Benjamin's Lure, a short story by James Nelli at
Emma Harper

Benjamin’s Lure

Benjamin’s Lure

written by: James Nelli


The only thing breaking the mirrored surface of the water in Teller’s Cove on Lake Moultrie in South Carolina was the V-shaped wake of Benjamin Adler’s slow-moving bass boat. The cool onshore breeze, bald cypress trees, and low-lying clouds illuminated by a fiery orange setting sun created another perfect late afternoon fishing adventure for Benjamin. After 47 years working on Wall Street as a successful executive at a venture capital company, Benjamin was happily retired. All he needed now to fill his days trolling the coves of Lake Moultrie in his bass boat were two cheese sandwiches, a bag of turkey jerky, a few cold bottles of Heineken, an ice-filled cooler, and an ever-expanding variety of fishing lures and lines designed to help him catch fish. But not just any fish. He was searching for the king of freshwater fish, the largemouth bass. These bass are not big, maybe 12 pounds, but they are intelligent, strike a lure with explosive force, and they would fight and fight and fight. These were all the characteristics Benjamin wanted in a fishing adventure on Lake Moultrie.

Benjamin’s late afternoon fishing adventure had yielded very little tangible results. Other than a couple of weak nibbles and having a leader line break after getting snagged on a stump that sent his favorite blue and gray spinnerbait lure to the bottom of Lake Moultrie, the afternoon had been uneventful. That must be why people say it’s called fishing, not catching. Sometimes despite all your preparation, all your knowledge, you still don’t catch anything. It happens. As Benjamin was getting packed up to head back home, he noticed a young boy watching him from the other side of the cove. Benjamin started to raise his hand to wave at the boy, but the boy had already disappeared back into the woods beyond the cove. He thought it was odd that anyone was out this far near the lake without a boat, because there weren’t any homes in that part of the cove. But that thought passed quickly. Time to get back to his wife, Beth, at their lakeside home for dinner.

Benjamin moored the bass boat to the dock and walked toward the house with the empty ice chest. Beth saw him coming and could tell by the expression on his face that they were having frozen fish for dinner tonight. It wasn’t a new experience, but she was hoping for a better outcome.

“No problem, we’ve still got a few bass filets from your catch of last week,” Beth said before Benjamin even made it to the front door.

“I thought I had it figured out Beth,” replied Benjamin as he sat down on the couch opposite an already robust fire in the fireplace.

Beth brought two generously filled wine glasses to the couch, handed one to Benjamin, and kept one for herself. “Did you enjoy your time on the lake?”

“Other than coming home empty-handed, the lake and the evening sky were especially beautiful today. I think I’m getting used to this retirement thing. You should come out on the boat with me.”

“I might Ben, but that’s your thing. You know I like driving into town and volunteering at the clinic. There are a lot of people in this area that need help. It’s my way of giving back.”

Before she and Benjamin retired and moved to South Carolina, Beth had been a maternity nurse at Bethany General Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut. For a variety of medical reasons, Benjamin and Beth could not have children. Working at the hospital helping new mothers had filled a need for Beth that only she could describe.

“I did have something interesting happen just before I headed back home today,” said Ben.

“What was that?”

“As I was packing up, I saw a young boy maybe fourteen or fifteen years old watching me from the bank of the lake.”

“What’s so strange about that?”

“Well, I don’t know of any homes in that area. I’m not sure where he came from. When I tried to get his attention, he disappeared into the woods.”

“That is strange. Maybe you’ll see him tomorrow?”


The timer on the oven signaled dinner was ready. Benjamin picked up the two wine glasses and brought them to the dining room table along with the half-full bottle of wine. He was already thinking about tomorrow’s adventure.

The next afternoon, Benjamin boarded his bass boat and headed out an hour earlier than normal. He was anxious to try out another line and lure combination, and possibly see the mysterious young boy again. The low hum of his trolling motor was the only sound that accompanied Benjamin to his favorite Teller’s Cove fishing site. He dropped his fluke anchor offshore and settled in for what he hoped would be a successful fishing adventure. After an hour of fishing, Benjamin hadn’t seen a substantial change from the results of the day before. He was getting frustrated, but he still couldn’t imagine anywhere else he’d rather be. As he pulled his line in and prepared for another cast, he saw the young boy appear on the shore. Benjamin waved, and the boy smiled and waved Benjamin toward the shore. Benjamin raised his anchor and trolled to the boy onshore. The boy was slender and looked about 15 years old. He was barefoot, had shaggy black hair, and was wearing brown shorts and a plain tan tee shirt. Benjamin also noticed a large light skin patch on the boy’s otherwise tan face. It was some sort of skin discoloration, possibly a birthmark. The irregularly shaped patch ran from the boy’s left ear down his left cheek to the base of his jaw.

