Night Fishing for Monster Bluegill

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Gabe loves fishing with his dad and they go on a fishing vacation with the same group every year. The lake where they fish is very special and just how special it is becomes obvious when one of the group comes down with a life threatening illness.

~~Night Fishing for Monster Bluegill
By Allan Cook
Chapter one
My name is Gabe and I’m a fisherman. The fact that I am only going to start first grade next year should not distract from my prowess as a fisherman. You see, I come from a whole family of fisherman and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t coming home from fishing, actually fishing or planning a fishing trip. It would only make sense that our family vacations would center round our passion for fishing. And it does! Again, I can’t remember a year that we did not take the three hour drive north from Quantum City, Ohio to Lake Violet, Michigan. It was as though God himself had commanded that we spend one week there every summer.
We love the place! Lake Violet is surrounded by a spectacular old growth forest of poplar, birch, oak, maple and countless other species of plants and trees. The forest rings the lake like a beautiful necklace of Emerald Green. Where the forest ends, the clean, soft, sandy beaches begin then end abruptly at the water’s edge. Lake Violet is fed from underground springs. The spring water is cold and crystal clear. Even in the deepest parts of the lake, the multicolored stones and deep green water plants are clearly visible and seem only an arm’s length away.
The crystal clear water provides an opportunity to spy on the vast and wondrous variety of fish that inhabit the lake. There are catfish, largemouth bass, small mouth bass, crappie, bluegill and sun fish. There are northern pike, rock bass, carp, chub, darters, eels, gar, herring, perch and minnows. That’s not all.  There are also pickerel, salmon, shad, trout, white fish and the mighty muskellunge.
Two fish that are notably missing from this list are Monster Bluegill and Dogfish.
The Native Americans, living near Lake Violet, tell the story of the Monster Bluegill and Dogfish. They tell us that as God was filling the lakes of Michigan with fish, he spent long hours watching and marveling at all of the different species of fish he had created. God truly admired by how well they all got along with one another. God took special note of the beauty, kindness, and gentleness of the Monster Bluegill. He was greatly moved by this and made the pronouncement that, from that day forth, they would be God’s representatives in the lakes of Michigan. To set them apart from all others, he gently pinched the head of every blue gill present, Monster or otherwise, leaving a blue circle on each side of the head.
God was also impressed by the wisdom displayed by the Dogfish and charged them with the responsibility of watching over his Monster Bluegill.
Hundreds and hundreds of years went by and the fish of Lake Violet thrived. They lived in harmony with one another and with the Native Americans.
Then one tragic and fateful day the white man came to Lake Violet. The harmony of the lake was immediately and forever broken. The Native Americans were driven away and in their place white settlements arose. The settlers took fish from the lake without regard for species, sizes or numbers. The population of Lake Violet was decimated!

They were especially enchanted by the majesty of the Monster Bluegill and fished for them relentlessly. This enchantment was matched in fervor only by the disgust and revulsion they had for the Dogfish. They saw the Dogfish as loathsome and vile creatures. Both species were fished to near extinction until there only remained one pair of Monster Bluegill and one Dogfish in the entire lake. The wise Dogfish recognized how grim their situation had become and, remembering God’s decree, led the two remaining Monster Bluegill to a remote and hidden area of the lake where they would be safe from the white man’s onslaught.
When God became aware of what was happening he became enraged by the plundering and pillaging the white man was inflicting upon this special place. The settlers were driven from the area by disease and pestilence inflicted upon them by God’s wrath.
No one has seen a Monster Bluegill or a Dogfish in Violet Lake since that day.

Chapter Two
After an eternal three hour ride, we finally arrived at the lake. We quickly unloaded the car and put everything into our cabin. I was anxious to start fishing but Mom insisted that we all eat lunch before starting out on the day’s activities.
I could tell that my Dad was as excited about fishing as I was but when we are here there is an unwritten rule that everyone abides by; Mom is in charge. You see my Mom is a teacher and is really good at planning things and controlling situations so that they don’t turn bad. She is also very smart.
The cabins are made from logs and are rock solid and sturdy. The quickest way to enter it is through the back door. The backdoor opens onto the parking area. The front door is on the opposite end of the cabin and leads onto a large covered porch. On the porch are chairs, tables and a swing. Three carved rock steps lead to the boardwalk which is only 20 feet from the water’s edge and the beginning of the fishing dock. Dad says that if it were just a little closer to the water, we could fish right off the porch.
At night when dad and I are night fishing from the dock, Mom and Emma like to sit on the porch and feel the soft cool lake breeze. They watch the lightning bugs flashing and listen to the crickets and spring peepers chirping and croaking. Above the lake you see an uncountable number of beautiful white, blue and red stars. From one end of the lake to the other you can see the reflection of the thick white belt of the Milky Way on the water. On calm nights, when the moon is in the sky and the lake is still, you can actually make out the face of the man in the moon in the reflection. We often return to find mom with tears of happiness in her eyes.
Inside the cabin there is a large, red brick, wood burning fireplace that dominates the front wall of the living room. The only furniture is an old sofa, in front of the fireplace, a pair of hardwood end tables, a coffee table and a large oak frame rocking chair next to the porch door. Next to the living room is the kitchen and breakfast nook. In the kitchen there are all the comforts of home; a refrigerator, a dish washer, a garbage disposal, an electric range and a double sink with hot and cold running water.
By the time mom had lunch ready, Dad and I had sorted through our gear. We put all of our fishing tackle on the porch and everything else in either the living room area or in one of the bedrooms.
The cabin has two bedrooms, each with a double bed and a bedside table on each side of the bed. On each bedside stand there sits a small lamp, with a simple well-worn shades. The beds are made with linen and blankets supplied by the cabin owner but Mom will strip each one and make the beds with our own linen.
