Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: David Patten

Daybreak, mist rising from the surface, the chatter of tropical birds and primates from the dense rainforest flanking their small boat.  It’s long and narrow like a canoe, Elliot perched at the bow clothed in angler’s khaki.  At the stern, hand on tiller, Santiago guides the craft through the still waters.

          The Peruvian maneuvers them into a horseshoe pool off the main river.  It’s sheltered by overhanging branches that shed pods into the water.  Elliot baits his line and stands astride the bench for balance.

          The first two times the bait is gone, either slyly taken or slipped off.  Elliot packs it tighter around the double hook and casts again.  This time the line goes taught, the carbon fiber rod doubling in on itself, threatening to snap.  Elliot reels and pulls, reels and pulls.  Mantenlo tenso, says Santiago.  Keep it taut. 

          The fish is strong, angry.  A fighter.  It breaches in a commotion.  Breathing hard, Elliot brings it toward the boat.  Es piranha, says Santiago reaching for the landing net.  But Elliot raises the rod too soon, the frenzied ball of muscle arcing at him.  Instinctively he holds out a hand, Santiago’s ten cuidado, be careful, a fraction late.  With the violent precision of a steel blade, the piranha removes Elliot’s index finger at the mid joint.

          Elliot’s mind struggles to process, stalling the shock and pain.  The piranha thrashes in the boat, gasping.  The disturbance has caught the attention of an alligator on the far bank.  Santiago watches it slide into the water.  Mantener la sangre en el bote, he tells Elliot, wrapping his hand in a small towel.  Keep the blood in the boat.

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