“Lord, remind me again why I’m here, please.” An image filled my mind of the loveliest young lady I’d ever met. Amy was sweet, kind, and loved the Lord with a passion that inspired me. “Right.” I sighed quietly and turned back to the man beside me in embarrassment.
“I seem to have a problem, Sir.”
Amy’s father lifted his eyes from the hook he was tying onto his fishing line and squinted at me. I held up my finger with the hook from my line securely fastened into the skin. “Do you have a recommendation as to how to remove it?”
He ducked his head back to his work but not before I saw the twinkle of humor in his eye and the quirk in the corner of his lip. “Yank it out, Lad.”
Wonderful. He was laughing at me. If I had a chance of receiving permission to court Amy, I needed to do a lot better than I had so far. I gritted my teeth and yanked. Blood dripped off the tip of my finger and spotted my new trousers.
Ben looked up again and shook his head ruefully. “Suck on it for a minute.”
Did he really just suggest that? I looked away from the bloody finger to gauge his seriousness. Yup, he meant it. I sighed again and tucked my finger into my mouth. The metallic tang of the blood was all I noticed at first. Then a slimy sensation on the roof on my mouth. I pulled my finger out to see what it was and saw a hunk of worm stuck to the back. A shudder wracked my neck and shoulders and my gag reflex took over. Ben shouted at me. “Don’t you be puking in my boat, Boy.” I leaned over the side and lost my breakfast to the fish. A canteen of lemonade was pressed into my hands and I rinsed my mouth out and spit before taking a deep drink. This day was not shaping up as I’d hoped.
It got worse.
If my waterlogged watch had still worked, it would have read nearly noon when I finally stepped onto the dock. Amy was sitting with her feet dangling over the water and a Bible nestled in her lap. The yellow gingham dress she wore was covered in tiny blue flowers the same color as her eyes. Eyes that stared at me in shock.
“The boy needs to clean up before lunch. Get him some of Adam’s clothes and a washbasin. He wants to talk to you after we eat.” Ben secured the boat while his sons grabbed our fishing gear.
I stared at his retreating back, hardly able to digest what he had just said.
Amy grabbed my arm and pulled me around to face her. A smile lit up her face and I felt the tension of the morning drain out.
“You’re soaking wet!” She scooped up her Bible, tucked a hand in my arm, and we walked toward the house. “Tell me what happened.”
“I’m not sure where to start… the vomiting, capsizing the boat, losing the string of fish, snagging your papa’s ear with my hook, snapping his favorite pole in two… “
Then she giggled. I stopped and glared at her. “You’re laughing at me!”
No, I realized. She had just been giggling. Now she was laughing. Tears ran down her cheeks. The door to the farmhouse opened and her parents walked toward us. Ben was obviously attempting to hold back his own guffaws. Greta handed me some clothes and winked at me. “There’s a clean pitcher and bowl of warm water in Henry’s room. You can wash in there.
I couldn’t take any more. “Why? I messed up everything. I expected to be shown to the barn and my horse.”
“You’re the first to pass my test, Nate. I get plenty of young men wanting to court my girl and I take each of them fishing.”
“There must have been others that did considerably better than me.”
“Well sure, I reckon they all fished better than you, Boy.” He chuckled and continued, “It wasn’t the fishing I minded. You never lost your temper, never showed any disrespect, never shifted the blame or tried to defend yourself. You showed me a teachable attitude and anyone can learn to fish. Good character is harder to come by. Now hurry up... I’m hungry. Even if I don’t get to enjoy fried fish today.”
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