"Why do I bother wearing shoes and socks?" Jake inquired of the empty fishhook that was dangling inches in front of his face. "Silly things only stand between my toes and the water."

Seemingly unruffled by the fact that the fishhook would not reply, Jake cast it out into the open lake and watched the smooth, supple rippling of the water. It was clear and cold, but not too cold to go barefoot. It was never too cold for Jake to go barefoot.

He used no bait, and the hook was really only a matter of formality. He knew he was not fishing for fish. There were times when he fished with no bait, no hook, and sometimes, he fished without even the presence of water, or of fish. There were days when he fished in his mind for the right word, or through his backpack for a piece of gum, or through a book for a page that had previously caught his attention.

Then there were days when he knew not for what he was fishing, but welcomed catch of any kind, and went home with a vague sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. When he fished idly in the sky, imagining a great indentation in the clouds where his line was cast into puffy whiteness. When he fished in a library, running his finger down the spines of old books and inhaling the musty smell of pressed dust.

Thursday afternoon found Jake fishing out of a window. The second window from the back in Room 329, the location of Mr. Mender's mathematics lesson, overlooked a field of slightly too-tall grass that swayed slightly in the warm air. Propping his head up on his right arm, Jake raked his fingers through his hair, unconsciously mimicking the unkempt grass outside.

It was warm inside. The classroom felt stifling and Jake was drowsy. He cast his line of sight out the window, aimlessly fishing for inspiration or interest.

A ladybug landed on the outside sill. A distant rumble told Jake that someone had started up a lawnmower. The air was hazy with pollen.

A hand closed over the ladybug. Jake's eyes followed thin fingers up from chipped blue nail polish to a skinny wrist. His eyes reeled in the freckles which lead up the wrist to an arm, which was attached to an equally freckled and skinny girl.

Their school wasn't big. Jake wouldn't presume to know everybody there, but he recognized by sight most of the kids his age. He was almost positive he couldn't remember seeing the girl before. He figured that she didn't belong around those parts.

Strands of the girl's strawberry blond hair were picked up gently in the wind before it fell back down around her shoulders. She looked up from her prize, cupped in her hand, and her gaze fell momentarily on the boy on the other side of the screen.

For the briefest instant, she smiled.

Then she turned around and set the bug free. The girl, like the bug, flitted away. And for the first time in his life, Jake was the one who had been hooked.

In the following week, Jake had mostly forgotten about the girl, except for a couple brief incidents.

The first was in a dream, where he had been in the woods with his pole in hand, fishing for a flash of strawberry blond in the clear brook. The second was when he had seen a ladybug on the steps of his porch and got the inexplicable urge to cup it in his hands.

So when he burst in, late and out of breath, to his dentist's office, he was convinced that the girl sitting on the waiting room floor was a figment of his imagination.

i don't know where this is going yet but i promise to find out.

currently judging round 9 of SKOW; don't expect updates.

thank you for reading.