during the walk around the lake this morning the boys saw a fisherman set up on the round point that juts into the water just up from the creek. what’s that? asked Y, pointing to a large bassinet made of tent cloth, next to his fishing tent. don’t know, I said, maybe something for putting fish in. then we saw that he had in fact caught a large fish, it was in the pop-up bassinet. we walked over, it was about 80 cm long. perhaps even one metre. it was still alive, opening and closing its mouth. the man smiled shyly at us, we smiled shyly at him. we drew near. the man loped four meters down to the waters edge, bringing a piece of mesh fabric with a drawstring. got the mesh fabric wet, brought it back up to the bassinet, squeezed some water over the fish. what would happen next? would he kill it?
he spread the mesh sling over the fish, taking care to surround it completely. time had not stopped, but rather swollen. each moment the fish opened its mouth, receiving no air in its body, the seconds elongated. the mesh was around the fish, he carefully pulled the drawstrings, the fish was in the net sling. I knew he would next attach the strings to a hand-held hook scale, the kind my midwife had used to weigh W and X when they were first born, except of course she had used cloth not mesh. the man was slight but wiry, with grey-green eyes. actually I don’t know what colour eyes but they were clear as a lake and small like a fish’s. he didn’t fumble, but he was careful and meticulous, perhaps conscious of his rapt audience of three. time stretched further as he carefully worked the strings. it was a digital scale. I did not see the number exactly. perhaps it was 20. perhaps it was 50. it was a big fish. quite oval-shaped, non-distinct, muscular. it began to thrash after the fisherman lowered the net again. it needed air. it looked ready to somersault over the lip of the bassinet, throwing itself down the hill into the lake. but the bassinet lip was too high. in years past I would have beseeched the fisherman to hurry the fish into the water. but now I wanted to observe rather than judge, I wanted to learn instead of teach. what would he do next?
I worried how it would feel if he clubbed it. I knew the kids would learn a lot as well. the fisherman inexplicably removed the net sling from the fish’s body, walked the four metres down to the water, rinsed the sling, brought it back, drizzled water from it onto the fish in the bassinet. went to the tent. got out his mobile phone. the kids and I discreetly stepped backwards so that he could get a better picture without worrying about our legs in the background.
In my mind I was transported to a week-long canoe trip in the interior of bc. my boyfriend’s friends were sport fishers. one caught a fish, took a very long time photographing it with an expensive SLR camera. I was sobbing hysterically, or at least I was in my mind; begging them to put it back quickly, to stop it from suffering. in my youth I was very emotional. it made for great comedy.
standing over the clean green bassinet, the fisherman took three photos from three angles. now what would he do? the fish’s mouth was still opening and closing. it was still alive. the man, a very young man, a boy in my eyes really, gently took hold of the fish. it thrashed one more time and he released it back into the bassinet. the bassinet had a padded floor. it was the perfect soft camp bed for a fish, except there was no water. he tried again, carefully, deliberately. he had the fish now. he held it firmly, proudly, gently, one hand supporting and grasping the shoulders and the other holding the tail of the dying fish, like a groom might carry a bride over the threshold. he bent his knees, squatting down at the sun-sparkled water’s edge. would the fish still live? how could it, after all this time? he lowered the fish into the water. the fish lay in the water on its side. not quite belly up, but almost. its strength had evaporated, or rather flooded to that invisible place in its gills. here where the water would finally go in, with its dose of lake air. he stroked the fish, gently, massaging its body reverently. it was a beautiful animal he had caught. now he would let it go.
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we were a little late for school. “tell the teacher you watched a man catch a very large fish, un gros poisson,” I instructed.
my children would tell their fish stories too.
Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. This post was sponsored by the un-vacuumed kitchen floor and the clutter on the countertops. Thank you for reading. ❤︎