A note from our guest blogger, Walt Randall: “This is a work of fiction. Any semblance between characters and real persons is purely coincidental.”
“What are you going to do, Tiff?,” asked “quirky best friend” Barbie.
“I don’t know. Ever since striking out on my own here in Chicago, I’ve gotten exactly ZERO interior design job offers…and now my rent is overdue and I just don’t have the money.”
“I meant about Ken.”
“Oh, him. We have nooo chemistry, none. His fashion sense is a little…. off, and what’s with that hair? Seriously, it’s like a plastic shell. Anyway, we broke up last night.”
“I’m so sorry. I REALLY like him.”
“Well, he’s available.”
“Hmmmm….noted. Sounds like it’s time to update your Tinder profile, and your website…maybe cast a broader net and consider men AND jobs outside of Chicago? You NEED a change of scenery, girl….”
The next day, at a once glorious but now dilapidated fishing lodge in Wyoming.
“Luke, you’ll never believe who just booked a weekend with us!”
“OK, Sis, I’ll bite. Who is Bo Mango? I’ve never heard of him.”
“He curates the biggest and best fly-fishing blog out east. My sources tell me he is working on expanding nationwide and will be doing undercover stays and reviews in western states…and his first one is going to feature US!!! He’s arriving this Friday and you’re booked to guide him all weekend.”
“And that’s good news? I mean, you know I’ll show him some fantastic fishing, but look at this place: It hasn’t been updated since the 1960s. Grampa left us a dusty, dated lodge and a huge mortgage. This Bo Mango guy will rave about the fishing, but tell all his snooty readers to find another place to stay if they come out here. Look, I’ve already talked with Gil Haber at Big Sky Bank. I think we are going to have to sell Cutthroat Cabins, or just sign it over and call it quits.”
“No! We owe it to Grampa and ourselves to at least try. I’ve already hired a big-time decorator from Chicago to spruce the place up. Her name is Tiffany Tippet and she is about to land at the airstrip so go pick her up!”
“GO! Tiffany promised to whip the Lodge into shape by Friday. We’ll show that Bo Mango the best fishing AND the best accommodations and hospitality he’s ever experienced! His glowing review will save our family business. I just know it!”
At the airstrip, a visibly shaken Tiffany, unaccustomed to flying on anything smaller than a 737…not to mention landing on a bumpy grass covered field, catches a heel and stumbles down the ladder of Big Al’s Piper Cub…into Luke’s strong arms.
With the side of her face pressed into his chest, she can feel the beating of his heart against her cheek, and he can feel her warm soft exhale rippling his chest hairs through the button line of his shirt. She regains her footing, looks up into his ruggedly handsome face, and swoons.
“You must be Tiffany.”
“You’re… NOT Ken.”
“LUKE, you must be Luke.”
“I am, and time is short so let’s get you to the Lodge. I’ll grab your luggage.”
“No luggage: I had to leave it all at the airport in Jackson Pit.”
“You mean Jackson Hole. Why did you have to leave it there?”
“Yes, Jackson Hole. Well, Big Al had the carcass of a moose or something equally huge and disgusting loaded in the cargo area. He said my bags would put him overweight.”
“Well, my sister Margie can loan you some clothes… and we need to get you out of those spike heel shoes right quick. You’ll never even make It from here to my truck in those.”
“They are called stiletto heels, not spike heels.”
“Potato, po-TAH-to,” quips Luke as he sweeps Tiffany up, cradles her in his arms like a bride about to be carried over a threshold and begins the quarter mile trek to his vehicle over soggy grass, mud and finally gravel. Tiffany can’t help herself. She melts against him, enveloped in his strong arms, inhaling his manly scent, and feeling all sorts of unfamiliar gooey feminine sensations within this overwhelming cocoon of masculinity she’s suddenly found herself engulfed in.
Back at Cutthroat Cabins, Margie hears the truck pull up and steps out from reception as the Lodge door opens. “Tiffany! Welcome to Cutthroat Cabins! Um, why is my brother carrying you?”
“Well, Margie, apparently Luke here thinks my ‘city girl’ shoes aren’t up to the task of walking on uneven surfaces…like grassy airstrips and your dirt driveway.”
