If I had to Be Caught
A punny fellow English major friend and I almost named this one “stream of conciousness.” But the title as it is is perfect, and though I’ve thought of making many changes after readers misunderstood and just failed to “get” this piece, it says exactly what I want it to, and I can’t really imagine any changes without compromising the piece.
Without further rambling…
It is a gorgeous day. I swim freely in my lovely, fast-paced stream, loving life. For a while, I was afraid that I would regret leaving the cave-pond where I grew up, but I longed to escape. I needed change. So I left, and I am loving my life in this action-packed river. But don’t be fooled. Though I have been sheltered, I am not ignorant of the ways of this world. I know the dangers that lurk around every corner, waiting to catch me unawares.
So of course, your bait does not fool me. Yes, that plump worm is tempting, floating there, just begging to be snatched up, but I know that hiding beneath that fleshy mass is a wiry hook- a hook that has caught many fish already, and will catch many more. I refuse to be one of those fish.
Still, the concept is interesting. Can so many fish be that dumb, that unobservant, that wreckless- to fall for such a blatant trap? Honestly, to be that oblivious, not to take two seconds to see the slight bit of metal, the line of wire extending from the worm, who is in an extremely odd pose, if you stop to think about it, not to notice all these signs is inexcusable.
Could it be that these fish, your previous dinners, were driven by starvation? No, not in this stream. Perhaps they saw all the signs, but there was something else, some reason, some other factor that made it worth the risk. Now I am curious. I swim about, observing the worm, the hook, the line. I know you see me; you are willing me to bite. I stare back at you. I am smarter than those other fish.
Suddenly, there is a change. Something is moving around me. The worm is being dragged out of the water. That poor annelid must have horrid vertigo by now. You pull in your line, set the pole against a rock, and kneel down right at the water’s edge. I see your fingers brush the water causing ripples to spread across the surface. How warm your fingers must be.
Woah. What am I thinking? You are a human being. You fish for sport. You catch way more than you need to eat. You are irreverent and not to be trusted.
And yet, I can see why the whole world goes a-flutter when your kind appears. There is something so… intriguing: dangerous, but also exciting. Now, as I watch you watch me, I swish about, teasing you. How close can I get? Close enough that your fingers will brush against my scales? I am too slick for you to be able to grab me. Plus, I am too careful to get caught.
“Here, fishie fish. Yeah, I see you. You’re beautiful, aren’t you?”
Oh, aren’t you just so charming, Mr. Fisherman? I know what you are. You can’t fool me, no matter how interesting you are. I turn my back, making as if I’m going to leave. What will you say? I move much slower than necessary, hoping to hear you call me back, when I feel another disturbance in the current. Something’s entering the water! I feel myself being lifted. A net! You had a net all along! I flop about, trying to jump out, but to no avail. The mesh sides are too high.
“Shhhh, calm down, it will be ok. Shhh.”
Your voice is soft, low. I want to believe your words. But I know better. I should never have swum so close.
“Let’s take a look at you.” You’ve lifted the net out of the water and swung it over the dry land. Even if I did jump out now, I wouldn’t be able to make it to the water. You reach inside as if to grab me. Fat chance. You betrayed me. I’m not going to make it easy for you. I flap my tail, moving my whole body as rapidly and erratically as possible.
“Shhhh…. I’ve got you.”
After only a few attempts, your rough, calloused hand grips me firmly and lifts me out of the net, which falls to the ground as you use both hands to keep me still, looking directly into your eyes. Maybe you’re not lying. Maybe it will be all right. You don’t seem like the humans I’ve heard stories about. You’re not loud. You’re obviously patient, having spent so much time watching me. I guess the best I can hope for is that you’ll kill me quickly, and treat my body respectfully. Please don’t waste me. As a fish, we know that someday we will end up as part of the food chain. The worst thing would be to have my death serve no purpose. But I don’t think you would let that happen. Would you?
“Yeah, you are a beauty. That’s right, calm down. See? That’s not so bad is it? Let’s measure you. “
If I had to be caught, I guess I’m glad it was by you. I can accept my fate now. I look back up at you from the rock you’ve placed me on. I hope you hurry up with this measuring; I’m starting to get parched. This rock is so dry and uncomfortable. I see you shake your head.
“Too big, what a shame.”
And without another glance, another word, you throw me back into the chilling water.