Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bleeding on Memorial Day

My hands were awash with  patriotic colors this morning. Blue blood of a lovely lady horseshoe crab, hooked by a lad whose enthusiasm, alas, could not compensate for his ignorance. Red blood of a dogfish, also hooked by the exuberant one. His first fish. Ever.

I landed and unhooked the fish. The child posed with it, two feet of shimmering muscle wrapped in sandpaper.
Can you eat it? 
Sure, if you bleed it first--

The father never acknowledged me; he refused to let the child take home and eat the fish.

"Nobody eats those things," he muttered. His eyes flashed fear when the dogfish had first broken through the surface.

The child looked at me. I had already shown him horseshoe crabs were harmless, letting the child brush his hands along the wriggly harmless claws. I had already shown him how to  handle a "shark," letting him run his fingers along the sandpaper skin. He trusted me.
You can eat it, I said once again, quietly--no reason to embarrass the child or his father. But it'll be fine if you let it go gently.
 He believed me.

Both the dogfish and the horseshoe crab had real reasons for fear. The milky blue blood oozing from the injured horseshoe crab may marks its doom. The bright red drops of blood on the handle of my net, now a dull burgundy, will cost the dogfish.

Neither knows of Memorial Day, when we splash red, white, and blue on our homes celebrating the brave young folks fighting over in lands we cannot be bothered to learn how to pronounce, battling ideologies in a futile attempt to defeat fear.

We fear, and we slaughter, those things we do not understand. The father has chosen ignorance, his child is still open to learning.

The child learned a little bit about fishing today, a little bit about the critters of our bay. He learned a much bigger lesson about ignorance, and he has a picture of himself holding a magnificent animal he feared moments before the photo was taken.

Our ignorance kills us. The local jetties are missing a few young men and women who are thousands of miles away. We barbecue and play in their names.

How many of us really know their stories? How many of us  want to know?

Yes, I am aware of the inconsistencies--fishing is complicated, and it's not.
 The horseshoe crab photo taken this past February.

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