FLOPPING FISH

2/10/2017

Picture a 15 ft. wooden boat with nine coats of forest green lead paint that completely encapsulated the craft. The 7-foot-long, white ash oars used to propel the behemoth out to the favorite fishing hole, squeaked hauntingly. Throwing over a dented galvanized paint can, solidified with concrete infill, and an eyebolt to hold the anchor rope secure, the vessel was poised for a record haul of game fish. As a kid, your grandpa would take you to the ‘hot spot’ every summer, and that first memory was the most vivid. He baited your hook and told you where to throw it. After what seemed like an hour, but was, in reality, five minutes, your bobber disappeared from sight. Grampa started hollering, “PULL IT UP NOW!” You land the lurking lunker after the most exciting two minutes you have ever experienced. It pitted you against raw nature, and you triumphed; Moby Dick lay at your feet. Grandpa removed it from the hook, held it six inches from your face for your inspection, threw it on the belly of the boat, and huffed, “DAMN CARP!” You watched that fish struggle for life as it flopped rapidly from one end of the boat to the other, and back again, avoiding any contact for fear it would devour you. Grandpa baited your hook again and directed you to a new spot, but your eyes were on that fish in a fracas for survival. Without water to unfurl all its gill structure to absorb dissolved oxygen, the gills have collapsed, and the fish is suffocating. The intensity of the jerks and its mouth’s gasping animations are dwindling with time. After an eternity of struggle that lasted 10 minutes, one more gasp and the fish succumbs; it moves no more. Grandpa is buried in a rural cemetery that you have not seen for decades. Your age is that of grandpa’s when you were in that boat getting your lesson in life. You watch your grandson being mesmerized by the Asian carp flopping on the carpet of the bass boat. You too are in awe, as that fish dances the story of life to its audience. 

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