October 2, 2014
Worms and Fishes
Posted on Aug 15, 2011
By Mr. Fish
“Aren’t we killing worms just so we can catch a fish that we’re not going to kill just so we can show each other how much like Jesus we think we are, even though nobody’s a hundred percent sure there’s such a thing as Jesus, anyway?”
“What?” cried Dusty Woo, as if the sentence had been presented to him on a revolving Scrabble board.
“We’re baiting our hooks with worms, right?”
“You need a worm to catch a fish,” said Mr. Woo, only 40 percent sure of his statement, having never actually seen anything but eels and occasionally underpants that had been weighed down by rocks like murdered informants yanked out of Lake Admiration. “A fish isn’t just going to jump into your pocket, it has to be deceived,” he explained, holding up his index finger as a gesture of professorial wisdom.
“So we’re actually killing something to deceive something else.”
“We’re killing something to save something and we’re only focusing on the thing that we’re saving just so we can say that we’re saviors, right, even though we’re murderers first?”
“What?” exclaimed Mr. Woo, using the word for a third time in a row, striking it one more time against his comprehension like a wet match against a wheel of cheddar cheese.
“All right, forget about the worm for a second,” said my brother, lowering his pole. “How is pulling a fish out of water and then putting it back into water saving it?”
“Turn around, Jeffrey, and pay attention to the water,” said Mr. Woo, suddenly feeling a fresh mosquito bite rising up on his ankle. His reach as far away from doing anything about it as a “gesundheit” would be blessing a sneeze suddenly detonated in El Salvador.
“We’re deceiving the fish?” asked somebody, whispering to his neighbor, causing poles to waver up and down the bank.
“Isn’t this the same thing as digging up a tree and then replanting it five feet away from where we dug it up and then saying that we saved it by not turning it into a picnic table?” asked Jeff.
“No, it’s completely different.”
“You can’t build anything with a fish,” said Mr. Woo.
“My mother used to exfoliate her feet with a sea urchin,” said my brother. “It was freeze-dried and glued to the top of a paperweight. Now she uses a pineapple.”
“A sea urchin is not a fish.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, and besides, even if it were, sandpapering your feet is not building anything,” said the counselor.
“Sure it is,” said my brother. “It’s building trust that you’re committed to not wearing away all the enamel in the bathtub by walking around in the shower and falling through the goddamn ceiling into the living room.”
“Look,” said Mr. Woo, stamping his left foot hard against the ground and then wiggling it some in the air, figuring that the atmosphere itself might be enough of a claw to rip his mosquito bite into glorious shreds, “let the fish save the worms if they want to, that’s not our responsibility! Our responsibility is to save the fish. Likewise, it’s the Lord’s responsibility to save us. See how there’s an order to it, kind of like the biggest animal to the smallest?”
“So shouldn’t we be saving monkeys and dogs then?”
“I’m just saying that it’s a pretty big leap, a human being to a fish.”
“Well, maybe it’s not literally the biggest animal to the smallest.”
“And wasn’t Jesus only something like 5-4?”
“Nobody knows how tall he was.”
“My older sister, Maureen, is 5-11 and the idea of her saving anybody from anything is absurd. She can’t even button her shirt straight. My mother says it’s because she can’t see over her overbite.”
“OK, Mr. Booth, forget about it.”
“My father says it’s because she’s not buttoning her own shirt and that when you let everybody on the football team each take a button then you’re bound to come up a little lopsided sometimes.”
“Dad says that the only thing that separates her from Roto-Rooter is the fact that she doesn’t have a truck and a toll-free number.”
It was then that my fishing line stiffened and my pole began to bounce and I suddenly felt the unmistakable jolt of electricity that a fish makes when a barb of steel splits the roof of its mouth and its body falls into convulsions as it struggles to reverse time. Ninety seconds after that I was tearing through the woods with my brother and an hour after that we were being pushed into Father Sweat’s office after the camp janitor found us sitting in the camp mail truck with the motor running and a fish pinned to the radiator by a hot rock. Holding out the fish for Head Pastor Sweat to wave away like it was a copy of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” the janitor was asked to gather Mr. Woo and the rest of the group from Lake Admiration and to assemble them at the Sympathy Garden just outside the mess hall for a burial ceremony. “And if you know what’s good for you,” said Father Sweat across his desk through glasses thick enough to magnify the buffoonery in his face, “you both better have something nice to say about that fish.”
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