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You Get a Line
by Sean Oakley
I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand. Some would say I was born with one, that the moment I popped out, I had a tiny one with me and I was ready to fish. Fishing was in my blood, and every chance I had from grade school and up into becoming an adult, I was obsessed with it. If I had a free moment, I had my pole in the back of my truck and I was gone to the river and dropping a line.
“You get a line, I’ll get a pole honey, you get a line and I’ll get a pole babe.” or as so the song goes.
Most my best memories are from sitting lake side leaning back, sitting on a log, and watching a bobber as it rested on the cool glass of rested water. Most of them while I didn’t have a driver’s license and had to ride my bike over a bridge and carry it down the stairs from the top just so I could get to the best spot to catch something.
Every weekend, and most week days, while growing up, I was sitting by some water. So with all that being said, you would think I was better at catching actual fish. Mostly what I caught was snags, often time fallen tree branches and the occasional boot or river bank clay filled sock. Then when I was ten years old, I finally caught by biggest catch. It was bigger than the largest of catfish I had ever managed to pull from the river and one I would never forget.
We were camping in the campground my parents always loved to go to. We were there nearly every weekend and this one was no different. My dad was playing around on his guitar with his best friend, my mom was hanging around with my aunt who was also there, and me, I was down the river bed a little, sitting in a tree that hung over the river and letting a line dangle into the water.
It was probably a good thing I hadn’t caught anything while I was actually in the tree. I had a few nibbles and one small bite that only let to me reeling in my pole to study the shiny hook that was now absent of any bait. Sometimes I swore, the fish were smarter than the fisherman as they always seemed to be able to eat everything and still not get that sharp hook in them. Each time I pulled the line up, the hook would gleam in the sunlight, empty of the piece of hotdog that had been on there.
The bad thing about fishing from the tree was that it was never easy to get down. I had to try and hold the pole while simultaneously reach out and grab for branches.
“Kristie, come on and get over here for lunch,” my mom was calling out to me. She obviously didn’t see that I was already climbing down the tree.
I jumped the last foot and landed at a run. The pole nearly fell out of my hand, and if I wasn’t already running, I probably would have lost my balance and been sprawled on the rough ground. As it was, I landed, ran, and was running, making sure to grab my tackle box that was sitting on the picnic table near the little beach area.
I made it to our camp site and dropped my tackle on the ground before setting my fishing pole leaning against the table. Our camp site was a bustle of activity. My dad and mom were there, but my aunt and uncle had joined us and were camping the next site over. So that meant that my little cousins were also running around, mostly chasing our dog, Misty who was yapping at them. Misty was our chihuahua and was a very nice to everyone unless you went to far, then she’d snip at you. My cousins always pushed her too far and they would never leave her alone until she finally tried to bite someone.
“Sean, leave Misty alone,” my aunt called out. They didn’t stop chasing her and it wasn’t until my uncle told them to get over there now for lunch or they could go sit in their tent, it was up to them. Both of them came stomping over.
The table was the definition of chaos as everyone reached over top of one another while three different conversation fought for dominance. I wasn’t sure what my dad and my uncle was talking about or my aunts, but I did hear the cousins as they were trying to mock me for dressing like a boy. We were there camping, of course I was going to dress in jeans and t-shirt. What did they expect me to do? Run around the woods in a dress and fancy shoes. That would be ruined and then the rather of mother’s everywhere would come together and strike me down in eternal ruin.
I chose to ignore them. That was until James, Sean’s younger brother, decided to throw a hot dog bun at me. He got lucky, the parents didn’t see it and I hadn’t expected it. It his me in the face and I turned beet red as I looked to where it had landed on my plate right in my ketchup, causing the red substance to splatter onto my shirt.
That was it, this was war. I grabbed the ketchup soaked bun and tossed it back at him. He dodged and in doing so, he hit my pole to the ground. I wanted to scream at him. That was my pole, and he should pay more attention to what he was doing. I wanted to, but I never got the chance as I heard my name from the other end of the table. It was my full name which meant only one thing. I was in trouble.
“Kristin Elizabeth Thompson just what do you think you’re doing throwing that bun?”
I didn’t want to look away from the little brat, but at the sound of my mom using my full name, it was like an instant ‘obey me’ command that was built into programming. I couldn’t stop from turning to her and looking as meek as I could.
