Don’t Be Koi

By Marie LeClaire

She didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She thought it quite funny in fact, in a politically ironic kind of way. Apparently, it was not.

And where were her compadres! Her co-conspirators? It was all fun and games until it wasn’t. Where were they now? Janie had jumped a train out of town claiming a sick mother. Nancy had used her bad back, a legitimate excuse, to get out of the final sentence. And Mary? She, with all her parent’s money, hired a high-powered attorney who presented her as an emotionally fragile flower who was pressured into it by radical misguided young women bend on disrupting the lives of important people. Little did they know that Mary was the mastermind, but no one was going to rat her out. They had a code. Or did they? And, anyway, wasn’t this all a little over the top?

It seemed like the entire country was talking about it. She was either a courageous activist to be applauded or an undisciplined child needing punishment. Really? It was just four slightly drunk women with nothing better to do. They weren’t trying to shift the political climate – pun intended – or be sociopathically cruel. They were just being silly, cracking themselves up, on a warm summer night after the bars closed. Now, locked for months in the slow-moving behemoth of a legal system, the seasons had turned to Fall and then to Winter.

The courtroom was a media side show. Every Podunk paper had some clown with a camera waiting outside the federal courthouse. The news articles ran the gamut from Gutsy Women Make A Splash For The Environment to Childish Prank Could End In Serious Injury Or Death. The whole thing had grown to such ridiculous proportions it was hard to believe how little thought actually went into it.

She played the events over and over each time she headed out to the frozen lake. The police escort made sure she showed up, and assisted with crowd control, at least for the first few days. But when people realized how completely uneventful it is to watch someone fish, they lost interest and the story gradually moved to the back pages.

Not being much of an outdoorist, she had underestimated how cold it would be. Gratefully, the pro-environment brigade had supplied her with high tech solar cold weather gear to keep her warm. Then, outdoor equipment companies jumped in to highlight their own products – fish lures, battery heated boots, underwater scopes – and she was actually making a little money from sponsors, which irked the indignant patriarchy to no end. Her homemade fishing pole – she had refused to buy one – had been replaced with a lightweight fiberglass rod and reel that came with a good-looking instructor who got her number and promised to call when this was all over.

Next, ice fishing enthusiasts started appearing as a show of support, or to get a little press, or just to have someone to fish with. In any case, she was happy for the company and the whole thing had taken on a social element that was almost funny. Even the police escort had lightened up a bit. After a week or so, they stopped showing up at her house each morning and were satisfied with a drive-by of the pond-in-question to make sure she was there. Some even brought her out hot breakfast or lunch. One officer’s wife, who was particularly supportive, sent out a thermos of spiced Chai latte every afternoon he was working.

Where the newspapers left off, social media stepped in. A Facebook page, liked by anglers from around the world, made suggestions on bait, time of day, and other nuances of the sport. In addition, there were now websites where you could bet on when the sentence would be completed. Bloggers set up webcams surveying the entire pond and webcasters interviewed her daily.

All this to the dismay of the judge, who couldn’t do anything about it now. The sentence had been passed.

“The defendant must retrieve the five Koi fish she stole from the Governor’s Mansion fish pond and released into the wild (Farmer’s Pond) and return them, unharmed, to their rightful home.”

She was distracted by two boys at the pond’s edge shouting and pointing. One of the other anglers had just pulled a Koi through his hole in the ice. Three down, two to go.