by Andreas Economakis
When he was thirteen years old he used to wander down to the little creek that slipped through the woods in front his mom’s house to fly fish. He never caught anything but he liked the whole experience, being down there with his dog, the velvety brown water reflecting the light and the clouds and the gnats and the trees amidst the clean forest smells of fermenting leaves and damp dirt and worms. He would cast tiny handmade flies into the moveable water and jerk them back up with the fishing rod, imagining a big spotted trout leaping out of the sweet water in pursuit of his bait. But no big spotted trout ever leapt out or even nibbled on his line and he got to thinking that maybe the creek had no fish in it, that maybe it was a dead creek. It didn’t bother him too much actually, it was kind of a relief, until that one afternoon when the dog started barking like mad.
The boy looked upstream and saw something big and silvery floating his way, barely moving but still alive. He waded out into the creek, he doesn’t know why, some things are hard to explain, and a big pale trout with bleached eyes flowed softly right up to his legs, on its side and gasping for air. The boy bent down and cradled the fish softly. It looked like it had been poisoned, all discolored and sickly, its cataract eyes glazed over and milky white. The fish shook for a brief second and went still in his hands. The dog stopped barking almost like he knew the fish had died a strange death. The boy waded back to shore holding the fish and the dog backed away, whimpering like his master had a stick and was gearing up to hit him. “What’s wrong dog?” he asked out loud and the dog turned and ran away.
The boy looked toward the stream for a moment and then walked to his pole. He picked up the fly end of the line, held the fish by the gills -they were brown like winter leaves not healthy pink- and holding his breath to keep the stink of decay and poison from his lungs he passed the hook through the trout’s fat cartilage lips. The fly stuck to the fish’s mouth like a girlish ribbon or a fancy pacifier. It looked so strange. It was so very dead.
The boy started back up to the house with his catch, his dog spying him from behind the trees, frightened like he’d never seen him before. The boy entered the quiet house and dropped the fish into the kitchen sink. Maybe because he didn’t want the trout’s death to mean nothing or maybe because he was on auto-pilot, he’s not sure, he pulled out a sharp little knife and stabbed the fish in its belly. Green-brown guts spilled out onto his fingers and clogged the drain. The stench made him gag and he almost vomited, but he continued until all the innards sat curdling in a frothy pool in the metal sink. When he was finished he pulled the tap and sent the slimy guts spinning down into the grinder.
The boy placed the dead fish in a rusty tin tray and doused it with olive oil and lemon slices and oregano. He turned the oven on and placed the fish inside before turning to the cupboards to pull out all that was necessary for a big family meal, a happy family meal with his mom, just him and his mom. A half hour later the fish was ready and looking quite good though the smell was one of decay and ruin. Right then his mom entered the kitchen. She had just woken up and looked the worse for wear and tear after a lonely 2-gallon night in front of the TV. She burst into tears when she saw the beautiful meal her son had prepared for her. She was so elated and overwhelmed that she turned hastily to go get dressed and accidentally smashed her face on the door, crumbling to the ground with a black eye and a sore jaw and a teardrop on the dirty cream-colored linoleum floor. She picked herself up like a work-horse and staggered off with a bitter smile and stubborn wet eyes to her room to change, not wanting to spoil this for her little baby.
The boy stood frozen for a moment. He then walked up to the fish and smelled it again. He turned and looked at the teardrop on the linoleum floor. He picked up the dead trout in its tray and walked out to the creek, the dog close behind all a wonder, all nervous energy. He slid the fish into the gurgling water. The trout slowly swam away with the lemon slices, all cooked now and ready to go.
Excerpt from the author’s current novel in progress: “Requiem For A Cat”.
Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.
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