Author's note: I miss Phil of the Future. Good television.
Disclaimer: I caught one this big, but it got away. REALLY!
What? You doubt my fishing story? Well then, you probably wouldn't believe me if I said I owned Phil of the Future anyway, so why lie - I mean, TRY?
"Bye, Honey! Gotta run! Promised Phil I'd take Keely fissin' for him, Barb. See Yah!"
Early Saturday morning, Keely Teslow felt herself irresistibly pulled out through the Diffys back door, confuse more than normal. She had come over to retrieve her chemistry book; normally, she would be studying with her best friend on a Saturday. Weird? Sure, but it was a place she most wanted to be. Grades were important, but it had more to do with her interaction with Phil that any other type of chemistry. Yeah, that was normal for her Saturdays.
Not this one though. While trying to undo his little sister's version of the free market system (Pim had used her brother's Giggle to collect the answers to all of NEXT week's test which she then offered up for purchase in her very own vending machines flagrantly located outside Vice Principal Hackett's office.) Phil was busted. This was the first of three Saturdays he'd be spending mornings in detention at HG Wells. As if that weren't bad enough, now Phil's father was intent on her giving up her Saturday also, just to hang out with him and some smelly fish. Couldn't he see that her Spring dress was clearly not fishing attire? Hello, spaghetti straps? Men.
The good news was that at least they didn't have to walk all the way to Ricki Lake; Mr. Diffy drove. He explained that Pim was trying to escape spending time with her mother (Barbara and Debbie Berwick had recently become wild about knitting for the homeless and this morning Barb had put her foot down that Pim was going to join them.), and had just tried to substitute her father to go in Pim's place. It was working, too, until Keely came through the door. He was desperate. She'd help, right?
"'Puppy dog eyes'? Really?" Keely thought. Isn't Mr. Diffy getting a little too old for that? Guess not. How could she turned him down, turn any of the stranded Diffys down? Didn't she owe him? Maybe, maybe not, but every moment Mr. D wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing, the time engine wasn't being repaired, so what could it hurt to humor him and throw a line in the water? He'd owe her for a change and that could be valuable.
"We turn left here, Mr. Diffy," Keely directed. Her driver complied and after a few turns on a dusty road found himself next to a rustic ranger station. "Tiger Woods Ranger Station No. 3" read the sign carved over the window.
"Good morning," greeted a ranger in a wrinkled beige uniform. "Picnicking, fishing, or just visiting?" Posted next to the window were the fees for using the facilities. Everything ran $15, except visiting.
"Just visiting," Lloyd half lied. In his mind, he justified his answer as the 21st Century was hardly his home; he was "just visiting."
The ranger looked in the back of the station wagon. No bikes, fishing poles, or kites. Not so much as a picnic basket. With a slight frown, the wrinkly ranger uttered, "Two dollars, please."
Lloyd turned to his abducted passenger, "Keely, could you get this, please?"
Clearly, Phil did not take after his father when it came to paying. Still open mouthed, Keely retrieved two crumpled bills from her change purse and reached over Mr. Diffy to offer to the ranger. Awkward.
After parking out of sight away from everyone else, Lloyd Diffy looked about before pulling out his wizrd and zapping the both of them up a couple of fishing poles. Keely gave him another look, much like the one that it cost her a couple of bucks earlier. Oh, sure, Mr. Diffy was, well… different, but he never came across to her as dishonest before, and over such a little bit of money. Lloyd handed her a pole before muttering to himself something like "raspberry swordfish" and slapping his for head. He reached into the back seat and returned with a half-opened can of chili.
"Almost forgot the most important ingredient," smiled Lloyd." C'mon, Keely. Fish don't hook themselves."
Placing the pole over his shoulder, Mr. Diffy started walking down to Lake, while whistling some theme music about a little North Carolina town. Evidently, it is still being rerun years from now. What the hey, Keely joined in, making them look like a father-daughter pair from the 1950s. When they made it to the dock, Mr. Diffy revealed what was in his tin can: Annelids. Wriggly legless invertebrates. Worms. This was too old school for Keely. Didn't he watch infomercials? She knew that she had agreed to go fishing with Phil this summer, but even he wouldn't … would he?
"We're going to use real worms?" Keely asked in a plea for the right answer.
"Nothing but the best. Here."
It was about as thick as a strand of spaghetti and for an instant, Keely Teslow considered that this might be some cosmic karma being played out at last for what she and Phil had subjected Candida to, making her eat a worm.
"Alright, little wormy," Keely coaxed the worm like it was her long lost pet hamster, "climb on the hook."
"It doesn't work like that, Keely. You have to stick the hook into the worm, like this."
Phil's dad skewered the earthworm somewhat haphazardly, yet it remained on the hook. Keely offered the end of her pole for him to do the same for hers. Phil would have done it. Lloyd shook his head. "Against the rules. Everyone has to bait their own hook. I think it's a law here."
Keely studied the worm wriggling in the palm of her right hand. Wriggling was one thing; writhing in pain was another. "I don't think I can, Mr. Diffy."
"You like fish, don't you?"
"It's up to you, Keely. You don't have to do it, but you won't catch much without bait on your hook."
