I call this a faux mafia story. I saw a writing challenge recently to make a script that's festival sized (5 to 12 pages), where the main prop accessible is this neat rowboat. So I started tossing around ideas for a story in a rowboat, and the image came into my mind of that scene at the end of Godfather II, where Freddy is taken out on the lake with the hitman to get his punishment. As I played around with that scene, I thought 'What if that scene played off differently?'
With the FishesLazarus rowed the boat out of dock. Jimmy looked at the can of beans and put it down, looking out at the pristine lake.
"I used to go out fishing with my father when I was a boy," Jimmy said, "wasn't very good at it. Almost never caught anything."
"But my father," said Jimmy, "he could really reel them in. Caught an 18 inch trout once. Put up quite a fight. He stuck with it for over an hour. Finally that trout relented."
Lazarus stopped rowing for a moment and wiped his brow, thick beads of sweat dripped down.
"You know what my father's touch was, he knew his bait. He knew what to bring to the fish."
Jimmy looked around the rowboat. He peered up and down, and looked under the benches. He looked back at Lazarus, who rowed diligently.
Lazarus stopped rowing there, sitting in the middle of the lake. Lazarus was an immense man, large arms, gentle hands. Calm ripples shook the boat.
Pushing up his sleeves, Lazarus looked at Jimmy, revealing a large Gatling gun tattoo on his lower arm.
"You know what," Jimmy said, "when I used to come out with my father, we could spend hours on the lake, just waiting for a bite. I liked to come prepared to pass the time. I used to whittle? Did you ever whittle?"
Lazarus just shook his head.
"Whittling takes practice and patience. You take a piece of wood, not just any old piece of wood. You need to pick it good. Nice hearty piece. Something that you connect with. Then you take your whittling knife and peel away the wood you don't want, and bring out the creation from within. My father didn't like me whittling on the boat."
Jimmy motioned in the air with his hands, showing Lazarus the scraping motion he would make to whittle at wood.
"I'd make little dogs, men and even Indian totem poles. Whatever my spirit moved me."
Lazarus reached down to the cooler box. The top distorted view for Jimmy. Lazarus looked back up at Jimmy, squinting his eyes and taking a deep breath. Lazarus pulled out a cold beer from the cooler. He reached over, offering the bottle to Jimmy.
Jimmy waved it off.
Lazarus popped the top and took a long drink, and threw the bottle overboard.
The shadows were long. The day was coming to an end.
"You know I used to go fishing with my father in the fall, late fall, just before winter came. I still whittled. I hid a knife in the boat, under the seat. The fish were more plentiful. Summertime is too hot. Water's too warm so the fish stay deep and out of sight by day. I don't reckon we'll see much fish now."
Lazarus snapped his head and looked back at Jimmy, then just snorted.
Jimmy looked around the still, quiet lake.
"So how long have you worked for my sister?" asked Jimmy.
Lazarus just grunted, threading a rope through rings attached stones.
"The Gardener. That's what they call you, right?" said Jimmy, and squinted, "I know why they call you The Gardener."
Lazarus snapped up and looked at Jimmy, eyes blazing.
"It's because of what you've done for my sister."
Lazarus picked up the can of beans. He ruffled around in the cooler looking, pushing it around. Jimmy held out a small metal can opener in front of Lazarus.
Lazarus snatched the can opener out of Jimmy's hand angrily, and began ripping into the can with it.
"My sister is cross with me?" asked Jimmy, looking down.
Lazarus wolfed down the beans. He folded over the metal top to scoop out beans. With a little left, Lazarus handed the can over to Jimmy.
Jimmy shunned the can. Lazarus gestured pushing the can toward him again. Jimmy shook his head. Lazarus insisted. Jimmy took the can.
"I didn't betray her! I had no choice. Damnit man, do you understand? Can I explain anything?"
Jimmy took the can the gulped down a mouthful of beans. He looked around.
Lazarus handed him a beer. Jimmy took a swig and handed it back.
"I reported her to the auditor! I told them about her false tax reporting. They caught up to her on the taxes she owed because of me!"
Lazarus nodded, and looked down into the open cooler. He reached down into the cooler, but Jimmy couldn't see what he was reaching for.
Jimmy reached under the seat of the rowboat and pulled out an old whittling knife.
He lunged toward Lazarus. "Why are we here?"
Lazarus was a big man, and pushed the skinny Jimmy back with his tattooed arm, knocking Jimmy down into the prow of the boat. The whittling knife fell to the floor.
"You're gonna kill me?" asked Jimmy.
"No." said Lazarus, finally uttering a word.
"Then why are we here? Why are we in the middle of the lake with these fishing lines?"
"Your sister," Lazarus explained, "your sister knew how fond you were of those outings with your father. She asked me to take you out."
"Then why?!" yelled Jimmy, "why isn't there any bait?"
"Because I'm the gardener you fool! I didn't bring any bait because I don't know a damn thing about fishing."
"What?!" Jimmy exclaimed, "really? What about the audit?"
"It was nothing. She was fined a $100."
"You mean I've been worrying and feeling guilty about this for months, over nothing?"
Lazarus reached into the cooler and pulled out a block of wood. He held it up to Jimmy.
Jimmy took it, and started whittling and carving a shape with his knife.