Between the bedrooms there is a full bathroom, complete with a shower.
When the day’s fishing is done and bedtime arrives, I will sleep on my own cot in my parent’s bedroom. Emma sleeps alone in the other bedroom in her port-a-crib. She has to sleep alone because if anyone is in her room, or even enters it while she is sleeping, she wakes up and cries. Mom monitors her closely with a closed circuit television system, so she really isn’t alone.
For lunch Mom prepared a platter of ham sandwiches on wheat and rye breads. I like mine on wheat but Mom and Dad like rye bread.  Emma doesn’t get a choice, she gets wheat bread, broken into small pieces so it is easier for her to handle. Everyone agrees that there has to be Mayonnaise on their sandwich. Emma, Mom and I drink water with our meals. Dad usually has a cold beer.
Finally it was time to start fishing!
Chapter 3
It just occurred to me that some of you may not be fishermen and don’t automatically assume that we take a boat with when we go on a fishing trip. For those of you who are in that category, you need to know that sitting on a trailer, attached to the rear of my dad’s truck, is a seventeen foot bass boat with a powerful, sixty horsepower, out board motor.
Fishing from the bass boat is a lot of fun and contributes greatly to mine and Dad’s success as fishermen. Dad can take the boat to anywhere on the lake he thinks the fish will be biting. The big outboard motor gets us to those places really fast. When we get to where we want to fish, he turns off the outboard motor.  We then have two choices, he can either drop the anchor so we stay in one place or turn on the electric trolling motor so we move slowly through the area. Sometimes it may take a while before the fish start biting so Dad will set up seats at the front and back of the boat, we say fore and aft, and we fish from these chairs until the action starts.
Unfortunately, the bass boat requires Mom and Dad to launch at the launch ramp and Mom is busy putting things away and trying to get Emma to take a nap.
For fishermen like me and Dad, fishing from the dock is the next best thing.  We are away from the trees and bushes on the shoreline and the water is deep. Dad says that certain fish live around the base of the dock and catching them requires a different technique than we use when fishing from the boat. I learn something new about fishing almost every time we go out.
Before we can even start fishing though, we need to get some bait. I only use worms for bait. Dad sometimes uses worms but, more often, uses artificial bait like lures, spinners, jigs and things like that. Someday I will probably use those things too but for now, I use worms.
There are no cities within an hour’s drive of Lake Violet so we depend on Edwin’s General Store for anything that we were unable to, or forgot to bring with us. Mr. Edwin always seems to have exactly what we need. He lives in a small house behind his store and is at the lake the year around. No one knows exactly how long the store has been here but no one can remember a time when it and Mr. Edwin were not here.
It’s only about a five minute walk from our cabin so dad and I walked there. We bought a couple dozen night crawlers. Night crawlers are big fat worms about seven inches long. Dad is friends with everybody, including Mr. Edwin. While I wandered around the shop, Mr. Edwin and Dad tried to figure out where the best places to fish would be this time of year and what kinds of fish we were likely to catch.
Once we had our bait, we headed straight for the dock. The wooden fishing dock is old, worn and in dire need of painting but it is also solid and strong. We went to the very end of the dock and Dad found a place that he thought looked promising. I sat down on the edge of the dock and let my legs dangle. The water level of the lake is high this time of year and only about two feet from the deck of the dock. Without any warning Dad handed me a brand new rod and reel that he’d been hiding from me. He told me that I was ready to use higher quality equipment.  I knew that I had to be dreaming! It was the most beautiful spin casting outfit I had ever seen! I asked him to get it ready for me but he just kept looking for something in his tackle box. I asked again and he acted like he didn’t hear me.
Finally I began to plead with him, “Please Dad!”
Looking up from his tackle box and smiled. “Oh! You want to fish with it now?” he asked.
We both laughed and he took the rod from me. Before I knew it my dad had, deftly, tied a small lead steel sinker to the end of the line. About four feet above it he tied what we fishermen call a 3/0 size hook.
“Do you want to bait the hook or should I do it for you?” he asked.
I’d never baited a hook before but had watched Dad do it hundreds of times over the years. This was the first time I’d ever been asked to do it myself though. He must have thought that it was time for me to get my hands dirty. Even so, I didn’t feel ready to undertake the task quite yet. Reluctantly I answered, “You do it Dad.”
Moments later my hook was baited with a big, juicy night crawler. I took the rod from my dad got ready to cast. “Are you mad at me?” I asked.
He looked at me and asked, “Why would I be mad at you Gabe?”
Hesitantly I answered, “Because I wouldn’t bait my own hook.”
With that, he looked at me and smiled. Then his face took on a serious look and he said, “Of course I’m not mad at you buddy. You’ll bait your own hook when you are good and ready. I just wanted to let you know that I think you are ready. Now fish”
I was ecstatic! I stood up, swung the rod back over my head and then forward, releasing  the line as the rod passed over me.
“CRACK!”
Suddenly, one half of my new rod was in my hands and the other half was sinking to the bottom of Lake Violet. My beautiful brand new rod had snapped right in half!
Dad quickly grabbed the line and pulled the sinking half out of the water. He looked at it with disgust and told me that it looked like a clean break. I could tell that he was upset.
I started to cry so he put his arm around me. He reminded me that my old rod and reel were still in the cabin. Without another word he began, half walking and half running, back down the dock towards our cabin. I stopped crying and waited there for him to come back. He returned with my old equipment in a matter of minutes and in no time, I was fishing.
Dad and I sat there for what seemed like an hour, staring at the tips of our rods, waiting for a bite or even just a nibble. It was really only a couple of minutes but it seems like time slows to a crawl when you are waiting for a fish to take your bait.
