Sunday, March 22, 2020

Decameron 2020:
From a post to a private Facebook Group 3/22/2020

Timothy Knepp, "Redear Sunfish," 2008

It once was true, and true it shall ever be.
The cattails, taller than I was, obstructing my view.
The rusty old rowboat, with its creaky oarlocks.
My grandma, gently pulling the oars as we made our way through the reeds and cattails, fishing.

It was summer (it had to have been summer, I was maybe seven, maybe eight, so I was in school if not for summer), and we’d go up to Rockland Lake, and my parents would visit with cousins and aunts and family friends, and I’d go with my grandma on adventures.

She showed me how to put a worm on the hook.
Oh, how it struggled, the poor slimy red thing, roiling between my fingers.
I couldn’t do it, so she did it for me.

She’d bait her hook too, and we sat in the rowboat near the lily pads and cattails, watching the red-and-white plastic floats bob a little on the riffle.

Until the float popped under!
“Pull back a little - gently!”
I tried to set the hook, and it didn’t seem to set, and when I reeled in there was half a worm left on the hook, and no fish.

She helped me put a new worm on, and cast off again.
We sat, together, on the water, in the green-and-rust smelling boat, in the warm sunlight.
She smelled faintly of perfume and laundry and cotton cloth.
I was her cub, she was my lioness, showing me how to hunt, keeping me safe while I learned.

Her float ducked under!
She set the hook and, like magic, like something from a fairy-tale, she reeled in a small iridescent rainbow, pan-shaped, a sunfish. It was a keeper.
And then my float popped under, and she helped me tug back to gently set the hook, and we reeled it in together, and it was a perch, a yellow perch. It, too, was a keeper.

She caught one more panfish, and I helped her row us back to the dock.
Later, at the bungalow, she skinned and gutted the little fish as I watched in raw fascination and horror, deboned them, minced the meat.

That night, we all ate home-made gefilte fish.
The golden light of the day passed into night, and me and my brothers and little cousins were tucked into our cots, and I fell asleep.

Safe, and fed, and full of the day.
It once was true, and true it shall ever be.