28 Pounds of Joy
Harry. Age 12. Doylestown, Pennsylvania

November 17, 2011. Weather: pouring rain, high winds, freezing. And my plan for the day? Go fishing at five in the morning. Thatís why my story startsóand endsóin bed. Itís sort of depressing, fishing day after day, only catching skates and dog fish while everyone else, older brother included, is catching ten, twenty, thirty pound bass. Thatís why I didnít want to wake up early, didnít want to spend six hours cooped up in a truck with two other people, and especially didnít want to go home after a long day to see that ďseven other people entered twenty-five plus pound bass.Ē I was tired of being the only one who had not entered a bass into the LBI surf fishing derby. So itís easy to imagine my reluctance to wake up at four thirty, eat nothing, get dressed for sub-zero temperatures (the wind chill was unbearable), sit around for five hours, and then come home unsuccessful knowing I would do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Three months. Nothing.

Consequently, with the rain beating down on my head, I cried. Burning. Slashing. The rain beat down more. The wind razed my eyes with a plethora of sand. I fell into a rhythm once I woke up (which didnít take much time due to the freezing temperatures). Reel in rod, cut up bait, put bait on hook, cast out rods, repeat. After a few times, it turned into Reel in old rod, wipe off glasses, cut up bait, cut finger, wipe off glasses, check the wound, wipe off glasses, put bait on hook, try not to choke on the rain, cast out rod, wait, wait, wait, repeat. It was a painstakingly slow process, and by the time I dried off, I needed to start again. With the rain drenching my very soul, I kept going.

After three hours, without even a single nibble, I kept on fighting to stay on my feet.

Slowly, deliberately, the brown and gold rod, our most unlucky piece of fiberglass, ducked, as if trying to avoid a tree branch. The clear monofilament line went taut. I pushed the hatch to open the door of the silver Toyota Four Runner and stepped out onto the cold, wet, soft sand. Waddling to the rod, I used one hand to set the hook and brought the other up to my teeth so that I could tear it off. I felt the warm fabric on my teeth. The gust of wind that blew it to the ground with a muffled thump. Next I brought the gloveless hand down to keep the rod steady and tore the other glove off my hand with my teeth, biting my finger in the process. Grinning like a mad man, cool ocean salty air driving into my face, I started reeling. My gray Under Armor sweatshirt hood flapped around like an umbrella. It takes thirty seconds to reel in a sunfish. Two minutes to reel in a bass. Seven minutes to reel in a bluefish. Nevertheless, it takes eleven minutes and seventeen seconds to reel in a twenty-eight pound eleven ounce striped bass.

In bed. I told you thatís where my story would end. In bed, looking up at a custom surf board, contemplating what I would do with my new $260 and jam-packed full of fish. November 17, 2012. Weather: pouring rain, high winds, freezing. And my plans for the day? Celebrate.

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