationship; the loyalty of Alice; and the absent-mindedness of Harold; and that despite all these near-guaranteed destructive elements, for any relationship, theirs flourished. It mystified all those who knew them; saw them; witnessed them. But it did not bother them. You see, Alice was on a mission and Harold was already in the stratosphere of oblivion, having no idea of their awkward appearance. He was just enjoying the cuisine and care, too much to notice.
They graduated the same year, 1973, two days apart, Harold with his DDS and Alice with her MBA. Two weeks later they were married and after a blue water honeymoon amid the bonefish flats of the Bahamas, they returned to their new purchase of an already successful and established dental practice in Miami Florida.
Harold had four of the brightest young dental graduates working in his practice, along with a staff of 8 dental hygienists (two per dentist) and 10 office technicians; a fancy term for secretaries. But Alice insisted. She just new (Alice was good on ‘gut feelings’) giving them the titles would certainly improve their ownership of their positions and provide capital-gaining prestige for the practice. And she was right; as usual.
‘Some say addiction is genetic. Others say it is a character flaw. Most just don’t say anything, hoping their silence will prevent the leakage of personal demons. But life has a quirky way of leaching this stuff out anyway. Sort of like that exploded radiator hose, that erupts in the middle of a 6-mile backup, on the Interstate, while blistering away in a 98˚F sun-oven. Exploding the life fluid out all over the ground for everyone to see. No hiding that. The flaws of character shortage, flow in much the same manner. Such was the impending implosion of Harold Steppes.’
‘Bonefish Addiction’, is the first public reveal of a soon-to-be published and released series called, Allusion Creek. The inspirational early-stage-sketch for this story came by way of my good friend and fellow CreXpoCon member… Diane Michelin.
Thank you, Diane, for the story bump. I hope you enjoy this appetizer as much I enjoyed whipping it up. The whole story is (IMNSHO!) well worth the read. I do hope y’all agree. Thank you!