I guess I was about 12; it was during the summer and I was on vacation with my family. My uncle owns a cottage on a small lake in northern Vermont. It was really the only spot my family ever vacationed to. The place had a real homey feeling. It sat on an old stone foundation with a large deck extending off the front, giving a view of the entire lake. I remember the air always seemed to be cleaner than anywhere else. The cottage was surrounded by these hundred-foot tall hemlock trees that added a fresh piney scent to the air. The shoreline of the lake receded inward in a way creating a little cove, where we had a small beach and waterfront area.
During the day, that is where we all spent most of our time. The adults would lounge around in the sun reading books and magazines while my brothers and I would be out fishing, or swimming or occasionally — fighting.
On this particular vacation, I brought my friend Pat along with us. We had spent a week or so up at the lake and our time there was winding down. I always hated leaving there. It gave me a weird almost sad feeling as we would round the bend and lose sight of the cottage. The last day of our vacation consisted of cleaning, getting our things together, and intricately packing them into the trunk of the car almost like a jigsaw puzzle — to make room for the dog.
In the final hour of our stay, we were pretty much set to hit the road. My mother was milling around making sure that everything was clean and set. Meanwhile Pat and I had decided to do a little last minute fishing. The wind had picked up some that day and the choppy waters had washed up a big line of foam and seaweed along the shore. As we walked down the dock the wooden planks clanked beneath our bare, sand-covered feet.
The wind was blowing right in our faces as we stood side-by-side casting out in hopes of the last-minute catch. As I reeled my line in, I was fooled by the all too frequent snagging of seaweed on my lure. Pat gave a little laugh as I sighed and reeled in the rest of my line. I stepped back and knelt down on the dock to begin the tedious task of cleaning the slimy green vines which had entwined the hooks of my lure while Pat continued fishing.
Just as I was about to stand back up it happened. On his backswing, Pat’s lure swung back, and all I can remember feeling was the lure slapping me in my right eye, with one of the hooks burying its barb securely into the flesh of my eyelid.
“Pat!” I yelled.
He froze and glanced back just enough to see what he had done. Both of us just kind of sat there for a moment, shocked as we made our way back down the dock, Pat walked alongside me carrying his snoopy fishing pole making sure there was enough slack in the line so it didn’t rip or tear at my skin.
My mother was less than impressed with us. I think she was actually just as shocked as the two of us. My uncle had spent the week with us and lucky for me had been and EMT on a local ambulance for many years. He sat me down in a lawn chair and went in to call the hospital. He came back out of the house and having the sense of humor he does, he grabbed a shovel that was leaning up against a nearby tree, and said “well, they said there’s nothing we can do for him” and pretended like he were going to bash me over the head, as if to put me out of my misery.
He cut the fishing line at the lure and wrapped my head with a large role of gauze on an angle to keep the lure from being disturbed, but also allowing vision out of my one still good eye. Then my mother and I got into the packed car and were hospital bound.
On the ride there, I remember feeling a little nervous about my near future, wondering if my eye was going to be okay and if I’d ever see out of it again. We arrived at the hospital and my mother got me all checked in. The place was busy with doctors and nurses running around every which way. Finally after sitting in the waiting room for what seemed like forever, a nurse came out and got me. I was taken into a little white room where the nurse and doctor examined my situation. They came to the conclusion that it hadn’t gone deep enough to hit my eye which was a good thing. However, they said since it was lodged in my eyelid they couldn’t give me anything to numb the pain. So they just went for it. The doctor grabbed some tweezers and a scalpel while the nurse positioned herself behind me and held my head so I couldn’t jerk away. The doctor stretched my eyelid out to put tension on the skin while he gingerly snipped away at my eyelid to extricate the barb. It stung like hell, but before I knew it, they had it out and I was in tip top shape again.
They brought me back out to my mother and we made our way out to the car. The whole ride home my mother, being a mother, kept telling me how brave I was and how proud of me she was. When we got back to the cottage everyone was relieved to see that I was okay, especially Pat. Since then Pat and I haven’t fished of the end of the dock together and have tried to pay a little more attention to our surroundings when throwing out a cast.