An instant later the wait was over! Dad’s rod tip bent straight towards the water. He quickly jerked the rod up and toward him to set the hook. The reel gave off a soft whirr as the line rapidly unwound. The fish was heading for deeper water in a valiant attempt to escape.  Dad just let the fish run. In just a very short time it stopped running and Dad began to reel it in. He employed a fisherman’s cadence that he had perfected by years of practice. He let the tip drop towards the water, reeling in line all the while. Then, slowly and steadily, he pulled the rod tip back up, bringing the fish closer to being landed. This cadence was repeated for several minutes until the fish was brought close enough for us to get a glimpse of it. Dad had hooked a great big cat fish. The fish’s broad head and whiskers were clearly visible through the crystal clear water. When the cat fish was almost to the dock, I handed Dad the net.  In a single, practiced motion, he reached down and swept the fish into the net and out of the water.
While Dad was landing his catch, my night crawler wasn’t going unnoticed. When I finally remembered that, I too, was fishing, the tip of my rod was bouncing up and down like mom shaking her finger at me when she is mad. I grabbed the rod and yelled, “Something is messing with my bait!”
I did exactly like my dad had done and jerked the rod up to set the hook. My jerk was met with a violent tug as the fish headed for the deepest parts of Lake Violet, as fast as it could swim. The ferocity of the fish’s reaction stunned me for a moment and I just stood there watching and hearing my line being, relentlessly, unwound from my reel. Once I regained my composure, I attempted to employ the cadence that my dad had used so successfully earlier to land the cat fish. To say that this wasn’t working for me would be understating things greatly. Every time I lower the tip of the rod, the fish fled anew.
I could tell that my dad was as excited as I was because I could hear him yelling to me, “Hang on Gabe! You’ve hooked something big!”

I didn’t realize it at the time, because all my strength and concentration was centered on the fight at hand, but my friends had gathered at the end of the dock and were energetically cheering me on.
While I fought with the leviathan of Lake Violet, my dad was preoccupied with the process of releasing the cat fish back into the lake. He wanted to be by my side but not at the cost of the cat fish’s life. Quickly and carefully he took it from the net, removed the hook and gently returned it to the water. As soon as the catfish touched the water it made a small splash with its tail, and headed straight for the bottom of the lake.
All the while, I was trying to do what my dad had taught me. I kept trying, unsuccessfully, to get into some sort of rhythm with the pulling and reeling in. As I was still a few days short of eight years old, this was proving to be an epic struggle for me.
Dad was now standing next to me, giving me instructions and encouragement. I could now hear my friends in the background. Things seemed to be getting a little easier and I started to relax a little. That was a huge mistake! Again, without warning, the beast began ripping the line from my reel and getting even farther away. The longer it ran though, the slower it got. Surprisingly, I was gaining the upper hand in this battle. Dad said that the fish is tiring itself out. I wondered who was more tired, me or the fish.
He was right, reeling it in was now taking a lot less effort. I was afraid to relax though because of what had happened earlier so I just stayed at it with all my might. A few moments later we got our first look at what I had hooked as it broke the surface for a brief instant. It was still too far away for Dad to identify but it created a prodigious splash.
This fish was starting to wear me down!  Dad’s encouragement and my friend’s support helped a lot to keep me going. With great relief, I finally got the monster to the dock and dad was about to catch it in the net. But he didn’t! Instead he put the net down and reached for the fish. He grabbed it by the mouth, pulled it out of the water and held it up for me to see. It was the biggest largemouth bass I had ever seen!
Dad agreed that it was a special catch so he weighed and measured it. It was twenty-two and a half inches long and weighed eight pounds and seven ounces. Dad took out his smart phone and took pictures of me holding it up. Then one of my friends took a picture of me, Dad and the fish. Then Dad took a picture of me, my friends and the fish. It went on and on, everyone was excited and wanted a picture.
“Time to get it back into the water now Gabe,” Dad warned.
I could detect the concern in his voice so I hurried to get my fish back where it belonged. Very gently I placed it into the water. We were all shocked to see it just floating there on its side. I must have kept it out of the water too long and killed it. Tears were welling up in my eyes as I just stood there watchingthat beautiful fish floating there.  As sport fishermen we have a sacred duty to the fish we catch. That duty is not to harm the fish anymore than necessary and always return it, alive, to where it came from. Until now those were just words that adults told children because they always had to have rules for everything. I never took it seriously and now the most glorious fish I had ever caught was paying the ultimate price.
I thought to myself, “Please God! Save this fish. I am so sorry for what I have done!”
Just then the largemouth’s pectoral fins moved just slightly.
Someone yelled, “Look!”
As we watched the movement became greater and it started open and closing its mouth. The tears in my eyes were flowing now. An instant later my trophy fish flipped its tail and was gone.
I am sure that we were all relieved but I had just learned a very powerful and personal lesson about the sanctity of life.
As I wiped the tears from my eyes and cheeks, I told my dad that I didn’t want to fish anymore. I asked Dad if I could go with my friends. He looked at me with an expression that told me that everything was going to be ok and calmly said, “Sure, go ahead.”
My friends and I slowly headed for the shore. Dad stayed behind to do some more fishing.

One of the best things about coming here, besides the fishing of course, is being with five special friends. Each year I got to spend a week with Caroline, Liam, Aiden, Janai and Nathan. We were all born within a few months of each other and first met as toddlers in diapers. We all share an almost mystical bond and feel as though we are together year around instead of just one week a year. I can’t explain it but it makes me happy.
We talked and laughed for a while then decided to go swimming. We said we’d meet at a beach in fifteen minutes and then went to our cabins to get ready. The swimming beach was just a short walk from the dock.
When I entered the cabin and saw that Mom had already put everything away. She was busy getting Emma ready to go swimming. I told her about the big largemouth bass I had caught. She said she wished she could have seen it. I let her know that we had plenty of pictures. I didn’t mention that taking all the pictures almost cost the fish its life.
