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No preamble for this bit slew of free writing I did over the course of Friday day/night…except a note to say thanks to Kourtney Heintz, for prompting me to actually write this piece, in her comment from last week’s 2013 WordPress blog report, made in reply to how I should maybe focus this blog on topics like “deep sea ice f***ing.” I’d meant that only as a joke, honestly. But, once a seed gets planted, it has to be quashed or nurtured.

The story below revisits Marshall Wright from another previous post, and takes his story a bit further than the short-ish story I wrote over winter break. There’s the suggestion of adult situations herein, but nothing graphic. I think, more than anything, the length of this one will probably lose me some reads/comments. But, I had such a good time writing this, all 3000+ words of it, I won’t fret about what should be done differently, here, or any of that. It felt great to write all of this in less than 24 hours, on a single prompting, I don’t regret it, any of it.

Take a look and read, if you’re so interested. Or, skip it, if you’re not. I’ll be back next time with something different (and shorter), I’m sure.

“It’s not really about the fishing”

“Your first year together,” Rob mused, one side of his mouth curling in a smile that could have been mocking or pleased, Marshall wasn’t certain which. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” Marshall said, deciding to ignore the jibe, if that’s what it was, in favor of the pride. “Figured it deserves something special.”

Rob shrugged one shoulder. “Well, a vacation’s a good idea for that. The two of you off on your own, someplace different, new. Open to adventure…!” His gaze went lazy-narrow and lascivious a moment, before he returned his attention to the road.

Marshall chuckled. He knew he liked Rob for a reason. “I was thinking, tropical island getaway,” he said, matching the other man’s prod with a toothy grin.

“Beaches and bikinis,” Rob agreed with a nod. “Always a good choice. But, you know what else is good for up close and personal?” He took his eyes off the road again a moment, to flash Marshall another leading look. “Ice fishing.”

Marshall let out a sharp laugh that reverberated around the car. When the other man didn’t join him, though, he blanked. “Oh. You’re serious.”

“Oh, yeah,” Rob said, his brow knitting with emphasis.

Marshall wrinkled his nose. “Why would I take her on a fishing trip?”

“You don’t take her for the fishing, dumbass. The two of you, all alone out there on the ice, in a cozy little hutch?” Rob trailed off, popping his brows up.

Marshall blinked, warming despite the car’s chill. Still, he asked, “You think?”

Rob blew a whistling breath through his teeth. “Sh’yeah! You turn the heat down low, let the cold creep in. Suggest you zip your sleeping bags together…” He snickered. “After a couple minutes, you’ll forget all about the cold, trust me.”

“And that works?”

“It’ll blow your doors off.” His brother-in-law flashed him another patented Rob McAllister look of witting urging. “I made Paige on a trip like that.”

“Ew! Dad!”

Marshall glanced into the seat behind his, where Paige scowled forward at her father. From the corner of his vision, he saw Rob grimace into the rearview.

“Sorry, kiddo,” Rob called back over one shoulder. “Forgot you were back there.”

Paige held her scowl a long moment before blinking into a disgusted eyeroll that made Marshall snicker as he faced front again.

“It’s always when you don’t think they’re listening that you’ve gotta be careful,” Rob muttered as an aside, and Marshall laughed.

Caitlin didn’t laugh, though, when Marshall proposed Rob’s idea at their skate date that afternoon.

“I didn’t know you liked fishing,” she said, all seriousness, as she skated around him in a circle.

“Well, it’s not really about the fishing,” Marshall explained, turning his head to follow her. “It’s more about just getting away. Roughing it, a bit.” He offered a quick shake of his head. “But, if you’d rather do something else-”

“No,” she said, and beamed. “That sounds like fun! My grandpa used to take us fishing up at Cape Cod when I was little. I’m not any good, though.”

On her next pass, he reached for her hand and swung her to his front. He glided up and settled both arms around her, smiling warmly. “Like I said, it’s not really about the fishing.”

“What should I bring?”

“Pack like for camping.” He smiled, adding, “On ice.”

She twitched her nose and cringed against him with blushing delight. “Will you keep me warm?”

