I turned around and saw the fellow carrying his tackle box and life jacket. Around the rim of his floppy hat dangled tiny fishing hooks. The sight of him reminded me of that character who played the colonel in all those old M.A.S.H. episodes. “Pardon?”
“Sorry, I’m Frank.” The man held out his hand. After I checked it for any sharp points, I shook his palm. “Didn’t mean to be so abrupt. Saw you getting ready to head out on the lake. Wanted to extend a fisherman’s welcome.”
“Oh. Hello, Frank. I’m new at all of this so I guess I’m a little jumpy. My name is Michelle.” I removed my tackle box from the truck. “Do you come to this lake often?”
Frank nodded and grabbed my rod to help out. “Whenever the weather permits. There’s a lot of different fish in this water. I never know what I’m going to catch.”
We walked toward the pier where my new boat waited. I placed my things onboard before turning toward Frank. “Where’s your craft?”
“At the marina on the other side. Getting some work done on it. I’ll be doing some pier fishing today.” Frank shrugged. “Have yourself a good trip. Hope you catch a lot.”
I waved at my boat. “Come aboard, Frank. Plenty of room for one more and I don’t want to break any fisherman’s etiquette rules about leaving any man behind.”
He leaned forward. “Never seen bait like this before? Is that a rolled-up newspaper?”
I chuckled. “No, it’s my manuscript. I’m fishing for agents.”
“Agents?” Frank’s eyes glazed over as his thoughts flipped through his mental fishing books for a creature by this name. “Are they related to carp?”
“I don’t think so.” I tied the lure to my hook. “I believe the Latin term for them is ‘literarius agens,’ or in English, ‘literary agent’.”
“Huh? Well, I learn something new every day.” Frank pointed at the end of my line. “What are those marks etched into your hooks?”
I took out a magnifying glass. “It’s my hook, or rather the pitch sentence for my story. I need to have something eye-catching to get an agent’s interest.”
“Um, they’re tiny words.” Frank’s eyebrows lifted in skepticism. “Are you saying agent fish can read?”
My laughter surrounded the boat. “They better, or they won’t be in business for very long. The words might look small now, but they will appear larger to the agents - sort of like sticking a straw in a glass of water. The part submerged always looks bigger than the half sticking out.”
“I only drink my beer out of the can. So I’ll just take your word for it.” Frank shook his head. He snapped his fishing line through the air and then sent it into the lake.
We sat in companionable silence for the next several hours. Frank’s fishing basket filled quickly while mine remained empty. When the early twilight settled over the lake and ground fog reduced our visibility, he began to bring in his line
“Doesn’t look as if you’re going to ca-“ He stopped as my line began to wiggle. Out in the distance, a large shape broke through the still liquid surface. It wiggled its tail end and flopped down with a huge splash.
“Wow! That has to be at least a 130-pounder!” Frank tossed nets out of the boat searching for the biggest one we had.
“I have to coax him in slow. I don’t want to upset him off my hook.” I tugged a little on the rod. My hand made circular motions as the line reeled in with thrumming tension. The large figure jumped from the water again, gleaming in the rising moon’s light, showing off his credentials. My hook had snagged a button on his shirt.
“Glad you drove here in that truck of yours. We’re going to have a hard time getting this baby in the back.” Frank’s hands grabbed the rod and held it steady so I could take a breather. One last big tug and we had my catch up in the air over the boat.
“Hmm.” I fished around in my tackle box until I found my flashlight. In the strong yellow glow, I scanned the papers in his hand. Then I shook my head. “I have to throw him back.”
Frank’s mouth dropped open. “What? But why? He’s huge! There’s no way the sots at the pub are going to believe this fish tale without evidence.”
I lowered the rod toward the water and pried my hook from the agent. He made one big leap and then swam away. In seconds he disappeared into the darkness and the fog.
I turned toward Frank. “When you go fishing and catch something that is undersize or out of season, what do you do?”
“I toss him back in the lake.” Frank scratched his head. “But you came here to find an agent. And he definitely wasn’t undersized.”
“But he wasn’t the one for me.” I sighed. “I know the excitement of finding one can be overwhelming and sometimes we will reel him in without hesitation. Yet we have to keep a clear head about things. He might not be the right one to market my manuscript, or have the type of working relationship I would want from my agent. He has to be right for me just as much as my manuscript has to be right for him to represent. If it’s not, things will go bad fast.”
“Yeah, I understand how that one goes. Once, I scooped a fish out of the water and stuck him in my basket without checking him out. Didn’t realize he was rotten and ended up spoiling the rest of the catch by the time I got home.” Frank started the motor as I placed my hooks away. “What a mess that was for me! Now I always make sure to take the time to check them out.”
In thirty minutes we were back on dry land. I had my truck loaded up as Frank came over to shake my hand in goodbye before he made his way home. “Sorry you didn’t find the right catch today. Hope things will be better for you next time.”
I nodded my head. “I hope so too, Frank. Enjoy your fish dinner tonight!”