An Award for “Buzz Tap”

At the beginning of last year I submitted a short story I wrote to the 84th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and while I didn’t expecting much, I took pride in my courage to submit anything and didn’t think of it again until 6 months later when I received an email with the subject line: “Congratulations are in order!”

Within the body of the message, I was told that my story had received an honorable mention in the competition, meaning that my name would be printed inside the published copy of the magazine. So, like any mature adult, I jumped up and down and clapped and bought myself a McFlurry on my way home from work that day.

Yesterday, I received a final copy of the magazine in the mail, where sure enough, my name is printed—and spelled correctly! 2 E’s and all—right there on a page in the back and I was bursting with pride.

The whole experience has been the perfect dose of inspiration leading into the New Year, and ironically went along with what my story was all about. Things don’t always work out for us the way we want, or on the schedule we plan, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Have patience and persevere, opportunity and success are waiting for you on the other side.

And although my goals now differ from those in the story, and this small mention in the back of a magazine might be a very small success for me in the grand scheme of things, I like to think of it as the first of many. I’ve knocked down the first wall, now I’m onto the next one!

I’ve posted the story below.

🙂

 

“Buzz Tap” by Kimberlee Koehn

 

I’m sitting on a flat rock with my back resting against another, curvier, rock; all of our butts slowly sinking further into the damp sand. I’m wearing a camouflage sunhat, hiking boots, leggings and a long sleeve shirt, with an awkward neck sunburn already in the works. A fly has been trying its best to migrate into my ear.

To my left is my sister, Natalee, and the Sandoval family: Derrick, Nicole, and DJ. They’ve taken up residence around a shallow curve of the lake, standing side by side, casting and retrieving, casting and retrieving. Natalee sneezes. The sound echoes off the surrounding mountains, most likely provoking a “bless you” from a man 2 miles down wind.

To my right is the Allegretti family: Joe, AD, and Mel. The whizz of the drag on a fishing reel brings Joe to his feet towards his pole shouting, “FISH ON!” in a high pitched voice, most likely provoking jealously from a man 2 miles down wind.

I’ve been staring at my pole—which sits in a sky blue pole holder at a wonky angle—for 20 minutes straight. So far the light breeze and ripples of an adjacent cast are the only factors responsible for its subtle movements.

A quiet splash across the lake snaps me out of my daze. I see my dad skirting across a rocky pathway on the opposite shore, trying to find a fishing spot none of us have tried yet. I look away, not wanting to see him fall in, but then I look back, not wanting to only hear the splash. His legs are wobbly, uncertain as they step. I can hear him taking deep breaths, trying to remain steady. He’s just a boy, really. I see my baby brother in each of his gestures. He’s just a curious, adventure seeking, risk taking, boy. He reaches the spot he had his eyes on and takes a moment to breath before casting. He casts and retrieves, casts and retrieves. I keep sitting.

“FISH ON!” AD announces zealously.

I close my eyes and listen to her reel. The fish fights back. The drag reacts with a buzz. She grunts softly, determined to win.

Plop. Plop. Natalee and Nicole cast in one after the other.

Buzz. Grunt. Plop. Plop.

Buzz. Grunt. Plop. Plop.

Buzz. “SHIT!” Plop. Plop. “FISH ON!”

AD slumps to the floor, having not only lost the fish, but the entire set up on her pole. Joe is at her side quickly, rubbing her back in sympathetic circles and taking her pole to tie on a new hook.

Natalee calls my name.

“Check out this guy!” she shouts with fish in hand. “I shall call him Diego.”

I smile and give her the thumbs up, laughing quietly at her tradition to name every fish she catches.

I look back at my pole, no movement.

My eyes have started to grow heavy amidst the patience, begging for me to let them submit to sleep. I shake my head and stand up, hoping the sleepiness falls to the ground with the crumbs of sand I wipe off my hands.

The sun is hot shining directly above us, making the water almost clear and the temperature almost 60, a sensation of sweat almost developing underneath all of my layers.

I decide to recast my pole so I start reeling.

When I see a gold flicker in the water, I realize that my hook is bare, naked of the spherical ball of peach bait I had previously covered it with. “Bait raped,” my sister would say if she were closer to me. I trudge towards my dad’s tackle box, frustrated and bewildered at how I could have possibly missed the fish bite, again.

With the yellow cap of the bait in one hand, I dig a finger of the other into the peach, play dough like substance, and scoop out a dime sized portion. I roll it in my hands, forming it into a Jupiter like sphere and carefully let it swallow the hook.

