The Greatest Fisherman

The fishing tournament at Daytona Beach was down to the final countdown. Whoever caught one more fish would be the winner. The Middle-Aged Fishing tournaments were held at different locations throughout the United States, on the east and west coasts. 

They were directed at Middle-Aged men, the people who love to go fishing the most. There was a timer counting down and whoever caught the most fish before the timer ran out was the winner. Middle Aged men came from all over the country to participate in these tournaments. 

There were certain people who were really good at winning these tournaments and committed full-time as their career, such as Michael The Middle Aged Man. Originally from St Louis, he spoke in a southern accent with a little bit of midwest. Michael had been doing the fishing tournaments for a long time now and as a middle-aged man, it was his favorite thing to do. 

One thing that made Michael different from the other serious competitors was that he became paralyzed in his legs due to an accident. Nowadays, he rides around on a scooter for old people instead of walking. But that doesn’t stop him from fishing. All the competitors sit down to fish anyway, and the scooter made him faster moving. 

Michael was up against his rival today, Fred Fishinson. Fred loved to taunt Michael and annoy him with fishing jokes and making fun of Michael’s disability. He taunted Michael today. Michael whipped his special fishing rod out to sea, and so did Fred. Both their lines caught two different fish at the same time. 

“Looks like we have a tie folks,” said the announcer, and the crowd roared. “The two fishermen will have to settle it at Los Angeles Beach in one week!” Michael had never tied up with anyone before. Mostly he won. 

Fred was packing his pickup truck for the drive after the tournament ended. 

“Hey champ,” he called to Michael, “how does it feel to be beaten?” 

“You didn’t actually beat me, kiddo. We both won,” Michael replied. 

“But we also both lost,” Fred said. 

“Why do you waste your time on tomfoolery like this?” Michael asked, feeling annoyed. But when Fred didn’t respond, Michael knew he had used his Middle-Aged Common Sense™. It was time for Michael to meet his driver. He had to leave Daytona Beach tonight. 

Fred called after Michael, “I can sabotage you if you don’t get there first! Not that you have a chance.” And that got Michael ready to hit the road. 

Michael’s driver was a man named Harvey, standing in front of a transport van holding a sign with Michael’s name. He lowered the ramp in the back of the van for Michael’s scooter to drive up. There was a wall that separated the driver’s cab and the place where Michael parked his scooter. He placed his prized fishing rod carefully in front of him. Michael told Harvey he wanted to go straight through, to get there before Fred. 

Michael’s fans would also be looking for him pretty soon, and he didn’t have the time to get swarmed. As night fell and Harvey pulled out of the parking lot, there were a ton of people taking pictures of the famous Michael The Middle Aged Man’s ride. 

Michael and Harvey had walkie-talkies to speak to each other since Harvey was in the front of the cab. 

“California, here we come,” said Harvey. 

“Victory, here we come,” Michael replied. 

Harvey drove all night heading west on Interstate 10. Michael was able to get some sleep in the back of the van, and it was still driving when he woke up the next morning. They drove for a full day. Harvey was getting tired, but he kept going into the evening. 

In the evening, Michael’s agent, Stanley, called him from the phone in the van. 

“Is this Michael The Middle Aged Fishing Machine?” asked Stanley over the phone. 

“Is this Stanley, the world’s greatest agent?” Michael replied. 

“And it is such an honor to be your agent,” said Stanley, “it almost hurts me to take 10% of your winnings and merchandise. Anyway, what a tournament! I didn’t see it but I heard you were great.” 

“Thanks, Stanley,” Michael said, rolling his eyes. 

“Listen,” Stanley continued, “as much as it pains me to talk about this, I think it’s time we discuss a retirement plan for you.” 

“Oh great not this conversation again,” Michael groaned. 

Stanley said, “I would hate for you to overdo it on your body because you are the oldest fisherman. Maybe you could find a friend or friends to help you out. Or even just being your entourage. It’s good for someone your age to have company just in case something happens.” 

“Right…friends. Yes, there’s um…” Michael stopped when he couldn’t think of a person he was close to. 

He felt bad that he hadn’t made many friends when Stanley said, “Okay, I get it, Mr. Popular with so many friends you can’t even narrow it down. Hey, let’s make a deal. If you lose the tournament in Cali, you retire from fishing. If you win, you can decide when you’re done.” 

