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My Fish Story
It was in the 20th century, when I was 10 years old
and my brother was 12. As adolescent boys sometimes do, he became
enamored of the manly sport of fishing and decided to try it. He
got a pole, and a line, and hooks, and a tackle box, and lead weights,
and stuff. My grandmother had a house by the shore. There
was a pier where people fished.
For his first-ever fishing trip, Dad got him some worms and drove him
to the pier. I tagged along to see what this fishing thing was
all about. Brother put the lead weight and the hook on his line.
Then he put the worm on the hook -- or tried to. The worm
had other ideas! It wanted to live; it did not *want* to be the
Brother had not expected this. He struggled with the hook and
for a while, and eventually managed to skewer his finger with the hook.
all the time, but Brother had not expected this and was very
embarrassed. Also, the hook was dirty and it hurt a lot.
Dad cut the hook from the line and drove us back to Grandma's house,
to see if any of his tools would help remove the hook. But
fishhooks are designed not to come out, no matter how hard the fish
tries to escape, so everything Dad did just made it hurt more.
Eventually Mom decided that medical attention was required.
Grandma's house was far from ours
and was not where she had lived when she had young children; we did not
know any pediatricians in this area. Grandma suggested the
regional hospital, which was perhaps a ½-hour drive. So we
all piled into the car and drove towards this hospital that none of us
had been to before, with Brother wincing at every bump and trying to
hide his finger so
nobody could see how ridiculous it looked, with a fishhook and some
Since her son was in pain, Mom was agitated while driving.
Grandma suggested that this could be considered a medical
emergency, with cause to exceed the speed limit, so Mom gradually drove
faster and faster. Eventually we were flagged down by a police
officer. Mom tried to explain that her son was in pain, and she
had decided to drive him herself instead of calling an ambulance, but
the cop wasn't buying it. So I told my brother, "Quick!
Raise your finger so he can see it!" But Brother was
and didn't want to. I grabbed his arm and raised the finger up
The policeman stared at it for a moment, then his demeanor
He wanted to know why we were going to the far-away hospital
of the local infirmary. Well, because we didn't know about the
He offered to lead us there, with his lights flashing. Mom
At the infirmary, there was a bit of a wait, then some med-tech came
out and removed the hook -- by pushing it all the way through the
Gee, Dad could have done that with his tools at home. What
we had needed the med-tech for was her confidence that this was indeed
the only way. I don't exactly remember (this was many years ago),
but perhaps some antibiotics were prescribed as a prophylactic.
Time passed. Eventually Brother gathered enough courage for
another try at fishing. More worms. Another drive to the
pier. I tagged along again. This time Brother forcefully
installed the bait on the hook, while ignoring its wormy feelings, and
was successful. He fished for a while, and caught something.
It was a gigantic fish!
Everybody at the pier was calling it a "fluke", which I thought
was a species of fish, but actually they were talking about how
it was that Brother -- on his first real try -- would catch something
much bigger than what everybody else was getting. Actually it was
flounder. It weighed a few pounds. It was a decent-sized
a giant only in comparison with other fish from that pier.
Dad cut the fish from the line. Brother held the fish, but it
wriggled out of his hands and started fishtailing across the pier,
towards the water. It wanted to *live*! I grabbed the fish
before it could jump off the pier, and held it firmly in my, um, paws?
Suddenly there were two of me. There was the little-boy me
there was the animal me. We were different, but we were in
that the fish must not escape. Animal-me was very strong and (it
effortlessly exerted steady muscle pressure so the fish could not jump
of our grasp.
The animal me seemed furry, especially in the head area. Perhaps
I thought momentarily of Eddie Munster,
the werewolf boy, because he was sometimes furry and had a widow's
did I then. When I look back on it now, the idea of holding a
in one's paws seems very ursine, but at the time it felt like the most
natural thing in the world to be doing.
Other people came to look at Brother's fish in my hands, and I talked
to them, which distracted me. I loosened my grip and the fish
jumped. I grabbed it in midair, in what seemed to me the fastest
move I had ever made up to that time. I gripped the fish tightly
again, but my finger-muscles were getting tired. I had been lucky
once, but if the fish jumped again, that could be the end. Since
there were people
watching, I self-consciously talked to the fish: "You're not going
You are dinner!" I walked over to a fencepost on
pier and whacked the fish's head against it, thinking that would knock
out like on TV. It continued to struggle.
I was starting to get worried that my dinner would escape. I got
angry. I no longer cared about the people watching. It was
just me and the fish. I spoke to it again, saying something like,
"Did you hear me? YOU ARE DINNER!"
did a little roundhouse thing and slammed the fish's head against the
with everything I had, which -- being geeky and ten years old -- wasn't
much. The fish stayed still for a time, perhaps a minute. I
examined its head. No sign of broken bones, no bodily fluids
I had barely scratched it. Eventually it started wriggling
but weakly. This could be a problem. I must not lose my
Yes, *my* kill. Brother had caught it, but he seemed to
no interest in killing it.
I walked toward where Dad was talking to some other fisherman, and said
"What a spunky fish! How are we going to kill this thing?"
I was conscious of the fishermen looking at boy-me and animal-me,
walking along with a wriggling fish in our hands/paws, but again it
seemed the most natural thing in the world, and even something to be
proud of, having just demonstrated murderous rage towards a fish in
front of a bunch of strangers.
The other fishermen suggested putting the fish in a bucket of water and
taking it home, so we did. But the water revived the fish and it
jumped out of the bucket, so we dumped the water and put it in a dry
bucket. By the time we got home, it was dead.
So we had this dead fish, and of course it had to be eaten for dinner.
Cleaning the fish became Grandma's problem. I stayed with
her in the kitchen as she worked on the fish, because fish-cleaning
suddenly seemed like something I should know about, although I usually
had little interest in cooking. She was not happy. Why did
it have to be *her* job to clean the fish? I explained that no
one else in the family knew how to do it, and asked her various
questions, like "What would happen if you didn't remove all the scales
The fish was baked and served. Sister, who generally wasn't fond
of fish, exclaimed that it was the best fish she'd ever had, presumably
because it was also the freshest. Grandma asked Brother to speak
his day, but he gave only an unemotional statement of his fishing
experience. I continued his story, but when I got to the
Brother seemed to lose interest in his dinner. Mom suggested that
maybe I was bragging too much about my rôle. "What's to
I asked. "I got nowhere trying to kill this guy," while pointing
the skinless boneless white thing on my fork. Dad thought that
"killing" wasn't suitable dinnertime conversation. "Shouldn't we
our dinner?" I asked. I talked to my fork: "You were an honorable
I put the fishmeat in my mouth. Brother seemed quite
Brother never fished again; nor have I. Perhaps, in his readings
and his watching of TV shows about fishing, he had failed to realize
the fish does not want to be eaten, and will do anything it can
to avoid being your dinner. When the time came, he was not
prepared to fight with the fish for its life. Unexpectedly, I was.
Now I have a boy of my own. Five years old, almost six. He
has always reminded me of my brother. Last year he wanted a
fishing pole for that December holiday. I wouldn't get him one.
his birthday is coming up and he wants a fishing pole again. What
should I do? He's still so young. I've never seen him kill
anything, not even an ant.
Recently-rediscovered archaeological evidence -- a dated picture of
Brother holding his fish -- indicates that I was actually 6½
years old, not 10, at the time in question. This indicates that
the whole "adolescent boy" aspect of the story is rubbish. Other
parts are probably wrong, too.)