Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Personal Peace (06/01/06)
TITLE: The Fish
By Ann FitzHenry
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“Got a bite?” Mike asked.
“No,” I snorted. After fishing for two days without much success, the question seemed almost comical. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Mike insisted his homemade lures would catch “the big one.” With the trolling motor humming just beneath the surface, we fished while the rest of the resort slept. As the aroma of yesterday’s bug spray filled my nose, I resigned my fate to another long day on the water. Passing the time, I teased a small snapping turtle surfacing between the lily pads. My thoughts drifted to shore as I dreamed about the bacon and eggs waiting at the cabin.
Strike! The click of Mike’s reel cut the air as a fish swallowed the bait. His rod tip danced as the fish darted beneath the boat. Reeling and pumping, he slowly and deliberately coaxed his prey up from the deep. Breaking the surface, a greenish gold fish with red-tipped fins leaped into the air. Reflected in the sunlight, we spied the glassy white eye of a walleye. With his eyes blazing in anticipation Mike yelled, “Get the net!” Startled from my daydream, I quickly fumbled in the bottom of the boat for the one item we rarely used: the net. Shaking with excitement, Mike carefully guided his prize close to the boat for a triumphant scoop. The net strained as the weight of the fish threatened to tear its sides. Lifting the trophy high in the air, I swelled with pride at our amazing catch. Jump! With a deafening splash, the fish entered the water. In a split second, the tail slipped beneath the waves and disappeared. With sick, stunned silence, Mike turned the boat and headed to shore. Not a single word was spoken as we cut the waves back to the dock. Hot tears stung my eyes as I endured the painful stillness. Back at the cabin, Mike slammed the door and left me standing alone in the sand.
Distraught, I ran to the office for a cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear. Retelling the story, salty tears streamed down my face and spilled in my cup. A veteran of many fish tales, the resort owner commented, “I’ve never seen anyone cry so much over a fish.” When Mike and I returned home, I winced every time someone asked about our trip. Every inquiry was an unpleasant reminder of "the one that got away.”
A few weeks later we received a card in the mail postmarked from northern Minnesota. Inside it read, “A man stopped by the office yesterday. He said he caught a 10 pound walleye, but he threw it back. He figured if someone else didn’t think the fish was big enough to keep; he wouldn’t keep it either. We thought you might like to have your lure back.” Taped to the outside of the card hung the beads of Mike’s lure. Laughing and shaking my head, I conceded defeat. The fish had won again. On the pristine waters of Lost Lake, Minnesota, I learned that some things just aren’t meant to be.
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