Zeda and the Jumping Fish


We sat on a flat rock overlooking the pond with the lines of our fishing poles dangling in the fresh water.  Actually, the poles we used were not real fishing poles.  They were made from tree branches strung with nylon lines and hooks my Zeda bought from a nearby bait and tackle shop.  My Zeda could not afford to buy real fishing poles, so he made them instead.  I didn’t mind.  He said they would work just fine.

The early morning sun glinted off the pond and the side view mirror of my grandfather’s 1953 Plymouth sedan.  The reflected light was so bright I had to squint to see.  My stomach rumbled.  I thought of the roll beef my mother had packed for lunch.  The roll beef and Kaiser roll sandwiches wrapped in wax paper sat in a brown paper bag next to my grandfather.  We had found one of the only shady places to sit in this tiny corner of the Essex County Reservation.  We had the pond all to ourselves.

“You said we would have a better chance of catching fish if we got here early.  I think you were right, Pop-Pop.”  I always called my grandfather Pop-Pop when I wasn’t calling him Zeda.

“The water is cool near the surface in the early morning,” Pop-Pop said.  “Fish like cool water.  They go deeper in the pond as the sun rises and the water near the surface gets warmer.”

“I hope we catch a lot of fish,” I said.

“A good fisherman is always patient, tateleh.  It is important to remain patient in any situation and twice as important when you are waiting for a fish to bite.”

I wasn’t used to sitting still for very long.  It was almost magical, however, how calm I could be when spending time with my Zeda.  I found everything that came out of his mouth interesting.  I loved the way he played the role of different characters in the stories he told.  He could do anything he put his mind to.  Right at the moment, he was fishing with one hand, reading from a small book in the other, and talking to me.

Something big crashed into the mirror of the pond’s surface.

“Pop-Pop.  I think a meteorite just fell.  We learned about them in school yesterday.  The big meteor comes into the atmosphere and breaks up.  Then smaller pieces fall out of the sky.”

“It’s not a meteorite, bubaleh.  The fish are happy.  They freulich in the water and jump out when the spirit moves them.”

“Wow,” I said.

There was a second splash about a hundred yards away.  “There goes another one.  I’ll bet they all start jumping now.”

“They aren’t going to make it that easy for us to catch them,” Pop-Pop said.  “Fish have more brains in their Kuphs than the average person gives them credit for.”

“If fish were stupid, it wouldn’t be fun to try and catch them, right Zeda?”

“Correct,” my boy.

“Could we go fishing every day before school and on the weekends too?”

“Well, we could go on any day during the week, but not on Saturday.  Saturday is for the mitzvah of observing Shabbas—something your parents seem to have forgotten, ankeleh.”

And so it went, back and forth between us the rest of the morning, until it was time to eat our delicious roll beef sandwiches.  We didn’t catch any fish that day.   I can’t say I was disappointed.

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