“Yeah, that sounds great. But you realize I’m only–” Michael started, but Stanley interrupted. 

“I gotta jump. Let me know how it goes. I’m out!” And he hung up. 

Then Michael looked out the window and saw a mini cooper car passing them. 

“Oh come on, Harvey. You’re in the slow lane and this is Michael The-Middle-Aged-Man you’re hauling here.” 

“Just stopping for a quick breather, Mike, I need a rest,” Harvey said as he aimed to pull into a truck stop. 

“Absolutely not,” Michael replied, “we’re driving straight through to California all night, we agreed to it!” 

“All night?” Harvey groaned. 

“Come on, man. I need to get there before Fred and hang with the fans.” 

“I don’t know if I can make it,” Harvey told him. 

“Sure you can, it’ll be easy. I’ll stay up with you,” Michael said. 

“All night?” Harvey asked. 

“All night long,” Michael replied. 

30 minutes later, Michael had fallen asleep in the van. Harvey was having trouble staying awake at the wheel. He kept drifting from his lane, and whenever he hit the rumble strip on the highway it would wake him back up again. 

But on the third time of hitting the rumble strip, it made Michael’s fishing pole fall onto the button that opens the back door of the van and the ramp went down. Michael remained asleep as the scooter rolled forward down the ramp onto the highway with him on it. 

Harvey did not notice this happening in his drowsy state and continued to drive along the interstate. Michael stayed asleep as cars honked and swerved around him. But he woke up as a big truck approached him and honked its horn. 

Michael screamed and swerved his scooter out of its way. Then he started to ride the wrong way down the highway but turned off to the side when three semi trucks approached him, one in each lane. 

He looked down the road and saw cars and trucks disappearing into the distance. He called out to Harvey, realizing he’d lost him, and rode onto the highway to try and catch up. 

There were a bunch of semi trucks that hid Harvey’s van from view, and Michael rode dangerously around each one, calling Harvey’s name. Then he saw a van getting off the interstate on an exit ramp. It looked like Harvey’s van, and Michael shouted, “Harvey, wait for me!” and followed it along the exit ramp. He skidded onto the desert road and sped after the van. 

Michael was still far behind, and could barely make out the tail lights ahead of him. The van drove over a railroad crossing, and right after it did so, the signal lights started dinging and flashing. Michael could make out the single headlight of the fast train approaching from his left. 

But Michael was not about to put a 60-mile-long freight train between him and his only ride to California. He sped his scooter up to maximum speed, and the train blasted its horn through the otherwise quiet night as it saw him. Michael did not stop. Neither did the train. At the very last second, Michael’s scooter zipped in front of the train as it crossed the road. 

Michael kept speeding along and called out to Harvey again. The van stopped at a three-way intersection as Michael approached. 

“Wait up!” he called to Harvey. But when he approached the driver’s window, he could see it wasn’t Harvey. It was a different van with a different person driving it. 

“I ain’t no Harvey,” the driver said rudely, “I’m Danny for dang’s sake! Turn on your headlights you moron.” And with that, he turned right and drove away into the darkness. Michael just sat there in the middle of the intersection for a moment. He couldn’t believe he’d followed the wrong van! 

Then he thought of the interstate. Harvey must still be on the interstate. And Michael could still get to California if he didn’t find Harvey. But as Michael turned to go back to the interstate, he accidentally took the wrong road because it was dark. It went in the opposite direction of Danny’s van and he didn’t see the sign which read: “Dead End.” Michael rode his scooter along the pavement, which soon became dirt just like the rest of the desert around him. He became really confused as he rode over it because it hadn’t been there before, but it made him start to lose control of the scooter, and he couldn’t slow it down. 

The village was quiet at this time of night. It was still too early for bed, but everyone had eaten dinner and was enjoying some serene activities. Steve and Alex sat in chairs at a table beside her house, and behind them sat a grill that Steve had used to cook them dinner. It was now closed up and turned off. 

Dan was on the roof of his trailer playing solitaire. He was also raging at the game because he was losing and he banged on the roof, which made his satellite dish fall off the house.

