How often does life present intersections of meaning whereby we find ourselves immersed in a moment that we find vivid and real, only to find that it connects to other realities? Does that make sense? Have I told you that I majored in English and Religion? If not, perhaps you could tell, inasmuch the neural network has now been in place for some thirty years. I speak of course of fish, not some abstruse theologian.
This collection of moments occurred on a certain beach on a spit of land, known as Cape Cod, a vast glacial moraine, the terminus of an ice age glacier whose foot receded and dropped the ground down contents of mother earth's best and hardest rock, igneous and metamorphic (I presume), leaving a vast ecosystem based upon sand and scrub pine. I love this place as it is in my veins, for we now that saltwater is the same ph as our blood, and that many of us are destined to return to its gyre. I have to state here, for the record, that Larry Dahlberg and I have similar imaginations inasmuch as we both wish to be cremated and our ashes placed in a plug that can be easily broken off in the maw of our favorite gamefish. For Larry it will be a muskie and for me it will be a bluefish, preferably a surface take, splashy and messy and full of evil intent. But I digress.
After a hiatus of fifteen plus years, my law school friends and I re-acquainted as a group in Cape Cod to extract joy from its coastal waters. I had high hopes for them to be introduced to bluefish and stripers, in that order. Of course, as fate often does, we actually accomplished these goals, with some brief hesitations.
Our best event was striking bluefish from the beach on Vineyard Sound. Never having been party to their ravenous natures, my friends were spellbound. Hit upon hit upon hit, on the surface, slugging it out, eye's sclera flashing yellow and incensed, aiming toward hand, finger and throat, the mayhem continued unabated for at least two hours, although I did not keep actual track. I recall all four rods doubled over, yelling, laughing, and the unleashing of joy, as only the office bound can do when confronted with the best of all alternatives.
These were good fish, four to eight pounds, hot and agitated, and wanting only to slam the shit out of the next surface commoting popper, be it a pink Pili popper or a white pencil popper. We saw the same fish target, execute and miss, once, twice, and three times. This was classic excellent bluefish action. My friends received the finest treat.
Next were large stripers, a different personality. Bursts of sprinter speed, finicky yet positively charged, they held us captive in a rip until my friend Steve connecting on his first cast, brought a large bass to shore across a cobbly beach and I made a misstep. This was a good fish, hefting 18 lbs and with a tandem hook sluggo in its mouth. After subduing it, Steve asked quite reasonably for a picture. My boga grip being attached to my waist so I could not easily free it for him to hold, I released the fish and told him to grab it by the lips. Big Mistake. As he hefted it, the fish initiated a slow motion head shake that freed itself from his hand and pulled the free trailer hook downward into his left index finger, to the curve of the shank. I saw how bad it was. I saw the fish in the rip. I saw how bad it was. I saw the fish in the rip, just where they were supposed to be. " Fuck". "Fuck". For all the effort and sublime pleasure forgone. For my friend in need of immediate attention. For life whose balance while, not hanging by a thread, nonetheless felt worn and tortured. My first cast elicited a strike and a miss. What would fortune have held for me had I not had to go to Hyannis's ER? I will never know.
After doffing his Yankee's hat at 6am at the intake desk, Steve was asked what his level of pain was? The pictoral board showed happy to crying, from one to ten. Steve thought about it, I am sure he thought hard, and mustered a "2".
Hmmmmmm. A "2"? I left the beach for a "2"? My first thought was to tweak his finger to see what a "2" really felt like. My second thought was to leave him in good hands and return hours later after he had a chance to flirt with all the ER staff sufficiently. My last thought, as expressed to him, was that I had taken shits higher than 2 on the pain scale and that I left fish to bring him to this place of healing. Next time I will leave my friend on the beach until the moment is past.
But it is the stories, and not the fish, that end up being burned into our consciousness. Or so I rationalize! Ha!