My dad has an old silver rowboat with an outboard motor that works when it wants to. Inside the boat: me and him, puffy orange life jackets, box of lunch, fishing poles, carton of worms, and a tackle box filled with colorful and sparkly things.
He gets everything ready -- worm, lure, hook -- and shows me how to cast. "Back, like this -- and now forward..." Whiizzzzsshhh!
My turn. "Oops, not far enough." Reel, reel. He casts. "See? That's how it's done. Here, you try."
I cast into the nearby brush and lose my worm.
Once more, he casts, then hands me the pole and tells me to just hold it.
Waiting for a "bite," now.
"I felt something!"
"Something may have just nibbled your worm. You don't have anything yet. When you do, you'll feel it tug hard."
"It's tugging! I can feel it!"
"Okay, well, reel it in... slowly...."
Reel, reel, reel, reel, reel, reel.
Hook comes up empty. Worm is half gone.
"Oops, nothing this time. Let's cast again."
"You do it," I say.
Whizzzzshhzzzz. More waiting. Bored. I can't even talk because he says it'll scare away the fish. I didn't know fish had ears.
He gets a tug on his line and reels in a fish... trout, salmon, bass?... I've never learned the difference.
He frowns. "It's too small." He lets it go. Plop, back in the water. Swim, fishie, swim! I wonder how he decides that it's too small. It looked big enough to me. I could've eaten that fish.
My stomach rumbles.
The sun climbs higher in the sky.
Another bite on the line. Another guppy. I begin to wonder if all the big fish live in another lake.
I can take it no longer. "I'm hungry."
Peanut butter sandwiches and apples and cans of juice. "Do fish like apples?" I ask. "We could use these cores to lure them."
"Fish prefer worms."
I carefully lean over the side of the boat to watch the rippling water. "Fish," I whisper. "Come out, come out, wherever you are!"
I start to itch underneath my life jacket. I can't scratch the spot. I begin to wriggle.
"Try not to rock the boat."
There are sure a lot of rules to fishing.
By noon, we're back in the pickup, the boat on its trailer behind us. "Well," says Dad, "I guess the fish just weren't biting today."
"We tried for a long time," I remark.
"Yes. But at least it was nice out there on the lake."
"I bet Mommy missed us. She'll be glad to see us."
Home. He pulls into the driveway. I hop out of the truck, skip up to the front porch and ring the doorbell.
My mother opens the door. "Welcome back," she says. "Where are my fish?"
We have hot dogs for dinner.