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By Eric Gilliland

So after hours and hours of non-bonding and non-fishing, my sister pulled out a book, Nick, my nephew, pulled out a Game Boy, and my dad somehow continued to feign interest in Armor-All. Me, I had no diversion except piecing together the reasons why I was such a malcontent. Here I was, on a boat, absolutely the odd man out. I live in New York City, I'm "a writer," I would normally be waking up right about now. And being surrounded by three sets of parents and their offspring, I'm glaringly childless. And I'm nursing a horrendous hangover, mostly because my mother opted to not buy the Advil I requested because she doesn't "trust" ibuprofen. "It's too new."

So I just sat there, quietly.

Finally, it was my shift. With the cat-like agility of former Chicago Cub shortstop Shawon Dunston, lifetime batting average .269, I subtly shifted my gaze from sandwich to poles. And, evidently, started fishing. Ten minutes of absolute focus. Ten minutes to make my dad proud of his TV watching, city-dwelling son. Ten minutes of proving my worth to my family. I broke into a sweat again, mostly from the bottle of Shiraz I downed last night, but it was sweat nonetheless.

Then, as they used to say every three minutes on The Wonder Years, it happened. The line went taut—I saw it! (as was my job)—and Captain Paul (not Captain Paul) sprang into action, grabbed the pole, and handed it to me. I had caught a fish! Or, more accurately, I saw a fish get caught and had a pole handed to me! But at that moment, something primal seared through my body, something that is implanted in the soul of Man from the beginning of time, something basic about survival and longevity of the species, and I instinctively knew that it was time for me To Reel. And reel I did. Not with the dull wrist crank of the Car Wash Kid, but with the assured artfulness of the lead dancer of the Ballet Russe or Shawon Dunston.

The cheers of my boatmates were thrilling. Somehow, I had become a better fisherman than they—I know that makes no sense, that it was luck of the draw, that any boob could have been at that ten-minute pole helm—but it didn't seem to matter. I had caught a fish (I, not they), and I was reeling it in (I, not they), and they would be eating it tonight (they, not I. Again, I don't like fish.) I was the hero in a battle of humankind against the unknown depths of the sea. And my dad was there to see it. Truly, there are few moments more significant in life than a fatherly pat on the back. And he was patting. And I was reeling (physically and emotionally—what a neat word!)

The whole afternoon suddenly made sense.

Then my sister patted me on the back. But this was of a pat of a different nature. She leaned in and whispered, "Would you let Nick reel the rest of it in?"

Every single part of my body screamed "No!" (And I hadn't heard a peep out of my shin since the last time we all went Christmas caroling.) See, this was my moment. Selfish as that may sound, I hadn't had a moment in a long time, except for the time I realized that I knew all of the words to "American Pie" and then got clocked by a well-thrown bottle of Jack, understandably. At this stage, my heroic activity, my thrilling fish tale had merely entailed rolling up a piece of string. The actual reward was still fighting and writhing at the end of the hook. It was still an intangible. I had to see the prize. I had to land it myself, or it wouldn't count. I had to catch the fish. And I got up so early. And this is such a perfect moment of manhood. And my dad was there. And I immediately handed the pole over to Nick.

And Nick took it and, with the expertise of a Minnesota boy whose father has a moose hunting license, he reeled in the fish with agility and grace. The huge thing eventually plopped on the deck and flailed about and Nick grabbed it by its bloody gills—bettering what I would have done which would have been "shrieked" and "maybe kicked it a little"—got his picture taken, and that was that.

Now, I realize that I come off pretty damn swell in this story. I sacrificed my day in the sun so that my nephew, this sandy haired eight-year-old (Nine? Eleven?) could have a story to tell his dad when he got home. I gave Nick something precious. I gave him a childhood memory of a successful adventure. And I knew that that simple gesture made me a good uncle. And a good man.

Well, fuck that. What the hell was I thinking? I never, ever, ever get a chance to catch a damn fish. And if anyone needed to catch a damn fish on that damn day, it was me and not some happy little child. The hell of this day (six o'clock in the morning?!) pretty much assures that I'm not doing this again any time soon. It was god-awful from start to finish and the only AAA-battery sized amount of joy I got out of it was that I was going to land a fish, and now, for the sake of having a cute time that everyone can ooh and aah over when we make our damned s'mores tonight, I have to be the good guy and give the moment of glory to a tiny brat child, the same tiny brat child whose temperament is such that we are eternally forced to cheat against ourselves so he can win every asinine game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos we ever play, or else there would be a whine and a pout so daunting that no amount of extra half hours of Scrappy Doo before bedtime could possibly quell. "Here, take my pole! Take my day! Take my car! Take my knowledge of Impressionist painters! Just take it all, little boy! Because I'm an adorable fucking uncle… and I know you're going to make it up to me so thanks in advance for your annual Christmas present of a homemade construction paper duck."

Then we docked and went out for chicken.

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