“I’m so excited my stomach hurts,” F. announces as we pull up to the annual fishing derby at Swaim Park. Each year, our local Kiwanis hosts the contest. They stock the pond and invite anyone with a rod to come. Every half hour they award crisp five-dollar bills to the person who catches the biggest fish and the first fish in every age division.
F. and I have been having an ongoing debate about his need for a fishing license. I tell him he doesn’t one until he’s twelve. “But I do,” he counters, “if I want to mount what I catch.” I love that boy’s optimism.
“If you catch something big enough to mount, I’ll get you a license.” He seems satisfied with the compromise.
We pick a spot, hook a worm and drop the line. And wait. The lines belonging to kids on either side of us bend at the weight of a wiggling, nibbling fish. F.’s pole remains still.
“Can I fish?” I. asks.
When you have more than one child, the first one gets the most. It’s not intentional; it just works out that way. “Not yet,” I say. “Let F. have this right now.”
I. sees a friend across the pond and runs over to join him and his dad. Within five minutes and with a borrowed pole, I. waves wildly. He’s caught a fish.
I say fish but that may be overstating. It’s more like a pet. The officials measure his catch, a whopping 3 ½ inches, and record his entry.
F’s face crumples. He hasn’t caught a thing. He greets each half-hour announcement with an exasperated sigh. Oh, no. This is not going to go well.
“This will be the last of the prizes,” the announcer’s voice crackles across the loud speaker.
The end of the fishing derby, the Kiwanis gives their “big” prizes: ten-dollar bills for the person who catches the biggest, smallest and most fish. They call I.’s name. He’s won! In the two-hour derby, his 3 ½ inch fish wins the “big” prize of smallest fish caught.
We pack up and start towards the car when I. runs up to claim his prize. He returns and waves his two five-dollar bills in the air in triumph before turning and handing one of them to F. It is one of the most generous and genuine gestures I’ve seen in awhile.
F.’s face breaks into a smile and the disappointment of the morning washes away. That’s a good brother.