I was thirsty so I got myself a bottle of water from the refrigerator and drank it. I said her that all my friends were here except Nathan.
“We’re all going swimming now. Where’s my suit?” I asked.
She told me where it was in the bedroom. I went into the bedroom and poked around until I found it. I put it on and then grabbed towel from the linen closet.
When I came back out Mom and Emma had their bathing suits on too. Emma is only a year and a half old so part of her bathing suit was a diaper. Mom was busy rubbing sun screen all over Emma’s body. Where ever there was exposed skin she slathered on some sun screen. Then she turned to me.
She said that she couldn’t believe that I had been out in the sun all that time without sunscreen and then proceeded to smear the stuff all over me too. I have learned that some things just aren’t worth complaining about and this was one of them. She was going to make me wear sun screen no matter what I said or did. Before we left, Emma put on a pair of sunglasses. I thought she looked goofy and laughed but Mom assured me that she was actually cute and that is something else you don’t argue about.
As we were about to leave, Dad came back in. He opened another beer and took a long drink of it. He told us that he had caught a couple more good sized catfish but nothing else. I asked him to show Mom the pictures of the fish I caught. He took out his cell phone a showed them to her.
Mom was totally impressed. “You landed that fish all by yourself?” she exclaimed.
Before I could open my mouth, Dad answered, “Yes he did and it wasn’t easy!”
Mom rushed over to me and gave me a big hug and kiss. “I am so proud of you!” she said with a big smile.
Mom explained that we were all going swimming and invited Dad to join us but declined. He told her that he wanted to take a nap and then launch the boat.
“Let me know when you are finished with your nap and want to launch the boat,” Mom told him.
“I should be ready in a couple of hours,” he replied. “I’ll come down to the beach and get you.”
With that settled, Dad stretched out on the sofa and was asleep before we got out the door.
My dad is a policeman on the Quantum City Police Force. He’s only about average height but very strong. He lies to keep his dark brown hair cut short and always keeps it well groomed. For as long as I can remember he has never had a beard or moustache but Mom has shown me pictures of him with both.
Emma, Mom and I walked down to the beach together on the boardwalk. The boardwalk begins at Edwin’s General Store, passes by all the cabins then passes the beach. It ends at a long pier where all of the boats are docked. The boardwalk is in just slightly better condition than the fishing dock.
In my eyes my mom is the most beautiful woman in the world and I am not alone in that opinion. You see, every place we go I notice men pretending not to look at her. They don’t pretend very well though because it’s obvious even to a young kid like me. It was no different as we walked to the beach. Mom was attracting a lot of attention from men pretending not to be looking. 
Last year I realized something strange about the beach. Sometimes it’s larger and sometimes it’s smaller. That made no sense to me so I asked my mom about it. She told me something about tides and the moon but I had no idea what she was talking about. Since she is also the smartest person in the world, I knew that she was right and figured that I’d understand it too some day.
The beach isn’t far from our cabin so it just took a couple of minutes to get there. It wasn’t very crowded yet. Mom found a spot she liked and claimed it by spreading out her and Emma’s beach towels. The towels had emerged from a seemingly magic canvas beach bag that Mom carries with her on these occasions. The bag is Navy Blue and has the words “Lake Violet, Michigan” printed in gold lettering on both sides. It’s not really magic but sometimes it seems that way. It always contains exactly what we need for any situation that we could possibly encounter on the beach. Over the years I have come to realize that if I need anything, anything at all, I just have to tell Mom. She then reaches into the bag there it is!
The sand on the beach is very soft. As you walk the sand envelopes your foot assuring that the “No Running on the Beach” sign is obeyed. The summer sun beating down and the lack of any shade makes the sand very hot. At times it can be unbearably hot. If you didn’t wear shoes or sandals you could surely burn your feet. The sand gets much cooler as near the water.
The swimming area is clearly marked by ropes with red and white floats attached to them. It’s about a hundred feet from the beach to the rope and about two hundred yards wide. The water is about five feet deep at its deepest point. There are four lifeguards on duty during swimming hours. I really don’t know what the swimming hours are. I just know that if Mom says yes, swimming hours are on and if Mom says no swimming hours are off. No amount of argument can change those swimming hours.
This year something new had been added to the beach. There were now three water slides. Each one started on the beach and ended in the water. The highest was about thirty feet high and the lowest only about six feet high. The third slide was about half the height of the tallest.
The moment Emma saw the slides she ran towards them. She was headed straight for the highest one until Mom cut her off and directed her toward the small one. I saw that my friends had just shown up and I told Mom that I was going to play with them. She gave me the obligatory warning to be careful and to stay in the shallow water and I, of course, agreed and left to be with my friends. It took me less than a minute to reach my friends and look back. When I did, Emma had already reached the top to the slide and Mom was rushing to the bottom of to catch her as she slid into the water. One thing that can be said for my little sister, she is fearless.
My friends and I splashed around and played in the water for a couple of hours. Someone had brought a beach ball and we hit that back and forth for a while. We were having a lot of fun. We always have a great time when we’re together.
We finally started to get tired so we go out of the water and started digging in the sand. We couldn’t dig very deep because after just a foot or so the hole began to fill with water from below. It’s hard to believe that digging a hole can be so much fun.
We had built a large sand castle and were starting to build the moat around it when I saw my dad walking down the boardwalk towards the slides where Mom and Emma, were still. By now, Mom was just letting her slide down and splash into the water. Every time she hit the water Emma would let out with a loud laugh. It didn’t seem as though she was ever going to get enough and she was still wearing her sunglasses.
I watched as Mom and Dad talked for a few seconds. Mom then took Emma by the hand and walked with her over to where the towels had been spread on the sand. She dried Emma with a large beach towel and then wrapped her in it. Dad saw me watching them and he waved for me to join them.