With a sheepish grin, Luke reluctantly sets Tiffany down to their mutual disappointment and explains about the luggage situation. Margie grins at the palpable chemistry she’s seeing, takes Tiff by the hand and the two set about getting acquainted while putting together a wardrobe so Tiffany will be ready to tackle updating the Lodge first thing in the morning.
“I don’t get it”, a frustrated but fetchingly flannel-clad Tiffany says to Luke as he comes down stairs just after sunrise. “You named this place after pirates, but none of the décor reflects that. Is this what you brought me here to fix?”
“Cutthroat Cabins…. Makes you think of Pirates?”
“Yes, Cutthroat…Pirate. Same thing.”
“Around here, ‘Cutthroat’ is a kind of trout.”
“Trout? You mean like a fish?”
“Um, duh…this IS a fishing lodge. Hey, my sister said you had extensive experience with rustic renovations…You do, don’t you? I mean, I figure you’d know about stuff like trout…and what kind of shoes to wear in rural Wyoming.”
“About that. I MAY have fudged my experience just a little bit. Look, I need the work and I KNOW I can do it. If you help me, that is.” Pleading silently as she stares upward into Luke’s steely blue eyes, and melting… again.
“All right, I’ll try. We need to pull out all the stops to impress our guest. He arrives day after tomorrow. If he doesn’t give us an outstanding review, we’re gonna lose the Lodge.”
“I know, so let’s get cracking!”
For the next 36 hours, Tiffany and Luke work feverishly to clean and embellish the furnishings in the main lodge, developing deepening feelings for one another, and unsuccessfully trying to hide them. Third wheel Margie can only chuckle and walk away at times. Tiffany is introduced to Country music, and counters with Mozart and Vivaldi. Margie chimes in at quitting time, cueing up Ravel’s Bolero before heading off to bed hiding a smirk.
As the Lodge takes shape, Luke looks askance at some of Tiff’s additions: Lace doilies, shelves full of antique and obscure hardcover books, bowls of “fragrant” rose petals, granola bar with espresso machine. Cutthroat Cabins now looks, and smells, like a weird cross between a fishing lodge and a stuffy New England Bed and Breakfast, but Tiffany assures him that high-brow east coast types like Bo will appreciate her refinements, AND her choice of music.
“One thing left to do,” Tiff says as they prepare to turn in on the Eve of Bo Mango’s arrival. “What’s that?” Luke calls out on his way from the kitchen, bearing two mugs of hot cocoa.
“Gotta spruce up this mounted Moose head over the main fireplace. It’s the focal point of the room.”
“Be careful.” Luke sets the mugs down, mindful not to spill any on the antique lace runner now adorning the coffee table Gramps made out of an old barn door. He steps forward to steady the ladder. Tiff finishes her dusting, then begins to weave a garland of fresh wildflowers through the massive antlers.
Just as she is stretching to place the final loop over the tip of the far antler, and a distracted Luke is trying to figure out exactly what size waders would best fit her gloriously ample… form, the ladder wobbles. Tiff screams, then falls. Luke snaps out of his derriere induced reverie and catches her.
“I, uh, always seem to be ending up in your arms.”
“My pleasure…I mean, I’m happy to fondle…I mean, handle…er, lend a hand.”
“Luke, I have to tell you. Being in your arms, well, it feels like coming home…to the warmest and safest home this City Girl has ever known.”
Luke, nobody’s poet, can only manage to respond “Oh, Tiffany” as he leans in for a kiss. Just as their lips are about to touch, Margie appears on the balcony, drawn by the commotion and not altogether surprised at the pose she finds them in… again!
“Are you guys okay?”
The flushed pair looks up just as the massive moose head, which Tiff had unknowingly sent teetering, falls from its mounting peg. It strikes Luke’s head, knocking him unconscious and sending Tiffany sprawling across the floor like Bambi on a frozen pond.
Doctor Vooder is summoned. He examines a very groggy Luke and assures the ladies that the patient should be fine. “He just needs a good night’s sleep or two. I’ll send my brother, Doctor Vooder 2, to check on him again in the morning. As Luke slumbers, Margie and Tiffany discuss preparations for the arrival of their guest.
“I’ve got Big Al bringing Bo directly here from the air strip.”
“What do we know about Mr. Mango, Margie?”
