The Fish I Never Caught

The Fish I Never CaughtA Story byOscar Elizondo

I remember going fishing one day. I went alone because everybody seemed like they had something else to do. I asked my best friend Michael, but he had to visit his aunt in San Benito, Texas. Sam, my friend who lives next door, he was going to the mall to get some new shoes. He had big feet and it wasn’t easy finding a size twelve shoe for a ten year old.
Ashley, Lizet, Jessica, and Dee Dee, the girls that always stick together like glue and live down the street from my house, they were going to the movies with Liset’s ninety-year-old grandmother. Now, that lady was old, but she was a flirt all right. They were going to see a love movie of some kind. The girls were not allowed to have a boy friend, but granny, she was taking her date.
Daniel and Raul, they were grounded for pushing a kitty cat down the sewer. They claimed that it was an accident and that the kitten had gone in all by himself. However, when the fire department pulled him out and noticed the paint on its fur, they knew it was from the paint guns the boys were playing with. I just think they were lousy shots because I could see the paint on their shoes. They couldn’t hit the right side of a barn if their lives depended on it.
Heidi, Samantha, Cassandra, and Lisa, were away visiting relatives at South Padre Island and had been stranded at the island when a tugboat ran into one of the pillars and broke the two-mile bridge. The girls tried to keep busy while enjoying the rides at the water park, but that came to a screeching halt when Heidi’s hair got caught and tangled inside a sea turtle’s mouth. How that ever happened was beyond me because the turtle was inside a fish tank. The way I hear it was that she leaned forward while reaching for a Cracker Jack box prize necklace she had dropped.
Robert, Issac, Jose, Emmanuel, William, Justin, Mathew, Apolinar and Lynoel are all in the same baseball team and they had to practice. Practice, those boys are worst than the Bad News Bears. I went to one of their games and the outfielders were chasing butterflies in-between pitches. The catcher went to the bathroom while the pitcher was pitching. The first basemen was doing his homework while the batter was hitting the ball. The shortstop was cleaning his nose with the ball and I think you know what he left on the cover of that ball. Nobody wanted to catch it, but enough said about them.
Edward was home sick with the flu after playing outside while a thunder and lightning storm was passing over Harlingen. He was even seen trying to light a light bulb every time lightning hit the ground. You should have seen his hair when he did get close to one. As a matter of fact it will be a long time before he will even need to see a barber.
Abrum had a broken toe from crashing his go-cart and landing on an ant pile. Boy, you could tell where he got the most bites when he stood in the back of the classroom for a whole week. He even told the rest of his classmates that he was practicing for a long speech he was planning for and that was why he was standing.
Too bad for them because I had intentions of catching the worlds biggest fish, and they were not going to be there to see it. Too bad for my friends who were not participating because I had intentions of staying there all afternoon and having a great time. Who needed them, I could have a great time all by myself. All I needed was my reliable fishing pole, stink bait, a tackle box, and one more important thing, a camera. I wanted to make sure that I took a picture of the worlds biggest fish ever caught by a nine year old. Then of course I could rub it in for none of them being around when I had invited them to that important activity I had planned for all of us.
Boy, things didn’t start off right for me during the Christmas holidays. That Tuesday morning my dog had been taken to the dog pound for not wearing a license tag around his neck. I should have sensed something was not right when I was told to wait for my dad to get home with the pick-up so that we could bring him home and it was not a guarantee that he would be home before six p.m. Imagine, not even my dog was home to go fishing with me. I was having second thoughts about not going fishing, but I needed something to do. Besides, I had already told all of my buddies over the phone that it was going to be their lost for not going. I had a reputation to keep you know.
I took off just after my dog had been taken away. My mom assured me that dad would take care of it and for me not to worry. She also encouraged me to go fishing because it would take my mind off of things, and besides, she thought my friends were going along with me like they usually did. I wondered at the moment if she really meant it, or if she really meant that she needed some peace and quite around the house. She wasn’t used to having me home for such a long period of time. I guess I must’ve gotten to her nerves.