“But he started it.”
“And I’m finishing it. Go to the camper and lie in your bed. You can eat once everyone else is -“ she never got a chance to finish but I knew what she had meant to say. Instead she was cut off by a loud ‘yelp’ followed by a painful yipping. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to see that my fishing pole was bouncing up and down.
“What the hell?” my dad said as he was quickly moving around the table. My mom was closer and was already hurrying over.
“My god! Its Misty?”
At first I didn’t comprehend what my mom was saying, but as I watched my pole dance I could hear the whining dog and it was getting louder. If she could talk to us she would be crying for help and begging someone over to her. In her own way, she was talking. She was whimpering and in that told I could her the pleading in her dog voice.
My dad was the first one to her, my mom backing off and letting him in to grab the dog. I hadn’t been sure why when she was closer, but then I saw how even with the pole and the hook in her mouth, Misty was still trying to bite my dad. She growled at him and would bite at his hand as he would reach for her mouth.
“Grab the pole.” My dad said as he stayed focused on her. I thought he had been talking to me and I started to reach for it.
“Hun, no,” my mom said as she pulled me back. “Misty would bite you.”
“Why don’t you step back over here?” My aunt was behind me and I turned to see that she was motioning me to join them back a few steps from where I was. My uncle, he was coming up behind my dad and I thought about mentioning something. I mean, why was he getting to be there and I had to step back? It wasn’t fair. Misty was technically my dog. I should be the one who was there for her.
I didn’t go towards my aunt but I didn’t move over toward the trio that were now at the end of the table. My uncle was holding Misty while my dad was talking to her trying to soothe. She was whimpering so whatever he was doing was working until she pulled and the line would grow tight. My mom was holding the pole and trying to keep slack, but occasionally Misty would unexpectedly thrash making it hard.
It would be easier if she didn’t have the pole to deal with.
I started looking around, trying to think of what we could do. My tackle box was sitting there where I had dropped it running over, what did I have in there? I couldn’t think of too much, but I did have my knife in there. It wasn’t sharp, but it cut the line I would catch a snag, so maybe my mom could use it.
I hurried over and opened the box, quickly rustling through it until I found the long hunter’s knife. It was a cheap one I had gotten at a yard sale, and I wasn’t even sure my parents knew I had it. If they did, they might not have approved, which was why I had always been careful about when I used it. I didn’t have that option now, and I hurried over to my mom.
“Kristie, get back hun,” my dad said quietly not taking his eyes off Misty as he spoke.
“Mom” I whispered, getting her attention.
She turned and I held the knife out to her, hilt first. She looked at it and then at me. I saw the disapprovement and knew I would never see the knife again, but she took it. “Get over there with your aunt.”
I walked over, watching as they cut the line. My pole was quickly discarded to the side.
“Hun, go and get the wire cutters.”
“Where?” my mom asked. She was already rushing over to the truck parked nearby.
“Should be in my tool box in the back.”
“It’s a good thing there’s no rust,” my uncle said as he was trying to hold Misty’s head still. She wasn’t fighting anymore. She looked so sad, and I could see tears in her eyes. I didn’t know a dog could be so scared, or really feel anything. Misty had just always been there for me, walking with me, giving me doggie kisses when I needed them and sometimes when I didn’t. She was always to cheerful, wagging her tail everywhere she went.
“Yeah,” my dad continued to run his hand down her back. “Kristie, if your going to use hot dogs for bait, don’t leave them on the hook, okay.”
I nodded, but I knew my dad could see me. He never too his eyes off of her. Who was I kidding? As much as I thought of Misty as my dog, it was truly my dad who cared for her. He was as much upset by this than I was, maybe even more.
“Here ya go hun.” My mom was back and handed my dad the wire cutters. I didn’t get to see the rest as my mom came over and herded all of us away, but I knew Misty was going to be okay. My dad, he wasn’t going to let anything happen to her.
I heard another yelp behind us. Then after a few more whines, I heard the barking.
“She’s okay.” I heard my dad say behind us, and I breathed in a huge sigh of relief, wiping away the tears from my cheeks.
“Hey Kristie, you finally caught something.”
“Yeah, but once again she had to let it go.”
I ended up going to bed without supper that night. It was okay though, as I got to see the matching black-eyes on my cousins when I got up the next day.