I didn’t want to leave my friends so screamed no and started to stamp my feet. Had I thought this through, I would have known that it was going to end badly for me but, as I said, I’m not even eight years old yet. I just continued on with my tantrum. The predictable happened. Mom came running over to me, grabbed my both arms and put her face inches from mine. She was using her angry teacher voice as she spoke to me but I wasn’t listening. I was too busy wailing. She let go of one arm and pulled me over to an empty part of the boardwalk with the other. She ordered me to sit there until she said I could leave. She calls this a time-out and I really have a strong dislike for time-outs. I started pleading. I told her that I was sorry and that I wouldn’t do it again.
“Please Mom! Let me get up! I’m sorry!” I exclaimed.
By this time I was crying. All I got for my effort was a repeat of the order to sit there until I was told that I could get up.
A few minutes later I again pled my case, this time in a calmer and more controlled manner. I told her that I was sorry. She gave me some sort of warning and then let me get up.
By this time my friends had all left. Dad said the he and Mom we’re going to go put the boat in the water. Mom explained that Emma and I were going to spend some time with Caroline and her parents until they got back. I wanted to help with the boat was just beginning to protest again when Dad cut me off. He told me that if I was good, he would take me out on the boat after dinner, to do some more fishing. I ceased my protest immediately.
Caroline’s family had the cabin on one side of ours. The cabin on the other side was empty. Mom dropped us off with Caroline and her mother and went to join Dad.
Caroline is smaller than me. My mom says that she is petite. She has red hair, green eyes and wears glasses. We met when I was about a year and a half old and I had never seen anybody with freckles before. She has freckles all over her face and I remember trying to touch them to see what they were.
When we got there she was sitting on their couch reading a book that she had brought with her. She reads a lot of books and is very smart. Janai and her both take gymnastics lessons and are very athletic. Lots of times they will both start doing cart-wheels and flips and things. I’ve tried to do a cart-wheel but all I do is make people laugh.
Emma and I were only there for about an hour before Mom came back to get us.  She said that they got the boat in the water and that I was going fishing with Dad on it after dinner. She then thanked everyone and reminded me to do the same. So I did. Emma said something that sounded like thank you and was, of course, given credit for it.
Dad was sleeping on the couch again when we got back to the cabin. Mom left him alone and made dinner. Once dinner was over Dad and I got ready to go fishing again. Fishing from the boat, out on the lake takes a little more preparation than fishing off the dock. It was now dusk and a lot cooler than during the day.  Also, it gets a pretty chilly when you’re racing around the lake in a boat, especially at that time of day. I put on a pair of brown cargo pants and a long sleeved denim shirt to keep me warm. The deck of the boat is usually wet so I wore my high top deck shoes. The traction I get from those shoes helps me move around the deck safely. Finally I put on my life jacket. Dad was dressed similarly to the way I was except that he also had a nylon wind breaker under his life jacket.
Mom stopped us as we were about to leave and handed each one of us a small plastic box. It was olive green and had a clip on the back. A closer inspection of this unexpected gift revealed a lattice grill on the front, a battery compartment on one side and an on/off switch on the other.
“What’s this thing?” Dad asked, with a very quizzical look on his face.
With pride Mom announced,” Those are mechanical mosquito repelling machines.  “I bought them today from Mr. Edwin today. He said that they work great and highly recommended them,” she went on to explain.
Mr. Edwin rarely recommends anything so when he does he should be taken seriously.
“I see” Dad replied skeptically as he clipped on to his life jacket and put a can of mosquito repellant into his tackle box. “Plan B,” he added with a smile.
I just clipped mine to my life jacket too and didn’t say a word. I am very sensitive to mosquito bites and Mom has tried all sorts of sprays and lotions to protect me. This was the first machine she ever gave me though and, deep down inside, I hoped it worked. If it didn’t, I was going to have a really itchy time.
Dad and I, both, switched on our new mosquito chasers, picked up our gear and exited the cabin through the porch door.
I heard Mom yell, “Be careful, both of you!” as the door closed behind us.
The excitement of going out on the boat was getting to be too much for me so I ran ahead. I love going fishing on our boat! I got there ahead of my dad by a couple of minutes. The boat was tied to the dock, fore and aft. Five red, white and blue bumpers hung from the side of the boat and protected it from scraping against the dock and causing damage. I’m not allowed to get on the boat alone so I had to wait for my dad to catch up. I put my gear down on the pier and started walking back towards Dad. I was so excited that I couldn’t stand still. He was just a short distance away so we got back to the boat quickly.
Dad put down his gear and stepped down off of the pier and into the boat. I then handed him our stuff and he put it away. When everything was stowed away properly, I took my dad’s hand and he helped me step down into the boat. Dad then untied the ropes from the pier and pulled them into the boat. As we started to drift away from the pier, I pulled the five bumpers in and Dad started the motor. Dad was sitting at the helm and I sat down in the seat next to him. Once he was sure that I was settled, he pushed the throttle lever forward a little and we started to move. He steered the boat along the channel between the rows of boats and headed for the lake. As soon as he got passed all the other boats and into the lake, he pushed the throttle all the way forward. The motor roared to life, the boat lurched forward and the bow of rose out of the water as we sped off into the lake.
Our destination was a total mystery to me but I didn’t care. My dad knows this lake as well as he knows our backyard so I was certain that we were going to end up exactly where the fish that we wanted were hanging out.  I just enjoyed the wind and mist in my face as the boat cut a path through the clear blue water of Lake Violet.
We were about a half of the way across the lake when Dad turned to me and said, We’re going after northern pike. I know a spot where they should be biting.” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the engine’s roar.
