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As a Father…

“Anything yet?”

“Ha!–not a very good job of sneaking up on me this time, Dad. Stepping on that crusty plowed snow by the road gave you away.”

“I wasn’t trying to sneak up on anybody. Just trying not to disturb the peace. I know you like sitting out here on the shoreline and meditating under this old white pine. But I wanted to check if you’ve had any flags.”

“One false alarm just after I got my two tip-ups set. Must have been the wind. The minnow went to the bottom and just lay there. So now I wait. What are you doing up so early anyway?”

“Figured somebody should get up and get some wood in the stove. That way, the lounge will be warm by the time everybody else comes down for breakfast.” “I would’ve tried that myself, but I wanted to get these tip-ups in the water as early as I could. Plus my record of getting the draft started once the flue has gone cold is lousy. I try to light the stove, start some sort of back draft, and usually end up filling the lounge with smoke.”

“It takes more than a little patience. I had to shave off some really thin slices of tinder and keep feeding the tiniest flame before I felt some draw. But she’s going like crazy now. Can you see the chimney from where you are? See? And now you might as well glance out on the ice because I just saw one of your flags fly.”

“A flag? Hey, you’re right. About time. Hope it’s a fish. I’ll go and check.”

“Think I’ll stay here. At least until I know it’s not another false alarm.”

“I’ll let you know what I see. A little mushy underneath out here. Almost there. Whoa! Dad, Dad! Better come out–the reel’s spinning like crazy. I’ve got a fish on for sure. There–set. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a fish. Feels pretty good. Gonna come watch me land it?”

“I would, but the flag behind you just flew. Probably I should go check it out.”

“Thanks. I’m busy here. It’d be great if you could help. Can you tell yet? Is it a fish? I can’t turn my neck around that far.”

“Oh, yeah. The reel’s spinnin’. Must be a fish. All the line just went out. Time for one of my famous hooksets. There! It’s a fish all right.”

“I can hardly believe this–two fish on at the same time. And at least mine must be really good–at first I was able to gain some line, but now I can hardly move it.”

“We both must have good ones on. I can’t move mine an inch. Wait till everybody else gets out here and sees these fish.”

“The kids will go nuts. This’ll teach them not to sleep in so late. But I’m still not gaining on this thing. I pull, and it almost seems as if that makes it mad, because it’s like it gathers strength and pulls back on me.”

“Same thing for me. Over and over. Hold on a second–I’ve got an idea. I’m going to try something.” “What? What are you thinking? Wait a second–mine’s moving again. It’s coming in. I think I’m gonna get this baby after all. Yeah, it’s getting closer.”

“You’ll get it now. I think you’ll get it.”

“Whoa! You’re over here? What happened? Did you land yours already?”

“Naw. Lost it. Must have shaken loose. Guess there’s only one fish for us this morning.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, this one feels pretty big. Not much line out yet. Here she comes. Come on, baby, just a little more. Now let’s get your head up. There we go. Head up. Let me get a grip. Ah, look at it! That’s a fifteen-pound fish if I’ve ever seen one. At least that. The last time I got one this big was maybe ten years ago.”

“It’s a beauty. I’ll go see if any of the kids are up. Not every day they get the chance to check out a pike this big.”

“Hold on a second, Dad. Did you notice this? This pike’s got a second hook in its jaw. And the hook’s still attached to about ten feet of line. This is unbelievable. This fish must have been hooked earlier. And it must have snapped the line. I wonder how long it’s been swimming around with this trailer line. That’s just plan amazing. As much as pike like thick cover, you’d think this line would’ve gotten caught in something–some logs, some weeds, some old pilings or something.”

“That’s the kind of stuff I’ve always heard pike like to hide in.”

“I know. I just don’t get this. Catching this fish has got to be some kind of miracle.”

“I guess you could call it that.”

William Vande Koppel is professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.