Friday, February 22, 2013

A Dark Fish Tale

Grandpa sat down next to Polly on the end of the dock. She was watching her father and two brothers out in the rowboat in the middle of the pond.
“It isn’t fair,” she pouted.
“Did you ask if you could go?”
“Dad said there wasn’t room. And Bobby said fishing ain’t for girls.”
“I see. Well, Bobby’s young yet and not got much sense in his head.”
Polly grumped some more as they watched her other brother Sam attempt to reel in a fish. He lost his balance and fell into the water. Dad scrambled to pull him out of the water but he was too far away.
“Let go of the pole and swim to the boat,” Dad yelled. The fish was dragging Sam further away from the boat and under water.
“I can’t! It’s a … big … one!” Sam yelled back as he bobbed in and out of the water.
“Stay in the boat,” Dad told Bobby then jumped into the water. He dove under to search for Sam. The dark water made it difficult to see more than a few inches in front of his face. When he surfaced he looked for any signs of Sam.
Dad spotted Sam’s fishing pole and swam over it. The fish was still on the hook, resting after the struggle with Sam. Dad brought it to the rowboat and tied it on. “Don’t touch that,” he said. “I’ll be back to get the fish as soon as I find Sam.”
In the distance, Polly and Grandpa could see a white patch in the water. It was Sam floating on the top of the water. Dad spotted him at the same time and quickly swam over to him then brought him back to the boat.
Sam’s lifeless, water-logged body was heavy but Dad managed to get him into the boat. Bobby was freaking out as Dad pulled himself back into the boat then grabbed the fishing pole. The fish wasn’t ready to be caught that day. He fought against Dad and nearly pulled him over the edge of the boat several times.
“You got one of us today; you’re not going to get two!” Dad yelled at the fish. He struggled with the fish, slowly reeling him closer and closer. Sam had been right; it was a big fish. In fact, it was the biggest rainbow trout he’d ever seen.
Dad finally got the fish close enough and was able to use the net to pull it out of the water and into the boat. He slid Sam’s body over the fish to keep it from flopping out of the boat then rowed to shore. Grandpa ran into the water to help pull the boat onto the beach.
“Polly, grab my camera from the bag and give it to Grandpa,” Dad said as he sat Sam up then put the fish onto his lap.
Polly found the camera and handed it to Grandpa. “Take the picture now,” Dad said, his voice cracking as he tried to hold back the tears. Grandpa took a couple of pictures then Dad moved the fish back to the floor of the boat. He pulled his hunting knife out of his pocket and stabbed the fish several times.
They carried Sam and the fish to the cabin. Dad sent Polly and Bobby into the living room to watch a movie while they decided what to do with Sam’s body.
“We can’t take them back home,” Grandpa said. “Sam will be rotted and smell awful by the time we get home.”
“I can’t not bring him home.”
“No reason we can’t bury him out back. This was one of his favorite places to go so he would be happy about being buried here,” Grandpa said. “We can report the drowning and cremation/burial after we get home.”
“Sure! First we will harvest his brain, organs and muscles for food then burn the body and bury the ashes.”
“That’s crazy!”
“Do you have a shovel to dig a six foot deep hole?”
Dad’s stomach turned as he thought about what Grandpa suggested. It was wrong to eat other humans but at the same time it made sense—they needed to take care of the body before they left and they also needed food for the rest of the time they were there.
“Okay, let’s do it. Just don’t let the young ones know the source of our food.”
“No problem. You go sit with the kids while I prepare the bodies for consumption.”
Dad didn’t want to know where his father had learned to cut up a human body for eating. Instead, he leaned over Sam’s body and kissed his cold, blue forehead. “Rest in peace, Sam. I love you.”
Grandpa waited until the kitchen door closed behind Dad before he got to work on carving up the fish and Sam. For dinner that night they had fish stuffed with kidney stuffing. Then for breakfast they had fresh hash made from Sam’s organs. They built a big bonfire for dinner. They grilled hamburgers made from the ground up meat from Sam’s body. When they finished eating, they had a small funeral service.
Grandpa, who’d been to a bunch of funerals, talked about Sam and how he was in heaven fishing in God’s pond. They all recited The Lord’s Prayer as Dad and Grandpa put what was left of Sam’s body, which had been placed in plywood casket Dad had made that afternoon, on the fire and they watched as he turned to ashes.
             In the morning, Dad dug a hole in the woods behind the house while Grandpa collected the ashes from the bonfire into a Mason jar. As they were putting the last clump of soil back into the hole where Sam was buried, Dad and Grandpa made a pact never to talk about what they’d done. They packed up when they were done then headed home, never to return to the cabin and their horrific secret again.

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