Another day broke. I had no clue what date or what day it was, but it broke nonetheless. I knew because the sun shone threw as if it alone threw open the curtains to the living room I was staying in.
I was still in my sleeping pyjamas, and so I stripped myself and dressed in the things that I presented myself in yesterday evening. It was simple ware – a shirt and a coat with some relatively thick jeans. Likely the bait man would recognise me, but no one else would. And that’s all I would really need. I didn’t need sympathy or recognition from the bottle shops or the bars – just beer. But hopefully I would get some sort of real discount from the bait man.
The previous night I had felt like shit. Mostly I think it was because of him – the bait man; treating me decently when he clearly meant to scam me. So, as I passed all the bars on the walk down to the baitman I took a drink or two from them so that hopefully I could develop enough of a spine to bring in a fish today.
‘Heya, how’re you going today? Heard you didn’t have much luck yesterday?’
I only stared at him with drunken hatred. ‘Yeah, nothing yesterday. I’m sure I’ll get much better catches tonight?’
‘Well, that’s the hope,’ said the baitman as he spread a false smile along his face.
Clearly all he saw in me was a cash cow. But I refused to be that. I would catch at least something tonight.
I followed my footsteps back to the lake and wound up down by the pier. I cast out the line and then poured myself a small tumbler of the scotch I had purchased at the airport. Then I put on some Mozart that I let flow from my earphones. Today was different from yesterday. I felt calmer. More at ease with the world around me.
My hand reached for the tumbler that held the intoxicating liquor, but it reached back to the rod as I felt a slight pull. I didn’t know what that meant – whether I had caught a boot or if I had caught a fucking sturgeon. But, instinctively, it meant more to me than a tumbler of Scotch.
Then it kept going. My line pulled out further and further and it kept winding in and out and, after a while of complacency, I realised that there was a fish on the end of my line. A real fish. Something that had latched on and wasn’t letting go. I put down the tumbler and placed my drinking hand on the twisty thing on the side of the fishing rod. Immediately the line stopped going out, but I felt pulled out. I placed my right foot forward and stopped my momentum and attempted to pull back. The line pulled back against me even stronger. Now I could feel the struggle. The fish didn’t want to be caught and I didn’t want to lose the fish.
My feet were firm. A few seconds went by looking at my line pass back and forth, but never going outward. I was stable and I had the fish exactly where I wanted it. My hand was on the reeling-in thingy and I finally reeled it in and a short amount of the line came in with the fish fighting just as hard as it was a few seconds ago, without me pulling it in.
A few mere rolls in and I could feel that the fight had decreased from this fish. With every circulation pulling the fish in would become easier and easier. The fighting stopped and, finally, I could see it’l shiny flesh floating on the surface of the lake right ahead of me. It still flopped every now and again, but all the fight had gone out of it.
‘Fuck sake mate,’ was what I said as soon as I saw its full body pulled up to the rocks immediately before me.
It flopped around some more on the surface. I grabbed a great big rock that was near me and I brought it down hard on the fish’s head and I crushed it cleanly. After a few seconds it stopped flopping around. The thing I had caught was a medium weighted trout. Certainly nothing that was in any contention of winning a world record – or even a local record – but it was a fish that I had caught all on my own. And that’s all that really mattered to me when I saw that thing with it’s brains splattered all over the rocks. I had finally bested a master of the sea – I had finally caught a fucking fish.
This single, rather minuscule, accomplishment of getting a fish out of the sea meant more to me than the last ten years working to ensure that the books of multi-million dollar companies showed more than satisfactory results for the chair members of whichever company I was lying to. And I was glad for it – since that was the only fish that I luckily grasped during the entire day of fishing. But the rest of the day spent drinking whisky and listening to music more than made up for my lack of catches.
I returned my rod and remaining bait to the baitman, with my dead fish in tow over my shoulder.
