Catch and Relase
So, this was simply an assignment about writing fiction. The first line was one I was assigned, and I kinda feel like the story was shoehorned to fit.
It was Sunday—not a day, but rather a gap between to other days. Days seem to run together out in the wilderness, anyway. But it was Sunday. And we had a few more days left of our camping trip.
I woke with the sounds of the birds calling to each other in the pre-dawn light, and hesitated at the thought of leaving my nice, warm sleeping bag. I lay there for a moment listening to the birds. Dad would have been able to identify them by there calls. Or, at least, he would have claimed to be able to, and told us kids something that sounded believable.
Gritting my teeth, I slid out of my sleeping bag, and began to get dressed. I tried to be as quiet as possible, so as not to wake up Karen. I failed.
“Dave, is something wrong?” she asked sleepily, without raising her head or opening her eyes.
“No,” I sad softly. “Go back to sleep. I’m going fishing. I’ll catch breakfast.”
“’K, just so long as I don’t have to…” whatever it was she didn’t want to do was lost as she drifted back to sleep.
My wife. What a trooper.
I’d set my fishing gear out the night before, but checked again to make sure that no critters had gotten into the bait. After making sure everything was as it should be, I loaded up the small row boat, and cast off into the lake.
There’s something magical about watching the sun rise as you fish. The insects were skimming the surface, and ever now and then, I’d see a flash of silver as a fish would rise to the surface for breakfast.
When I was a kid, Dad would take us fishing all the time. Not usually from a boat, and not usually in the early morning. He’d tell us stories, and help us bait our hooks. He taught us how to clean the fish, and the best way to cook them over an open fire.
Memories of Dad were interrupted by a tug on the line. I quickly pulled it in and found—well, I’d caught a fish. And it was big enough to eat, but not enough to fill anyone up. I debated throwing it back long enough that it stopped flopping. Well, one decision made, anyway. Re-bait and recast.
The next fish I caught could have been a twin to the first.
From my vantage point on the lake, I saw Karen emerge from the tent, and begin to putter around the campsite, building up the fire, putting water on to boil, and finding a tin cup and a packet of something, most likely hot cocoa or instant coffee or something of that nature. I briefly considered returning to the shore—I had been regretting not preparing coffee of my own before casting off. No, that would take too much time, and I wasn’t sure I’d be willing to come back out on the lake once I got back to camp.
Besides, Karen would laugh at my two little fish. She’d laugh more if I ditched them and came back fishless.
Suddenly, there was a strong tug on my line. Irrationally, I thought back to the stories Dad used to tell of monster fish that lived in this lake, taunting fishermen, and getting bigger every year. That was probably not true, but still, whatever was on the other end of my line was fighting something fierce. Images of grandeur flashed through my mind—triumphal photographs, newspaper articles, awards—the whole bit. I reeled in furiously until I could see the large fish thrashing on the other end of my line. I reached for the net—I didn’t think I’d get this monster in the boat with just the line alone. Carefully, I reached over, one hand on the rod, the other holding the net—and just then the fish gave a particularly hard pull, overbalancing me and pulling me out of the little row boat.
Now, I can swim, really. But suddenly finding oneself in a freezing mountain lake just after dawn is enough to make anyone panic. Frantically, I tried to get back in the boat.
I managed to get one arm over the side, but when I went to pull myself up, the boat came down instead. As I scrambled, I was dimly aware of the rod Dad had given me, my net, tackle-box and the two little fishes I had caught earlier slipping into the water. The big fish was long gone, having snapped or slipped the line somewhere along the way.
Eventually the row boat turned completely upside down. That didn’t stop my trying to get on top of it. Which, in turn tilted it in just the right manner as to allow water inside, and, well, it sank.
I treaded water, dumbfounded for a moment, then started swimming back to shore. I don’t know if I had drifted father out than I thought I had, or what, but it seemed like the swim to shore took forever.
When I finally reached our campsite, Karen was waiting with a mug of coffee and a hot blanket, bless her.
“What happened?” she asked, helping me out of my sodden clothes.
“It got away,” was all I could say.