We wandered down the boardwalk window shopping. Nearing the Undersea Gardens, we stopped to watch some kids fishing. Each line had multiple small hooks. These were carefully lowered into the water. Within minutes they hurriedly brought them back up now weighted down by a small silvery fish or two. Quickly, they gently unhooked each treasure and placed them in a bucket at their feet and then repeated the whole process. Our children dashed over to observe more closely.
“Dad, dad! They catch these small fish and sell them to the Undersea Gardens. They use them as live food for the bigger fish in the exhibit there.” John had all the details down. “Dad, they pay you to fish! Isn’t that great?”
“Dad, can we do that, please??” Stacy added her plea to her brother’s. Her father usually found it impossible to deny his only daughter’s requests. This time was no exception.
“Okay, go buy some gear. Ask Mr. Norris if I can square it with him later.” Skipping, our two older children headed next door. We made most of our purchases at his, “If We Don’t Stock It, You Don’t Need It” establishment each summer and had long known its proprietor.
Soon, encumbered with two poles and assorted line and packages, as well as a gallon bucket, the triumphant twosome returned. My husband assisted as they assembled their tackle.
We found a nearby less crowded dock and Stacy and John quickly began their quest for cash. As they waited the requisite couple minutes, they discussed what to do with all the wealth they felt sure would be theirs.
We were quite proud of their entrepreneurial attitude. Soon the children were hoisting their line and miracle of miracles, each of the six hooks on both lines was replete with a silvery, wiggling treasure! My husband assisted their careful removal and placement in the bucket of sea water. The small fish immediately began swimming within its confines, unaffected by their new circumstances.
“Did you see that, Mom?” Stacy was awestruck. John was jumping up and down.
“Me too, me too,” shouted Buddy as he tried to wrestle the pole from Stacy’s hands. Ever the peacemaker, she guided his hands, explaining how to hold the pole while assisting in lowering the line back into the water below.
“You hold the pole, and I’ll take the fish off for you, okay?” Buddy grinned at his big sister and nodded. Within moments they were excitedly lifting line and again each hook held a squirming small fish. Stacy cautiously disentangled each one and dropped it in the bucket, now filling with shiny swishing fins.
John hefted the bucket, and sloshing water as he went, victoriously headed to the Undersea Gardens. Within minutes he ran back with the container. “They’re keeping count for us and will pay us when we are done.” His eyes shone with anticipation.
Finding a nearby bench, we watched astonished as the kids spent the next hour repeating the cycle. Quickly I lost count of the number of fish acquired. Finally, their arms tiring and their hooks bringing up fewer with each haul, they determined they’d amassed enough fortune. John picked up the bucket for his final trip. This time Stacy, holding tightly to Buddy’s hand, followed him.
Through the door they trooped and we could see the manager take the bucket, and jot a number on a sheet of paper as she smiled at the kids. She pointed to the tank beyond. The kids’ faces glowed with pleasure. Then she handed them their reward. They burst through the door and ran to us.
“Can we go spend it, Dad, Mom?” John waved a $10 bill at us. Never had I seen such animation except maybe at Christmas. “Dad, we sold so many fish, they became their own school. Did you know that’s what they call a group of fish that swim around together? Did you??”
“Can you believe we caught 100! And they paid us a dollar for every 10 we gave them!” Stacy’s eyes lit with pride.
“All right, go ahead. I’m right behind you.” They dashed into Mr. Norris’ store eager to spend their new-found wealth. My husband followed them in to settle our newly acquired debt. Shortly, he returned, shaking his head; frowning ruefully.
“What’s the matter? Aren’t you proud of them?” I asked puzzled.
He grinned sheepishly. “They only made $10. I’d be more pleased if this little enterprise hadn’t just cost me six times that amount!”
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