Night Fishing

Written by Norbert Kovacs

Image: Big Encyclopedia of Defunct Animals #336 by Stanton Fink

     My friend Tom and I watch the fish pass in blurs deep under the turquoise bay. Their bright, colored forms seem taken from hectic and hurried dreams. We speak of them as if they were dreams once we return to land in our boat. “What kind of fish might they have been?” I ask Tom, as I face toward the water. “Were they the fish we saw the other men catch?” The idea of the blurs moving beneath the bay stays with us as we walk the seaside town. By nightfall, we decide to go back and catch one or more of the quick darting fish we had seen. “In the dark, it’ll be more fun without anyone else around,” Tom says to encourage us.

     With gear loaded in our boat, we start about midnight. We row as a breeze behind us moves billowing clouds through the stars above our heads. We stop at an open stretch of water in the heart of the bay. Far on our right, the head of a cliff looms, a dark blotch. Tom and I bind lanterns over the side of our boat and turn them on with the flick of a switch. Light pours electric and strong onto the water. The turquoise of the day reappears in beams beneath the surface, glowing with flecks of zooplankton. The water undulates slowly, gently, as far down as we can see. Soon, fish rise under our lights. They are bright as earlier. Their many, long faces approach and nose the surface lit by our lanterns. First there are a few but then more. I grab my fishing spear and watch, tense. The fish gather in the light, twitching one way, twisting another, drifting right and left. A few hungry ones nibble at the plankton. They keep a rhythm in their motion–up, aside, and down–that never seems to fail. Tom and I watch them as steadily, mesmerized.

     However, I raise my spear: I am here to catch fish rather than be absorbed in them, after all. I spot a large, blue fish swimming in the turquoise near me. Is he in fact real, I wonder, feeling I have reason after my long trance by the lantern side. I decide to get an answer: I hurl my spear and hit him. The fish all around speed away. The one I have hit twists and writhes; the blur of him passes in and out of a cloud of blood much as his fellow fish had cut up and down in the light. I lift my spear, so the fish weighting it breaks the surface. Any thought of mine for the life in the turquoise water cuts short as I study him. He is thinner than I imagined; bones press arching against his side. He looks at me in profile from a circular eye, cold and glassy.

     “Kind of strange, isn’t he?” Tom says, drawing close.

     I take the fish off the spear and feel over him. “I don’t know,” I say. The fish’s pulse beats in my fingers. I feel him breathe weakly as my hand presses his scales. The strong smell of his body fills my nose. And, most of all, his blue pierces my eye. The very color of the clear, open sky. His presence has caught me and I think, So I have got him.

This work was featured in issue #4

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