“Well, not too much. I did hear Luke talking with him on the phone yesterday. They had a looong conversation all about the fishing: the river, gear, strategy, techniques, local insects, likely hatch schedules, bait fish native to the stream. A whole lot of technical, sleep-inducing, fly-fishing geek-type stuff, especially about fly patterns and sizes. Sounded like Bo had a LOT of questions, but that Luke had ALL the answers. I mean, my brother doesn’t know the difference between a latte and a milkshake, but he can instantly identify the Latin name for every kind of flying insect known to exist, and the matching fly pattern and size!”
“That’s important in fly fishing?”
“It’s absolutely vital, Tiff, and my brother’s got it covered. Look, you’ve done such a great job making the Lodge look spectacular…well…at least for a fancy Boston-based guest like Mr. Mango. Don’t worry, my brother will dazzle him as his fishing guide. Bo is gonna write us a glowing review and drive a bunch of his readers to our Lodge so we’ll be able to catch up the mortgage. Maybe even pay it off!”
“I just hope Luke is ABLE to guide tomorrow,” says Tiffany, gazing in at her slumbering newfound love…and the angry welt on his head.
Dr. Vooder 2 arrives in the morning, as promised. After examining and speaking with Luke privately, he updates the ladies.
“He’s fine, physically, but his memory is a bit…off. Don’t worry, It’s temporary. No telling when it will return to normal, or what could trigger that return, though.”
“He has amnesia?” queries Margie.
“Of a sort. It’s like this: He knows where he is, who he is and what’s going on around him. He just can’t put the proper names on these things. Actually, It’s a case for the Medical Books. I think I’ll call it Terminological Amnesia when I write it up for the New England Journal of Medicine.”
“What exactly does Terminological Amnesia mean?”
“Well, for example, he knows he’s in the Lodge your grandfather built and left the two of you, but in struggling for a name he came up with ‘Pirate Palace’ instead of Cutthroat Cabins. He knows you’re his sister, but when I asked your name, he thought for a minute and said ‘Angel?’…like your Daddy always used to call you, I guess. When I asked his name, well, he couldn’t come up with one at all, just said that he was City Girl’s Fiancé.”
“WELL now, I guess that makes YOU City Girl,” teased Margie to a visibly shocked and furiously blushing Tiffany, who had started absently stroking her ring finger with her right hand.
“Yes, well…Just let your brother have complete rest at least until morning. By the way, I didn’t know Luke was engaged. Congratulations, young lady! Call me if anything changes, Margie.”
Tiffany is saved further embarrassment, explanation and teasing by a sharp knock. Big Al shoves the main door open, holds it for the departing Physician, then steps inside with very distinguished-looking and impeccably attired stranger.
“Folks, this here is Mr. Bo Mango, and judgin’ by the pile of gear he brung, he’s here to fish hard and dress nice.” Hey, what the heck did you do to that poor Moose head?” Panning around the room, face showing deepening levels of disapproval as he takes in more elements of Tiffany’s new decor. “What the hell is going on here…. ouch!” Margie had sidled up unobserved, stomped on Big Al’s foot, and was now ensuring his silence with her best “plucky little sister” death-stare.
“Hello, Mr. Mango and welcome. I’m Margie, one of the owners of Cutthroat Cabins. My brother, with whom you spoke about the fishing, is away the rest of the day on business.”
“Ah yes, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Interesting place you and Luke have here…” Bo says slowly as he scans the room. A raised eyebrow seems to indicate…disapproval? Uh oh….
“May I get you a latte, Mr. Mango?” blurts a now nervous and overly solicitous Tiffany.
“A LATTE?” Big Al stammers in disgust. “A freakin’ latte? HERE? on top of all this…whatever this is? Your Grampa is surely spinnin’ in his grave right now!” Margie watches in alarm as Al stomps out the door and quickly tosses armloads of Bo’s gear from the bed of his truck into a hasty heap at the foot of the Lodge steps. Big Al drives off throwing rooster-tails of mud from his oversized dual-rear tires, most of which seems to land on their guests’ large mound of top end equipment and designer luggage.
Bo slowly turns back to Tiffany, his demeaner cool, maybe even cold.
“I’m sorry, miss, I didn’t get your name?”