With that announcement my mind immediately raced back to last year when I caught my first, and only, northern pike. I remembered fighting with it until Dad was able to catch it in the net and drag it aboard. As it flopped around in the bottom of the boat snapping the air, I was absolutely stunned by all the sharp teeth in its mouth. Dad warned me to stay away from it until in quit fighting. It only took a minute or so for it to stop and when it did Dad picked it up by head and body. It was so big that it took two hands to hold it. He handed it to me and I promptly dropped it. When it hit the deck of the boat it started thrashing around again. I got as far away from it as I could. Dad just picked it up again and handed it back to me again. This time I held it a lot tighter while Dad took a couple of pictures with his cell phone camera. We didn’t weight it or measure it but it was about two feet long and not very heavy. As soon as the pictures were taken I threw it back into the lake. I wanted it out of the boat. Dad admonished me about being so rough with the fish and I told him that I was sorry. I told myself that if I caught one today, I wasn’t going to be afraid.
The trip to the spot Dad had picked out took about twenty minutes to get to. It was on the opposite side of the lake almost directly across from our cabin. He stopped the boat on the edge of a large marshy area. The site contained a combination of bulrush, cattails and water lilies all interwoven in an impenetrable web. As we approached I saw a half dozen, or so, Red Winged Black Birds fly out of the tangle and into the surrounding forest. The whole area was alive with swarms of insects, including a a number of different species of dragonflies.
Dad turned off the motor and dropped the anchor. With the motor now silent, we could hear frogs croaking and crickets chirping; nature at its finest.
“This is where the northern pike hide” he told me with the firmness and conviction of someone who knew exactly what they were doing.
Dad quickly set up the seats for us while I un-stowed our equipment. Everything we need is packed away in compartments located in various parts of the boat.
I suddenly realized that we didn’t have any bait. In my excitement about going out on the boat did I forget to bring the bait? I couldn’t remember if Dad had told me to bring it or not.
Nervously I said, “Dad, I think I forgot the bait.”
I guess he could tell how upset I was getting because he just smiled and said, “We aren’t going to use live bait this time. We are going to use artificial lures.”
I was so surprised by his statement that I wasn’t sure how to react. After a long pause I stammered, “I never used a lure before Dad.”
He responded with, “I guess it’s time you learned then,” and gave me another smile.
He took my rod and removed the hook and sinker that I had used earlier to catch the largemouth bass. They were replaced by a wooden lure, about six inches long and an inch wide. It had an orange head and yellow body with gold and black eyes. Two rows of black dots ran down both sides of the body. Attached to it were three frightful looking treble hooks. Two hung from the body. The other was attached to the tail area. He said that he always had good luck with that lure and hoped that I would too. He then baited his hook with a long, orange, plastic worm.
He then showed me how to cast the bait to the edge of the marsh and slowly reel it back in.
“Now you try it,” he instructed.
I hadn’t done much casting but I gave it a try. To my amazement, it wasn’t that difficult. I slowly reeled the lure back in and prepared to cast again.
He then said, “Just keep doing that until a northern grabs hold of it.”
With that said, he turned away to concentrate on his own fishing.
I sat in the rear of the boat casting out and reeling in, over and over. Dad was doing the same thing in the front of the boat.
Suddenly I heard “Gotcha!”
I turned and saw Dad fighting with something pretty big and pretty strong. I immediately forgot what I was doing became fascinated with what was going on. It was obvious that Dad was having a great time and I was totally engrossed watching him. My preoccupation with what my dad was doing quickly turned into a big mistake as my rod was jerked right out of my hand. I scrambled after it and was able to grab it before it fell into the water. I jerked on the line to set the hook but it was now slack. Whatever had been there was now gone.
I turned my attention back to my dad when, abruptly and totally unexpectedly, there was another great tug on my line. This time I was able to keep hold of the rod and I, again, jerked the rod back to set the hook.  I had him this time! To my surprise I had little trouble landing this fish. It was, indeed, a northern pike but it was only a little over a foot long.  Even though it was small, its teeth were menacing.  I remembered the promise that I had made myself not to be scared if I caught another northern pike. I took a deep breath and picked it up by its head. I removed the hook and gently turned it loose. I was quite pleased with myself.
Dad, on the other hand, was struggling. The fish was putting up a Herculean fight but, in the end, it was no match for my dad. It was the largest northern pike I had ever seen and even Dad was amazed at its size. Even in the cool evening air Dad was sweating from the battle he had just taken part in. Naturally we took the obligatory pictures with Dad’s cell phone and then freed the behemoth to fight another day.
The Sun was now below the horizon and it was getting dark fast. With the boat’s running lights shining brightly we sped back across the lake. As we neared the pier Dad eased back on the throttle and the boat slowed down. Once the boat was lined up with he pulled the throttle all the way and we coasted slowly and gently as he steered right up next to the dock. I threw a rope around one of the posts and secured the boat. Dad got out of the boat first and I passed him our gear. After I got out we picked up our
When we got back to the cabin, Emma was already in bed sleeping and mom was watching a movie on her laptop computer. 
“Are you guys hungry?” Mom asked.
She already knew the answer to her question and was up and on her way to the kitchen before we could say a word.
She asked me, “What would you like Gabe?”
A peanut butter and jelly sandwich was my, almost, automatic reply. I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!
Then she asked my dad what he wanted.
He replied, “I think I’ll cook myself a steak.”
“That sounds good. How about making me one too?” Mom asked as she started making my sandwich.
“Two steaks, coming up!” was dad’s response.
By the time I had finished my sandwich the events of the day had finally caught up with me and I could barely keep my eyes open.
Mom saw how tired I was and told me, “Go brush your teeth and get into bed. I’ll be there in a minute to tuck you in.”
I did as she instructed and was almost asleep by the time she came into the room
“Good night’” she said quietly as she kissed me on the forehead.
I was asleep in seconds.
Chapter 4
The next morning I was awakened by someone tugging on my arm. It was Emma trying to wake me up. I looked around and saw Mom and Dad were not in bed. I must have been really tired because I am usually the first one up but today I was the last one.
