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a fish story

Eugene had a problem.

Eugene loved fishing.

His dad told him as a squeamish youth that fish didn’t have nerve endings in their mouths and he bought it hook, line and sinker.

Let me take a moment to point how witty that was. I hope you appreciated it and will keep a sharp look out moving forward for similar bursts of genius.

Anyway, back to Eugene’s problem. This idea that barbed hooks sinking into the mouth of a fish in order for him to haul it out of the water didn’t actually hurt the fish in any way seemed all well and good until the time that Eugene pulled out a fish only to see that the hook had gone right through the fish’s eye. When he pulled the hook out he held the fish in one hand but the eye still clung to the hook.

Hard to imagine the fish was fine with that.

Then came the catfish that had swallowed the hook so deeply that when Eugene finally got it out most of the fish’s intestines came with it. He dutifully threw the fish back into the water but about five minutes later the fish floated to the surface.

The fish couldn’t possibly have been ok with being dead.

Fishing was barbaric and yet Eugene still wanted to fish. What did that make him?

A monster?

He imagined his father sitting in a boat eating a sandwich only to discover that there was a huge hook in it and he was suddenly being pulled out of the boat by a fish swimming next to his small fish son showing how to land a big one. His dad clinging to the railing desperately, not wanting to be pulled under the water. Blood pouring from his mouth. Hearing the father fish say to the son “Don’t worry, they don’t feel a thing in their mouths.”

And he had this thought standing in the river casting. Still casting.

And feeling somehow that his dad deserved it. “What else did you lie about?” he wondered aloud. Still casting.

“Maybe the breakup wasn’t mutual. Maybe mom did have feelings!” poured out and then he felt the tug on the line. He sunk the hook in and started to reel it in.

A big one.

He remembered the time he foul-hooked a big dumb carp right in the side of the body and had to drag it in sideways. It wasn’t even trying to eat another living creature. That made it more sad. Somehow Eugene thought it made it easier to be cruel to a fish that was actively involved in being cruel to another fish, insect or crawfish.

Of course, he understood the argument that eating isn’t actual cruelty. It’s just the nature of things. The way things are.

He leaned over and pulled the fish out of the water. Removed the hook, the only thing that had brought the two together. The only thing keeping it there.

Eugene put it back in the water and watched her drive away.

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