Editor’s Note: Patricia Marie Bongiovi, the author of the following story, started coming to LBI over 40 years ago. Her in-laws had a house in Spray Beach that she and her husband inherited. They still feel the “aha moment every time we cross the bridge … heading east, of course!” The South River couple enjoys spending time in Spray Beach year ’round, especially New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
In 2020, after retirement as a school secretary, Bongiovi self-published her first children’s book – No. 1 on her bucket list. A series of My Dog books written and illustrated by Bongiovi followed and are available on Amazon. The following story came together after she saw a pink fishing pole on the LBI beach – the product of her observation and imagination.
All I wanted to do was fish. Today was going to be my day. I could feel it. The weather at 9 am was perfect: 80 degrees with a gentle breeze coming from the east. No flies! Birds were on the water. One hour till high tide. I had just finished setting up two fishing rods, placing them in sand spikes when I looked at my left. There it was. A pink fishing pole.
I heard a giggle and turned toward the sound. She was holding her parents’ hands, skipping over the dunes, laughing as she headed toward the pink fishing pole.
Judging from her petite size, I guessed she was around 4 or 5 years old. Her eyes were hidden behind oversized pink sunglasses.
I exchanged waves with her parents. I wanted to fish but couldn’t look away. The number of toys for one little girl was unbelievable.
Her father set up her pink beach chair and white umbrella. Out of his wagon came a matching pink bucket and shovel, a flying disc, a beach ball, a pink rake, pink binoculars, a butterfly net and the biggest pink bobber I had ever seen.
I wanted to fish. I stopped my cast so she could pick up shells and gently place them in her bucket. She wanted only white ones. For the next half hour I helped her find the prettiest unbroken shells around. Her mother smiled and thanked me.
I went back to my fishing poles but never touched them. Her father overthrew the pink flying disc. I caught it before it floated away. The next half hour was spent playing catch with her, her father and the waves.
I looked at my fishing poles. The bait was dry. The tide was now high and rough. The birds on the water had disappeared. The dolphins, however, were putting on quite a show. Today apparently was not going to be my day.
I watched the little girl’s father attempt to cast her pole. The line never made it to the water, which was a good thing. The father didn’t have bait on the hook. He attempted to cast again. This time the line was wrapped around the tip of the pink fishing pole. Still no bait. He finally asked if he could “borrow a piece of bait.” Then he asked if I had any bandages.
To spare him any more embarrassment, I took the pink fishing pole and baited it. I felt ridiculous casting a pink fishing pole with a giant pink bobber, but I did it for her. After watching me cast a few times, she got bored and went to dig for sand crabs with her pink rake and bucket. She did keep asking if she had caught any fish yet.
When it was time for her to go, her parents called her so she could pick up all of her toys. They smiled and watched as I quickly put a live mullet on her hook, added a little weight and tossed that pink bobber as far as I could.
My performance was award winning. While struggling with all my might, I called for the little girl to help me. With one hand on her pink fishing pole and the other on my hand, we reeled in her fish. She squealed with excitement. The photo shoot that followed was monumental. After goodbyes and thank-you’s were said, the little girl gave a me a hug and they left.
As I packed up my dry fishing rods and untouched bait, I shook my head and smiled. All I had wanted to do was fish.