Plop. Plop. Plop. Natalee, Nicole and Derrick cast one after the other, each cast a little bit farther than the last, forming an incline of ripples.

“FISH ON!”

“FISH ON!!”

“FISH ON!!!”

Plop. I cast and set my pole in the pole holder and take a seat on my rock.

“Kim check out this one! I shall call her Luna.”

Nicole and Derrick wave fish at me as well, their smiles humbly inviting me to celebrate their success. I clap, sending an echo of excited skin to a man 2 miles down wind.

The light breeze has ceased, leaving an unmistakable bead of sweat on my lower back. I remove my sweatshirt and place it behind me as a cushion against the rock causing the drowsiness to return quickly.

“FISH ON!”

Buzz. Plop. Plop. Plop.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. Grunt.

“I shall call him Nico!”

I let my eyes close as my shoulders bounce in a chuckle.

Buzz.

I open one eye and see the tip of my pole pointing straight down at the water. My feet scramble in the sand, trying to bring my lethargic body upright. I grab the pole and start my own symphony of sounds.

Inhale. Buzz. Exhale. Buzz.

The fish pulls me left and right, leaving a zig zag of ripples in the water. I stop reeling for a moment, noticing the lack of all previous instrumentals. No plop. No buzz. No “FISH ON.” Everyone around me stands frozen, watching me. I continue making music, hoping the name forming on Natalee’s tongue will soon be given to the fish on my hook.

Inhale. Buzz. Exhale. Buzz.

Splash. The tail of the fish flashes above the water momentarily, giving a glimpse at the size of the victim of my Jupiter bait.

Sandy footsteps. I can feel their presence behind me and I reveal it in the sudden unsteadiness of my breath.

For four hours I had sat staring at my motionless pole, reeling in my naked hook, listening to the sound effects of their success, and now they stood in a wall of sandy shadows behind me, watching my every move.

“You’re due,” my dad had said earlier that morning. He told me he admired my patience—“failure,” I had corrected him—and encouraged me to keep it up, explaining that my perseverance was sure to win me the prize I deserved.

As the hours had passed, I had begun to enjoy the cries of victory around me. I felt myself feeding off the joy. When I recast, bewildered and slightly annoyed, I would let my eyes graze my surroundings. I saw Natalee and the Sandoval’s casting and retrieving, I saw my dad continue to edge further onto the rocks, I saw the reflection of the mountains in the glass face of the water, and I saw the hot yellow and fiery orange breath of autumn in the birch trees on the hill behind me. Beauty outshined failure, peace overshadowed frustration.

As the buzz of my drag kept screaming, the beat of my heart got louder. I was suddenly nervous to be faced with such success. The hours without it had made my competitive spirit weak and my doubts strong.

I start reeling with more determination, steadying my breathing and relaxing my muscles. I’ve been a fisherman my whole life, I thought, this fish is no different than any I’ve reeled in before.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

The buzz of the drag began fading into a light tap against plastic.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I felt my fingers against a keyboard.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I look at the water and watch it fade into the bright screen of my laptop, a Word document waits for my fingers to continue spilling out the right words.

“TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN,” the title line shouts.

My fingers tap loudly against the keys, forming line after line of a hopeful letter to a potential employer.

I click save on the document, watching it appear in a folder on my desktop alongside 28 others just like it. A sad sigh escapes my lips.

“You’re due,” he had said.

Splash.

The fish emerges from the water a few feet from the shore. I reach for our green net and empty it of the water bottles and energy drinks my sister had carried in with it over her shoulder like a knapsack.

Buzz.

The fish pulls and I retaliate with 5 quick clockwise reels.

Splash.

I stab the water with the head of the net, reaping that which was sown with perseverance out of the water.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

The fish wriggles in the net, sending droplets of water back into the lake.

I sit down, returning color to my knuckles as I loosen my grip on the net. The sun catches the body of the fish, setting fire to its turquoise spine and spotted sides. I take hold of its slimy body with both hands, feeling it breathe beneath my fingers, feeling my own heart beat through my fingertips into its skin.

“You’re due,” he had said.

I look into the glassy eyes of success and feel my doubts drip into the lake like tears, with tears.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

I let my fingers spit out my 30th cover letter, readying my net for the fish beneath the water.

 

 

8 comments

  1. Hurray!!!!! This is pretty cool 🙂 Congratulations girl!! Definitely the first of many, many more!! Love youuuuuuu xoxo

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