Margie quickly cuts in: “This is Tiffany. She is our…uh…chambermaid”.
“Yes, well, I’ll pass on the latte Tiffany as it looks like I’ve now got an unexpected project to attend to.” Gesturing to his mud encrusted possessions, then turning from a wilting Tiffany to a downright horrified Margie, he asks “I assume my cabin is ready?”
“Uh, yes. Number 1… Key’s in the door.”
“Fine, please have your brother meet me back here at 6 am precisely, as agreed. Let’s just hope that the fishing… well, goodnight, ladies.”
As the Lodge door closes, Tiffany rushes to console a now distraught Margie. “Don’t worry, we’ve got the whole weekend to make up for this little rough start.”
“Rough start? THAT was a disaster!”
“Now now…I’m sure Mr. Mango has a sense of humor. We’ll all be laughing together about this over hot cocoa by Sunday.”
“Laughing? Look, Tiffany, if Luke doesn’t beat his Terminological Amnesia by tomorrow morning and show Bo Mango the best fishing he’s ever had, we’ll be crying…. crying all the way to the bank to sign the Lodge over. It’s gonna take a miracle…like a delusional Angel Investor bailout, to save Cutthroat Cabins now.”
Margie intercepts Luke coming down the stairs at 5:55 am the next morning. “Are you ready? He’ll be here any minute!”
“Of course I’m ready. I’ll show…Blog Guy the best Undergill fishing he’s ever seen!”
“Oh no…Luke? His name is Bo…remember? Bo Mango…and you’re not supposed to let on that you know about his blog! And what in the world is an ‘Undergill’?”
“You know, the fish in the river with the slit marks under their gills… Undergills.”
“You mean the TROUT with the CUT marks on their THROATS…. You know, Cutthroats! Luke, you still have that amnesia. We’re just gonna have to explain to Bo Mango what happened. You can’t guide him like this, he won’t understand a word you say…and he’ll think you’re crazy!”
“Cutthroats…. Cutthroat Trout. Huh, makes sense. I, I think I can remember that now. Don’t worry, I got this, Angel.”
“My name is Margie!”
“Right. Sorry. Don’t worry… Margie, Fishing has a universal language. We’ll work it out. If I get stuck, I’ll just say “Oh, sorry. That’s how we say that ‘round these parts”, or somethin’ folksy like that. It’ll be fine.”
The lodge door opens and a very reserved Bo Mango enters, already clad in waders and vest, with several rod cases under his arm. “Good morning, Margie. And you must be Luke. Ready to hit the river?”
“Nice to finally meet you….”
“Bo!” whispers Margie harshly…for all to hear.
“Nice to meet you, Bo. I see you already got your river galoshes on and your tossin’ sticks with ya. Let’s go!”
A befuddled Bo glances down at his Orvis Pros then over to the multi branded assortment of rods as he quickly works out Luke’s references. “Uh, yes, let’s,” rapidly losing faith in his guide. The pair exits as Margie, realizing that it’s too late to turn back now, hangs her head dejectedly.
Luke brings Bo to the first run and expertly leads him out into the heavy current, guiding him into perfect position.
“Alright, now tie on a couple arm lengths of your finest gossamer, attach a floater above a sinker, throw it just inside that fasty-slowy line and let it wander down into the swirly whirly…..oh, and be ready to jerk some lip!”
Bo, working out this bizarre Luke-speak on the fly, says: “You want me to attach 6 feet of 8x, rig up a dry/dropper, cast on the slow side of this seam and drift down into that eddy?”
“You could say it that way, I suppose. Don’t forget to jerk lip right quick if the floater even twitches.”
“You mean, set the hook?”
“Well, yeah. Is that how y’all say it Back East?”
Bo nods affirmatively, finishes attaching his “gossamer” and setting up the “floater-sinker” with a caddis above a Prince nymph. He then casts to the inside of the seam and mends expertly as his flies approach the eddy. A couple of seconds later, the caddis plunges under.
Bo sets the hook while giving Luke some serious side eye and instantly feels the throb of a heavy fish. Showing great skill and patience, Bo assuredly plays and gently subdues his first Wyoming Cutthroat.
