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Vo l . 7 N o . 1

Ball Point Dawn I

full-chested. Often the cutthroat in this river ran on the slender side, but this beauty had been around for a while. She was a mature lady, “a mature lady.” He allowed himself that tidbit of pathetic fallacy. He regained a couple more feet of line, being careful to keep the rod steady and the tip high. The fish inched toward him and he could see her clearly now and if he’d had a landing net with him he might have swooped her up in it. But he had given up on landing nets some years before, when he’d lost a big one trying to deploy the net. They were cumbersome anyway, always dangling from your belt and hanging up between your legs. The cutthroat surged again, but he managed to maintain control, and this time he was able to coax her into the shallow water at his feet. Twenty inches easily— maybe an inch or a fraction more. He took a second to admire the bright red-orange slashes under her jaws that gave her the name. She was Oncorhyncus clarkii, the genus from the Greek meaning hook-nosed, like other trout, the species being named after William Clark of Lewis & Clark

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Brad Gooch

fame. And now came the moment of truth: to kill her and take her home, or not? It was always a hard decision for him, as the professor was not by nature a catch-andrelease kind of guy, but of course he had released many trout over the years, and big ones, too. What would Sir Izaak have done? He knew that well enough. But T. Roland Wibbles suffered from the affliction of being fairly well-read. He could not pretend not to have read Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish,” which ends, as he could not unremember, “And I let the fish go.” Albeit, he told himself at this critical juncture, her “tremendous fish” was a rather homely red grouper, whereas his was quite beautiful. He leaned over and slipped his left hand under her exhausted body more than half expecting her to lunge off, but she did not. He worked out the Stimulator, which was lodged firmly in her lower jaw—“she was going nowhere,” he said out loud—and he released her, slowly rocking her into the water to make sure she was recovering from the battle. He could see her gills pulsing, felt her heavy body flex

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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