I remember the great old big smile on her face when I said good-bye. Come to think of it, she even made me a snack lunch. She never did that before, most of the time she would say that I was big enough to make it myself. But not on that day, as a matter of fact she even packed me enough lunch to last me a whole week. I should have gotten the hint, but at the moment I thought it was a loving thing of her to do that. Now that I think about it, next time I go fishing I’ll pay more attention to the minor details.
Within forty minutes I was by the lake close to my house. It’s a beautiful place with all of the trees that surround the huge lake. I often went there with my parents and occasionally with my friends. We would take our backpacks and pitch our tents near the water. We would fish for hours on in at a time and played games around there. However, on that day, I was all alone, friendless and dog less too.
The first thing I did was to put some bait on my fishing hook and I threw the line into the lake. I placed a big rock on top of the fishing pole to keep it from being dragged away by that great big fish that I envision of catching. Then I took out what I had in my backpack and prepared to sit down to do some serious fishing. My reputation was on the line, and I felt good about the chances of landing the big one.
I took my camera out and inserted the film. I did not want to miss the opportunity of showing what I had caught there at the lake. I placed the strap of the camera around my wrist incase I would happen to drop it. I practiced focusing the lens as I pointed it across the lake to the other side. That’s when I caught sight of the fish the man across from me had just caught. It was huge, but not like the one I still had visions of catching. I clicked the button and put the camera back in the backpack then grabbed onto the fishing pole to await my prized fish.
I waited, and waited, and waited, and after two whole minutes I decided it had been long enough for me to check on my hook. I reeled it very carefully as I felt the weight on my line and just in case a fish was hooked, but there wasn’t. I tried again and again, but my luck never got any better. The hours were passing by, and still no fish to take back home and show my parents, or my friends. I felt helpless, and I knew everybody was going to ask me about my catch. I was deep in thought as I could see them all laughing at me as I walked home empty handed.
Suddenly, the people across the lake, the ones that had caught that huge fish started to leave. It gave me the idea that maybe my luck would be better if I crossed on over to the other side and fish from the same spot. Time was running out, I had to hurry. Not too far away was a huge pipe that went across the lake. I had crossed there many times before while with my friends. I gathered my things and proceeded to the task before me.
When I reached the pipe, I had no fear. I had done it so many times before that I could cross it with my eyes closed, or so I thought. I instinctively placed my feet on the pipe and moved on. Somewhere in the middle of the passage, the wind blew with such a force that it threw me off balance. I tried to right myself, but it was too much to over come.
I went head first into the cold water. I had never swum in that lake, but on that occasion it was necessary. The current pushed me down and away from the banks of the lake. I must admit that I was scared there for a while. I knew better than to go alone, but everybody else was busy, including my dog. I had unwisely taken a big risk just for the sake of showing off for the people back home, but it was too late by then.
I could see under the water, and the fish down there were just great. I felt like stopping and asking them why they were not biting, but the idea sounded nuts at the moment. I was swimming for my life and survival was more important on my list of priorities.
After a few minutes of struggling with the water current I was able to hang on to one of the fallen branches that was floating past me. In the struggle I lost my backpack. The expensive one I had begged my parents to buy me, the same one I had promised not to lose. The one I had promised to pay by doing extra chores around the house, but never did.
I hurried out of the water by maneuvering myself along the branch as it got entangled on another branch from a tree that was by the edge of the lake. Lucky for me that the tree branch was there in the right place because who knows where I would have been pushed to with a strong current. The lake was too wide at certain places and it would have been hours perhaps before someone would have seen me out there.
As I got out of the water I turned my head and looked back in the water to see if I could locate the backpack, and I did spot it in the clear water. I ran towards it planning to stop at the edge of the water and use a stick to get the backpack. I was desperate and didn’t see the obstacle that made me stumble. It was the roots of yet another huge tree that hurled me towards the ground.
The fall made me hit my head on the tree, and it opened up a gash on my forehead. There was little blood, but mostly it was the pain that got my attention. I felt a little dizzy too as I made an attempt to get up. After getting to my feet I fell right back to the ground. I soon lost my sense of direction as I struggled to my feet again. I just kept moving, yet I knew nothing as to where I was going to, or what I was doing.
