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The Old Man and the B.S. 

A fishing tale full of crappie

It was after the war. The lake was flat and brown, like a pancake sopped in syrup. Not the cheap stuff that comes in the plastic bottle. This was a good-syrup brown.

He was a young man then, already bald. He stood on the edge of that lake and thought about what his father told him. "Keep your mouth shut. You'll scare the fish."

So he kept his mouth shut and fished.

He went home empty-handed every day. Once he caught a snapping turtle. The hook bit into the turtle's jaw, and the rod bowed like an archer's bow. He cut the line and let the turtle have the hook. He had more.

This morning something else pulled the line. He let out more, then jerked back. The line snapped taut like his prose and then broke like a weak metaphor. He left empty-handed again.

But he didn't go home. He couldn't.

He went to the Gateway Convention Center instead (Highway 157 and I-55, Collinsville, Illinois; 618-288-9952). It was January 7, 8 or 9 (Friday through Sunday). He paid $3 to $6 to get in. He paid because it was the weekend of the Let's Go Fishing Show. Experts were there. They offered free advice on fishing for crappie. He needed it. There were dealers selling tackle, rods and boats. He bought some. There were kids' activities. He hated kids. There weren't any writing coaches. Still, it was good. Better than climbing that damn mountain just to see a dead leopard. -- Paul Friswold

Flipping Out
The St. Louis Classic Gymnastic Meet

Eastern Europe possesses many great qualities, such as having vodka, babushkas and power-waif gymnasts to spare. But St. Louis has something to be proud of, too. This year we play host to the fourteenth annual St. Louis Classic Gymnastic Meet at America's Center (Broadway and Washington Avenue). More than 1,200 young women will vault, flip and pirouette, making it all look as easy as falling off a balance beam (which is the best most of us could do). There hasn't been a better opportunity for you to use the armchair-commentator phrases "stick the landing" and "medal contention" since last summer's bout of Olympic fever. The meet runs Friday to Sunday (January 7 through 9); tickets are $5 to $10. Call 314-291-0101 or visit www.teamcentral.org for more information. -- Kristie McClanahan

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