Fishing With Sharks.

Here’s a story I wrote sometime ago. It’s not a whole lot, but I think It’s worth reading… Give it a go.

Fishing with Sharks.

By Shikhar Mukherji

“This is it, Dan. You’ve prepared for this, you know you’re better than everyone else, and there’s no way anyone’s getting in the way of you and that beautiful gold troph-” I stopped talking. People were staring. It was a bright afternoon, and somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, an eighteen year old kid had made it to the Fishing World Championships. I almost laughed. Almost. I closed my eyes and tried to think. It’s hard to clear your mind when there’s only one thought in your head. I think about what the instructor had said. My heart nearly failed.

Seventeen years ago, when I was almost one, my parents took me out to sea. They’re gone now, but I still remember the stories. They always told me I was only truly happy when I was playing in the sand, or swimming in the water. Thankfully we lived in Rhode Island. When I was four, I got my first fishing rod. Whenever we could, me, dad, and mom were always fishing, fishing, fishing. It’s half my life. When I realized fishing’s what I wanted to do with my life, they never put me down. Only encouragement. Encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. And then it happened. My sixteenth birthday. Nothing would ever be the same again.

I check my watch. It’s been fifteen minutes. It feels like hours. Either way, I still have no fish. I should really stop looking at the other contestants. Most of them have been in this sport far longer than me, and it looks like I’m trying to stare them down. If only, I wished they would give me some advice. Every single one of them looks like a cheater to me. I shake my head. None of them can cheat. The area we’re all fishing in, has been equipped with some tech, I don’t know, that’ll prevent us from any underwater cheating. Our luggage have been checked, double checked, and triple checked. Our fishing rods have been rigged. Cheating isn’t possible. I sit there, wondering about when something’s going to happen, when something happens. Plop! One of the Russian’s gets the first fish.

I could feel the breeze through my jacket. I was on a boat, fishing with the latest equipment in the market, my birthday present. Mom and dad were next to me, on another boat. The station we’d rented them from, hadn’t allowed us all to be on the same boat. I try to stay away from this memory, I try to forget it ever happened, but it’s not going to happen. Everytime I fish, it comes back to me. We were arguing about something, dad versus me. Something stupid, I don’t even remember. But it was getting to me, the arguing. I got angry, I started shouting. They looked upset. Dad told me that this wasn’t how he planned it. That got me. I sat down, and shut up. Now it was his turn to shout. He was talking about how irresponsible I was, how much him and mom had to deal with. I turned away. I told myself not to break down, to stay strong, to rise above this and continue having fun, but no. The tears had already started, the hurt was too powerful. I fought back. I told them that they didn’t know what they were doing. They were horrible parents, and they hadn’t learnt anything from sixteen years of experience. Mom was crying, I was crying, and dad was determinedly staring at me. He said that the only thing he had ever done was protect me, provide for me, love me, and this was how I repaid him? A useless boy with a disgusting attitude? I screamed. I screamed about how I hated them, how they hated me, how repulsive I find this family, how much I can’t stand them. “Then leave.” Dad had had enough. Mom looked at him for a second, shocked, scanning his face for any signs of a joke, but found none. She looked down. The words were echoing around my head, leave, leave, leave. I didn’t know what to do. So I turned my boat around. We were far off from the coast, but I knew where to go. I had one last look before I started to row, but their backs were turned, I heard nothing. No crying, no talking, no trying to calm down. I looked down. And I rowed. I rowed, rowed, rowed away. I was maybe a kilometer away, when I heard the screams. I turned back, I stood up, and I saw what was happening through my binoculars. I was looking for my parents, I was in a panic. Their boat had tipped over, the screams were replaced with silence. I couldn’t see my parents, but I saw something swimming away. Something big and something fast. A triangular shape swimming through the water. The fin of a creature. A shark? And as I realized what had happened, the hatred flowing through my body drained away, replaced by hatred a thousand times as powerful.

