Chapter 9: Couple of Dummies
It was around 7:00 pm, and the night was creeping in. Rick and Caroline had agreed to research their entire project on that day, then depart to write their own section of the paper. Then they’d just compile what they wrote and hand it in as their paper. But after what both of them had experienced that evening, neither of them felt confident in their paper.
Caroline sat at the same bench where she waited when Rick was interviewing Dale Freeman. She didn’t feel like reading, she just stared at the ground, fermenting in her shame. She hadn’t even called her mom to pick her up yet. She just wanted to be alone.
The last person she wanted to see was Rick, but just as she remembered the boy’s existence, there he was, walking up to her. But before she could sit up and walk away, she noticed something about him. He was slouched over, walking slowly and… Crying! Caroline couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Rick Arbuckle, mister cryptid hunter, fighting back tears and wiping his nose on his sleeve like a kindergartener.
In a normal scenario, she would be enthralled. But a wave of empathy hit her. After all, how could she take pleasure in Rick’s sorrow if she was feeling the exact same way.
It was then that Rick looked up and saw her. Much like Caroline, Rick wanted nothing to do with his rival, but upon seeing how down in the dumps she was, he hesitated on this. The two just stared at each other, until Rick got the idea to walk over and ask her what’s wrong. But first, he had to go through his own humiliation. So what else to do other than to dive in, face first, and admit what happened. He sighed and walked over to her.
“So… How did your monster hunting go?” asked Caroline, with not a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
“You were right.” Said Rick, sitting down next to her on the bench. Caroline didn’t look up, as she didn’t want to engage any further. That is, until she relayed what he said. Realizing this, she turned to him in astonishment.
“Excuse me?” asked Caroline, not sure if she just misheard him or that he was being sarcastic.
“The Bish Bash Monster isn’t real.” Rick said plainly. “It’s all a hoax. Made up. A lie published in the newspapers for attention. You were right.”
Caroline was in absolute shock. She knew Rick was going to turn up empty handed, but she didn’t think he’d pulled a complete 180.
“Let me get this straight. You are admitting that there is no Bish Bash Lake monster?” Caroline asked. But all Rick could do was nod.
In a normal situation, Caroline would be ecstatic. But seeing Rick like this, after all the positive energy he had admitted from being on a monster hunt, even with someone he hated as much as her, reduced down to his sad and pathetic state, she had to admit, it hurt her too. And she couldn’t talk about victories, not after what happened to her.
“You were right.” Repeated Rick. “I guess I am an idiot.”
Caroline turned to Rick, shook her head and let out a deep sigh. “Yeah? Well… You’re not the only one.”
Now it was Rick’s turn to be shocked. He turned to Caroline with the same dumbfounded look she gave him.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Remember when I told you I overheard those fisherman and their subs?” she stated.
“Yeah? You said the Bish Bash Lake Monster was some guy in a submarine.” Repeated Rick.
“Well… It turns out they didn’t mean submarine. They mean sub. As in, submarine sandwiches.”
“Huh?” asked Rick, not understanding what she meant.
“They were holding a party for the Dale and the other guy. They got submarine sandwiches cause those are their favorite food. Not only did I embarrass myself in front of all those fishermen, but I also embarrassed myself in front of Officer Cliffords, who came in to see what I was doing!”
Caroline sat by, ready for Rick to mock her. But he just remained silent, looked at the ground, and turned back to Caroline.
“I’m sorry.” He simply said. Caroline was actually touched that rather than humiliate her further he’d instead try to comfort her. Then she remembered what she told him earlier. About him being dumb… Stupid. A fool. She then turned to Rick and smiled.
“Thanks Rick.” She said. Rick turned to Caroline and simply smiled back. There was no sarcasm, no malice. Just two kids who had an exhausting day.
“So what do we do for the project?” asked Rick.
“I guess we just write what happened and hand it in as is.” Caroline replied. “Hopefully Ms. Rook will take pity on us, and hopefully he won’t have to present it to the entire class.”