Ben was working on a new structure at the far end of the village away from where the road comes in. He had spent months working on this tower of his. It was a life-sized model of the ‘three levels of Earth’ as he called it. The bottom was a replica of an underground cave, and on top of that was a model of a grassy field, and there was a staircase leading up a stone mountain which was the third and highest level. He was proud of his easily breakable work.

Suddenly, Steve jumped out of his chair. 

“I feel a disturbance,” he exclaimed. 

Alex facepalmed. “Can we not do this right now?” 

“Seriously,” said Steve, “something is coming.” 

“No, it’s not,” Alex replied, “the only thing ruining the peace is you!” 

“It’s gonna wreck our village,” Steve cried. 

Speeding along the dirt road, Michael came over a hill and saw the lights of the village. 

“What?” he exclaimed, “that’s not the interstate…” 

“Hey what is that?” Alex said as Michael screamed, “I can’t stop this thing!” 

He rode straight toward Alex’s house. She and Steve jumped out of the way as he crashed through the table and chairs. The scooter quickly circled around and went across the street toward Dan’s house. Michael screamed and swerved around it, which sent him next door to Steve’s house where he went through a window and rode through Steve’s living room and out the door. Rufus the dog woke up on the couch and made a confused sound. 

Ben stood in the way of Michael’s scooter so he wouldn’t hit the Biome Tower. Michael turned away from him and went toward George’s house. But George came out to see what the commotion was, and Michael swerved to avoid him too, and that caused him to go into the cave part of the Biome Tower. There was a large door that led into the cave part, and Michael’s scooter burst out that door. It kept going and Ben was relieved to see it hadn’t done anything. But he spoke too soon because the entire door frame came crashing down. 

Finally, Michael then went up a rock like a jump which sent him flying off his scooter, and they both landed inside Alex’s house. That was the last thing Michael remembered before he blacked out. 

“Give him some room, he’s waking up.” Ben stood over the man who had crashed into Alex’s house, who was now asleep on her bed. Steve and Dan had also come into the house to help examine him and move him to the bed. 

Michael woke up lying on a bed, with four pairs of eyes and a cat looking down on him. 

“Where am I?” he cried. 

“You’re lucky to be alive,” Ben told him. “You had quite the crash on your scooter.” 

“My scooter,” Michael exclaimed, “where is it? I can’t walk without it!” 

“It’s right here,” said Alex as she and Steve brought it over to where he was laying down. 

“How hard did the guy hit his head?” asked Steve. 

“Are you paralyzed?” Ben asked Michael. 

“Yes,” he replied, “and I need that scooter or I won’t be going nowhere.” 

Michael transferred himself from the bed and onto his scooter. 

“How far is Los Angeles?” he asked the group. “I’m on a mission and I won’t be letting an injury stop me.” 

“Los Angeles? You’re in Eastern Arizona,” Alex said. 

“Oh, crap.” 

Steve and Alex walked outside with Michael as he exited the house. 

“So what were you doing that got you here?” asked Steve. 

“I’m a famous fisherman, and I was on my way to the Los Angeles beach for the tiebreaker fishing tournament. I guess my scooter and I fell out of my van last night. I’m assuming you’ve heard of me just like the rest of the world. It’s me, Michael The Middle Aged Man.” 

“Hmmm… nope. I don’t know who you are,” Steve replied. 

“But,” Alex jumped in, “You are welcome to stay here in our village while you recover and try to find a ride.” 

“No way,” said Michael, “I should be in California with my biggest fans right now.” 

“Well let’s find a way to get you there,” Steve told him. 

“Let me just get my–” Michael stopped, then gasped. “My fishing rod!” 

“Your fishing rod?” 

“My most prized possession stayed in the van and is now in California without me.” 

George came over to where Alex, Steve, and Michael were standing. 

“Is this guy going to live in our village now?” he asked. 

“Yes, he is,” Alex said excitedly. 

“Only for a few days though,” Michael added. “I need to get to California no matter what.” 

“You can stay in my house,” Steve declared. 

“Thanks,” Michael said and they headed over together. 


Steve’s house was small, and he couldn’t fit a spare bed for Michael inside. So Steve gave Michael the bed and he would have to use the couch. Steve was not thrilled, but he knew Michael would have to leave soon, even though everyone else wanted him to stay. 

“Man, I hope your friends know I’m not staying. But you know I gotta get outta here, Steve.” 