“Oh, definitely,” he said, and bowed his head for a brief kiss. But she slipped from his arms with a quickening kick on her blades, making him half-stumble into empty air.

She giggled and held out her hand, contracting her fingers around the fading vapor cloud of her laughter. “Come on,” she said. “Come get me.”

She managed to stay out of his reach for nearly a full lap, but he caught her as she slowed around a curve. Whether she did it on purpose or not hardly mattered, for the winning feeling of her heat in his arms.

Marshall was looking forward to such same affectionate emotion when they arrived at the little rental abode for their icy getaway. It wasn’t quite so easy to achieve, though.

The fishing house wasn’t much more than a narrow shanty dropped onto the frozen lake, four wooden walls lined with lights, tools, and various whimsical accoutrements that Marshall guessed had something to do with fishing, though he was hard-pressed to imagine what. A single-bunk cot stood close to the ceiling, and, below that, a fold-out bed big enough for two. A stove, sink, and counter were built into one long side wall, and a half-round of a table into the opposite.

“This is…not quite what I had in mind for our getaway,” Marshall muttered, as he eased his old camping ruck to the floor. At least there was a more or less proper floor, save for where the rough carpet had been cut away for three pre-drilled holes into the ice.

“I think it’s cute,” Caitlin said, and she pulled a deep breath beside him, as though to fill her lungs with the smell of dry electric heat. She did a quick stomp of her feet and balanced herself against the wall, before nodding toward his boots, too. “You should take those off. We don’t want to be tracking snow in here every time we need to use the bathroom.”

“Right.” Reminder of the loo made him half-turn over his shoulder, out the main door. The idea of a frigid toilet at two in the morning made him wince, silently, for his testicles. “Right,” he repeated, as he started to un-lace his shoes.

Caitlin went to eager work around the shack, dropping guide lines into the water and testing the attached flags. It took her a few tries to sort out exactly how they worked, but each attempt that brought her closer to success made her smile spread wider.

“How do you know so much about this?” he asked, crouching next to her over the third hole.

“I watched a bunch of videos online.” She turned to him, her excitement as infectious as it was endearing. “So we could have the best fishing vacation ever!”

“Well, that’d be nice,” Marshall allowed. He put one arm around her, his fingers drifting up and down her fleecy sleeve in a coaxing stroke. “But, it’s less about the fishing than about…other things,” he said, and bent his head close with a gentle smile.

He nuzzled at the tip of her nose a moment before closing the distance with a pecking kiss. Caitlin answered the same, humming softly between their mouths. But a click near their knees made her whip her head around, her hair slapping him in the face.

“Oh!” she said, gasping breath as she tumbled against him a bit. “The flag’s up!”

“It was starting to get,” Marshall muttered, but recanted at the gently scolding look in her eyes. “Oh. You mean,” he said, and nodded to the fishing hole at their feet.

“Yes,” she said. “That flag.”

He looked from her to the colored slip of plastic and back again. “So.” A sheepish, ticklish smile crept to his lips. “What do we do, now?”

She mirrored him, fresh color blooming in her cheeks. “I don’t know. I guess, we pull it up?”

“Just, like, with my hands?”

“Yeah, but, be careful. I mean, -ah!” she said, clamping her hands over a short scream as a small fish gasped at the end of the line.

He dropped the line back into the water with an uttered yelp, too, followed by a rich laugh, and her quick, merry clamor:

“Oh, grab it!”

“You grab it!”

“It’s going to get away!”

He fell back onto his tailbone, still chortling. “We are not suited for this.”

But Caitlin dropped to her knees, drawing the line from the water and hissing at the ice fragments that stuck to her fingers.

“Oh, what are you-”

“I can get it-”

“No, darling,” Marshall said, reaching for her hands. He hissed, too, at their sudden aching chill, and rubbed them between his warmer fingers. That didn’t last, though, and he tucked them into his armpit, the cold making his skin ripple with gooseflesh and his nipples perk even beneath his thermalwear.

Caitlin let out a tiny whine as she looked down at the open hole at their feet. “We’ve lost it.”

“That’s all right.” He hugged her closer. “I’m sure another will come along.”