Keely pondered. So fishing was like attracting boys? What was the old saying, "There's always more fish in the sea?"
This was just a worm.
"That's all right, Keely. I'm just happy to get out of the house." He studied the emotionally torn teen. "Say, I'm going to try over by those rocks for a while and see if the fish are any hungrier over there. Fish? Fishes? Which is it?"
"Fishies," playfully compromised Keely with assurance. Lloyd couldn't manage to say that word aloud, so he snorted once and went off to greet the fishes.
Phil wouldn't have left her. Oh, Keely could march out on him, but never the other way round. The guy doesn't abandon the girl. Say, if Mr. Diffy left his wizrd she could have turned the little creature into a gummy worm, mounted it on a hook, and then - no, no, no! She couldn't turn it back into a poor little wiggler with a piercing, not without a permission note from its mother. She looked about the dock anyway.
The pier was curiously absent regarding 22nd Century technology. There, among the discarded pop bottles was something that stood out. A wallet. Could it - she picked it up. "Genuine imitation cowhide" was stamped in imitation gold lettering on the outside of the ordinary brown wallet. Mr. Diffy's?
Despite being an investigative reporter, it was purely accidental when the flap popped open revealing pictures Mr. D carried with him, and what pictures! The wallet fell to the dock as she threw it down. Although she had witnessed many marvels at the Diffys', having a hologram pop up out of nowhere was new to her. Startled, shaken, Keely nonetheless gathered her wits and rationalized what was going on. Keely Teslow twice swept her hand through the hologram as she had seen done in those sci-fi movies Phil talked all the way through. Mrs. Diffy's disembodied head wasn't really here. It was a hologram of Barbara mouthing "I love you."
Keely waved good-bye to Phil's mother and flipped the hologram over, only to have another materialize before her. Aw! Phil looked so adorable at the beach, showing off all the muscles a four-year-old can muster. Was that baby Pim behind him buried in the sand up to her neck? Actually, that explained a lot about Phil's sister.
The next holo was of the whole family picnicking in a crater on some moon or another. The Diffys must be rich in the future. All those gadgets and off planet picnics - Keely peeked at how much cash Phil's dad carried. Only fair, right? He did have her pay for their park entrance.
"Oh, there it is. Thanks for finding my wallet, Keely."
"Mis-mister Diffy. I wah, I was, I was - yes, I found it. Your wallet. Here," offered red-faced, Keely, shaken as she responded.
She took in his genuine smile of gratitude, so much like Phil's, and felt more than a little guilty for looking through his billfold as she handed it back to the tall man. He didn't check to see if anything was missing, just slipped it right back into his back pocket. Now, she felt truly conscience-stricken.
"I - I didn't hook the worm."
"Like I said, Keely, it really doesn't matter to me."
"But I looked in your wallet - I didn't know whose wallet it was at the time. It's not like it has your name on the outside."
"Well, we're all really lucky that it was you who found it. Mighty lucky."
The two of them began fishing from the pier. Lloyd even broke the law of fishing and baited her hook for her in thanks. The wiggly bit of spaghetti didn't scream or anything. They both sat on the dock for hour upon hour and if you were watching them, you would have thought them both serenely silent in their fishing, their legs hanging over the edge of the pier. Point of fact, however, Keely was feeling her bottled up guilt getting the better of her. Not even a bite on either of their lines to relieve her mounting pressure. Not since she brought Tia with her to sit with Phil and Seth had Keely felt such pier pressure.
"I guess they're just not biting this morning, Keely. Might as well head home. Phil will be getting out soon."
Keely nodded, wound up her reel, and secure her empty hook needlessly, as a moment later her companion wizrd their equipment out of existence. He offered his hand as she got up from the dock, just as Phil would have. She had been shanghaied, annoyed with him today, embarrassed when he didn't pay for their park entrance, and hadn't told him about everything she learned from her adventure in his personal property. She had to ask.
"Mr. Diffy, can I ask you something?"
He was silent.
"Why do you carry a wallet if you don't have any money in it?"
Matter of factly, Lloyd Diffy nonchalantly answered her, "I'm a father, Keely." It was only after he said it that Lloyd recalled that Keely didn't have a father, so he took out his wallet and handed it to his fishing buddy. "Open it and you'll find pictures. When I was single, I had money in my wallet. Not paper money like you use now, but still money." Keely remember the funny coin of the Diffys' she once found. "Not a lot, but I could buy a quadruple ice cream cone any flavors I wanted and still entertain myself over with money to spare. Then one day, Barbara said 'Yes,' and Phil came, then Pim. That's why dads' wallets carry pictures where their money used to be, and when they're really lucky like me, they look at their pictures once in a while to feel rich."
Impulsively, Keely immediately wrapped her arms around Mr. Diffy's neck and squeezed tight. At first, Lloyd was taken back, then he returned the hug which lasted long enough for both of them to have runny noses when they finally separated. Little embarrassing chuckles, after which they picked up their pace back to their car.
"You know what, Mr. Diffy? Phil has detention next Saturday, too," Keely smiled. "If we leave earlier, I bet we won't return empty handed next week."