“I know that,” said Steve. 

“I got a career,” said Michael, “I can’t stay here.” 

“Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to get you there,” Steve assured him. 

That night Michael joined the gang for dinner on Alex’s porch. They had some really good food, Steve makes the world’s best pork chops. Alex and Ben were talking about things they and Michael could do to repair the village. Michael knew he would have to be the one to repair it because he was the one who made the mess. 

“But don’t you need to leave, Michael?” asked Steve. 

“Pretty soon,” he said. 

“Steve, this man hurt himself. He needs time to recover and a place to stay.” 

“But he wants to leave,” said Steve. 

“You are not being kind by saying these things,” Alex raised her voice a little. “I’m not feeling like playing games right now.” 

“It’s not a game, it’s the–” but then Steve was cut off by Ben. 

Ben said, “what does Michael have to say about this?” 

“I need to get to California, but not right now,” Michael told them. 

Steve turned to Michael and whispered, “I thought you needed to get there pronto?” 

“I hate to let your friends down, Steve,” Michael said. 

Steve just nodded, but he still felt he should be doing what is right for Michael. He didn’t want his career ruined. 

When Steve woke up in the morning, Michael was not sleeping in bed. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t in the house at all. Steve looked out the window and saw him working with Ben to repair his Biome Tower. 

Shaking his head, Steve got a bowl of cereal and sat down for a little morning television. When he turned on the news station, he saw a not very surprising breaking news report. It was about Michael’s absence from Los Angeles. 

It started with footage from earlier where reporters had gone live at Los Angeles Beach, and Harvey’s van was backing up toward them. It was the first one to get there. But when the doors opened, they were shocked to find Michael’s fishing pole, but not Michael’s. 

Steve started clicking through the channels and all the news stations were saying the same thing: 

“Michael The Middle Aged Man’s driver arrived in California, but Michael was missing.”

“Fisherman Michael The Middle Aged Man was reported missing.” 

“Michael is scheduled to fish in an unprecedented location.” 

“Sponsors stated they have no idea where he is.” 

There were also interviews airing with police officers and other crew members of the fishing tournament. 

The final reporter said, “They’re all asking the same question: where is Michael The Middle-Aged Man?” 

Michael and Ben were almost done with the Biome Tower. Michael had to do the work closer to the ground because he couldn’t stand up or climb. 

“That should be just about it,” Ben said as he finished repairing the doorway. “Thanks for helping me out this morning.”
“No problem,” Michael replied, “Let me know if you ever wanna do some other experiment together.” 

Steve stepped outside and saw Michael leaving where Ben was, and he knew Alex would be looking for him next so they could repair her house together. Steve had already put some duct tape over the window Michael had broken in his house. He quickly went over to Alex was on her porch. 

“Alex, listen to me,” he said, “I know you don’t believe this, but Michael really does need to get out of here.”
“Steve, enough. I–” 

“He’s all over the news. If the fishing tournament starts without him, he won’t win. And he’ll lose his career!” 

“I understand,” Alex said, “but what about his housing? “Have you ever listened to what he has to say?” he asked. 

Alex stopped. She thought for a moment, and her face turned a little red. 

“I just want him to be happy,” she said. 

“He’ll be happy if he gets to leave,” Steve told her. 

“But doesn’t he want to stay for another week? I think that’s what needs to happen,” Alex said sternly. 

“Fine, but it’s not my fault if his career gets ruined.” And with that Steve walked away. Alex just stood there and thought. 

Michael spent the whole day doing things the villagers wanted his help with, and they were very pleased with the way he brought happiness to the village and made the town a little bit more lively. 

“It’s just what I do. I’m not just a guy who goes fishin’!” Michael told everyone late that evening as they were all hanging out and having fun in the middle of the village. Michael, Steve, Alex, Ben, Dan, George, and the rest of the villagers. So about 12 people in total. 

Just when it looked like Michael was about to want to stay there forever, Steve saw something down the road leading out of the village. It was something bright lighting up the night on the horizon. The headlights of vehicles. 

“Looks like we got some visitors,” Steve told everyone as the vehicles approached quickly. 

“They won’t touch my Biome Tower!” Ben yelled and ran over to go protect it. 