Mom must have heard me because, as I was still waking up, she was in the doorway.
With a melodic tone and a smile she greeted me with, “Good morning sleepy head.”
“Good morning Mom,” I answered. I was much more alert now.
“Breakfast is almost ready,” she added. Then, almost robotically she instructed me to, “Go wash your face and brush your teeth.”

When I came out of the bathroom I went back into the bedroom where Mom had laid out some clean clothes for me. I got dressed and then went into the living room. Mom was busy making pancakes and Emma was, sort of, helping her.
I didn’t see Dad so I asked, “Where’s Dad?”
Mom hesitated a moment and then said, “He’s out on the porch talking to Nathan’s father.”
I went to the porch door and opened it just as my dad and Nathan’s father stood up. They shook hands and Nathan’s dad left. He looked sad as he left the porch and walked back to his cabin.
“Is Nathan here Dad? I asked as Dad came into the cabin.
Just then Mom announced, “Breakfast is ready!”
Dad looked down at me and said softly, “We can talk about that after breakfast.”
On the way to the table Mom and Dad made eye contact and I immediately knew that something was wrong and it scared me.
“What’s wrong?” I asked timidly.
Mom just looked at Dad and said, “Eat your pancakes.”
Now I was both scared and upset. Without considering the possible consequences I shouted, “I don’t want any pancakes! I want to know what is wrong!”
It then occurred to me that I had probably just earned myself the mother of all time outs and I prepared myself for the worst.
To my utter amazement Mom and Dad just looked at one another for a long moment and then Mom said, “Ok, I’ll tell you. Your friend Nathan is very sick with a disease called Leukemia.”
I was relieved for to find out that nothing was wrong with our family and I innocently asked, “What is Leukemia?”
My relief quickly turned to dread when Dad explained that it was a very serious disease.
I blurted out, “Is he going to die?”
Dad told me in a calm but firm voice, “Yes Gabe, there is a very good chance that he is going to die.”
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say or do. Then I remembered what Mom told me to do when I didn’t know what else to do. Pray to God. 
“We have to pray right now!” I exclaimed with great urgency.
They agreed and we held hands around the breakfast table and prayed for Nathan’s health and soul.
The prayers we said turned the dread that I had felt earlier had turned to compassion for my friend.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I went into the bedroom and laid down to think.  While I laid there I could hear Mom and Dad talking.
“Why did Nancy and Jim bring such a sick child out here in the middle of nowhere?” Mom asked.
I assumed that Nancy and Jim were Nathan’s parents.
“I asked Jim about that,” Dad replied. “And he almost started crying!” He added.
“I can’t even imagine what they are going through,” was Mom’s response.
Dad continued, “Jim said that after his last chemotherapy treatment Nathan had a dream about this lake and Monster Bluegill.”
“Are there Monster Bluegill in Lake Violet?” Mom asked.
“No, and Jim knows that,” Dad answered. “He said that he told Nathan that but Nathan insisted on coming here to see Monster Bluegill! They told the doctors about it and they said that some patients get delusional after chemotherapy.”
Mom said, “I think I’m going to cry.”
Dad continued the story, “He said that the doctors told him that the chemotherapy wasn’t working and that Nathan only had a couple months to live. He and Nancy decided that if this is where Nathan wanted to go, they were just going to try to make him as happy as possible.”
I could hear Mom crying now.
“I have no idea what I would do in that situation,” Mom said between sobs.
“Me neither,” Dad agreed.
After that they stopped talking.
I laid there for a little longer, trying not to think about what I had overheard but that was all I could think about. I couldn’t lay there any longer because I just got sadder and sadder. I got up and went back into the living room. Mom and Dad were sitting on the sofa. Mom had her head on Dad’s shoulder and Dad had his arm around her. She was still quietly crying. Emma was on the kitchen floor playing with her toys.
“I’m going outside and see if my friends are around,” I announced, trying to sound normal. It is really hard to sound normal when you are as sad as I was.
Dad looked over his shoulder at me and I thought that I saw a tear in his eye too. He said, “Ok but don’t go too far.”
I told him that I wouldn’t and left the cabin. I felt a little better once I was outside.
Chapter 5
I found Liam, Janai, Aiden and Caroline sitting silently on the edge boardwalk in front of Caroline’s cabin. I could tell immediately from the looks on their faces that they had heard the news about Nathan.
I sat down next to Liam and said, “Did you hear about Nathan?” I didn’t know what else to say.
They all said that they had heard the news and then we all sat there in silence. No one knew what to say or how to act.
We always seemed to feel good when we were in Edwin’s General Store so I suggested that we go there instead of just sitting here. No one answered verbally. We all just got up and silently walked toward the store.
Even at the slow pace we were walking it didn’t take us long to reach our destination. I got there first and opened the door. The bells above the door jingled as it opened. For some reason the silly jingling of those bells lifted everyone’s spirits just a little.
Edwin’s General Store is unlike any store in Quantum Hills or any other place that I have been. In simple terms it can be described as a very large, windowless, hand hewn log cabin. The entry is reached by ascending three steps from the boardwalk onto a wide veranda. The veranda is enclosed with a split log railing. From four points along the railing, large poles protrude upwards to give support to the veranda’s roof. One pole is located at each end of the front railing. The other two are positioned on each side of the steps. Strewn across the deck are several, Early American style, rocking chairs. In the evenings Mr. Edwin sits out on the veranda and entertains guests. A ten foot by three foot sign hangs from the roof of the veranda, right above the steps. The white background is faded and worn from years of weathering. The underlying wood is exposed in several small areas. Also faded and worn, the words “Edwin’s General Store” are printed across the length of the sign in plain, black, block letters.
