by Tony Domaille
The sunlight reflected off the water, making countless little sparkling lights. Overhead, the sky was unbroken blue and the quiet was only broken by the lapping of the lake on the bank.
I looked at my thirteen-year-old son, fishing rod in hand, staring intently into the depths.
‘Alright, son?’ I asked.
‘Alright, Dad,’ he said.
I glanced at my own rod. Nothing was tugging at the line. Nothing had, and I suspected nothing would. My track record with fishing wasn’t great, but I hadn’t told my son that. When he’d asked me if I’d ever been fishing, I did the thing that dads do. I told him I had, in such a way that hinted at a heroic adventurer. No lies – just a mixture of economy of truth, a measure of exaggeration and a definite leaving out of any negatives.
‘I’ve done some sea fishing,’ I told him.
‘Wow!’ he said. ‘What, like sharks and stuff like that?’
I smiled. ‘No, not sharks, but out in a small sea-going boat and fishing for the kind of thing you could have for your tea.’
He’d wanted to know if we could go sea fishing, but I told him it had been a friend’s boat and that perhaps the holiday park fishing lake was a better option. So, there we were – and had been for an hour and a half. Hired rods with lines baited with maggots and hope, surrounded by fabulous scenery, waiting for the bite. Then we could reel in a big one and return as triumphant hunter gatherers to his mother and sister at the caravan.
‘Does it usually take this long, Dad?’
I nodded. ‘It can take a while.’
Again, not an outright lie, but a misdirection. I had actually been sea fishing twice many years before. On the first trip I was seasick and spent the afternoon in the cabin with my eyes closed. On the second trip, I found my sea legs and did catch a fish. However, it was just the unluckiest fish ever. It didn’t take the bait; it just got my hook caught in its fin and couldn’t get away. I retired from fishing whilst I was ahead and really hadn’t planned a comeback until mini me took an interest in the sport.
‘Alright, Dad?’ he said.
I marvelled at his newfound patience. Normally, he could be relied upon to down tools, or bats, or balls or anything if it didn’t provide near immediate gratification. I thought I ought to be glad that he’d finally found something he might stick to. But then a wave of panic hit me. Suppose I had a son who was falling in love with fishing. It could be a nightmare. My weekends could disappear in a never-ending round of driving to rivers or canals or lakes. It was all very well fishing in the sunshine, but English weather guarantees regular soaking. And think of the conversation. The relative merits of various lures or bait may fascinate the millions engaged in the country’s most popular sport, but not me.
My son said, ‘Alright, dad?’
I forced a smile. ‘Alright son?’
I had to get myself out of this. I had to put him off fishing before it was too late. I wondered how much a pool table would cost. Maybe a trampoline. Perhaps I should go on an immediate spree of buying a range of sporting equipment and clothing so he would have no time to think of fishing.
‘Dad?’ he said.
I headed him off at the pass. ‘Why don’t we just wait and see if there’s something you might like to do instead?’
He said, ‘Huh?’
I rattled on. ‘I mean you have to remember this is a lovely sunny day and…’
‘Dad, what are you talking about?’
I sighed. ‘I’m just saying if you want to take up fishing…’
‘I don’t,’ he said.
He squirmed. ‘It’s a bit…well…thanks for hiring us all the stuff, but…’ he trailed off.
Then he took a deep breath and said, ‘It’s quite boring.’
Relief swept over me. All my visions of wet Sundays on riverbanks evaporated. The only fish I wanted came out of the freezer section at Asda. ‘It is, a bit,’ I said.
He put down his rod. ‘Shall we stop now?’
I nodded. ‘Yeah, let’s go back and see what your mum and sister are up to, shall we?’
But then he looked at me with a face I’d not seen before. ‘Can we just spend a bit more time just me you and me?’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘What’s on your mind?’
He shrugged. ‘Nothing, really. It’s just we don’t really spend time on our own, do we, Dad? I suggested the fishing cos I knew the girls wouldn’t want to come.’
I looked into his eyes and saw that the breaking voice was more than just hormones. He really was growing up and I had failed to notice. More than that I’d failed to notice that he wanted a dad who would talk to him; really talk to him. A dad that would spend time with him, being more than just parental supervision and care. He had changed my role and I’d missed it.
‘You know what, son?’ I said, squeezing his shoulder. ‘You’re right. We don’t spend enough time with it being just me and you, and I’d love that to change.’
He smiled. ‘Thanks, Dad. Oh, shall we get ice cream?’
I gave him the thumbs up. Then we packed away the fishing gear and I walked with the boy, who was nearly a man but still so much a boy, to the ice cream van in the car park. And we talked.
I’ve never forgotten that day. We had gone fishing, but my catch that day was so much greater than a fish.
About the author
Tony has written a number of award-winning plays, published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Sized Plays, that have been performed across the world. He has also had a number of stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here -https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/