“How are you young man,” asked Benjamin.

“I’m fine sir.”

“My name is Mr. Adler. What’s your name?”

“Good to meet you, sir. My name is Noah. Any luck fishing today?”

“I’ve had better days, but I keep trying. I saw you here yesterday. Are you from around here?”

“Oh yes. I’m from over there,” said the boy pointing back into the wooded area behind him.

“Do you fish out here?” asked Benjamin.

“Sometimes I do. Do you want to see what lure I use?”

“Of course. As you can see, I can use all the help I can get. I lost my favorite blue and gray spinnerbait lure here at the lake yesterday. I got it caught in the weeds and broke the leader line trying to pull it loose. It’s now at the bottom of the lake.”

“Sorry to hear that sir.”

The young boy reached into a zippered pouch he had on his waistband and pulled out a raggedy-looking fuzzy jig lure, walked into the water toward the boat, and handed it to Benjamin.

“You catch fish with this lure?” asked a smiling but skeptical Benjamin as he examined the tattered lure in his hand.

“I do, and it’s great for the big fish like the largemouth bass,” Noah proudly proclaimed.

That comment got the attention of Benjamin.

“Why don’t you try it, sir? See for yourself.”

Benjamin smiled, leaned forward, and began to pass the tattered jig lure back to the young boy, but quickly pulled his hand back. “Thanks, I think I will try it.”

With the help of the young boy, Benjamin pushed the small boat away from the shore and trolled back out to the center of Teller’s Cove. He dropped anchor and then attached the tattered lure to his leader line. As he examined his new setup, he could see that this was a main line/leader line and lure combination he would never put together himself. It seemed all wrong, but he was determined to try anything at this time.

Benjamin’s first cast went only a few yards into the center of the cove. He slowly reeled it in but got no bites. When he got the lure back to the boat, he looked over at the young boy. The boy smiled back and signaled to Benjamin to try it again. This time Benjamin’s cast went further into the cove, broke the surface of the water, and was immediately struck by a big fish. Benjamin reeled down his pole to get the slack out of the line, aggressively set the hook, and began reeling in what Benjamin could see was a largemouth bass. This was all being done under the watchful eye and cheers of the young boy. As soon as the bass was near enough to the boat, Benjamin used a landing net to get the large fish into the boat and secured it in the ice-filled cooler. Working quickly, he again cast his line into the lake. Bam! Another powerful strike and more cheers from the young boy on the shore. This happened six times in a row, and the only reason Benjamin stopped fishing was that he ran out of room for any more fish in his cooler. He had never done that before. Benjamin secured his equipment in the boat and looked back toward shore to return the lure to his young friend; however, the young boy had surprisingly already left the cove.

Benjamin returned home to Beth with an ice chest full of largemouth bass and told her the story of Noah and the lure. They talked all through dinner. Sometimes shaking their heads at how unbelievable the entire day was.

“You know Beth, we will never be able to eat all these fish ourselves. Why don’t we try to find the boy and his family and bring some of the fish to them? Without his lure, none of this would have happened.”

“I like that idea, Ben. Why don’t you come with me to the clinic tomorrow morning, and we’ll talk to Dr. Cunningham. He’s been in this area for over 20 years, and he knows everybody. I’m sure he’ll be able to help us.”

“That’s a great idea. Let’s take some time tonight to clean, filet, and freeze a few of the fish so we can give them to Noah’s family tomorrow. Let’s get started.”

Early the next morning, Beth and Benjamin drove to the clinic with an ice chest full of bass filets for Noah and his family. Dr. Cunningham was just beginning his shift and greeted Beth and Benjamin at the clinic entrance.

“Good morning, Beth. What’s got you here so early?”

“Dr. Cunningham, this is my husband Benjamin, and we have a favor to ask.”

Benjamin spoke first. “Yesterday, I was out on Lake Moultrie in Teller’s Cove fishing for largemouth bass.”

“Great spot. I’ve fished there a few times myself,” said a smiling Dr. Cunningham.

“Good, so you’re familiar with the spot. Anyway, I came across a young boy in the cove who loaned me a lure that helped me catch more bass than I had ever caught before. Well, now we’ve got more fish than we could ever eat ourselves, and I’d like to share the catch with the boy and his family and return the lure. Think you can help?”

“I’ll try. Did you get the boy’s name?”