“You’re doing great! Just worry about the fish and don’t rush. I’ll have the long-handled leaky bag ready when he is.”
Bo correctly concludes that Luke is standing by with a landing net, but is still moderately surprised when his apparently addled Guide expertly scoops up the fish. And what a fish it is! Perhaps this Luke DOES know what he’s doing after all.
“Nice job, Blog Guy! I mean, Bo! That’s a beauty…gotta be 22 inches. Hand me yer walkie-talkie and I’ll take an E-lectronic Polaroid of you with your Undergill.”
Bo gives Luke his phone and poses with the largest, most colorful Yellowstone Cutt he’s ever caught. As he takes his phone back, he regards Luke and wonders which one of his colleagues spilled the beans on his undercover trip and whether that person also decided to prank him, or if his guide is just insane.
Over the next five hours, Luke consistently puts Bo on fish. They’ve had great success subsurface with nymphs including “Snottybottoms” (yellow mop flies) and streamer patterns like “Blackout Shots” (Mickey Finns). Curiously, Wooly Buggers seem to be the only pattern known by the same name in Luke’s parallel universe.
Bo is about to ask about any expected hatch activity when Luke suddenly exclaims “Orgy! It’s an orgy…let’s go!” Sloshing to the shore, Luke starts running downstream frantically waving for his client to follow. Bo is frozen in place mid-stream, not wanting to have anything to do with Luke’ vices, when he notices a huge swarm of…. something coming off of the surface of the next pool.
He warily catches up with Luke, who exclaims: “Quick, attach a tiny Baby Wants Oatmeal to your gossamer and flick it out there with that real skinny tossin’ stick you brought. This here Bug Orgy ain’t gonna last forever.”
Bo is relieved to confirm his suspicion that, in Luke-speak anyway, “Bug Orgy” refers to a hatch. He holds his tongue, ties a size 22 BWO onto his 3-wt rod’s leader and “flicks” it toward the growing army of rising fish.
For the next 20 minutes Bo is in bug orgy heaven, landing nearly a dozen gorgeous trout ranging from 14 to 20 inches. The action stops as quickly as it started. Bo and Luke, like the BWOs and the trout, are spent and decide to head back to the Lodge for a midday rest. Along the way, they discuss their chances of participating in additional orgies around sunset.
Luke and Bo enter the lodge to strains of Pachelbel’s Canon in D and a somewhat acrid odor. Bo’s phone suddenly rings. He glances at the caller ID, frowns, then curtly waves off the vegetarian lunch Tiffany offers: Braised broccoli and crushed olive salad with a side of baked beans. He absently tips his hat to the ladies and heads back to his cabin, as he answers the call.
An anxious Margie and Tiff pepper Luke with questions:
“How was the fishing?”
“Did Bo have a good time?”
“What did he say about his stay so far?”
Adopting a thoughtful pose, Luke answers: “Well, we caught tons of fish, including some real big ones. Bo didn’t smile at all, though. He seemed confused about most of my instructions at first, but that got better… well, that is until he almost made us miss the orgy.”
“The WHAT?,” Tiffany and Margie demand in unison
“Yeah, the big bug orgy. He just stood there for like a minute, but then he came to his senses and REALLY got into it. Lemme tell ya’, that Bo sure can handle his stick! Still didn’t smile or say much, even though he was nailin’ ‘em, one after another. Got into some real beauties, too. We both did, actually. I just couldn’t resist joining in on the action. Whipped out my own skinny stick, got busy and even stuck a real pig myself. I mean, it was awesome: they were just slurpin’ up everything we had to offer!
“Oh, Luke, how could you? Margie grabs a stunned Tiff by her shuddering shoulders and shakes.
“Listen to me, it’s okay. A bug orgy is not a disgustingly perverse soul-crushing multi-partner betrayal…involving insects. It’s a HATCH of insects on the water that attracts hungry fish. Hungry beautiful FISH were doing all the slurping, Tiff. Oh, and I’ve seen by brother coming out of the shower. Trust me, It’s NOT…. well… maybe you’ll get to find that out for yourself someday.”
“And the… pig thing?,” Tiff asks with a sniffle.
“A pig is an exceptionally big and fat fish, not a… you know.”