Suddenly, a bright floodlight shined down on Michael from a helicopter above. Dan got scared when he saw it. 

An air reporter in the helicopter exclaimed, “We have found Michael! We have found Michael!” And all the vehicles rolled into the streets of the village. A search party of reporters and journalists poured out of two buses, and a red truck labeled news crew pulled in. Four news reporters got out. 

Instantly, the reporters surrounded Michael and the others. Michael got separated from Alex in the crowd. He called out to her, but couldn’t hear her responding over all the reporters asking him questions at once. 

The news team surrounded Dan in front of his house. “Was Michael The Middle-Aged Man your Prisoner?” they asked. 

“No, we’re friends,” Dan replied, “but Alex didn’t want him to leave this place.” 

The once quiet village boomed with the swarming and yelling of reporters, the flashing of cameras, villagers being interviewed against their will, and the horn of a transport van blasting through it all. 

Michael stopped yelling for Alex when the horn went off and looked over to where the crowd was moving out of the way. Harvey was pulling in with his van. 

“You’re here!” Yelled Harvey. “Thank God you’re alive.” 

“Harvey?” Michael exclaimed. 

Harvey kept exclaiming from the cab as he turned the van around so the back door faced Michael. Alex stopped and watched from her spot in the crowd as Harvey turned the van around and Michael rode up next to it. 

“You are a sight for sorry eyes,” Harvey said, “I’m so sorry I lost you, boss! I’ll make it up to you…” 

“Harvey, I can’t believe you’re here,” was all Michael could say to him. 

Then Michael heard a voice from inside the van. 

“Is that Michael The Middle-Aged Fishing Machine?” 

“Is that Stanley?” Michael asked excitedly. 

“Yeah and he’s in the back,” Harvey said as he got out of the van. He tried to chase the swarming reporters away to give Michael some space. 

Harvey blocked the reporters as Michael rolled up behind the back doors of the van, and they opened to reveal Stanley holding Michael’s fishing pole. 

“Stanley!” He said excitedly. 

“You left this on board,” Stanley said and gave Michael his fishing pole. 

“Thanks,” Michael said, “how’re you doin’ buddy?” 

Stanley stepped out of the van toward Michael. “My star client disappears on the face of the Earth. How do you think I’m doing?” 

“Stanley, I can explain–” 

“I’m doing great! You’re everywhere baby. Radios, TV, the papers, you can’t buy this kind of publicity. What do you need me for? That’s just a figure of speech by the way you signed a contract. Where are we? I couldn’t even find you on my GPS.” 

“We’re in this little unnamed village that isn’t currently on the map,” Michael told him, “the people here have been very kind about taking care of me and I’ve been doing a lot of things to improve their village–” 

“Yeah that’s great,” Stanley interrupted, “but playtime is over, pal. While the world’s been trying to find you, Fred has been taking all the pre-tournament glory at the beach, and we’re going to lose our funding.” 

Michael looked at Stanley’s phone with live TV on it. When he saw what was going on, he wasn’t happy with what Fred was doing. 

“You gotta get to Cally pronto,” Stanley exclaimed, “Just get out of this place now or…” but Michael didn’t hear the rest of what Stanley said because he looked over and saw that Alex had been standing near the front of the van. 

“Just give me a second here, Stanley,” Michael said as he rode over to Alex. 

“Hey, where are you going?” Stanley called after him, “get in the van, baby!” 

Ignoring him, Michael grew sad as he noticed the sad look on Alex’s face. He searched for things to say, but kept trailing off when he tried to say them. 

Alex smiled. “Thank you for everything.” 

“It’s just a village,” Michael said sadly. 

“No,” Alex replied gently, “it was much more than that.” 

Then Harvey came over to Michael. “Hey, Mike, we gotta go. Stanley’s going crazy and he’s gonna have me fired if I don’t get you in the van right now.” 

“Harvey, just holds it,” Michael told him. 

But then Alex said, “You should go. Good luck in California.” And then she walked away. 

Michael tried to follow her, but was swarmed by reporters from the front and behind. They were all yelling for him to get in the van, and as the crowd closed in, Michael had no choice but to back his scooter up the ramp and into the van. 

