And sometimes the fish eats you

It’s helpful to have grown up learning Bible stories in Sunday school because when you’re an adult you can identify what’s happening when you find yourself in a disaster of biblical proportions.

I’m just such an adult.

I was born a fourth-generation Pentecostal, a church with a strong Bible-teaching emphasis. Even today, six decades later, I can tell you most of the stories found in the Bible, not just the famous ones but the obscure ones as well. (I always loved those 42 teenage boys getting mauled by a couple bears in chapter 2 of the Second Book of Kings.)

So are you familiar with Jonah? He’s the guy God ordered to go to the wicked city of Ninevah and preach some repentance into them. Jonah didn’t want to mess with the Ninevites, so he hopped a ship in the opposite direction.

God was not a happy camper. He sent a massive storm, the crew panicked, the ship was gonna go down — but Jonah knew this was no ordinary storm. Finally he told the captain, Throw me overboard and the storms will cease.

The crew was just desperate enough to try it. They threw Jonah overboard, the skies cleared, the winds calmed. That’s when Jonah got swallowed by a huge fish — but he ended up surviving too. And going to Ninevah, in the end. Because after you’ve been tossed overboard in a storm at sea, swallowed by an ocean creature, and puked back out after three miserable days, you know better than to mess with God.

Fast-forward to modern times. More than 20 years ago, the Trustees — owners of the Crane Estate at Castle Hill in Ipswich — launched Castle Hill Concerts on Thursday evenings each summer, a brainchild of longtime Trustees gem Trina Schell. These delightful open-air musical experiences on the Grand Allée behind the Great House have become a beloved summertime feature for multitudes of North Shore residents. Blankets on the grass, chatter and laughter, food and drink and dancing under the stars.

Of course, over the years, bad weather has occasionally forced cancellation of a concert. Yet even in the very worst of years, the usual ten-concert series has never been reduced by more than three. Mother Nature can be only so cruel.

But this year, Trina and the Trustees made a grave error.

They invited me to emcee this summer’s concerts — and look what happened.

The first concert of the season was rained out. Had this ever happened before? I don’t know. I haven’t been around very long. I’m an outsidah.

Then the second concert of the season was rained out. Had both the first two concerts of the summer ever been canceled before? No. I got this on good authority, from Trina herself.

Now we’re at the midpoint of the season, and we’ve had a record-shattering FOUR Castle Hill Concerts rained out. Every Thursday, the clouds gather, the skies darken — and somewhere in Ipswich Bay, an enormous fish circles hungrily.

I am Jonah. I don’t know how or why, but my vast knowledge of Bible stories makes it uncomfortably clear to me: This must be my fault.

I went to Trina, my captain, and gave it to her straight: Throw me overboard and the storms will cease.

Trina just laughed. 

But was it an “Oh, don’t be silly” laugh? 

Or was it that little chuckle you chuckle to mask your apprehension? 

I can’t be sure.

If I don’t show up at the next Castle Hill Concert — and especially if it’s rained out — please send a boat out to rescue me.

Look for the biggest fish you can find. I’ll be the guy inside.

Doug Brendel lives 85 feet above sea level on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Follow him at

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