A few hours ago, every single contestant in the final of the FWC (Fishing World Championships) was sitting in a gigantic auditorium a kilometer away from the Pacific Ocean. We were sitting in order of qualification, so the top fifteen qualifiers would be in the first row, the next fifteen in the second row and so on. After all the contestants were seated, the staff, organizers, and support team took up the rest of the space. On the stage was the instructor, Ben, I think he said his name was. I was in the first row, so I could understand everything our instructor was saying. I wish I couldn’t. He’d be taking us through the process of what we were doing, and any problems we might encounter. I’d been sitting here for almost an hour, listening intently to what he has to say, but not anymore. Something else was occupying my mind. Not what he was saying but what he had said. The only thing I feared. Something I’d been praying not to happen. As I sat there, trying to think about something else, trying to focus on Ben, the memory kept coming back to me, clearer than before, as I understood the danger that awaited me. Ben was trying to tell us how to steer the boat, but looking around, I saw no one was paying attention. They were all thinking the same thing. We would be fishing with sharks.

Thirty minutes left. Half our time over and two fish. Two lousy fish. I was sitting there, the top qualifier, watching as people not even half as good as me were collecting three or four fish per minute. I was so far behind, all my hope had vanished long before. Now, all I was wishing for was that time go faster. And as soon as I thought it, time seemed to go slower. It was like the universe was against me. Everything seemed so unfair. I wasn’t even focused on fishing anymore, I was just thinking about why my life was miserable. And then it hit me. I was the one making it miserable. Arguments happen, bad things happen, but the only person who has to get over it is you. If you spend your life whining, no one will care about you. In order to make life worth living, you have to give yourself hope. And as soon as I started hoping, in that small boat of mine, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway through the final of the Fishing World Championships, time went back to normal. It was like I had been given an endless second to think. And I had realized what I was lacking in this competition. Hope. So there was just one thing left to do. Show everyone, that I deserved the top qualifier position. I was going to win this thing.

One fish. Two fish. Three fish. Four fish. They were coming like crazy. The guy at the top still had loads more than me, but I was catching them ten times faster than him. Granted, we had fifteen minutes left, but I wasn’t giving up hope. I would never give up hope. Never again. Fishing, fishing, fishing. Fish were piling up everywhere. I always got into some sort of rhythm once I started going, but this? This was amazing. This is why I loved fishing. You never know what’s going to happen, but everytime you catch a fish, you feel great. And at the momentum I was picking them up, there was no doubt in my mind who would come out the winner. This time I did laugh. I laughed so hard, my ribs hurt. People stared, but I needed to get some of my energy out, or I would explode. And still, we kept at it. Now I was sweating. The competition was drawing to a close and I wasn’t completely sure about winning anymore. I looked at my watch. 10 seconds. I relaxed. There wasn’t any reason to keep going. If I won, I won. If I lost, I lost. But even so, when I felt that final tug on my end of the rod, I pulled so hard, the fish almost fell overboard. I managed to catch it and put in my container. Beep! Time’s up. And the stress was over. No losing, no tension, and, thank god, no sharks. No matter what happens, I will feel like the winner.

You won’t believe the kind of tension that goes on before a prize distribution. Everyone was sweating, and there was only one position they wanted. Second and third only meant losing. Gold was the real deal. I was still confident that I made a brilliant comeback. Even so, when they’re calling out names I can’t help but close my eyes and try to calm myself. They start calling out positions. “Third place goes to James Evans of Australia, with 137 fish!” Polite applause follows. He receives his bronze trophy. “Second place goes to Anton Cseh of Russia, with 145 fish!” Loud applause, some cheering. Now I shut everything out. This is it. Pray. I open my eyes. “First place,” There’s a pause, it lasts a million years. “Goes to Dan Taylor of the United States of America, with 146 fish!” And the place goes wild. There’s cheering, whistling, shouting, screaming. But as I step on to the podium and receive my beautiful gold trophy, I’m only thinking: By one fish?

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