But the flags stayed down, for a pensive hour-and-a-half that had Caitlin pacing from one line to the next, double- and triple-checking their quality…and double- and triple-doubting her own.

She humphed as she stood straight, her performance trousers making the same noise as the Gore-Tex-lined emergency packs they stocked on the helo. “Maybe I did it wrong.”

He smiled at her from the bed, where he’d unrolled both their sleeping bags. “It worked the first time.” He patted the space beside him. “We just need to be patient. It’s a waiting game.”

She zip-zopped over to him, dropping next to him with another harrumph. “I should have been quicker.”

He put his arms around her – for the first time since she’d reset that first trap – and clicked his tongue. “You know, I’d meant for this to be a relaxing getaway,” he said, using the quiet of the moment to start a gentle massage of her shoulders.

“I know. But, I wanted this to be fun, too!”

He hummed, chancing a tender press of his nose to the strip of uncovered neck above her collar. “There are lots of ways we can have fun,” he whispered, and exchanged his nuzzling for three quiet clutches of his lips to her flesh.

She sniffed a hushed chuckle in reply, craning her head to make a longer slope of skin. But that simple submissiveness quickly changed, as she turned to face him, answering his affectionate kisses with ones even more lovesome of her own.

They drifted down to the cot amid a haze of lightly-smacking pecks, licks, and nibbles, hands and arms moving in probing caresses and their legs sliding over each other. Around it all, she cooed:

“I’m sorry if I’ve been neglecting you. I just want us to have a good time.”

“I know,” he said, and brushed her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “Me, too.”

It wasn’t a lie or even a white fib. Though, Marshall surprised even himself when he froze at the sound of flicking plastic.

He pulled back from her, eyes wide. “Was that…?”

Caitlin caught her breath, holding his gaze a second before darting across the floor. “We got one!” she said, hushing a squeal as she bounced up from the bed.

Marshall was right on top of her, down on his knees at the second hole in an instant, catcher’s net in his hand.

“Go,” he told her, and stared over the line as she yanked it up an arm’s length at a time. At the end of the wire flapped an oblong-shaped, yellow-bellied perch gasping around the hook.

“Ah!” Caitlin said, dropping it into the net. She got up and grabbed a spike from the wall, bending down to the flapping fish, and paused. “Oh, I can’t do it!”

“Just place it, and I’ll do it!” Marshall told her, voice cracking. They needed to kill this thing, quickly, before it suffered too much.

She put the spike down and shut her eyes, while he smacked it hard with his hand. The fish stopped squirming and gasping, and lay still in the net.

Marshall looked at Caitlin. “Now, what?” he asked, as a nervous chuckling threatened again.

She focused her gaze on the fish with several rapid blinks. “Now, I guess, we start cooking,” she said, as her mouth twitched with a similar giddy smile.

They broke into silly, dizzy laughter for a long minute, and a strange mix of pride and horror washed over Marshall. But, already dead, their catch would go to waste if not eaten, so he stood up and moved the fish to the counter beside the sink and stove. There, though, he stopped.

“I’m a licensed paramedic,” he said, turning to Caitlin as she came up next to him. “I don’t feel comfortable cutting something open without a plan to put it together again.”

“Well, maybe you shouldn’t have come fishing, then,” she told him with a giggly snort.

He laughed back at her, exasperated, amused, and elated in the same second. “I told you, it was never about the fishing!”

She just laughed, too, and eased him to one side, to handle the task of cleaning and filleting.

She surprised him with her skill, which she said came from online videos but he sensed had more than a bit of personal experience to it. The actual cooking she left to him, though, for his greater talent with frying pan and fire. It tasted all right, as well, mildly sweet and firm, with some delicate seasoning and a few small fingerling potatoes on the side to make it last.

“That was good,” Caitlin said, her besocked toes cringing in his lap as they sat on the bed together, facing each other from opposite ends. “Not a lot, but good.”

“Yeah,” Marshall agreed. He snickered. “I wouldn’t do it every weekend, but this was fun.”

“We could always stay another night,” she said, offering him a leading smile.

