Man, what a lousy day! The chubasco had come right up the Baja coast bangin’ into villages, knockin’ out the spiffy new resorts, and overturnin’ boats. Then it got really serious before it moved north, skirted by San Diego, and hit the “Big Orange.” Luckily, the piers survived this little display of temper by Mother Nature, a welcome relief to local anglers who had read of the devastation caused by the hurricane of ’39. That chubasco had damaged the piers at San Clemente, Balboa, Huntington Beach, and Newport — the site of this morning’s less than stellar experience.

Big waves, a strong current, mattings of giant kelp that had been ripped asunder from their assorted anchorings, and flotsam and jetsam from unknown ports of calls. No fish, a constant battle to keep the seaweed off the line, and now a cell phone call from home letting him know that his son was in trouble with the computer teacher again (something to do with inappropriate connections to the internet). Just perfect!

One last cast and Earl would call it a day. Who knows, maybe there was still a fish down there that hadn’t deserted the pier with its brethren? But just like the thousand and one previous casts (well, maybe a slight exaggeration), the line was soon tangled in the weeds. However, this time the weeds were a little thicker and heavier and Earl had to hand-line his rigging up to the pier. Entwined in the weeds, as though by sinewy fingers, was a small glass jar, purple-hued and of strange design. Now this was interesting!

It certainly wasn’t a beer bottle that had fallen from a distant wall. Nor was it one of the bottles that the local “Friends in Arms” had been launching into the ocean to carry their messages of peace (to our brothers and sisters in distant lands). No, this was different. Luckily, as Earl would say later, no one else was around when he decided to pry open the cork-like stopper in the bottle.

Out popped a genie and it wasn’t no Disneyesque, Shaq-like Hollywood genie. No, this genie looked like Lucy Ricardo. “Hi. Who are you? What do you want for a wish?” It was the standard question but Earl was still a little taken aback by Lucy and her pirate garb. “Well, I wish I knew how many wishes I will get?” “You get three and you’ve just used the first. Ha.” Earl turned away and thought about what he should do. No genie would trick him! He looked back at the genie who no longer was Lucy but instead appeared to be Hoss Cartright of the Ponderosa clan. What was going on?

“For my second wish I want three new wishes, I don’t think it was fair to try to trick me.” “Granted, but you’re no fun.”

Earl thought for some time before he noticed his rod and reel and the seaweed that covered his line. “For my FIRST wish I want good weather and great fishing whenever I visit the pier.” “That sounds easy enough,” said the genie that now appeared as Fred Flinststone. “Hop back in your bottle, I have to have time to think about my other wishes.” And, no sooner said than the genie disappeared down the neck of the bottle.

Amazingly the weather and the water had turned clear. Earl put some fresh anchovies on his hooks, cast out a short distance from the pier, and watched as a hungry barracuda appeared and grabbed the bait. After a short battle, the 9-pound log was sitting on the deck. Unbelievable! What about squid? A cast and a white seabass appeared. After a rugged fight and an even harder time netting the fish, a 30-pound bass had joined the barracuda on the deck. Earl needed to head home but decided to make one more cast, this time with a lure. Bam, something hit the lure hard and a monstrous bonito appeared at the top of the water. It would go 15 pounds when later weighed but it wore Earl’s arms out bringing it in. He thought he had never fought anything so strong. Unfortunately no one else was out on the pier to see these fish but Earl whistled a happy tune as he trudged home with his trophies—and the bottle.

That night Earl thought long and hard as to what to do and he couldn’t make up his mind about the next wish. However, he did phone his friends and set up a party for the pier that Saturday. He thought that conditions just might be excellent for fishing.

Saturday morning the four friends met at 6 a.m. Actually they were supposed to meet at 6, but Andy was late as usual. But all were at the pier and baited up by 7 a.m. On his first cast Earl hooked into a 12-pound kelp bass. On his second cast it was a 29-pound halibut. Cast number three was the largest spotfin croaker that any of the guys had ever seen. And cast four resulted in a six-foot-long shovelnose shark that drew an audience from throughout the pier. Unfortunately, Andy, Miguel and Red had failed to get a bite. They began to look at Earl just a little differently. When he proceeded to catch a plethora of new giant-sized fish — sand bass, mackerel, opaleye, corbina, sculpin, pileperch, and bonefish — they were really perplexed. They were being skunked and he was catching unbelievable fish. They copied his bait, copied his hooks and terminal rigs, and even moved into the spots he was fishing. But they caught nothing. When he finally reeled in, in succession, a yellowtail, albacore and bluefin tuna, they knew something was amiss. But he wouldn’t admit a cause, even when they declared it was time to go home. They helped him carry the fish but were in a surly mood when they headed out to their respective homes.

He thought long and hard about his success but somehow was missing the fun. Over the next few weeks he did manage to visit the pier a few more times, and had spectacular success, but the fishing was too easy and the fishermen at the pier just weren’t very friendly any longer. The day he hooked a giant black seabass, Pacific sailfish and striped marlin from the pier were almost the last straw since he had to beg and then finally pay people to help him haul the fish up to the pier. Even worse, his buddies refused to fish with him. They said they were just a little too busy even though he knew they had gone fishing without him.

After much thought he uncorked his exotic bottle once again. This time Elliot Ness emerged from the bottle together with a Tommy Gun. What the heck? “Decided to let me out did you?” “I think I made a mistake!” “Wasn’t the fishing good?” “Actually it was too good, there just wasn’t any challenge to it.” “You said you wanted it great, what’s your second wish?” “I just want you to change it back to the way it was. The fishing will not be as good but I think I will be happier and I’ll have more friends.”

“Maybe you should be a little bit more careful next time, you’ve only got one wish left.” “Just head back to the bottle and let me think about what I want to do.” No sooner said than done although the genie had now assumed the shape of Mighty Mouse with his silly looking tights.

Should he choose riches? He had a comfortable job, a wonderful marriage and liked where he lived. What would he do with more money? Should he wish for world peace or something similarly earth shattering in nature? He just didn’t know. The only problem he had recently experienced was of his own making—the fishing fiasco. However, he did recall the problems his son was having in school. That night, as he waited for what seemed to be an interminable time for his favorite fishing site to upload, he had a thought. Later, in bed, his thoughts were further developed.

The next morning he opened the bottle once more. This time it was The Pixie From A Strange Atomic Race. ”I have a wish but I don’t exactly know how to say it. Can I trust you to do me right?” “Of course, if that’s part of your wish.” “Then for my third wish I want perfect conditions whenever my family is on the Internet.” “Tell you what I’ll do. First I will make sure that you always have a perfect connection and all your downloads will take only seconds. Next I will make sure that spam will never be sent to your address. Finally I will make sure that all obscene sites will be automatically banned from your children. They see too much trash already without having their minds attacked by that stuff.” “You got a deal, that should be a perfect wish.” “But could I ask you one question—as the genie morphed into Ed the Talking Horse. Why do you appear in all these different forms?” “Sorry but I can’t answer that just now. It would take too many words and I’m out of space.”

Ken Jones —2002

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