The Mud Pond

Grant is old enough now that when he and the man go fishing, the man will let him wander off by himself if he gets bored. Ever since birth, Grant’s attention has wandered, and today, it wanders after about twenty minutes of fishing. So he leaves his pole with the man and heads off down the trails around the Mud Pond. While he’s gone, the young man hooks a 1.5 lb bass. After landing it, he sees Grant’s pole bouncing and pulls in a two-pounder. Grant’s limited efforts that day yield a sunfish.

In the car, Grant complains, “I don’t know how you caught such wicked big fish, Dad. It’s not fair.”

The man pats the back of Grant’s head. “Fishing isn’t fair, but you didn’t do anything to increase your chances.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you couldn’t stay still and watch your bobber, so sometimes it bounced and then stopped, and something had picked at your bait but gotten away. One time, I was able to pay attention, and I hooked whatever was picking at your bait, and that got me another bass.”

“That was my pole. It should be my bass.”

“Who put the worm on?”

“You did.”

“Who cast it out?”

“You did.”

“Who hooked it?”

“You did.”

“Whose fish is it?”

“Ugh. Why don’t they bite when I’m there?”

“Maybe the question more is why aren’t you there when they bite?” He takes a deep breath. “Look, attention has always been hard for you. But it’s not impossible. I’ve seen you stand at the front of a karate class in front position for forty-five minutes. I’ve seen you build a massive train track for your trains when you were younger. You can do it if you want to, but you have to do it. You have to pay the price. You have to study the water to see where the ripples are coming from, where the fish are breaking the surface. You have to watch your bobber to see when it’s starting to get pulled. You have to hold the pole gently to feel when the fish is really taking the bait. And you have to practice hooking the fish without letting it get away. And the only way to do that is to be there when the fish are biting.”

“Okay, Dad,” Grant says.

Two weeks later, they go out the morning of the Fourth of July.

The Mud Pond is just off Broad Street in Bridgewater. But travel back from the road a quarter of a mile, and you can’t see anything but trees and the pond. Legend has it that Bigfoot roams the area–it is part of the infamous Bridgewater Triangle after all.

Today, Grant is focused. He holds his pole and stares at the water, almost leaning over it, the edges of his shoes right at the water’s edge. They brought a bucket of shiners for bait, and now they watch their bobbers move slowly around in circles. The man gets a hit and loses his shiner. He reels in, walks back to the bait bucket, and grabs another shiner. As he does, he notices Grant’s bobber dive. Grant yanks up, and the bobber pops up for a second, then dives.

“I got it, Dad!” he yells, and he reels like crazy.

The man puts the shiner back in the bucket and walks back toward Grant.

“Dad, it’s wicked huge!” he says, reeling with greater energy against the heavy pull.

“Easy,” the man says. “Not too fast or you’ll break the line.”

Grant eases off just a bit but keeps the line tense.

“Good,” says the man.

The fish splashes the surface of the water several times before coming within grabbing distance. The man leans down, grabs the fish by the lip, and pulls it ashore.

“Lookie there, pal. Good three pounder.”

“I got it, Dad! Three pounder!”

“Here, let’s get a picture.”

He hands it to Grant and pulls out his phone. He snaps a couple of pictures and sends them to Lauren. She writes back, “Wow!”

“I wanna keep it, Dad,” says Grant.

“You’re gonna eat it?”

“Yeah. Maybe we can fry it. I like fish sticks.”

The man laughs. He grabs the lunch-cooler they have, dips it into the pond water to fill it, and puts the fish in.

“All right, let’s see if we can get more.”

After an hour, Grant has caught another of equal size. They also need to get back home to head to the church pancake breakfast. The man has been skunked.

As they are walking back, Grant says, “I totally beat you today, Dad. You got skunked and I got wicked huge fish.”

“You’re right, pal,” the man says.

“I’m gonna tell everyone at the family Fourth of July party how you got skunked and I beat you.”

“You do that, pal.”

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