Once I got myself back together I took a peek at the water. I spotted my backpack floating on the surface. I knew I had to get it back as I heard my parent’s voices inside my head saying, “We told you so that you just couldn’t keep something so expensive from getting lost or ruin. Next time we won’t listen to you plea about how responsible you can be.” After hearing that I knew I had to hurry and spring into action.
I reached in for the backpack with a broken limb that was nearby. I was just about to get it when the current carried it further down stream. I ran on the bank of the lake still hoping to get it before I really got it at home too. Strangely it stopped in the middle of the lake. Something was holding it from going drifting further. Time for me was running out, and I knew I had to devise another plan to get it, but what?
It came to me in an instant as I remembered the fishing pole falling in the water. I ran as fast as it was humanly possible, but before that I marked the spot where the backpack was at so that I could find it later. Soon as I reached the pipe, there it was. The fishing rod had not drifted up the lake as I had anticipated. I reached in extending my arms as far as they could and I pulled it out of the shallow water at the edge of the lake, but something behind me quickly got my attention.
I turned around to see what it was that was flying around in the air right behind me. It was a hawk, and it was headed towards me. For an instant I thought it was coming to inflict its claws on me, but no. It flew past me and grabbed the bait that was attached to the hook of the fishing rod. I had left the stink bait on because I was going to do some more fishing just across the lake. I was then paying for that mistake too since the bait would not come off and the bird held on to it with it powerful claws. The pole was now in flight as the hawk was determined to have his meal.
The fishing pole was the one that belonged to my father. The one he had eyed for in the sporting goods store and had said he would get it someday even if he had to work a second job. The one he told me, well, more like warned me to never use unless I was with him and only under his direction. The one he considered his one and only, slightly ahead of me of course. The one he had paid an arm and a leg to buy. Yes, the same one that was up in the air and out of reach.
I covered my face with my hands knowing very well that I was over my head in trouble. I decided to try getting the backpack in some other way, so my walk back to the spot I had marked earlier was slow as my mind pondered what to do. I spent more time thinking about how I would face my parents than on a plan on how to get the fishing pole, and the backpack. However, something else was still troubling me and I just couldn‘t pick up on it as to what else could go wrong.
That‘s when it hit me and I remembered the camera, the one my mother had received for Christmas almost a year earlier. Yes, the expensive camera my dad had invested in for years and had placed in a lay-a-away plan. The same one my mother had put away in a safe place where nobody could find it. The same one my mother had warned me about not using without her permission and only under her watchful eye. Somehow I had forgotten to ask her for permission that day. And besides, I knew all of her secret hiding places. It was the same camera that was floating somewhere in the middle of the lake and not visible at that moment.
When I reached the marked spot I had left I swallowed hard. The backpack was no longer there; it was drifting further into the lake. I looked depressingly at it as the hawk flew over it. I wondered what the hawk was doing there, but then I recalled that I had left the bait inside the backpack in a pouch. It was evident that the hawk wanted the rest of the bait, but somehow he couldn’t lift the heavy soaked pack.
I looked desperately for clues and for what to do when I spotted a boat up ahead. The people were getting it ready to be boarded and to go out on a ride. Behind the boat I could see a rope attachment as though they had plans of pulling some skis. The person that was going to do the skiing was not yet ready and so they were going to do a practice run without him around the lake to make sure everything was safe. That gave me an idea, maybe not the wises one, but I was desperate at the moment.
Nobody was looking back from the boat, so I ran up to the skis that were laid out on the grass. I quickly put my feet in them and grabbed the rope that was lacking behind. I figured that maybe they would go near the backpack and that I could just reach on over and get it, simple. I never figured they would go over fifty miles an hour, and to top it off they knew nothing about me hanging on for dear life. Even as I hollered at them to stop, the noise from the motor and the boat hitting the water made it impossible for them to hear me.
As soon as we made the first turn I let go. I got thrown into the dirtiest part of the lake. There was mud all over the area. I swam and walked out of it, but my expensive tennis shoes were muddy, and underneath the mud there were sign of some holes on them. Those were the shoes my mom and dad had bought me during the summer and stored away for the school year. The very ones that cost as much as my entire wardrobe and made my parents max out their credit card. The very ones I told them I would guard with my life. I knew my life was up when they would see those shoes.
