Karl Boyd, Author & Storyteller


Honesty is the Best Policy!

This is a fishing tale. It takes a little telling, so hang in there. You may remember my good fishing buddy, named Frank, who is married to a very nice lady named Sarah. They both have grown old enjoying life and each other. As a result, they went through the yearly cycle of buying gifts for many various reasons. Usually the things Frank bought Sarah had to be returned for something she really wanted. Sometimes the same was true of those items Sarah bought for Frank.

After a few years of this foolishness, they decided jointly to do something a little different. On Frank’s birthday, Sarah would buy something she liked for herself; and Frank would do the same on Sarah’s birthday. At Christmastime and on other holidays, they did the same. Then they told each other how much they enjoyed their present.

This worked wonders on their relationship, plus saved a lot of gas and trouble returning the unwanted gifts.

As you know, Frank has always been a fisherman. He and I have enjoyed many a day throwing jigs or live bait in quest of supper. Until last year, Sarah was content to do other things. Then, on Frank’s birthday, January 7th, she bought herself a very nice Shimano rod and reel outfit. She told Frank and me the next time we went out to wet a line, we’d have company.

Frank was impressed with her choice. So much so, that he went out and had a small name tag engraved, which he placed on the handle of her new rod. She was thrilled when she landed her first big redfish. From then on, Sarah was our constant companion.

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But, then, things started going badly - for Frank and me, I mean.

From the beginning, with her expensive little toy, Sarah would constantly outcast either of us. She reached places we couldn’t and started catching more fish in an hour than Frank and I did all day. It was embarrassing. Frank wanted to buy a rod and reel to match hers, but Sarah’s birthday wasn’t until November 16th. That was a long ways off. What to do?

Then, Sarah came down with a summer cold and didn’t feel up to accompanying us on our next fishing trip. Frank saw this as a perfect opportunity to try out her new rod and reel. Unknown to her, he snuck it out of the garage and onto my boat. I foolishly imagined she allowed him to borrow it. (I swear I had no idea.)

We fished in our usual spot, over a pretty deep hole near the Intercoastal Waterway. Frank had a ball with his new toy. He threw casts like I had never seen before and hauled in the fish. I was seriously thinking of buying a rod to match Sarah’s when IT happened.

Frank made a spectacular cast and absentmindedly laid Sarah’s rod down in the bottom of the boat, with the end sticking over the gunnels. He turned to pick another cold beer from the ice chest, and a huge fish hit his bait. Sarah’s rod sailed out of the boat and landed in the water about 15 feet from the boat. In a moment, the rod dove underwater.

It was the last we saw of the rod that day.

To say Frank was crestfallen was to put it mildly. He said some things I can’t repeat here, and I actually thought he might jump in the water to search for Sarah’s rod. I stopped him from doing that, but we both spent the rest of the day casting into the hole, trying to snag Sarah’s rod. We were unable to find it. Darkness soon overtook us and we had to leave.

Frank decided to not say anything to Sarah. He thought he could order her a new rod and possibly break it in to look like her old one. Maybe she wouldn’t notice it.

But, what of the nameplate? It would take several days for that to arrive. Frank was in trouble, knew it, but couldn’t accept it. I advised him to bite the bullet and tell the truth. “Honesty is probably the best policy!” I told him. Knowing Sarah, she wasn’t going to be happy, but she would probably forgive him.

Frank decided against my advice.

Two days later, Sarah was well enough to go fishing again. Frank hadn’t been able to get a new rod and reel, much less have time to break it in to match her old one. He had ordered the nameplate, but it was in the mail someplace.

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What to do?

We loaded up the boat while Sarah brought out our lunch box and thermos of coffee. She didn’t look in the boat for her gear. She figured Frank loaded her equipment on board as he always did. When we got out on the water, ready to fish, she noticed her rod wasn’t on board.

Frank lied and said he accidentally forgot it. She could use one of his.

Sarah wasn’t too happy, but she said “Okay”.

We cast into our usual hole, and caught several fish. Sarah wasn’t “tearing them up” the way she usually did with her rod, but she did okay. She was fishing on the bottom, with a heavy weight and fairly large hook. Suddenly, she hooked something big! Her borrowed rod bent almost double as she struggled to bring her catch onto the boat.

“It’s probably a big old sting ray,” she said. “It’s not fighting at all, just dragging against my line. I hope you didn’t forget the long nose pliers so I can get my hook out of it without getting stung, Frank.”

I stood there with the landing net, ready to assist her. To our surprise, out of the water came – you guessed it – Sarah’s rod and reel. Frank looked like he was going to have a heart attack on the spot.

“Well, look what I caught!” Sarah said. “It looks just like my rod and reel. I wonder who lost it.”

There hadn’t been any time for the rod to collect any crustaceans. It was dirty, but not that dirty. Sarah looked at the handle. That’s when she saw her nametag…

Life hasn’t been the same since that day. I do a lot of fishing - mostly with Sarah. Frank has been banned from fishing until Sarah’s birthday, which is still several months away. On that day, their long standing way of buying gifts will change. Frank will buy Sarah a new rod and reel and he’ll do without a gift for this year!

I don’t know about next year. I plan to get Frank a copy of that poem, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”

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Short Story Collection

True Competitor
Ballad of Billy Bob & Bubba
Grandmother & the Wicked Witch
To Kill or Not to Kill; That is The Question
Frank's New Boat
My Island in the Sun
George and the "Thunderbolt"
Honesty is the Best Policy!


Award Winner for
"The Nearly Perfect Plan"


Member of the Military Writers Society of America

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