Stinky Fish

June 17, 2013
by Michael Lee Joshua

Stinky Fish

I leaned over the side of the boat. Again. I fail to understand why anyone thinks this is getting back to nature. If it is, then nature stinks.

Literally.

I tripped over the bucket of fish on my way back to the front of the boat. The bump rising on my forehead was just one more thing to make me hate this outing. I stepped toward the seat that dad told me was for me – a cooler full of bait. What would he have me sit on if I were older? The only reason I could even plant my butt here was because I was eight years old.

I heard Dad and my older brother, Zak, chatting in the galley, so I decided to join them. When I stood, my stomach began to churn. I headed for the side of the boat. I might as well move the cooler over there since it was obvious I wasn’t going to be anywhere else on this wonderful outdoor adventure.

That’s how they kept referring to it. The wonderful outdoor adventure. A great way for us to bond. Bonding, over fishing? What were they thinking anyway? I can’t believe that mom agreed that I should go along…

But, here I was. Heaving over the side of the boat.

I raised myself back to an upright posture to see my brother’s outreached hand offering me a ginger ale. I jerked it from his hand. After all, it’s his fault. This was their time together, he suggested that I go along as a joke. But it backfired. On everyone.

I was miserable. The ginger ale helped a little. I drank it and watched Zak setting up the rods for the third time today. He was placing them in some kinda hook-shaped things that held them out over the water. One-by-one he baited hooks and put the poles in position in the hooks. Five in all, two on each side and one from the back, I mean, aft – that’s what they told me, over and over – aft. Aft-er all, who cared? I laughed at my own thoughts about it all. Front, back, right, left…it was just a floating, stinking mess to me.

Zak pointed to the single rod off the back and told me it was mine. He would handle two on one side and Dad would handle the two on the other side. They would “flank me” he said. As if I knew what that even meant. I guessed it meant that they would pull me back in if I fell overboard.

It had been 90 minutes since we turned off the engine. They sure seemed to be having fun floating out here, totally oblivious to my sickness. Every now and then I heard my brother mutter something about “girls” under his breath, but I didn’t care.

I reached the seat, if you could call it that, by the rod that Zak insisted was mine and sat down. I watched the floater bobbing on top of the water. Mesmerized, I shook myself awake when I heard Zak shout, “You got somethin’ girl.”

“Huh?”
“Grab yer rod!” Zak scooted over by me, pulled the pole up and shoved it into my hands in one motion. My grip on the rod surprised me, as the fish on the hook tried to break free, I held on with all the strength I had. I heard Dad laugh as I struggled to maintain control of whatever was on the other end of the line.

It wasn’t long before Zak relieved me of the rod and the fight. He pulled in the fish that gave me such a battle. It was almost worse, watching the fish thrashing from the line, because Zak held it within inches of my nose just for meanness. It almost smacked my face a couple of times.

Dad grabbed it and removed the hook so he could drop it into the bucket with the others. He patted my shoulder and nodded toward the caught fish, “People have lived by eating fish for centuries, you know. Even in Bible times…”

“I remember. The fish and loaves story.” It was hard to keep acting like I didn’t care. There was something exciting about actually catching a fish, even if I didn’t bring it in. I turned to see Zak holding out the pole and live bait to me.

“Once you catch one, ya gotta bait yer own hook, girl.”

I took them from him. He sat next to me while he baited his own hook so that I could watch. After a few minutes of struggling, I got it on the hook and dropped my line back into the water.

It did feel like a wonderful outdoor adventure. Sometimes, even the best times stink a little when they start out. Look where Jesus was born…that turned out well for us.

I grabbed my pole as the line came to life again.


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