Treena Mielke – On The Other Side
The fish were lying in a sink full of tepid water when I got home, obviously very dead.
“I don’t know what to do with them now,” my husband said, somewhat perplexed, and more than a little bewildered by his unexpected catch.
“Well, you have to chop their heads off,” I muttered. “Everyone knows that.”
I performed the task, though somewhat distastefully, but not without a certain amount of skill, no doubt acquired when I was nine years old and already an accomplished fisherwoman.
My husband, on the other hand, is not, nor actually has any desire to be, a fisherman, accomplished or otherwise.
However, the other day he finally gave in to a persistent urging of his brother-in-law and found himself on the bank of a pond, well stocked with rainbow trout, instead of in the safety and comfort of his garage, surrounded by familiar and well used tools.
Hence the fish. The very dead large fish lying in my kitchen sink.
And so also began what can only be referred to as a fisherman’s tale.
It was a clear, hot day in rural Alberta, a day when lilacs bloomed abundantly and the green, green grass of summer flourished for no other reason than that’s what grass does here in June in this province when it has rained and rained forever.
It was a day to forget about to do lists; a day when a sign with “Gone fishing” scrawled on it made perfect sense.
“So how many did the other guy get,” I questioned. “Well, he said he got three, but one got away,” my husband replied somewhat smugly.
It was clear that he was convinced the one that got away may or may not be a figment of the other guy’s imagination.
“And the two he got were much smaller,” he added. He spread his hands to indicate the size watching me closely to make sure I got the significance of how much ‘smaller’.
“I get it,” I said, slipping the decapitated fish into an extra large freezer bag.
I scrape the fish heads into the garbage, and in so doing, go back, way back in my mind to another time and another place.
I was a fisherman’s daughter.
I read in my father’s diary once that he and I had caught 99 fish to date that spring. The date was June 5. The year was 1963.
As I read his entry so many years later, I wonder if it, too, was a fisherman’s tale.
“Good heavens, that’s a lot of fish,” I think.
Looking back into my own “fish diaries kept in my head” which, over the years, haven’t been brought out or dusted off very often, I seem to remember only moments, caught forever in a time capsule, almost smothered by this thing called “being an adult.”
My dad and I used to fish on the banks of the Clearwater River. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the blue, churning water of this river laughing and dancing along until it disappeared around a bend.
The current and this still, quiet place in the river somehow co-existed and it was in this still, quiet place we fished.
I fished and my dad fished and sometimes my brothers. And we had this dog named Smokey who was there, but didn’t fish, only ran around doing doglike things.
I don’t remember feeling particularly joyous because I was fishing, and I don’t remember feeling particularly excited when I caught one, which according to my dad’s diary entry, must have been quite often.
But, I do remember the way the river flowed onto forever, and how my dad and I would fish away the hours like there was absolutely nothing more important we should be doing.
And, I know without a doubt, if I could have one minute of those days to live over, I would.
And I would be most grateful.