Of Tots and Trout: Part 2

It’s my run now and I’m no longer chasing trout. We’re all after that which had possessed the little girl. In this new paradigm I see each fish. I know without knowing where to cast, and unencumbered by thought put the fly there. Our fishing is like breathing, and the inhales and exhales carry us to the head of the pool, where we pause. Here lies a tangled knot of willow wisps and driftwood, below which, as sure as Sunday, lurks the bully of the block. I haven’t seen her form, flight, shadow, or rise, but she’s there.

And so, without consideration for geometry, wind, current, or the consequence of a likely snag, I drag my line taut, and with a backhand switch send it rolling past one greedy bush and under the next to unfurl directly into a seam of current that drives its payload into the lair of a predator. Which, God save me, detaches itself from the depths and grows and grows and grows, an ever-looming shadow that—smack—devours my bug like it had spoken ill of all troutkind.

The hook set, I forget for a moment the life at the end of my line and look instead over my shoulder to seek its reflection in Ayden’s face. Then, before I can gather my wits, the fight barely a squabble, a gill-hooked rainbow is dying on the bank, its brushstroke of rose crosshatched by crimson.

“Iwannasee. Lemseeee,” whines Ayden.

I cast a pleading look of shame over my shoulder, but am returned an unapologetic “get used to it” shrug from Steven.

“We’re fishing,” says his body language. ”All three of us. We’ll deal.”

“Okay, Sweetheart. This one will look different, though,” says Steven aloud. There is no somber tone, no foreboding. He’s simply sharing the facts.

Brow knit and lips pursed, the tot crouches with an outstretched finger to consider our situation, then hands down her verdict.

“Putmbaaack.”

“No, Bug. This one’s going to die. We’re going to eat him.”

Turning away with the fish, I slide my thumb along the roof of its mouth, guess at the back of its skull with a crooked index finger and, with a firm grip, bend its head backwards fast and hard until I feel a snap.

With eyes on the mountain I think, so that’s it. That’s “the talk.” For a two-year-old there is no reasoning that we were born with canine teeth and other things must die for us to live. There is no moral and no metaphor. She’ll adopt her own obfuscations later. For now it’s just the facts. Meanwhile, I keep my back turned and wait for the death spasms to pass. They take an eternity.

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