It burst from its hiding place beneath a submerged log, and it was moving so fast that at first I couldn’t identify it. But one look at David told me all I needed to know—at long last, here he was. The legend was true; it was Supertrout!
He seemed to be everywhere, flashing like a ball of mercury struck by a hammer. For a minute I thought he was just making a boastful appearance before vanishing into his hiding place. He didn’t immediately charge the three baited hooks resting on the sandy riverbed. But Supertrout was only pretending to retreat. At the last minute he spun around and dashed toward my baited hook.
He bit hard and sped back for the safety of his log as line screeched from my reel. I didn’t realize it right away, but I was crying. I didn’t want to catch Supertrout! I didn’t even like fishing! I liked to stand beside the river and daydream. Now I was to be cursed by catching this stupid fish, and I could see that he was sooo beautiful. I didn’t want to kill him.
David tried to rip the pole from my hands, but Dad brushed him away. This was to be my moment. If I’d known how to fish, I might have tried to lose Supertrout—since there were ways to hook fish, there must be ways to unhook them—but no matter what I did, Supertrout wouldn’t let go of my bait. David could see that Supertrout was about to reach the other side of the cove, where he could wrap the line around the dead branch of a log and snap it. If there had been time, and if I’d liked him more, I might have worried about David because he was starting to foam at the mouth. He looked like someone about to turn inside out.
When Supertrout reached the far side of the cove, I realized David was screaming at me. “Reel him in! Don’t let him get away!” Then he yelled, “Don’t give him his head!” whatever that meant. I truly would have preferred passing the pole to David, but Dad had made it clear that, want it or not, this fish was mine.
I began to reel Supertrout in. Perhaps I was strong from opening tight lids on jars of peanut butter and mayonnaise, but I surprised Dad and David by managing to pull Supertrout to the riverbank. The great fish glinted in the sunlight as it flipped about on the gravel. I just stood there and stared at it, aghast. Dad picked up Supertrout and bashed his head on a rock. I shrieked in misery as blood gushed from his gills. Dad later claimed this was the merciful thing to do, so the fish wouldn’t suffer.
There was a rusty measuring guide embossed on the lid of Dad’s old tackle box, but it only went up to twelve inches and the now lifeless body of Supertrout was more than twice that. I didn’t want to fish anymore, or ever again, but David continued for awhile, even though his heart wasn’t in it. He probably tried to convince himself that Supertrout had a twin. I noticed him looking at me with something close to hatred. On the way back to camp, he didn’t want to be seen with me and walked on ahead. With Supertrout dangling from a chain in my hand as Dad and I returned to camp, people pointed and clapped me on the back.
Legends should never die. I hope the Loch Ness monster, the Abominable Snowman and Bigfoot are never found. Supertrout spent time in our freezer, and for awhile Dad would bring him out to show people just what a great little fisherman I was, but eventually the fish became “cruddy” and was thrown away. Cats overturned our garbage can, and I caught a glimpse of Supertrout’s skeleton in the gutter in front of our house, not a fitting end for a legend.
The day I caught Supertrout, Dad drove us home with Uncle Manuel snoring in the front passenger seat. David and I were in the back, and David was staring out the side window with his back to me as much as possible. I leaned forward. “Dad?”
“Do you think fish have souls?”
“I don’t know. Probably not.” He knew I was sad about Supertrout.
The moment felt right and once again I took my best shot. “Dad?”
“Can I have a German Shepherd?”
He surprised me by saying, “No promises, but I’ll run it past your mother when we get home.”
Later, the answer was still no, but I figured I was making progress.