‘You caught something ‘ay. Let’s have a look at it then,’ said the baitman squinting one eye and staring into the grey mass that was my catch. I tossed his bait and his rod and all his other equipment over the counter and then I threw the fish onto the counter so that it was right in front of his eyes.
He whistled a quite whistle and said ‘she’s quite a somethin. You ought to be proud of that. Two days in and you ‘ave a meal. You better cook ‘er up right then yea?’
‘Yeah,’ I replied with residual salty phlegm in my mouth, ‘I’ll cook ‘er up good.’
Then I took my fish off the bench and began walking home with it over my shoulder. Every car that passed me had some driver or passenger looking at me as I went through the main street, back over the bridge, and then into the residential area to my friends and her fiance’s house. It didn’t bother me. I had conquered one of the primary elements of the earth – what did it matter to me what people thought of me.
My friend and her fiance were quite proud of what I had accomplished that day. She cooked up the trout with some garlic and herbs and citrus and served it to us still steaming. It was delicious – it was far better than the meals I had comped from my company when taking out clients to expensive restaurants. But it was a home cooked meal by someone whose cooking experience consisted of grade 11 and 12 home-ec class who was cooking a fish that was caught by someone who probably couldn’t tell a fishing line from a butcher’s twine.
I now had a difficult decision before me. The date on my return ticket was slowly creeping closer and closer, and each day I drew further and further away from wanting to work in my old job. I would sleep and dream then fish and listen and live and desire. All these things I had never experienced working to consolidate numbers with expectations. But I felt better working with these numbers. They were more natural and, despite representing less, they meant more. Catching a single fish that was only a few kilograms seemed to be far more of an accomplishment than balancing the books of a company that was worth a few million dollars.
More days passed, and more time spent with the fishmonger, and with my friend and her fiance, and with the bartenders and pub keepers and the beer pullers. A few more fish found their way into my kipper box, but I found more and more acceptance among these small town folks. One night a local fisherman came down beside me and started a conversation.
‘Heya, how’re you coming along? Catching much?’
‘Catching fuck all, if I’m honest,’ I replied, ‘how’re you coming along?’
‘I never come along,’ he replied as he gazed out along his line.
‘Ah, just looking for something to do then ‘ay?’ I replied in an attempt to stimulate conversation with the stranger.
‘Aren’t we all.’ he replied confidently.
And so we both stood there. Silent guardians over the quietest fishing spot in all of Taupo. Then he left.
‘Hey, where’re you going? You’ve not caught anything yet?’ I cried out after him.
‘I don’t need to. I’m alright,’ he said as he continued to walk.
The week or so that I had set aside for my vacation into Taupo had expired. When I woke up that morning I was expected at the international gate in only half an hour. It was far less time that I could have had if I had sped the whole way there. I looked at the time on my phone, then I looked at the departure time of my flight back home, and I went back to sleep.
Back home everything – I knew – would need sorting out. There were accounts to be drawn out of and accounts that required funds to be put into so that balances could be temporarily acquired; there were balance sheets that needed multiple millions of dollars worth of input and output that no one knew where the input came from or where the output went to but that simply existed. There was so much work to do to – that I would have to do – to ensure that a company, or our representative of that company, could go to investors or partners or executives or whatever, in order to ensure that the money they had invested in said company was being put to good use, no matter how exactly it was being put to use.
But here; here there was only fish. If you didn’t get a fish then you didn’t eat a fish. You didn’t need to put it in an offshore account for four years and hope that the next government would be the opposition party and would therefore loosen restrictions on investments in foreign companies. A fish was a fish. You would catch it in the afternoon, bring it home and strip it and then throw the fillets onto the fire and cook it up with some aromatics and citruses and then you would have a delicious meal. No tricks, no legal loopholes, no nothing. Just fish, grapefruit, and garlic.
So I pushed the snooze button. I woke up way after my flight had already left. I never even sent a goodbye message to my shithead boss. Then I went and caught something. I couldn’t even tell you what. And that’s how the rest of my life went.