Rick shuttered at the thought of his entire class learning about his failure at the cave.
“Hey Rick…” asked Caroline, turning to the tired boy. “How did you figure out that there was no Bish Bash Lake Monster?”
“While I was exploring the cave, I bumped into Fisherman Carl.” Said Rick, much to Caroline’s shock.
“That creep? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“Nah… Turns out he has a fish farm in the cave that he doesn’t want anyone to know about. That’s when he told me that he made up the Bish Bash Lake Monster story in the 1970s. And since there wasn’t any other sighting of Bishy after that, then it could only mean one thing, that the lake monster was a hoax. Still… That doesn’t explain what happened too Dale.”
Caroline thought back what Rick just told her. Something he said stood out to her, but she couldn’t figure out what. Then it hit her. In fact, it hit her so hard she nearly fell off the bench in revelation.
“What’s wrong?” said Rick, prepared to catch her if she fell. It was then that Caroline turned to Rick, her energy returned to her.
“What’s wrong! Rick Arbuckle, you just solved the mystery!” she proclaimed, much to Rick’s shock.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t solve it!”
“Think about it! There’s no fish big enough in Bish Bash Lake that could be mistaken for the monster. Nor big enough to overturn a fishing boat! Correct?”
“Well… Yeah. I don’t see how this fact has changed after what I said.” Said Rick.
“Because dumb-dumb, you said Carl had a fish farm! That means he could have brought a new species into the lake! One that could be mistaken for a monster! One that could have grown to the proportions of a ship sinking beast!”
Rick thought about this for a moment, and although plausible, there were still a few holes in their theory.
“Wait a minute!” said Rick. “The fish I saw were big, but not that big. There were like the size of my arm. Nothing bigger than that!”
Caroline thought about this for a second too, but then snapped her finger and turned back to Rick.
“Unless it escaped! And fed on the natural wildlife! With no competition and no natural predators, our hypothetical fish can grow to a gargantuan size!”
All of a sudden, Rick remembered the massive net with the giant hole in the middle of it. Then he remembered Carl mentioning something about an animal breaking into his farm. And then, just like Caroline, Rick had a moment of revelations too.
“Back at the farm, Carl told me something broke into his farm and ate all his catfish, including his prized catch Big Bertha!” Rick proclaimed. “What if something didn’t break in… What of something broke out!”
Rick then pulled off his backpack and rustled around in it for something. Caroline wasn’t sure what Rick was doing.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I read about this in one of my cryptid hunting books! Only… It wasn’t a cryptid! It was something real! I mean… Proven!”
Rick pulled out a book called, “On the Quest of Monsters” by Peter Gibbons. He flipped through the pages in frantic speed. Though Caroline was a bit annoyed he was using a cryptid book as a reference, she trusted his gut feeling. Though it took from page surfing, Rick was able to find what he was taking about. There was a passage of his book talking about various sightings of massive catfish around the world. Though a boat size catfish is unheard of is, say, Delaware, it wasn’t in areas like the Mekong River in Thailand and various fishing spots on Europe. These were the homes of massive catfish that can grow to the size of a boat; the Mekong Catfish and the Wels Catfish. Printed next to the passage was a photo of an authentic Mekong Catfish, that was so big six to seven men had to hold it up in order to lift it off the ground.
“This was how big a Mekong could grow in its natural environment, imagine how big it could get if it was let loose in Bish Bash!” proclaimed Rick.
Caroline checked through the passage to see if it was authentic. To her shock, it was. Though the book might have chapters about mermaids and Bigfoot, there was no denying that boat sized fish swam among us.
But that pegged a bigger question, though the two preteens had a very good theory, how on earth were they going to prove it? Bish Bash might not be a big lake, but it was if you’re only armed with a canoe and two phone cameras. It was clear if Rick and Caroline wanted to end this night on a victory, they needed help.