A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.” – Anonymous
A hundred small fishing boats closely followed by pelicans, install themselves on the waves at the mouth of the harbor. Their appetite as great as wale’s, they wait in the morning light like a pack of hungry beasts, creeping low next to the pier, motors off, men up on deck, nets clutched between teeth, eyes skimming the dark surface of the sea.
Rushing in, they come, a heard of fishes drunken with love and excitement, blinded by lust. Like sleepwalkers and opium-eaters, like pigeons flying home, they know the way. They have almost completed their return. Slipping beneath the silky sheets of the waves, their slimy cold bodies covered in fish oils and ancient sweat, they bump ungraciously into one another, their gaping ungodly mouths gasping for air. So many they are.
Not far away, a foolish careless fish, probably very inexperienced and stupid as well, has lifted his curious head above the water. In his liquid joy, just for a moment, he wanted to see the world.
They have been spotted, a signal has been given. In the infernal manner of a pack of wolves, all boats simultaneously leap and charge, the motors roar, the men, the beasts, savagely devour the silence. The race is on. “It’s ON!” I scream from my earthbound place on the shore, my heart thrashing inside me. I am an involuntary spectator, a witness to a battlefield.
A hundred small fishing boats closely followed by pelicans, attack, full speed ahead: a hundred leaping jaguars barely touching the waves: and jump, and fly, and jump and fly, the water boiling beneath them. Who will get their first? Who will catch the fish? And who will go home defeated tonight, unable to sleep with infernal visions of flapping tales, keels opening and closing, and round paranoid eyes slipping away in thick liquid darkness? It is a great competition. It is a matter of life and death. Legend has it, that gun shots have been fired and fishermen’s blood has been spilled in this race with no rules, no respect, no honor.
As the first boats surround the school, nets start flying in the air like extravagant flamenco dancers, triumphantly spreading their spider skirts above a sea alive with fish. With a monstrous appetite, the fishermen start gutting out the contents of the sea. Fish rains down from their nets, the boats now with their bellies full, purr softly towards Lily Anne, the big ship perched at the pier with a sign on top WE BUY FISH.
They will put the fish in black containers, measure her and ship her as far as Tailand, where her eggs, her unborn babies, will be gobbled up with great delight.
I probably went too far, didn’t I, in my poetic interpretation of a simple event- the fishing of the Mullet who comes to spawn every December near the Shores of Saint Petersburg, Florida. My excuse is the fact that I have never before seen anything like that, and that I truly enjoyed it.
The title, as well as the quote at the beginning of this post are from a book with the same title by Amy Tan I found in a Goodwill store a few days after witnessing this fishing scene. I still haven’t started reading the book and I don’t know if it is good or not. I bought it for $1, 25 (along with two other books and some clothes) because I loved the quote on the back cover.