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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Personal Peace (06/01/06)

TITLE: The Fish
By Ann FitzHenry


In the early days of our marriage my husband, Mike, and I spent all of our vacations fishing in northern Minnesota. As skipper and first mate, we cruised in our old aluminum fishing boat searching for adventure. On one summer trip, a sleepy Sunday morning spawned a tale we’ll never forget.

“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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This article has been read 921 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Val Clark06/08/06
A lovely slice of life story. You have a relaxed style that's very pleasant to read. Great description gave a real sense of being in the boat on the water. You could have a lot of fun using this as the basis for a fiction story, adding in invented dialogue, building up the tension between the husband and wife. Asking yourself questions like: Does he blame her? Why? How do they resolve/not resolve the problem? What's his reaction at the end? Oh, what if this happened on their honeymoon, how awful would that be? Anyway, have fun! :-) Yeggy

Edy T Johnson 06/09/06
This is the best fish story I've ever heard. You have the gift for spinning a yarn, as well, and your word selections, etc., read like poetry. I just love the kicker at the end!

All that being true, it strikes me that neither Mike nor the narrator experienced much "peace" through this story. Did I miss something? Or was the walleye that escaped the hook TWICE your peace-maker? {Or, maybe this is an example of how we allow peace to be snatched away from us?)
David Story06/10/06
Your story takes my back to fishing trips with my brother, and I thank God for those times.
Great piece. Thanks for the memory.
Valora Otis06/11/06
There is something hypnotic and peaceful about the process of casting a line to catch a fish. I have felt it many times over in my life. To show how you lost that peace only made the experience more real for me. The ending was fantastic and unexpected! Great job!
Jan Ackerson 06/12/06
Very well-written, in a casual, readable voice. I enjoyed this.
Virginia Gorg06/12/06
Very descriptive - nicely done. It seems the fish has all the peace in this one!
dub W06/12/06
Very enjoyable read. Well written and seems to be a true experience - therefore the empathy.
Steve Uppendahl06/12/06
Very cool piece. I loved your use of description and humor ("seldom used" net, etc). You set the scene very well and your story had an excellent flow to it.

I too was a bit puzzled at his reaction. Being a fisherman myself and dealt with many, many hours of not so much as a bite, I have one piece of advice for the husband; deal with it. He caught the big one. Most people can never say that.

Great job with an entertaining story. Keep it up!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/13/06
This is very good. You have a smooth, easy style that's easy to read. Good job.