Finally, a man in a canoe spotted me, and he took me to the floating backpack. It was still there amazingly, but something was moving inside of it. A huge fish had somehow swum into it searching for that stink bait I had left there. The man helped me load the trapped fish and my backpack into the canoe. I was elated to see the size of the fish, and about saving my reputation. However, my problems were not over yet.
When I told the man about the fishing pole he just laughed at me before uncovering what was hidden under his jacket on the floor of the canoe. He showed me the fishing pole I had lost. He explained to me that when the hawk flew over him with the spinning rod on his claws it unleashed the line and so he followed it until he located the area where the bird dropped it. He, being the game warden, knew what to do with hooked hawk. After releasing it he said he saw it head towards something floating in the water.
Well, by then I had my big fish, my dad’s fishing pole, my expensive backpack, but my mom’s expensive camera was nowhere inside the pack. My expensive tennis shoes were a mess too, but three out of five was not bad odds. I was lucky just to be going home in one piece, and since I was running late, the man volunteered to take me home. I figured that having him around just might make my folks go easy on me.
As we drove into the driveway my parents seemed a little uneasy because they stepped out of the house. I let the nice game warden get off first, and then I got off and introduced him to them. My father gave me a long look when he saw my shoes. I quickly told the man to open the trunk of his car so that I could get the fish out. I figured that once they saw the size of that fish, they would forget about the dripping backpack, the camera, the fishing pole, and maybe even neglect the sight of my torn up tennis shoes.
My parents were too smart to fall for it. I was in trouble for not changing into some old shoes and ruining the good expensive ones. Second, for taking my dad’s very expensive fishing pole with permission, and third, for loosing the expensive camera too. I tried explaining, but I only got myself into more serious trouble. Especially when they found out I had left without taking a friend along with me. They didn’t buy the stories about everybody having something else to do.
The only thing that saved my skin was that I mentioned to dad about my dog being in the dog pound. He had told me to take my dog to get his dog license a week earlier, but I had spent the money buying some bait for my fishing expedition. That got him even madder, but the game warden came to my rescue. He knew the people at the dog pound, and he said the story about my adventure would be more than enough payment. He said they needed a good laugh every once in a while.
He was right, and we were able to bring my dog home that evening. My father had stayed home to prepare the fish for supper. When we got home he had a surprise waiting for me. He had found the camera inside the big mouth fish. Strangely enough the film was still in the camera. My mother had taken it to get it developed in one of those one-hour places. Only one picture had been taken and only half of it had been saved from the water damage.
All you could see was a hand holding a great big fish. The person was not visible either. Right after my friends heard my dog barking they ran on over to welcome him home. He was a friend of the neighborhood. That’s when they saw the great big fish, and the picture too. The just couldn’t believe their eyes; they figured I was the greatest fisherman in the world.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them the whole story; I figured they might think I made it all up. What more proof did I need? I mean, I had the fish, the muddy shoes, the stinking backpack, the fishing pole, and of course the half developed picture. Instead of confessing to it all I said, “See what you guys missed for not going with me. I told you that you would be missing something big!” Right then my parents walked up to where we were and I knew what they wanted me to do. So I did what was right, hey, wouldn’t you?

OSCARELIZONDO
COPYRIGHT2008OSCARELIZONDO

The Fish I Never Caught

oscarelizondo

Harlingen, United States

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Artist's Description

Have you ever told a fish story. You know, tell everyone that the fish you caught was much bigger than it really was. Or, how about trying a different line, like the one that got away. Well, this story is far beyond that. You will be amazed at how this fish was caught, but there wasn’t anybody there to see it but the person that caught it. Oh, you’re in for a surprise alright. This young boy didn’t even know he caught a fish. This story will keep you on your toes, and the ending is unlike any book, or story you ever heard.

Artwork Comments

  • lisameryl
  • oscarelizondo
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