2:50 p.m. The bell rings as Jeremy and the rest of his classmates rush out the door as their teacher makes one final homework assignment reminder, which no one notices. After all, it’s Friday.
Jeremy opens his locker for the last time of the week and immediately sees his reflection in the mirror in his locker. His eyes catch the sparkle of the silver cross around his neck, as well as the smile that adorns his face.
“Hey babe!” a brunette teenage girl says as she plants a kiss on Jeremy’s cheek. “Ready for the big fishing trip with your dad?”
“Sure am. If I only catch one fish, it will be more than I caught last time!”
“Well, you two have fun. I know how much he means to you, and you to him.”
“Thanks, Jenny. I’ll call you tomorrow night when I get home.”
Jeremy hugs Jenny and then begins to walk alongside his fellow students, many of whom notice him and give him a nod, handshake or smile. As he does every day after school, he walks past the high school’s trophy case and sees the picture of the state champion basketball team, with himself right in the middle of the celebration and the trophy high held above his head. These few seconds of his day are always some of his proudest.
Jeremy heads into the school parking lot and opens the door of his car, which was given to him by his father, Robert. The engine starts, the windows roll down and Jeremy blasts the song he listens to everyday as he leaves the parking lot: “Tom Sawyer,” by Rush.
He makes a lap around the parking lot, waving to a few of his remaining acquaintances, and grins as the warm spring air flows through his hair.
Today, Jeremy pays extra attention to the landmarks of his town. He passes the water tower, which proudly displays his town’s name; he drives over the town’s only bridge, which he and his friends as kids always swore a troll lived under; and finally he is drawn to the sun’s dazzling reflection in the lake, a sight that always reminds him of what it means to be alive. The sun’s sharp glare reignites its brilliant colors off of the silver cross around Jeremy’s neck.
His car turns into a well-kept neighborhood. The smell of fresh-cut grass is inescapable along with the distant groan of mowers. He notices the beginning of a baseball game in his neighbor’s backyard, with the father of the household pitching to a kid no older than 10 years old. The mother hands a child in the makeshift on-deck circle a glass of lemonade. Jeremy remembers the same scene in his own backyard, only with his dad as the pitcher and his mother serving drinks to him and his friends.
Jeremy reaches his driveway and quickly hops out of his car. He enters the front door, where his mother Cindy greets him.
“Hi Sugar, how was your day?” she says.
“It was good, can’t complain. Did a certain piece of mail come today?
“…Sorry, not today, I’m afraid. Don’t worry though. It will come soon, I promise.”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks, Mom.”
“Well, your dad will be home soon and he wants you two to leave for the lake ASAP, so make sure all of your stuff is ready.”
“OK, love ya.”
“I love you too, Jeremy.”
Jeremy rushes up to his room. He sits down at his desk and picks up a framed picture of a woman and a baby. He smiles and places it back on the desk. After an hour of homework, his dad walks into his room.
“Yeah dad, let’s roll!”
“I bought some extra special lures today, so hopefully you can catch at least something tomorrow morning.”
“Ha, ha, very funny! I’ll probably have even less luck with those lures because you don’t know anything about fishing, although you like to think that you do!”
“Fine. I’ll use the lures, catch all the fish, and you are going to be one jealous teenage fisherman! Come on, let’s get going.”
Robert grabs his son’s bag and pats him on the back as the two walk out of his room and through the front door, after giving Cindy a hug goodbye.
The three-hour car ride to the lakeside cabin is a preview of the next day’s fishing trip: Father and son, talking about anything and everything. At the cabin, the two grill steaks and gather around the television to watch their favorite baseball team. They fall asleep early watching Seinfeld reruns.
The father and son duo wake up at 5 a.m. and are on the lake by 6. Their rods go into the water, and the fun begins. The sitting, waiting, snacking and talking is as uneventfully exciting as the two had hoped. They both wouldn’t want it any other way.
The morning comes and goes and the afternoon is upon them, yet Jeremy still hasn’t caught a fish, nor has Robert.
“No luck, huh…” Jeremy says. “Maybe the fish know how hard I’m trying.”
“Or maybe we just haven’t used the right bait,” Robert says.
“You know what old man? Give me one of your new ‘magic’ lures.”
“Alright son, here you go. Haven’t worked for me yet, but maybe you will have better luck.”
Jeremy fastens the lure to his rod and dips it into the water below.
“Jeremy, I have something else for you. It came yesterday, but I wanted to keep it until now. Go ahead and open it.”
Robert pulls an envelope out of his pocket and hands it to Jeremy.
“Stanford! Oh man…this is it, huh? Here goes…”
Jeremy dives into the envelope and pulls out the letter. He reads it and jumps to his feet, violently wobbling the boat.
“Dad! They accepted me!”
“Congrats, Son! I knew it all along!”
The father and son embrace as the bobber of the rod gets taken under. Jeremy quickly grasps the rod and tugs on it. He reels in the prize, a blue gill no bigger than his hand. It’s the most beautiful fish he has ever laid eyes on.
Jeremy surveys the scene: the flailing fish in his hand, the letter of acceptance in his pocket, and his father smiling back at him. The silver necklace and cross around his neck gains weight and becomes more apparent to him than ever before.
The father and son return home that night to Cindy’s open arms. She jumps excitedly when she hears the news of Jeremy’s acceptance into Stanford and then gives him an even bigger hug. He thanks his dad for a great day and returns to his bedroom.
Jeremy sits at his desk and rereads the acceptance letter. He sets it and a picture of himself, his dad and the diminutive fish onto the desk, and picks up the framed picture of the woman and baby. This time, Jeremy pays special attention to the silver necklace and cross the woman is placing around the baby’s neck in the picture.
“Mom, I can’t ever thank you enough for the wonderful life and opportunities you provided me through adoption. If it wasn’t for your sacrifice, there is no telling where I’d be. For that reason, even though I’ve never met you, I will always love you more than words can ever describe. Goodnight, Mom.”
With a tear in his eye, Jeremy kisses the picture and places the picture back down on his desk. He kisses the cross around his neck, and lays his head down on his pillow. He stares at the picture of his biological mother as he falls asleep, smiling.