Stanley was inside encouraging him as he did so. “Come on, man, get in the trailer. That’s right, let’s go.”
Michael took one last look at his new friends from behind the crowd of reporters as the doors of the van closed and Stanley said, “you’re a big shining star, you’re a superstar. You don’t belong there anyway.” 

As soon as the van’s engine started, someone yelled, “hey guys! Michael is leaving in the van!” 

Everyone started filing back to the buses that brought them there. The news team got back in their red truck and took off. Alex watched as the vehicles began to follow the van that would finally get Michael where he needed to be. 

Steve, who had witnessed the whole thing, stood by the front of the last bus to leave as the head reporter began to board it. Before getting on, she turned to Steve and said, “Hey, are you Steve Sharp?” 

“Yeah,” Steve replied. 

“Thanks for the call,” she said. Then got on the bus and the engine started. 

Steve turned as the bus began to drive away, and saw Alex and Ben standing there with looks of disbelief on their faces. 

“You called them?” Alex asked. 

“It’s best for everyone, Alex,” Steve said coldly. 

Alex didn’t say anything. She just walked away. 

“Best for everyone?” Ben asked angrily. “Or best for you?” And then he walked away too. Dan was sad because he didn’t get to say goodbye to Michael. They watched the tail lights of the vehicles grow smaller and smaller as they followed Harvey’s van. Nothing could stop Michael from getting to California now. 

Steve saw Alex go into her house, and a moment later the light inside went out. The other villagers also walked back to their houses and turned in for the night. But Steve remained standing in the dark street where, less than a minute ago, there had been the shouting of voices. A swarming crowd of people and vehicles. A new friend. Steve had taken that away from himself and the others. He listened to the only thing that could be heard. The late-night crickets. And thought of a plan for how he could make it up to everyone, especially Alex. Moments later, he actually thought of a way. It was crazy, but it was a way. 

It was 10:00 am at Los Angeles Beach. Michael and Fred were getting ready for the tournament in different areas underneath the big set of bleachers in front of the beach. They would head out onto the sand where the spectators could see them and use their special long fishing rods to go way out in the ocean. Michael was happy to be reunited with his fishing rod. 

An announcer’s voice boomed overhead. “Welcome to beautiful Los Angeles Beach, where the tiebreaker fishing tournament will take place for the two winners of the Daytona fishing tournament. We’ll be calling our fishers to the sands shortly. In the meantime, get a snack at our fish stand!” 

Harvey was resting from the drive at a hotel, and Stanley was under the bleachers with Michael. 

He said, “You can win this, like always. You’re a star.” 

“Yeah,” Michael said sadly, “I’m a star.” 

“Something wrong?” Asked Stanley. 

“I just wish my friends were here to see it. You said I needed to have a crew, and they are it.” 

“Hey,” Stanley said sympathetically, “who said they wouldn’t come?” 

Steve made it to the fishing tournament at Los Angeles beach just in time for it to start. With help from Ben and Dan, he had moved Alex to one of the beds in their camper while she was asleep. They drove for 10 hours through the night to Los Angeles Beach. 

Alex hadn’t woken up when they pulled up alongside the entrance to the tournament where people went to spectate. Steve went to wake up Alex. 

“Leave me alone,” she said groggily. “I need a break from you. Wait, why am I in the camper?” 

“Just look at where we are,” Steve said gently. 

Alex got out of bed and looked out the window. When she saw the back of the large bleachers. She knew what it was. 

“Why are we here?” She asked. 

“We are Michael’s entourage,” Steve said. “And this way you will get to help him the way you wanted to. Help him win the most important tournament of his career.” 

“That’s sweet of you to do this for me, Steve, but doesn’t an entourage need more than two people?” 

“Sorry if I wasn’t being clear,” Steve said as he opened the camper door to where Dan and Ben were standing outside. “We are all going to be his entourage!” 

Alex smiled. 

Two minutes until the fishermen were called to their positions, and there was no getting into the tournament without a ticket. 

“We don’t have tickets,” Steve told the group. “So we are going to need another way to get in.” 

“Way ahead of you,” Ben said as he opened his suitcase. Instead of travel items, it was full of Pizza boxes with the bottoms removed. 

Ben disguised himself as a pizza delivery driver, while Steve, Alex, and Dan climbed inside the stack of boxes. Ben approached the security guard with the boxes in a wagon. 

