Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Last Fisherman

(click to see The real-life last fishermen)

Each knot of the net is another nobble in his history, swimming in his memory unwittingly; the moments where his father would come home, cold and wet, cracking the knuckles of his index fingers with his thumbs, standing in the threshold dripping & huffing while he warmed up to greet his family; those same beaten & burned fingers pointing out the carving at port, marked 1604, a crude picture of a boat, which the fisherman's own hands, a child's hands back then, traced out by the freezing beach. Unbeknownst to him, as he methodically counts knots, he counts the details of himself; the view he breathed in of the village from the slopes; walking past the huge Captain Mickey Morton to work on his boat, fresh-faced & wearing new boots; hauling his first catch, being coerced quickly to disentangle and release the young fish back into the ocean; the storm that overturned Morton's boat, sprawling the fisherman into the twilight depths while cruel waves swashed above. He tosses the net overboard.

The knots of the net scrape the deck as the net returns. Husks, shells, the odd wee fish, and a boatload of plastic. If only it were edible or useful... Ha! If only it were non-existent! He empties the net, folds it, ties it up, and puts it back in its place on deck, where it will never be touched again, save by the slime that will build up over time as neighbouring empires of microorganisms duel for the rich nutrients the net has captured from the sea.

When the ship comes ashore, it will sit upon the beach, giving way to splayed ribs, like all the other hundreds of boats already dwindling away; once, those ribs held together a vessel that clogged with barnacles and bumped with sharks. As the fisherman sees the dull glint of his village in the distance, he eases off the engine of the boat, allowing it to coast, and then finally be tugged dimly by the current. His mouth gaping with silence, he imagines his life from the moment he touches shore; his boat unfolding and rotting; the sea turning black, riddled with flotsam; his hobble-backed shuffles to pick up the dole; his face becoming blotchy and red as he wears out a seat in the pub, telling tales of storms, catches, fish and gulls, knots he once tied, an ocean that brought the village and himself into being.

Silently, amid the reel & writhe of the ocean, the great booming womb of the sea, robed with ice, carressed with sand while dancing with rocky cliffs, the last fisherman exhales, and falls over the side of the boat, leaving it to drift in fog at dusk, mooring itself alongside old fridges and washing machines on the rocks down the way.

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