The Grandfather And A Fish This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Keep the line taut," the man said to the little boy. "Reel it in a little if you have to."

The boat rose with a wave and the little boy lost his balance. His grandfather caught him with one hand at the back of his overalls and stood the little boy back on his feet. The grandfather smiled at

the boy who was on the verge of panicked tears. The grandfather fixed the line so that it was taut and chose to ignore the boy's reaction.

"Keep it just like this. When the fish bites you'll feel it," the grandfather tousled the little boy's hair.

The air was warm with the strength of the sun and as the easterly breeze lifted the misty sea into the air, it promptly dissipated, so that there was little relief from the temperature. The two in the boat did not notice the heat. They were concentrating on the task at hand: a little boy was to catch his first fish today.

They had been at it for a little over two hours without a bite and, while the little boy remained patient and trusting, the grandfather was beginning to worry that he had unluckily chosen a poor day. He had waited a long time (slightly coerced, of course, by the naggings of an overprotective wife and daughter-in-law) for a warm day with calm water and clear skies. He had not taken into account that the fish might simply refuse to participate.

"Hold on tight. I'll be right back," the grandfather said, making certain that the boy had a good hold of the fishing rod. The grandfather walked to the other side of the boat and lifted the cooler with strong sun-stained arms. He took it back and sat down on a built-in seat next to the little boy.

The grandfather opened the cooler and removed three worms, which he inspected with a glance and then cut on top of the cooler. He then instructed the little boy to reel in the line which had no bait on it.

"That might be our problem, John. That means that they're biting, but are smart enough not to get caught." The grandfather began to hook a new worm. "When do you go back to school, John?" the grandfather asked, inching the worm carefully onto the two-pronged hook. "Should be soon, now, shouldn't it?"

"I do not know."

"You don't know. Well I guess that wouldn't be something I'd be too concerned with either if I were you. Do you like school?"

"No," the little boy said peculiarly, as the grandfather handed him the rod.

"No. What do you mean no?"

"Well, it is just it is so boring."

The grandfather allowed himself a deep laugh.

"Is that all?" The grandfather pointed toward the sea and motioned with his hand. The little boy promptly cast the line out in that direction. "You had me worried for a second."

"That is not such a little thing, Grandpa. I got a bad grade on my report card last year because I just could not stand to be in math."

"Now math is a little boring. I'll give you that."

"Grandpa. Some of the kids do not even know their mul-ti-pli-ca-tion tables." The young boy had the look of someone who had been born with the knowledge that 12 times 12 was 144.

"That's all right. Some people learn a little slower than others, that's all."

"And every year we get those readers. They all have names like Trail Blazers or Footprints. We have to read the stories out loud during reading. They are so childish. Why can't we read something real? A novel of some sort."

The grandfather looked at the boy with sheer amazement. "What would you like to read?"

"I do not know. Something like Dad used to read to me when I was little." The grandfather looked into the young boy's small innocent eyes and could not help but smile. He was still so small and in appearance seemed his correct age. It was only in his mind that he had grown so quickly. "What did he read to you?"

"Never mind," the young boy said turning his attention back to his rod.

"Did your daddy ever take you fishing?"

"Once he did. When we all went to the beach in Carolina. While Aunty Virginia and Mama were fixing a picnic, Dad took me and Mat out on the boat to fish. They were not biting then either."

"Sometimes they don't. I know I've been out here many a time and not gotten one bite."

"Dad told me that you used to take him fishing when he was little."

"Oh, we went fishing all the time. Your daddy was quite the fisherman."

"Do you think that he would have caught one by now?"

"I don't know, to tell you truth. They are being very stubborn down there." The grandfather slowly became extremely reflective and the little boy watched in silence.

Occasionally, the grandfather would catch the little boy peering over the side of the boat. The little boy would edge over to the side, venturing from his chair and with his hands locked onto the rim of the boat. He would stare suspiciously into the dark green water. After watching him do this for the fourth time, the grandfather spoke: "Whatcha looking at?"

The little boy scurried back to his seat with a start. "Nothing." The grandfather simply nodded and the boy sat in his seat so that the water was as far away as possible.

"Your mama tells me that you might be going to a special school this year. Did you know that?"

