The Boy knelt on the boat’s carpeted floor. Plastic fibers dug into his bare knee. He held his rod high over his right shoulder and caught the lower lip of the bass between thumb and forefinger of his left hand. He lifted the fish and stood, admired it for a long moment, then deftly popped the Rat-L-Trap’s second treble hook free and dropped the two-pounder back into the pond. He watched it swim away.
As he took a deep breath, it dawned on him the past 30 seconds, from the instant of the strike through the point of release, were the first waking moments in days he’d not spent worried about factors beyond his control. The Old Man had taught him the futility of worrying about problems he couldn’t fix, and he generally did his best to abide by those lessons.
Still, the things on his mind were the result of his own questionable decisions, the ultimate outcome remained uncertain, and his ability to stop berating himself seemed generally to have waned.
“That felt good,” he said aloud.
“That was a good fish,” the Old Man said, “especially for here.”
“Well,” the Boy said, “mainly I meant just thinking about nothing but catching a fish for a little while.”
“I don’t know what you’re worried about, and I don’t want you to have to tell me,” the Old Man said. “If it was something you could fix, you’d have fixed it I’m pretty sure. The sooner you learn life will never be perfectly settled, the better. The older you get, the more time you’ll spend away from the places that make you comfortable. Or, more often, the things that make you comfortable will, one way or another, be taken away.”
“Great,” the Boy said.
“I’m not telling you that to make you give up,” the Old Man said, “just to point out how important it is to enjoy all the simplest things in life, like a cool breeze or a hot cup of coffee. Enjoy how the air smells right before it rains.
“I don’t mean just notice it, either, but really stop and enjoy it. You’ll find the things that take your mind off whatever you’ve picked to worry about are always somewhere handy, even when a nice bass is not.”
“I see what you mean,” the Boy said.
“Still,” the Old Man said, “never miss a chance to catch a bass when you can get it. Fishing can’t always be about catching fish, but it’s a scientific fact: it’s impossible to worry about anything with a good one on the line.”