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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Deep End (03/06/14)

TITLE: There Had to be a Catch
By Noel Mitaxa


My life revolves around this lake. I know all its fickle moods, its wind-shifts, its seasons, and its currents. My business partners and I also know where to find the fish. That’s why we are such good friends, and why our company - ZBD Food Services – is so profitable.

I also know its beauty. We often set out as the sun is setting; spearing its shafts of light across the sky from behind black clouds on the western horizon—an ever-changing, ever-fading kaleidoscope: from blazing gold to orange; to crimson; to vivid pink before wan mauve becomes purple and darkens to indigo. Each of these tints' feeble attempts to hold our attention is dismissed by the encroaching darkness. And any low-slung clouds to the east are treated to a faint smudge of pink before they too are absorbed into dusk’s wan-ness.

Out on the lake, we see this twice: in the sky; and simultaneously on the surface; where the water sparkles in its own mimicry.

Out on the lake, we also see the lights going out in the towns and villages that punctuate the whole shoreline, and the settlements in the surrounding hills, as people retire for the night. Yet the darkness that conceals them introduces us to a new brilliance—of the countless stars overhead.

As nature stills itself within this enveloping blackness, our hearing range extends beyond the limitations and the competing noises of daytime action. A nocturnal realm is quietly stirring to life, heralded by birds settling on their nests, as foxes and other predators get to work and insects scurry through their nightly clean-up duties.

Out on the lake, the water enhances these acoustics, for we hear snatches of comments from other boats that are nowhere near us.

Through all of this sensory stimulation, we keep moving under sail towards the sluggish waves that indicate deeper water. Trailing our nets behind us we avoid using our oars; to avoid disturbing the fish. Silence and patience are an absolute must.

Time passes; as do the fish. Right past. Our nets are not slowing us down, for they respond freely to our occasional tugging. We also keep listening to ensure we are pointing into the waves; for fish will keep their distance if they hear waves slapping against our sides.

Extended inactivity augments the chill from an enveloping mist, but the rising sun starts to impose itself on our world. Breaking out the oars, we turn for home; adding inner warmth to the sun at our backs. Breakfast is sounding like a great idea; to us and to the birds that have begun circling above us—and any other boats they’ve detected.

An hour later we’ve secured our boats at the lakeside, expecting to quickly clean our nets and get home.

But suddenly we find a crowd has materialised all around us; and we have no fish to sell them.

However their hunger is for something from our new teacher friend.

He’s happy to oblige, and asks me to set out a little way from the shore with him, so he can share some teaching. In spite of myself, I’m also happy to oblige. But he already seems to know about how the water will carry his voice to them.

They are silent; in the palm of his hand; as they warm to his wisdom and his integrity, but he doesn’t go on too long. He stands to smile and waves a blessing on them.

Now I suddenly become his student, albeit reluctantly.

He wants us to pull out to deeper water and toss in the nets—for a catch????

Reluctance surfaces.

“Master, we’ve been out all night and caught nothing! But if you say so (‘Watch that irony,’ I tell myself) the nets will go in!”

Man alive—no sooner have they gone in, my boat lurches over towards them, and I can see more fish than the nets can hold. The other guys quickly come out to help us, but they almost sink as well under the weight of so many fish!

It's all too much for me, as I turn back to Jesus. “Please—leave me alone. This is more than I can handle, for I’m just not good enough!”

He just smiles back, “Don’t be scared, Simon. From now on, you’ll catch men.”

As I look back now, he was right.

Author’s note. This is tinged with memories of early 1999, when I had the joy of baptizing a young woman called Maggie in the large but very shallow lake that gave the town its name. Though we had to wade at least a hundred metres out to reach a sufficient depth of water, everyone back on the shore could hear everything we said to each other: before during and after the baptism.

I realised then that Jesus, having created the laws of acoustics, would also know how to use them with Simon.

However tragedy struck only a month later, when Maggie died in a traffic accident.

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This article has been read 343 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 03/13/14
Okay, I'm trying to decipher the ZBD in the ZBD Food Services. Is it Zebedee? -- for the father of James and John? I've often wondered what Zebedee's reaction was when his sons were called and they left him in the boat. You've magnificently painted the lakeside sunset and night scenes and made the voices drift across the water to the reader. Your footnote about Maggie, though sad, had a triumphant overtone. In retrospect, I love your title in relation to the story. Excellent!
Toni Hammer03/14/14
What a bittersweet author's note. Praise The Lord that she's with Jesus now.

This is a fantastic piece of writing. It inspires be to be a better writer. Great work as always.
Danielle King 03/15/14
Brilliant, detailed writing drawing the reader right into the scene. I also wondered about ZBD, thinking Zebedee, especially so knowing the author. This is great for the topic and should do well with the judges. Superb job!
Lillian Rhoades 03/16/14
Your title was very catchy and typically Noelesque. You painted a beautiful picture of the lake at eventide.

Opinion: Consider the correct use of semi-colons.

For ex:
"But suddenly we find a crowd has materialised all around us; and we have no fish to sell them." If you use the word "and", then a comma should be used.

You were right on topic with this one. This very familiar story was retold in a very creative and entertaining manner.
Lillian Rhoades 03/16/14
Oops! "and,"...
Rachel Malcolm 03/17/14
I love the imagery in this story! I felt like I was there with the fisherman, experiencing both their disappointment and their wonder.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/18/14
Excellent "retelling" of the Bible story with lyrical language.
Ellen Carr 03/19/14
This is excellent and engaging writing. Despite reading of the 'ZBD Food Services' co. I didn't realise it was one of Jesus' disciples telling the story until well into the tale. You've told the Bible story well but it was your descriptive writing about the lake and the sunset that I particularly liked. A very 'catchy' title too!!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/19/14
I think you did a wonderful job in the retelling of this story. I almost felt like I was right there with the crowd the salty air on my cheeks.

My main red ink would be to look at the number of times you said Out on the lake and how many explanation points you used. Try to keep the latter to just one in a story this side, with the one being in dialog. Also an em dash--should not have a space before or after--like this.

I liked your ending to the story. Your subtle sense of humor always makes me smile, well almost always--sometimes it leaves me scratching my head. ;) Your Author's ending touched my heart and I'm so glad you wrote this with the inspiration of this lovely lady. What a beautiful tribute that I have no doubt will be treasured by all who knew her. You did a fine job of writing on topic too, yet still keeping the POV fresh and interesting.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/20/14
Congratulations for ranking 11 overall! Happy Dance!!