“He said his name was Noah.”

“That’s a very common name in this area. Did he tell you his last name?” said a still-smiling Dr. Cunningham.

“No, but he did have a distinguishing discoloration on his face. It was a light irregular skin patch that ran from below his left ear to the base of his jaw.”

Dr. Cunningham’s smile disappeared, and his face turned serious. “How old do you think this boy was?”

“I’d say he was about 14 or 15 years old. No older than that. Can you help us find him?”

“I can. Let me drive you there but leave the frozen fish here. We’ll pick it up later.”

Benjamin and Beth rode in Dr. Cunningham’s car to a spot about ten minutes outside of town. There was no conversation during the ride, and the atmosphere within the car could only be described as tense. Except for a few glances between Benjamin and Beth, there was no eye contact with Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham pulled the car up to a low wrought iron fence with no houses anywhere in the area and shut off the engine.

“We’re here,” proclaimed Dr. Cunningham as he exited the car and walked toward an opening in the wrought iron fence. Benjamin and Beth followed him through a small gate in the fence into what first appeared to be a playground. However, as Benjamin and Beth continued walking behind Dr. Cunningham, they noticed a series of grave markers set flush to the ground. They weren’t in a playground. They were in a cemetery. Dr. Cunningham stopped walking.

“There’s Noah Ellis,” as Dr. Cunningham pointed to a grave marker just off the main path.

“What do you mean, there’s Noah?” asked Benjamin in a confused voice.

“The young boy that you described you saw on the lake is buried in that grave. He drowned in Teller’s Cove three years ago trying to save his younger sister. I know because I was there to help pull his body out of the water. He saved his sister, but we couldn’t save him.”

“How can that be? It’s impossible. Benjamin talked to Noah and Noah gave him a fishing lure,” said Beth.

“I don’t know Beth. I don’t have an answer for you. Maybe it was just a boy that looked like Noah. I just don’t have an answer for you,” said Dr. Cunningham.

“Where is Noah’s family?” asked Beth.

“The family moved out of the area about two years ago. Too many bad memories. I don’t know where they moved to.”

As Benjamin listened to their conversation, he walked closer to the grave site and noticed there was a porcelain picture embedded in the gravestone. He bent down on one knee to see the picture in detail. The picture was of a smiling young boy with shaggy black hair and a facial discoloration from his left ear to the bottom of his jaw. It was definitely the young boy Benjamin saw at the lake. It was Noah. Something had happened that no one could explain.

“Can we go now, Dr. Cunningham? I need to go home and try to figure out how to pull all of this together,” asked Benjamin.

“Of course. I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation for all of this.”

They rode the ten minutes back to town talking back and forth and offering ideas on how all of this could have happened. Nothing sounded possible or plausible, but it was good to at least talk it out. Once back at the clinic, Benjamin and Beth thanked Dr. Cunningham for his help and took their car and the frozen fish back home.

“I’m going to unpack the boat and put all the fishing gear into the boathouse. I won’t be needing it for a while. I’m going to take a fishing break. I’ll only be a few minutes,” said Benjamin.

“That’s fine. I’ll get lunch going and by the time you get done we’ll be able to relax and try to solve our mystery.”

As a warm breeze brushed across his back, Benjamin unloaded the boat and brought everything into the boathouse including the tacklebox where he stored all his lures. Benjamin put the tacklebox on the workbench just below the window in the boathouse. He lifted his head and looked through the window where he could see Lake Moultrie glistening under a rising mid-morning sun showing off its beauty and reminding Benjamin of all the good times he had had on Lake Moultrie fishing. It also reminded him of the happy young boy on the lake that no one could explain. Benjamin knew the memory of Noah would stay with him forever. As he turned and began to walk back to the house, he remembered he still had the tattered jig lure Noah had given him. It belonged in his tacklebox. He pulled the lure from his pocket, walked back to the tacklebox, and opened the lid. It was there in the tacklebox that he saw something else he could not explain. Lying on top and in the middle of his other lures was his favorite blue and gray spinnerbait lure with the broken leader line still attached. This was the same lure he thought he had lost forever at the bottom of Lake Moultrie on the first day he saw Noah in Teller’s Cove. How did the lost lure get back into his tacklebox? Benjamin picked up the still-damp lure. Under it was a small piece of paper. Only one letter was written on the paper. It was a capital “N.” It was from Noah. Benjamin could feel him nearby. He could only smile and stare at the blue and gray lure in disbelief, as tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his cheeks.


The End

Latest posts by James Nelli (see all)