“Hi,” he said, “I have a delivery for Michael The Middle Aged Man.” 

“I can’t let you in without a ticket,” said the guard, “so if you lend me your wagon I can take the pizzas to Mr Middle Aged Man.” 

The guard tried to grab it, but Dan farted from inside the box. Alex and Steve screamed and gagged at the smell and burst out of the box. Ben grabbed the wagon and ran through the gate. 

“We’re Michael’s entourage,” Steve called back to the security guard. 

The path between the bleachers sloped down a little, and Ben hopped into the wagon with the others as it rolled on it’s own toward the sandy beach with several security guards coming after it. 

There was a fence set up between the front of the bleachers and the beach, and the gate to let the fishermen through had been closed. That meant the tournament had already started. 

Steve, Alex, and Dan screamed because it looked like the wagon was going to smash into the fence. But Ben was prepared. He grabbed the pull handle and turned it, aiming the wagon at a surf board leaning against the fence like a ramp. The wagon went up it, but didn’t fly for more than a few seconds and the gang tumbled out as it flipped and landed upside down on the sand. 

They could hear the security guards on their walkie talkies and it wouldn’t be long before they were found. 

“There,” Steve pointed to a red news truck a few yards away that was parked on the beach to film the tournament. It was the same one that came to the village last night. The group ran over to the other side of it where the guards wouldn’t be able to see them as they came over to their side of the fence. 

They saw Micheal ahead of the truck, sitting on his scooter close to the ocean and fishing next to Fred. Stanley and the other crew members were standing back to watch and help. 

“The guards are still over there,” said Alex, “we need a way to sneak over to him.” 

Steve saw the news crew coming back over to the truck with meals from the seafood stand. 

“I’ve got an idea, follow my lead,” he told his friends. 

The moment the news crew saw them, they shouted for security and ran over to their truck. While Steve, Alex, Dan, and Ben were beating up the news crew behind the truck where no one could see and stealing their outfits, Fred looked over at Michael. 

“I got something,” he teased. 

“Cut it out, Fred. Play fair!” Now Michael was getting mad. He reeled his line back in and whipped it backward to cast out farther. When he did, a sharp stabbing pain went through his middle-aged back. Michael cried out, and Fred was mean enough to laugh. 

“Ha-ha! A crippled old man who goes fishing. What a sight! Easy win for your boy.” 

Steve and his friends quickly changed into the orange outfits as they finished taking out the news crew. 

Fred reeled his line back in with a large bass. The score was now 1-0. Michael needed to step it up. 

Steve jumped in the driver’s seat of the news truck, and his friends followed. Alex got in the front and Dan and Ben got in the back seat. When they drove away, it revealed the beaten-up news crew on the ground. The lead security guard shouted, “they’re in the news truck!” from his side of the fence and more guards began to run toward the gate. Alex saw them in the rearview mirror. 

“We’re running out of time,” she exclaimed. 

Steve drove over to where Stanley and the crew were standing. They ran out of the way as the truck approached. It stopped before hitting any of them, and Stanley turned to look at it. 

“It’s the news crew,” somebody said. 

But when unfamiliar people wearing the news clothes got out of the truck, Stanley stepped forward. “Hey! Who the heck are you? Where is the news team?” 

“We’re Michael The Middle Aged Man’s entourage,” Steve told him. 

“Wait a minute,” Stanley exclaimed, “you guys are the people from that village where we found Michael.” 

Suddenly, Fred used his fishing rod to yank the wheels of Michael’s scooter, causing it to fall over and Michael fell off of it. The crowd gasped. 

“Not so successful when you can’t move, are you,” Fred taunted. 

Michael struggled with his arms but he couldn’t get up because he couldn’t move his legs. Steve shouted Michael’s name and began to run toward him. The crew members went to help Michael up and brought him and his scooter to where everyone else was. 

“Wait,” Michael said when he saw them. “Steve, Alex, Dan, Ben, what’re you guys doing here?” 

“We’re here to help,” said Dan. 

“Not for long. I’m calling security,” Stanley said. 

“No,” said one of the paramedics, “Michael is hurt. He needs someone to help him finish the tournament.” 

“Or he could just drop out,” Stanley suggested. 

Steve ran over to Michael. “Michael, are you okay?” 