"Yes," the boy said reeling in his line a little.

"That should make school less boring for you, don't you think?"

"I guess it will. I do not want to go all the same."

"Now why do you say that?"

"Because I will have to ride a bus to school."

"Lots of kids ride busses."

"But I never have. I do not like busses."

"How do you know if you've never been

on one?"

"I just know I will not."

The grandfather decided to let it go. "How's the line doin'?"

"I do not think that anything is going to bite today, Grandpa."

"Well, we'll see. You never really know."

The sun was high in the sky. It was approaching noon and both fishermen were growing hungry. The grandfather looked at his watch, an old golden timepiece that had barely left his wrist during his 59 years, and then told the young boy to start getting the food out. The grandfather secured the poles, with the lines still lingering beneath the sea. The young boy took out an assortment of turkey sandwiches and chips, and laid it out carefully on a towel. The two ate in relative silence, occasionally taking peeks at the still lines. The little boy thought he saw the line pull, but then dismissed the thought when it did not move again. He looked up at his grandfather, who was studying the sky. "Grandpa?"

"Yes."

"I cannot remember my dad."

The grandfather brought his eyes down to the little boy quickly, with concern. Tears were in the little boy's eyes. "The story about him taking me fishing, I do not remember it. Mama told me about it. And the books he read to me. I cannot remember him reading them to me." The grandfather picked up the little boy and held him in his arms.

"It's all right." He whispered to the boy as he held him close. "You listen to me, okay? Think really hard for me." The little boy closed his eyes tightly. "Now I want you to think about your daddy and tell me what you see."

"I do not see anything," the little boy said beginning to cry harder.

"Now calm down. It's all right. Try again." The little boy closed his eyes and tried. "What do you see?"

"I see a football and a field."

"Good. Are you throwing the football?"

"No. I am catching it."

"Who's throwing it?"

"I do not know."

"Tell what he looks like."

"I cannot see him."

"Yes, you can. Just try harder. Is he tall?"

"Yes. And he has brown hair. He is wearing a funny shirt and he is throwing me the ball."

"That's your daddy, John."

The little boy stopped crying and began to smile. "It is my dad."

"And you know what?"

The little boy still had his eyes shut tight. "What?"

"Nobody was there to tell you a story about that, was there? So that is a memory."

The little boy, though it did not seem possible, smiled even wider.

After a long time he opened his eyes and jumped out of his grandfather's arms. He went back to his sandwich as if nothing had happened. They went back to eating and the vigil over the poles.

"Do you think they will ever bite, Grandpa?"

"I don't - " as if on cue the little boy's line grew taut and the pole bent toward the water. The little boy was the first to the rod, followed by his grandfather. "Hold onto it tightly, now. Reel it in slowly."

Slowly, and not without great effort, the little boy reeled in the fish. When it broke the surface, the grandfather, keeping hold of the rod with one hand, grabbed the net and lifted the fish out of the water. The little boy stared in amazement as the grandfather unhooked its mouth. The fish was extremely large and had a metallic color to its skin that reflected the brightness of the sun. The grandfather began to point out various parts, describing what they did: how the gills helped it breath, how the fins helped it to swim. As he turned the fish over, he began to see signs of its age, scars from other hooks, and marks from fights with predators. The fish carried with it an aura of strength.

The grandfather looked at the boy who was studying the fish, not without a look of compassion. "Are you ready?"

"For what?" the little boy said, looking up at his grandfather with inquisitive excitement.

"Well, first you have to hold the fish." The old man handed the fish to the boy who immediately struggled with its weight. "And then throw him in the water as far as you can." The little boy looked confused.

"Go on. Ready? One. Two. Three." The fish sprawled out into the air, and with a great splash, flopped into the sea. It immediately went deep into the colder water below.

"Why did we do that Grandpa?"

"Sometimes all you need is a look. Sometimes that's enough. That big old fish deserved to be free. I think he got himself caught so that he could take a look at us. See what in the world we were doin'."

"So we let him go."

"Well, he'd gotten his look, we got ours and you caught your first fish." The little boy smiled and the grandfather tousled his hair. "Let's head on in."

"All right," the little boy said. He leaned over the side of the boat, watching the water the whole way home. Underneath the water a fish was looking up.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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