Here is the second draft of Chapter 1 of my novel effort. I've incorporated the suggestions from my online critique friends at Scribophile and agree that it's an improvement.

Riley and Tim were inseparable during the summer months. They played on the same youth sports teams, attended the same vacation bible school, and each July the boys attended the Cross Creek Youth Camp together.

The first Tuesday morning after returning from two weeks at Cross Creek, the boys packed their tackle boxes and fishing poles and made the 30 minute bicycle ride to Turner pond. They rode past Grey Wolf cemetery, up Sly hill, and past McGill's Christmas Tree Farm. From there, it was a short ride down the cow path to the boys' favorite fishing hole - a paradise for twelve year old fishermen.

The boys rigged their Shimano spin casters and 6 pound line with purple plastic worms. The artificial diving motion and wiggly tail action were effective for catching bass and crappie. After an hour, they had caught three fish a piece and switched to Zebco 33 bait casters rigged with 12 pound line, treble hooks, and chicken livers to pursue the lunker catfish in the deeper sections of the pond.

After the first cast, Riley cranked the fishing reel a few turns to tighten the line and felt a tug. He reeled it faster and stepped backwards from the water's edge. The fishing pole began to bend.

Tim ran toward him from half way around the pond shouting encouragement.

"Rod tip up. Keep the line tight. Careful so you don't lose this monster."

"Would you look at the arc on that pole?” Riley said. “I don't know if I can get it to the bank. It must weigh 30 pounds at least. I've never caught anything that compares to it."

"Don't give up on it Riley. It's sure to be the biggest catfish we've ever hauled out of this pond."

"I've hooked some big catfish Tim, but this thing's a whale."

Stressed past its' limit, the fishing line broke.

"Damn it."

"Man, what a bummer," Tim said, now standing next to Riley on the bank. "I thought you had it for sure."

"I don't know what it was, but it's the heaviest fish I've ever hooked," Riley said, flailing his aching arms and hands.

"Uh, Riley....that was no fish," Tim said, now pointing toward the water. "Look."

The afternoon sun cast a glare on the water and he did not immediately see it. Beginning to catch his breath, Riley dropped the rod and reel and bent down for a closer look. And there it was, staring up at him from three feet of murky pond water--the shrunken, shriveled, decaying face on the shoulders of a fully clothed dead man.

“What should we do?” Tim asked.

“Help me get him out of there,” Riley said.

Riley waded into the water and took hold of the leather belt with one hand and supported the back of the head with the other hand. The hair was matted and sticky with blood and the eyes were wide open. The skin on the neck was pale white, like hands left in dishwater.

“Don’t just stand there Tim. Help me!”

“What do you want me to do?"

"Get in here and help me."

"I don’t think we should touch it,” Tim said, backing away. "Look at him. It's gross, we need to tell someone."

“We will, but first we’ve got to get him out of the water. We can't just leave him here like this.”

"You do it then."

"Get down here!"

Riley and Tim took positions on opposite sides of the body, facing one another, and struggled against the weight of it. They walked the body out of the pond water and up the bank a few feet before lowering the body in soft mud.

“It stinks,” Tim said, clamping his nose with thumb and index finger.

“Help me roll him over,” Riley said. “Let’s find out who he is.”

"Haven't we done enough?" Tim asked. "I'm serious - we need to tell someone about this."

"We will, but first help me roll him over."

Dressed in dark suit pants, light blue shirt, and black wingtip shoes he lay exposed on the pond bank. They rolled the body to one side and removed the wallet from the rear pocket. The leather and most of the contents were ruined. Pictures were unrecognizable; and various papers were reduced to mush, but the laminated driver’s license was fine.

“Says here, this is Gregory Pritchard.”

"I wonder what happened to him," Tim said. "It looks like he might have went for a swim, but forgot to take off his clothes first."

"Maybe he was fishing and fell and bonked his head on something and drowned," Riley said.

"I have never seen anyone fish in Sunday clothes. How long do think he's been in there?"

Riley pointed to the hands, "Long enough for the snapping turtles to find him. He's missing a couple of fingers."


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