On the first day of June, Kent Lavine was fishing on a dock on the east side of Lake Winnebago. The outdoor temperature was about seventy degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun shined without obstruction from clouds. The weather was great for an afternoon of fishing. While holding his Duck Commander Ultralight Combo rod, Kent leaned against a dock post, waiting for a fish to take the bait.
Within seconds he felt some tension on the line and reeled it in. He pulled a white bass out of the water. Kent had a wide grin on his face as he clasped his hands around the flopping fish.
I bet this one’s a three-pounder, he thought.
As Kent was freeing the fish from the hook, he heard someone behind him say, “Nice catch.” Kent turned and saw two young guys who were both holding fishing rods. The one on the left who complimented him then said, “It’s usually the bluegills that bite at this time of day. You must be pretty skilled since you caught a bass.”
“Not at all,” Kent said. “I’m still kinda new to fishing.” Kent looked at their shirts. The lean guy on the left had a gold shirt, and the chubby dude on the right wore a black one, but they both said UW Oshkosh Fishing Club on the front. “Based on your shirts, I take it you guys are the real pros,” Kent said as he tossed the bass back into the lake.
“Nah,” said the guy. “We just crack open some beers and mess around while we’re out here. Now the actual bass fish team . . . those guys go balls deep. They gotta secure those scholarships.”
“I see,” said Kent. With his foot, he flipped up the lid of his cooler and revealed cans of beer submerged in ice. “You guys over twenty-one? They nodded, but Kent could tell by looking at their faces that they were lying. He didn’t really care. “Alright. Get over here and let’s fish. I’m Kent by the way.”
The slimmer guy introduced himself as Dale, and the other guy was named Mac. For about an hour, they fished, they chatted, and they drank. Kent told the guys that he wasn’t from around the area and that he was traveling all over the country to fish for a while.
“How long do you plan on traveling?” Dale asked.
“Either until I get bored or I run out of money,” Kent replied.
Mac had an idea. “Since you’re here, you gotta experience the best that Oshkosh has to offer. The fishing house throws some of the craziest parties on campus. There’ll be one tonight if you’re interested.”
Kent looked out at the lake for a moment and then said, “It’s been a while since I’ve been to a college party. I’ll check it out.”
“Cool,” Mac said. He asked his buddy Dale if he had a pen, but Dale shook his head. Kent reached into one of the pockets of his cargo pants and pulled out a pen and small notepad. Mac jotted something on the notepad before handing it back to Kent. “Show up at this address sometime between ten and eleven.”
Kent nodded as he bumped fists with the two. They left soon after. The time was around five o’clock. Kent hopped in his black ’98 Dodge Stratus and drove to his motel room. He lied in bed and watched Cartoon Network until around 10:30. Once he searched the house address on Google Maps, he started walking.
It took about ten minutes to get near the campus. Kent saw houses all over with parties in full force. Music played at ground shaking volumes. Students stumbled from intoxication. Cops cruised along the street, waiting to bust somebody’s chops. All the signs were there for a wild Friday night on campus. After a few more minutes, Kent reached the fishing house.
He entered the realm of the young, dumb, and broke college kids. The house was crowded. The energies of youth, carelessness, and lust were almost as pungent as the weed smoke that filled the room. A Travis Scott song was blasting through the speakers. The room was lit with colorful flashing lights that were fixed to the walls.
“Yo, Kent!” yelled a familiar voice. Dale and Mac pushed their way through the crowd until they reached him. They both had a girl with them. “Why are you still in your fishing getup?” Dale asked.
Kent had to yell over the music. “I’m going fishing later.”
Dale and Mac looked at each other, confused. Mac turned to Kent. He was noticeably a little wasted. His speech was slurred and his focus seemed to waver a bit. He asked Kent a question.
“Which one of these bitches do you want, Kent? Just pick one and I’ll . . . and the Mac daddy will hook you up.”
Kent laughed and said, “I’m good Mac. Thanks though.”
“Come on, Kent,” said Dale. “Mac and I run the fishing club. We’re the big fish in the pond and all of these girls here are the guppies.”
Kent stared into Dale’s constricted pupils. “You guys ought to be more respectful towards the ladies.”
Mac and Dale looked at each other again. This time they smirked at one another.
“Respect?” said Mac. “We’re you looking for a party or for a church?”
“I’ll show you respect,” said Dale. He grabbed the girl next to him by the waist and kissed her hard and sloppy. It was filled with tongue and drool. When he was done he gave Kent a smug look.
“We’re fishermen,” said Mac. “Surely you understand. We always reel in the big catch.”
Kent looked around the room. There was plenty of kissing and grinding and fondling. He turned back to the big fish duo. “You know what guys. I think I’m fishing in the wrong pond. I’m gonna head out.”
Kent turned around and started walking to the door. On the way, he heard one of them yell, “You just got here. I thought you were cool!”
Kent made it outside to the fresh air. There were a few stragglers out there. Most of them were holding red cups. One guy was pissing on a tree. Kent was ready to leave the madness behind, but something caught his attention. There was a girl standing on the lawn with her face in her hands. He went to her.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
She looked up. Kent could see the sadness in her face. Tears filled her eyes and ran down her cheeks. She wiped her eyes with her shirt sleeve and shook her head.
“I saw my boyfriend in there . . . dancing and making out with another girl.” She looked away as if she was embarrassed to be telling the story. The tears kept coming.
“That really sucks. But standing here and crying isn’t gonna solve anything.”
“I know but . . .”
“Take it from a man who’s a few years removed from college. You don’t need that guy or anyone else in that house. This may seem like a slap to the face now, but later on, you might see it as a dodged bullet. Lift your head up and keep moving forward.”
The weeping girl looked into Kent’s eyes. She sniffled and said, “Your words were like a slap. I think you just slapped some sense into me.”
Kent reached into his pocket and pulled out a fishing lure. It looked almost exactly like a small blue fish. The hooks were removed. He pulled her hand out and placed the lure in her palm.
“Take this, so whenever you look at it in the future, you’ll remember that there’s plenty of fish in the sea.”
The girl smiled and gripped the lure tight. Then she threw her arms around Kent. “Thank you,” she said.
“Don’t mention it. Now go home and rest.”
The girl let go of Kent and nodded. Kent turned and walked away.
“Wait! What’s your name?” the girl asked.
“Hopefully I’ll see you around, Kent.”
“I doubt it. I do a lot of traveling.”