It is difficult to describe the feeling that overcomes me and my friends once we pass through the door and are inside. The one word that comes to mind best describing the feeling is, “happy”, but it is much more than that. There is also a sense of calmness. It’s like the whole world has slowed down to a pace that allows the senses to take in and process the enjoyment that permeates from the surroundings. It is something that must to be experienced to be understood.
The inside of the store is dominated a beautiful wood counter that extends from one side of the store to the other. I don’t know what type of wood that it is made from but it stained a dark brown and is highly polished. In some parts you can actually see your reflection. Directly across from the door, sitting on the counter is Mr. Edwin’s large, old fashioned manual cash register. It is made of brass and is also highly polished. Half the fun of buying something there is when you get to hear the “cha ching” that emanates from the very soul of the instrument. The sound fills the room. The counter also holds several fishing publications that are free for the taking. Other than those things, the counter is bare.
The area in front of the counter is anything but bare. Display cases and racks full of fishing lures, rods, reels, hooks, nets, fishing line and all sorts of other fishing tackle line the walls and fill the floor space making moving around a thoughtful process.  On the wall behind the counter hang boating supplies and equipment. Anything that you want but don’t see on display is either under the counter or in the store room behind the rear wall. I have never seen nor heard of Mr. Edwin not having exactly what someone needs.
A favorite spot for my friends and me is on the far left wall. It is a freezer with a glass window. Inside the freezer are two tubs of ice cream, chocolate and vanilla. On a small table behind the freezer there is a package of cones. Although Mr. Edwin only has two flavors of ice cream in the freezer, there is a sign that says “We have all flavors. Please ask”. When someone requests a flavor other than chocolate or vanilla Mr. Edwin goes into the back room and gets it. Again, I have never seen nor heard of an occasion where anyone was disappointed.
As we entered, Mr. Edwin was standing behind the counter, next to the old cash register, reading a magazine. He knew we were upset the moment he saw us and asked, in his soothing, low pitched voice, “Why is everyone so sad?”
All at once we all started crying and we continued to cry for some time. We were crying so hard that none of us could speak to answer his question. I was the first to get a modicum of control over my crying and between sobs was able to tell Mr. Edwin about Nathan. I told him how sick Nathan was and about the Monster Bluegill. I told him how his parents didn’t know what to do so they just brought him here. Mr. Edwin listened quietly to everything I told him. Then when I finished the story, we all started crying again.
The combination of crying and the good feeling inherent with being in the store had us all feeling a little better. Mr. Edwin handed each of us a tissue to dry our eyes. While taking the tissue I looked up into his eyes and saw that they were glassy from tears he was attempting to hide from us. He saw me looking and quickly turned away. I was puzzled by my discovery and uncertain how to react. I chose to say nothing.
Mr. Edwin gave us each a single scoop ice cream cone. As he scooped the ice cream into the cones I watched him. He smiled and engaged us in small talk, as he always did, but the shine in his eyes was gone. None of my friends seemed to notice the difference or, at least, didn’t let on if they did. There are things that you never expect will change and, for me, Mr. Edwin was one of those things. It suddenly occurred to me that seeing him each year was a large part of why I looked forward to coming here.
We started leave to eat our ice cream outside when Mr. Edwin asked me to wait. I was shocked and just stood there as my friends filed out the door, leaving me behind. The events and realizations of the past few minutes paralyzed me and I just stood there facing the door.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he said, “I heard that your brand new fishing rod broke before you even had a chance to use it.”
This is not at all what I expected even though I didn’t know what to expect. I turned and saw him looking at me from behind the counter. His eyes were bright he seemed like his same old self. After a long pause I was finally able to mutter, “Yes it did.”
He said, “Come over here, I have something to show you.”
I was beginning to regain my composure as I walked over to the counter.
“I want you to try this,” he told me as he reached under the counter and brought out an old, brown suede leather bag. The bag was about four feet long and, maybe, a foot wide. The only markings on it were two dime sized blue dots toward the bottom of the bag, one on each side. The bag was closed with a leather drawstring.
“What is it?” I asked. Then events of the past few minutes were completely forgotten as I focused my attention on what was in the bag.
Mr. Edwin carefully opened the drawstring and reached into the bag. What he took out left me speechless and enthralled. He held two halves of a rod and reel unlike anything I had ever seen or imagined. It was ageless and beautiful. Carefully he put the two halves together. They fit together so perfectly that the connection was invisible. The rod was now about six feet long and the blackest black imaginable. I couldn’t tell what it was made of. Spaced evenly along its length were five gold line guides held on with wrappings of fine, gold wire. The spindle shaped handle was an extension of the rod. Attached to the rod was a gleaming gold spinning reel. How the reel was attached to the rod is a mystery. It just seemed to be part of the rod. The reel’s handle was made of cream colored pearl with round, shiny gold inlays. Wound on the reel’s spool was, what can only be described as, fine silver thread.
Mr. Edwin handed me the rod and I, hesitantly, took it from him. As I held it, the rod and the reel handle seemed to glow. The glow was subtle but real. The rod and reel were perfectly balanced. The rod handle looked solid but when I grabbed it, it was soft and molded to my hand. I just stood there staring at it.
I was suddenly jolted back into reality as Mr. Edwin asked, “Would you like to try fishing with it?”
I just blurted out, “Yes!”
“Fine, then take it with you,” he responded in a much calmer voice than mine. With that settled he took the rod back from me, disassembled it and put it back into the bag. As he pulled the drawstring tight, I noticed him pinch the two blue dots. He handed back to me and said, “Good luck!”
I took the bag from him, and ran out of the store. As I ran out the door I shouted back over my shoulder, “Thank you!”
When I got outside my friends were sitting on the rockers waiting for me. I ran past them without saying a word and kept running until I reached the cabin door.
I rushed


Submitted: October 12, 2015

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