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I watched my toes sway above the water, dipping in and rippling the calm lake every few moments. The clear water made my nails glisten, a freshly dried coat of pink nail polish on them. I loved coming out and sitting on the end of the dock just as the sun decides it’s time to disappear beneath the horizon. The faint sound of ducks near the cattails and the growing harmony of ribbetting frogs accompany distant echoes of voices across the lake. The sky, a mix of oranges, yellows, and soft pinks add to a sense of comfort and tranquility. I’m able to watch the clouds by their reflection in the water.
I began thinking what if everyday could have such a perfect ending when I hear the familiar sound of feet making their way across the wooden boards. I don’t bother to turn and see who it might be. I know it’s him. He doesn’t hesitate to take his spot next to me at the end of the dock, joining me as he does every night.
He almost always brings his fishing pole with him; an endless game of casting, waiting, and reeling to find there to be no fish at the end. I’m not sure why he continues to bring it each time.
“You know, my father would let me stay out here all night if I wanted, but my mother has a rule,” he says.
“What’s that?” I turn to watch him make his first cast.
“That after I catch just three fish she wants me to come inside.” He turns to look at me now and gives a soft smile, wanting one in return. I think how his mother needs to come up with a better rule if she truly would rather him not spend so much time out here.
Some nights we would rarely speak, just gaze out across the glimmering water. Other nights it seemed as if though we could talk about everything. Tonight was somewhere in the middle.
The sun begins to slowly fade away and is gradually replaced by a dark blue sky and twinkling stars. I look over to see him still watching his bobber, occasionally glancing either up at me or up at the stars. His mother has called for him to come in a few times now, but he calls back protesting he has yet to catch his three fish. I just laugh.
As the night goes on and the stars really begin to show I start feeling the goose bumps creep up my arms and legs, letting me know it’s time to go. A shiver sends me to begin to stand up but I’m surprised when I feel my hand being held on to and I look down to see it’s him. He pulls me back down so I’m sitting on the dock again, and then drapes his own sweatshirt over my shoulders.
“Stay for just a little while longer,” he says and there’s just something in those eyes that makes me listen.
He starts to reel the line back in when he asks, “Can I tell you something?” Pulling his sweatshirt around me tighter I answer yes. By this time the fishing line is reeled back in, the hook dangling over my head. He lowers the pole, grabs the hook and holds it out in front of me. I then can see that there’s no worm, no bait at all on the metal hook in front of me.
Unsure of what he is trying to silently explain to me I reply, “So you wanted to tell me that a fish ate your worm?” I give a small smile.
He sets down the pole, smiling in return and even laughing a little at my proposal. “No, I wanted you to know that I never put one on to begin with.” I stare down at the water, now illuminated by the glowing moon above, trying to figure out what I think he’s saying. “All of these days, weeks in fact, that I’ve been coming out here with you I have never put a worm on that hook.” He waits, watching me closely for what I will say next.
I decide to ask; to be sure he means what I already know he’s trying to tell me. “Why?”
And he simply answers, “I never wanted to catch my three fish.”