“Nnh, nnh. No way. You wanted to come here.”
“Yeah, but you’re older than me.”
“Two months. Big deal.”
The boys stared across the lake. It shone black in the high summer sun. Black and deep. Overhanging trees edged the lake and reflected in the shallows. Further out a fish jumped, its body smacked the water, creating a noticeable ripple.
“Pike,” said one of the boys.
“Tench,” came the reply.
“Tench don’t jump. It was a pike hunting something on the surface.”
A pike hunting on the surface. This possibility changed the game although neither admitted it. There were some big fish in the lake. How big? And pike could be nasty. Rows of backward-facing teeth. They’d heard stories from the fishermen who sat on the banks, passing away their time away from wives and children.
As they stood, their feet growing colder and whiter in the pebbly shallows as their indecision increased, the distant surface of the lake rippled and wavelets raced towards them as a fresh wind blew across the lake. One of the boys crossed his arms and rubbed them.
“You’ve got goosebumps,” said the other, “you’re scared.”
“I’m not, I’m cold. We could’ve been halfway across the lake by now if you hadn’t have been so scared of a few fish.”
“You mentioned the pike.”
“It was a pike, tench don’t jump.”
“My uncle. He’s a fisherman, he told me.”
“Go on then, you first.”
“No, you go. You’re the one that was scared. I dare you.”
“Let’s go together.”
They placed a hand on each other’s arm and shuffled over the hard slippery pebbles. Clear water rose up their legs. When it got to their knees they both stopped.
A passing cloud blotted out the sun and the air grew chill. The surface became leaden. Another gust of wind tore across the lake. A few yards ahead of them the water erupted as a huge fish leapt. Its splash seemed to echo as its body smacked down on the still-boiling water.
“Did you see the size of it?”
“Fancy climbing some trees?”