Different Wavelengths | Teen Ink

Different Wavelengths

September 27, 2019
By macjoeymaster BRONZE, Eugene, Oregon
macjoeymaster BRONZE, Eugene, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Below the vessel, a propellor presses against the water; spinning, struggling to push the two boys above, and the “essentials,” that they brought with them on their monthly fishing excursion. Fish in this lake stay away from boats now. To them, the large, shadowy disturbance to their environment used to mean food; a worm maybe, or perhaps some sort of brightly colored, delicious morsel of who-knows-what. Very soon however, they associated this thing with danger. It was almost as if they spoke to one another, telling stories of their lost loved ones. Perhaps, even, they created a religion celebrating this higher power, as us humans might.

“There’s a reason we’re always the only people here, Leo.”

“Shut the f up man I think I’m about to get a bite.”

“What does that even mean?” Jackson retorts back. He looks at his childhood friend of sixteen years, and is filled with a mix of annoyance and the kind of anger one can only feel towards somebody you know everything about. The kind of anger that isn’t very impassioned, but just makes you more bitter because you know they know you’re annoyed.

“Want to crack open one of the coors?” Leo responds, distracting his friend from his grievances regarding their location. He reads his friend’s face, and can tell he is particularly irritable this morning. Of course he is, isn’t he always? Since Leo had moved from the house next door, Jackson seemed to never be happy around him anymore.

Despite his previous annoyance, the suggestion to begin drinking caught Jackson’s fancy. Lately, with his parents constantly quarrelling, and Leo’s family picking up and moving across town from him, there is little he can do to relieve his mental stresses. And what can he say? There isn’t anybody there to truly listen anymore. 

Jackson opens the bright blue cooler, reaching past the optimistic empty ice which awaited their first catch in six trips. The smooth aluminum cans cool both of his palms. As he grasps them, bits of ice spill from the drinks, plunging back into the cooler. He offers his friend a pump fake, wordlessly telling him to prepare for a throw on the next time around. 

As always, Leo flinched at his friend’s fake first throw, and then prepared for the real go-around. Leo reaches to grab the incoming projectile, forgetting momentarily his role as the captain of the proud rig, measuring no more than eight feet long, no wider than four. The boat shudders as the motor and propeller naturally straighten out, startling both of its occupants. Instead of his hand, the cool, refreshing Coors collides with Leo’s chin, falling into his lap. In the commotion, the cooler slides from the front of the boat into Jackson’s legs. Though he was seated, the force is enough as to where his body was forced onto the floor from the contact. Both boys yelp in unison.

Suddenly, Jackson’s line screams to the boys. It twists without pattern on the surface of the water - a sure sign of a catch. Leo reaches to cut the engine as Jackson recovers himself, grabbing the pole from its apparatus aside his bench. Suddenly, the only thing that could be heard was the whir of the line. 

Below the water, one particularly large fish fights against some invisible force. It thought itself to be safe, until its face was jerked upward, drawing some sort of heat through its cheek. Suddenly its body took over. Its pectoral fins press to its sides, and its tail engages, skillfully slamming back and forth against the water behind it. It rights itself by putting out only one fin to its side while continuing to sprint against the force. Now, swimming in a straight line, it has an edge, it thinks. Unfortunately, the heat it felt in its cheek was a hook.

“Holy shit,” Jackson calls out, “This thing is huge, man!” Simultaneously, Leo reaches out to the cooler in an excited disbelief. Finally, Jackson reels his catch to the surface, revealing a monstrous grey fish; one certainly larger than either of the boys had ever seen in this lake. Both boys pause, forgetting about all else, to gape at the fish which still fought against Jackson’s rod. 

“We can’t keep it man, its too big.” Leo says. State law requires that fish over a foot long are put back in the water during this time of year, to offer a chance for the diminishing populations to have larger offspring for the coming spring-season. 

“What do you mean?” Jackson retorts. “This is the best catch we’ve ever gotten, man. Not a chance I’m throwing it back.” As he says this, he pulls the beast out of its element, and raises his rod to Leo. He gives his friend an encouraging nod, an attempt to get him to grab the fish which writhed for freedom from its hook.

Leo looks at the fish. Next year, he thinks, there could be an entire school this big if we come back. Though he feels the temptation to grab the fish, to bring home the giant catch, he knows he cannot. 

Jackson watches in satisfaction as his friend reaches to get his catch off the line. He can already imagine his father’s face as he sees the monster. He can already smell the dinner his mother would prepare for the four of them with the fish. Their little family, and his best friend.

Quickly, however, Jackson’s hopes slip away. He can only watch as his friend took the hook from the still-living fish’s mouth. Stubbornly looking up at him, Leo offers nothing but a shrug and a light “Sorry.” Suddenly, the one perfect night they were destined to have is tossed gently back into the lake. It swims away slowly, perhaps to spite him.

Anger took over Jackson’s body. He throws his half-empty beer at Leo’s face, and simultaneously rises to his feet. 

“Classic, man. Always gotta do the right thing, right? I’m done with these trips. First catch in months and you throw it back because it was too big? What are we doing out here? Are we on the quest for the most average sized fish? God Damn it!” 

While Leo was expecting a fire to put out, he never would have expected Jackson to react so strongly to something so unimportant. He has always been doing stuff like this lately, he’s never just good old Jackson anymore. Being mad isn’t enough, now he has to throw beers too. Everything was a point to make lately.

Wordlessly, and slightly soaked in beer, Leo starts the engine again. He turns towards his family’s dock, and begins accelerating.

The author's comments:

This piece was an assignment in my creative writing class, I'm very happy with how it turned out and I hope that all who read it will like it as well!

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