“Mr. Tucker, thanks for taking me fishing with you.” Zack slammed the old truck door. “It’s really early! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten up this early before!”
I waved at his mother on the back step. “I’ll get him home by noon,” I said. She nodded and wrapped her sweater around her pajamas.
Zack bounced up and down as I shifted into reverse and backed out of the driveway. “My dad took me fishing once when I was five years old.” He put his head down and mumbled, “But that was before he…”
I didn’t hear the last few words, but I didn’t need to. I gave Zack a smile and knocked his tattered baseball cap’s visor over his eyes. “Hey! It’s no fun going by myself. I miss having my boys go with me.”
Zack straightened his cap and grinned at me. “I never knew you had boys.”
“Yes, sir, I have four boys, but they’re all grown-up and have kids of their own now.” I turned onto the highway that led out of town.
“Four boys? I’ll bet you did a lot of fishing with them. I like fishing, but Mom thinks fishing is gross.” Zack’s eyes got dreamy. “If I had four brothers, we could play ball and go camping and, maybe, even climb a mountain.” He turned to me. “Mr. Tucker, did you do those things with your boys?”
I liked the way the way he lifted one eyebrow. I smiled. “Yes, I guess we did a bit of camping and hiking.”
Zack shook his head. “I knew it! If my dad wasn’t such a bum, we would…” Zack talked and talked all the way to West Branch Pond. He talked about his dad; he talked about school; he even talked about girls. I nodded and grunted once in awhile to let him know I was listening, but the words spewed out of him like a fizzy bottle of pop.
As the old Ford bounced over the rocky mountain road, Zack gave an ongoing report of the passing scenery. I parked the truck beside the road. “Why are we stopping here? Is this where we’re going fishing?”
I grabbed our poles and my tackle box from behind my seat. “Yup! This is where we hike to the pond.”
Zack pranced around like a puppy. The questions popped out of him faster than I could answer him. “How far do we hike? Is this where you took your boys? Is this a secret fishing spot?”
As I led Zack through the woods, I knew he was following right behind me. I could hear him talking the whole way. The trail was a longer than I remembered, and I was huffing by the time we broke through the bushes to my favorite spot—a big rock on the edge of the secluded pond. I realized that Zack was silent—but only for a few seconds.
“Whooee! Wow! This is awesome!”
I helped him bait his hook and showed him how to cast his line. He must have pulled it in a dozen times to see if the bait was still there. Now, some people may say that you have to be quiet when you’re fishing. I don’t think it matters. It certainly didn’t matter that day. I think the freckles on his cheeks touched his ears when he reeled in a white perch.
Zack kept a running stream of comments all morning. We talked about different kinds of tackle and where fish liked to hide. We talked about the bullies at school and the time he got caught stealing from Bert’s corner store.
My bobber dipped beneath the surface, but I ignored it and told Zack about the day I stole some money from my teacher and then lied about it.
“Mr. Tucker, you really did that?” Zack shook his head. “You ain’t like that now. You ain’t like my dad. When I grow up, I want to be good like you.”
I prayed while I put some new bait on my hook and cast it into the rippling water. “Zack, have you ever heard about Jesus?” His puzzled look and shrug gave me my answer.
Zack listened while I talked. I told him about Adam and Eve in the garden. I told him about the promised Savior. I didn’t catch any fish that day, but it didn’t matter. I’ll take Zack fishing again soon.
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