Uncle Cecil rowed about three kilometers from the schooner before he stopped. An Albatross took to the air at our approach. The sea lapped the sides of the dory. My uncle rummaged through his tackle box of jigs and pulled out a bluish-green one with a red-circled eye. He held the lead head by the shank of the hook. “Never touch the sharp end of the hook or you’ll end up with a nasty cut. Insert the line through the eye of the jig and pull the end until you have five inches with which to work. Grip the eye with the line between your thumb and finger. Wrap the end of the line with your free hand over the main line. Do this about five times or so, working away from the jig.”
I picked up a greenish-yellow jig with a black eye and imitated the steps my uncle had showed me.
“Good, but keep it loose. Now form a loop next to the eye. Pass the end of the line through the loop and pull it tight. To keep it altogether, attach a snap ring to the eye and a snap swivel to the end of the fishing line. Tie it with a cinch knot. Do you know how to tie knots, boy?”
“Yes, I learned it in boy scouts when Dad was still around.”
“Your mother tells me your grades have slipped and you’ve been getting into trouble. She thought you were acting out because you missed a man in your life.”
“That’s not it at all. Mom just kind of gave up on life and me.”
“I see.” Uncle Cecil shoved a piece of bait on my line. He let the weight swing back and forth a bit, before whipping the line behind him and casting it forward. “Dance the line along. It will attract the fish.” He handed me the pole. “When you feel a bite, flick your wrist and reel it in.”
Thankful for the silence, I did as my uncle suggested. It hurt that Dad had left us, but I was worried more about Mom’s sanity. The yank on my line brought me out of my thoughts and I yelled for my uncle’s help. He set his rod down and he was at my side in a flash.
“That’s it. Roll her in. Oh, she’s a beauty.” Uncle Cecil placed the net under my haddock and sat it on the floor of the boat. The fish flopped about while my uncle removed the hook from its mouth.
My uncle’s fishing rod leaned in the water and I raced over to grab it. Something bighad snatched the line and I held on with all my might. I tried flicking my wrist, but the fish weighed down the pole. Uncle Cecil’s hands formed over mine and together we reeled in the hugest sea bass I had ever seen.
The rest of the day dragged on after that. The fog rolled in and with it a chill. My fingers felt frozen and I blew on them, trying to stimulate some warmth. We had filled the boat with smaller fishes, but nothing compared to our first catches. I glanced over at my uncle and saw him grab his chest. He looked pale and he had broken into a sweat.
“It’s my ticker, Nathan. Can you row us back to the schooner?”
The fog had thickened like tapioca and I couldn’t tell the location of the ship. Then I remembered my smart phone and held it up until I got a signal. I called the coast guard and informed him of the situation. I had my uncle lean against me, keeping him upright, until help arrived. I hoped I didn’t have to give him mouth to mouth. The thought of touching the geezer’s mouth didn’t sound appealing, but if it meant saving his life…
The coast guard had locked on my phone coordinates and found us. They tied a rope to the dory and towed us back to the schooner. Salty placed a Nitroglycerin tablet under Uncle Cecil’s tongue. A few minutes later, my uncle perked up to his old self. I was glad. I didn’t want to lose someone else in my life.
It was the best summer vacation than I had thought possible. My uncle told me I could come back any time and he arranged counseling for my mom. Whenever we are out fishing, my uncle always asks me if I have my smart phone. Fancy that! And believe it or not, Spike asked if he could come along next time. Was he telling me a fish tale?