The air was cool, but the sun was bright and still carried some summer warmth. Don was happy to be outdoors with his sons. He had bought them fishing rods and was excited to introduce them to the sport he had shared with his father.
He envisioned many weekends spent camping, canoeing and fishing, far from his office, their video games and his ex-wife. He handed the gear to his boys.
“Ooh. Those worms are gross,” Mark shuddered.
“What are they for?” Mat asked “Are we setting them free?”
“No, stupid,” Mark said. “You put them on the hook and the fish come to eat them.”
“We’re going to feed the fishies?” Mat asked.
“We’re going to eat the fishies.”
“Not today,” Don said. “Today is for practice. We’ll take a picture of your catch, but then we’ll throw them back.”
“That’s dumb,” Mark grumbled.
Don hooked a worm onto each of the rods, since the boys refused to touch them.
“This is heavy,” Mark complained. “How long do I have to hold it?”
Mat had already given up on holding the rod and was snacking on grapes.
Don sighed and told himself to ignore Mark’s complaint. They’re young, he told himself, although he had been younger than Mark when he started fishing.
“Hey! What’s going on?” Mark called.
“You got a bite. Good work, Mark.” Don walked over to stand beside his son.
“He just stood there,” Mat grumbled.
“It’s more than you did,” Mark snapped.
“Start reeling it in slowly,” Don said.
“My hand hurts. You do it,” Mark handed his rod to Don.
Don sighed and reeled in the fish. It was a small trout, about 20 cm long. Don whistled. “Look at that! Hold it, son, and I’ll take a picture.” Don held the rod out towards Mark.
“Gross! No way. I’m not getting close to that thing,” Mark said.
“Mat?” Don offered.
“I’m scared,” Mat said. “It’s looking at me.”
“Mat’s afraid of a fishie!” Mark laughed.
“Daa-ad!” Mat cried. “Mark’s making fun of me.”
Don pressed his lips together. He released the squirming trout from the hook and threw it back into the pond.
“I’m hungry,” Mark said. “Can we go out for lunch?
“I packed us a picnic.” Don gathered up the rods and the container of worms.
Mark looked around. “We aren’t going to eat here, are we?”
“What if the fish comes back?’ Mat asked.
Don looked up. Both boys were staring at him.
“Let’s have lunch here and then I’ll take you for ice cream,” he tried.
“I have to pee,” Mat said.
“I want a hamburger.”
“I don’t like sandwiches.”
“What if the fish comes back?”
“Get into the car,” Don said. “I’ll take you out for lunch.”
There was a Goodwill on the way where he could drop off the rods.
Ellen Peters writes in Ontario, Canada.