Just then, Big Al ‘s truck pulls in and backs up to Cabin 1. The trio watches out the windows in horror as Bo quickly loads all his gear and luggage, then hops in. Big Al peels out once again, his muddy rooster tails this time splattering Grampa’s hand carved welcome sign for Cutthroat Cabins, along with their collective hopes and dreams.
Margie frantically calls Bo’s number, but it’s busy. She tries Al next, who explains in a whisper: “Mr. Mango called just a few minutes ago and said he needed to get back to Jackson Hole right away. No, I don’t know why, but he don’t look happy. He’s still on the phone, but he ain’t speakin’ English, so I got no idea who he’s talkin’ to or what he’s sayin.”
Margie hangs up and relays the details of the conversation. Tiffany turns wordlessly and climbs the stairs, silently crying over her part in this disaster, heading with broken heart to her room to pack…. but there is nothing to pack, and no suitcase to hold her crushed hopes and dreams.
Meanwhile, Margie gets Luke to go into more detail about their time on the river. She cringes repeatedly as Luke talks. They conclude that Bo Mango must have hated the lodge, the food, his cabin and Luke’s off-the-wall descriptions and instructions so much that he staged a “rescue call” and literally fled a day and a half early, despite the great fishing.
Brother and Sister mope about the Lodge, discussing how to prepare for selling it, as Tiffany slumbers. She had tried to sit down and make some sense of her feelings, but simply shut down from all the work she had put in, and all the emotions that had been swirling inside of her since she’d landed in Luke’s arms that first time at the airstrip. She collapsed on the bed and cried herself to sleep.
Around dinnertime, Tiffany emerges at the top of the stairs, red-eyed and wearing her original clothes.
“Why are you dressed like that?” asks Margie, sensing that her poor brother is about to face a loss even greater than that of the Lodge. Luke joins her at the bottom of the stairs. “Yeah, City Girl, why?”
“Well,” replies Tiffany as she starts to descend “I’m just so ashamed and sorry that I let you guys down so horribly. I’ve called Big Al and he’s agreed to fly me back to Jackson Pit tonight.… Ahhhhh!”
Betrayed once again by her stilettos, Tiffany careens down the roughhewn stairs, bouncing off the railing…and into Luke’s arms. The pair stare into each other’s eyes for a very long and transformative moment.
“Oh my, here we are again”
“Uh, yeah, and I think you mean Jackson HOLE, Tiffany”
“Luke, are…are you starting to remember?”
“Yes, yes, I am! You’re Tiffany! And this is my sister Margie! And I just told the pre-eminent Fly-Fishing Blogger that a Blue Winged Olive hatch was a bug orgy. Oh, gosh, what have I done? I’ve ruined any chance of us saving Cutthroat Cabins.”
“That’s my phone” said Margie, crossly “I’d set up an alert for Bo Mango’s next flyfishingblog.com post. Looks like he couldn’t even wait to get home, had to trash us from the airport first.” Margie opens the article and starts to read it to herself.
“Well, did he?” demand Tiff and Luke in unison.
“I’m reading it now. Well, he…. he kinda…. oh… well, that’s a surprise…”
“What is he saying?”
“Hang on, let me read this…it’s kinda all over the place…OH MY GOODNESS!”
“WHAT? Tell us what he wrote, NOW!”
“Okay, okay, okay. I’ll read you the last part. Bo writes:
So, what did I get out of my incognito, unconventional and ultimately downright chaotic Wyoming experience, before my trip was so rudely interrupted? Simply this: Sometimes we need to set aside our conventions and yes, our pretentions, and just go with the flow. My advice to you all, dear readers, is…. pack up your river galoshes, your throwin’ sticks and your long handled leaky bags and get your butts out to Cutthroat Cabins! There you’ll find wonderfully eclectic accommodations and meals, and some colorful kind-hearted locals who aren’t afraid to take you down a peg or two when you need it. You’ll have the time of your life while enjoying the best Undergill fishing this side of Heaven!”
“We’re saved!,” cries Margie. “Looks like Bo Mango turned out to be the REAL Angel in this story!”
“I love you,” whispers Luke.
“And, I’m home,” breathes Tiffany, still snug in Luke’s arms. “I love you too.”
As they finally kiss, the Lodge switchboard lights up with the first round of many, many new bookings.