He laughed and shook his head. “No, thank you. I am perfectly happy getting back to my well-stocked kitchen. Not to mention, my own bed.”

“Oh, this isn’t so bad.” She glanced around the close cottage walls and smiled. “It’s actually kind of cozy.”

“You’re right,” he admitted, as he pushed himself up with a return smile. He bent over to offer her a kiss on the head, adding, “Though, I do prefer having the loo inside.”

Caitlin let out a spirited laugh. “Yes! That, I do appreciate.”

“Speaking of,” Marshall said, jerking one thumb over his shoulder toward the outside. “I’m going to make one more visit before I climb into that sleeping bag for the night.” He scooped up the bag of rubbish and entrails for the bin and kicked his feet into his shoes, pausing at the door to flash her a smile and a point of one long finger. “Don’t lock the door on me.”

“Then, you’d better not take too long,” she warned, giggling from her end of the bed.

He left her to her humor, shrugging into his jacket as he clomped outside to the outhouse to relieve himself. The cold air gave his nerves a rush of prickly feeling before turning them gently numb again, as he blew thick pluming clouds out from his nose and mouth.

This getaway hadn’t gone exactly as planned, but it had offered them a tiny adventure of the outdoors. Though, next time, he looked forward to palm trees and a bungalow on the beach instead of a portable privy and an ice hut.

He finished his business and grimaced his way through a quick wash of his hands before shoving them under his coat again, the sound of rustling nylon no match for his chattering teeth. The inside of the cabin offered a blow of warm air that he could feel turning his cheeks pink…though, not nearly so delightfully or well as Caitlin did, as she beckoned him to the bed.

“I hope you don’t mind,” she said, pushing one edge of sleeping bag aside, to show a space of dark cloth against which her naked calf looked quite pale, indeed. “But, I zipped our sleeping bags together.” She smiled, half-demure and half-flirtatious. Mostly flirtatious. “I figured it would be warmer if we share.”

Marshall felt a grin break across his face. “I like the way you think,” he said, shrugging free of his jacket and toeing off his shoes as he crossed the floor to her. He paused at the edge, one hand only just touching the heavy inner fleece. “I must warn you: I am very, very cold.”

She scooted further into the double-sized bag and giggled. “That’s okay. I’ll warm you up,” she said, and pulled him into a kiss even before he’d settled next to her.

He stretched out against her, smiling behind their kiss as he let his fingers graze her hip, making her jump with a gasp.

“Oh, my God! You are freezing!”

“No, no. You can’t back out, now…!”

“Marshall!” she scolded, and muffled the scream to follow into a clump of cloth.

Even such play offered warmth, and led to laughter, which offered more warmth, and kinder chuckling. That soon turned hushed, though, as they created more heat between them, around tender kisses and gentle caresses, which became more fervent and more clutching with each new warming breath. Until she grabbed his shirt in her fists and pulled it up over his head, and he kicked himself free of his bottoms, and the cold didn’t matter any longer.

He moved on top of her to start, but paused, and pulled up from their kiss to murmur, “You know, I don’t know why people say fishing is boring.”

She wrinkled her nose at him. “It’s not really about the fishing,” she said, and they chuckled again before they went silent once more, for a long, sweet time.

When they got back home, Rob didn’t press for details. But he got them anyway, seven weeks later, at the dinner to which Marshall and Caitlin invited the family, to make a special announcement.

“You’re gonna have a baby?” Paige echoed, green eyes wide.

Marshall nodded, and Caitlin giggled and grinned.

“Congratulations,” Daniel said, standing up from the table to squeeze Caitlin in a quick but heartfelt hug. “My baby brother’s going to be a daddy,” he said to Marshall, who couldn’t help his own dizzy grin.

Rob stood, too, offering Caitlin the same squeeze of support. He shot Marshall a sly smile. “Ice fishing,” he guessed. “Am I right?”

Marshall looked to Caitlin, who looked to him. They both turned to Rob, saying nearly in unison, “It wasn’t really about the fishing.”

With thanks to Twin Pines resort and their ice fishing house rental on Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota. Who knew a cold hut on the middle of a frozen lake could be so much fun?