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The Bait That Bites
It was a perfect day for a father and son to go on a fishing trip. It was early autumn. The sun was shining and it was still warm enough to enjoy a day out.
“John, let’s go!” yelled his father. He had his jacket on already, and was about to leave the house.
“I’m still getting ready!” John shouted from his bedroom.
“Well, let’s hurry it up,” said his father impatiently.
“Okay, let’s go...” John said, running down the stairs. He looked around and noticed that his father had already left the house. John grabbed his fishing equipment and ran outside. He loaded it into the van, and got in the front seat. His dad was already in the driver’s seat, his seat belt on.
“Are we ready to go, son?” his father asked. He looked over and saw John nodding his head. “It’s been a while since we did something just you and me, eh? I hope the fish are hungry today, because I’m hungry for some fish.” His father laughed.
“Yep,” John mumbled. He stared out his right side window. He wasn’t supposed to be here with his father. He was supposed to have been with his friends at Disneyworld. Today was his middle school grad trip, but he was stuck with his dad, going fishing instead. Just because he was grounded for skipping math class. His dad wanted to build his character, which fishing was perfect for apparently.
“Son, you should talk more. Share.”
“Yep,” John repeated, his eyes still staring off into nothing.
“I’m serious about this one. Soon you’ll forget how to talk.”
“You know what, dad? Just because you’re a psychologist doesn’t mean that you have to tell me how to live my life, okay?” He turned and looked at his father. It made him angry to look at his dad who was perfect at everything. He was strong and smart. How did he end up with such a stupid and weak kid? John wondered.
“Puberty…” his dad whispered and looked away.
The two drove in silence for the next half hour. Suddenly, the car swerved to the right, and fell into a ditch.
“Oh my god!” John’s father exclaimed. “What’s wrong with the car? Stay in here, okay, John? I’ll see what I can do.” He got out of the car. One of the front wheels was stuck in a muddy hole.
John sat up to see what was going on. His father was standing, his hands on his head, a look of disgust on his face. Then, to John’s surprise, his dad cursed and kicked what must have been the tire. He got back inside. He restarted the engine. He tried moving forward, reversing, but nothing worked. Finally, he gave up and called for road side assistance. A tow truck arrived an hour and a half later. For some time, they worked to free the car. During this entire time, John’s father listened as John went on endlessly complaining about their misfortune. Finally the car was back on the road.
“I want to go back home,” John whined.
“We’re going on this fishing trip, no matter what happens.”
“But it’s already two o’clock, and it’ll probably be four by the time we get there.”
“I told you son, I don’t care.”
It was starting to rain. The two ignored the first few drops, but soon it was pouring. They kept driving. A fog started to set in.
It was close to five o’clock when they pulled up at their destination. It was no longer raining, but John’s father felt a bitter pang of disappointment as the fog started to get thicker. The boat captain might even refuse to sail out.
“Good afternoon,” two ground keepers greeted them.
John’s father nodded his head.
The two men, dressed in identical gray uniforms shook their head when John’s father told them he and his son were determined to go fishing that day.
“Let’s go, get the fishing rod out. I’ll get the worms,” his father said, ignoring the two men. He looked over towards the boat.
The guards’ faces remained grim and concerned. “Sir, there may even be sharks out there today,” the taller of the two said.
“I’m not worried.”
“If anything happens out there, we can’t take any responsibility.”
“Haven’t you heard anything I said? I’m not worried.” John’s father said. He turned and added, “Son, get on the boat.”
“We’ll bring in a captain,” the shorter one said, shaking his head.
“That’s more like it.”
An old captain dragged himself to the boat, complaining, “Who in the world would go out in this weather?” He stopped and looked at John and his father. “Just you two boys?”
“Yes, just my son and I.”
“Okay now. Let’s just get this over with. I could use the extra money,” he grumbled under his breath.
The boat stopped about 12 miles away from the shore. John and his father waited for a fish to bite. Two long and silent hours passed before one of the rods started pulling. It was John’s.
“Son, watch your rod!”
“Yes, I have one!”
“Pull, pull, yes, you’ve got it!” His father’s face burst into a smile.
A fish splashed and leaped out of the water.
“It’s a king salmon. Twenty pounds, at least,” his father said, his face exploding with pride.
“I want something bigger, dad!”
“I’m sure mom and your sister will be quite satisfied with a salmon for dinner.”
“But I’m not!”
“Well, maybe luck will strike again. It’s getting dark. I’ll go ask the old man how much longer we have till we have to go.”
As the sound of his father’s footsteps faded, another grin appeared on John’s face.
He threw the rod with the salmon still hooked on it back into the water. He was using it as bait for a bigger fish. As soon as he did, something struck his rod. When he saw it shake, John jumped and gasped. Something pulled again. John tugged on the rod, determined to hook a much bigger fish. It started to pull him over the edge of the boat. John held fast; he would give up his life before he let go of this fish. His body inched closer and closer over the edge, yet his grip on the rod handle remained locked and determined. He was happy now; he was no longer thinking about missing his grad trip. He could forgive his dad if he wanted.
“Dad!” he yelled. His heart was racing. From the corner of his eye, he saw his father running towards him. Then, to his shock, he felt himself falling into the water. His father jumped in after him. As John saw his father hit the cold water, he remembered what the guards had told him earlier about the sharks. Panic seized him as his dad swam towards him. His eyes watered and his vision started to blur.
To John’s horror, he saw a distorted figure of a shark come out of nowhere and attack his father. Blood gushed everywhere. Suddenly, John felt an excruciating pain in his side. The shark had ripped into his left leg. John forgot to breathe. His final thought as he felt himself losing consciousness was his dad’s huge smile when he caught the fish. He looked so happy and proud of John. It wasn’t fair. It couldn’t end like this….