“I just threw out my back. It’s nothing except I can’t use my arms to fish.” 

Steve took off the news crew clothing. His friends did the same. “I’ll sub in for you,” he told Michael. 

“What? No,” Stanley jumped in, “that can’t be legal.” 

Ben, in his smart nature, said, “the rules only say the tournament number has to be out there. It doesn’t say who has to wear the number.” 

Michael and Steve were already headed back toward the ocean. Stanley started forward to stop them, but Dan blocked his way. Trying to make small talk as he did so. 

“I got the number on me,” Michael told Steve. 

“Good,” Steve said, “I’ll stand right by you and do the casting while you sport the number.” 

Then the announcer came back on the speaker. “Michael The Middle Aged Man has 30 seconds to get back to his fishing spot or he forfeits!” 

“No no no no, you can’t do that!” Stanley yelled from behind Dan. 

Steve and Michael made it back to their spot just in time. Fred hadn’t caught any more fish. But Michael needed two to win, and fast. The timer counting down didn’t have much time left. 

Alex, Ben, and everyone else watched nervously from the crew area. Even the security guards stopped chasing after them and let Steve do his thing with Michael. Steve cast the line, and instantly caught something. He reeled it back, and it was two-foot bass. That was bigger than what Fred had caught, but the score was still 1-1. 

“We can’t have a tie again,” Michael cried. 

“I got this,” said Steve confidently. 

He cast the line again, and this time he caught something big. Really, really big. It was pulling the line out of Steve’s hands. But he held on. Michael kept telling him to pull it in or they wouldn’t win the tournament. Steve used all his strength to pull, and Michael grabbed onto his shoulders to help him. That made back get even worse. 

“Come on, Steve,” Alex said softly from her spot in the crew zone. She had faith but was worried. 

“Say goodbye,” Fred said. He knew he was going to win as his line caught something else. 

At that moment, Steve pulled with all his might and an enormous jellyfish came flying out of the ocean into the air. Time froze as Steve pushed Michael’s scooter out of the way and ran with it. The jellyfish landed on Fred. And due to the cries he let out, everyone knew he had been stung. 

But a jellyfish counted as a fish, and that meant the score was 2-1, with Michael The Middle-Aged Man winning the Los Angeles Fishing Tournament Tiebreaker! 

Everyone in the crowd cheered, and so did Alex, Ben, and Dan. Steve and Michael came back over to where their friends were. 

“We did it,” Steve said excitedly. 

“My back isn’t smiling, but the rest of me is,” Michael said. Then he heard Stanley’s voice yelling at Dan. 

“Outta my way. Move!” Then he walked over to Michael and acted like he had faith. “Steve, I knew you had something. And now look at you. A winner. We could use you as the new fisherman for our team.” 

“Sorry, sir,” Steve said, “but I already have a job. And that’s being Michael’s wingman at tournaments as he gets into his old age.” 

“Michael is retired. But you can take his place.” 

Then Ben walked over. “Hang on a second,” he said, pointing to the jumbotron set up near the bleachers. The screen showed the names of two winners: Steve and Michael. 

“What? Why is my name up there?” Michael asked. 

“You started the tournament,” Ben replied, “that’s how it works.” 

Stanley stammered, “w-wait, that… that… wait a minute, no!” 

Then Alex stepped in. “Michael wins, he decides when he’s done fishing. That was the deal. Hi, I’m his lawyer.” 

Dan got all excited and started jumping and singing right in Stanley’s face, “that was the deal, you are not a nice guy!” 

“And I would love to be Michael’s new agent and lawyer,” said Alex. “After all, I have been going to a school to study that stuff.” 

“That’s why you’ve been leaving?” Steve asked, not realizing until now that she wasn’t just mining in the desert. 

Just then, Michael was swarmed with reporters who wanted some after-contest interviews and photos


“And done,” Ben told Michael, “now that we’ve turned my Biome Tower into a liveable tower, you won’t have to share with Steve anymore.” 

“I appreciate my new home,” Michael said, “St Louis was fun, but I didn’t have any insurance coverage there.” 

“But you got it here!” Steve and Alex said together with arms around each other’s shoulders, and Michael was proud of his new team. Together, they were ready to tackle all future fishing tournaments and give Michael the support his middle-aged body needed. 

And retirement when the time came!