School’s out for fish: hook, line and existentialism

PHOTO: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

This weekend brings Minnesota’s fishing opener, Mother’s Day, and the beginning of graduation season. These annual events affect us all, but none so much as local fish.

Thus, today’s play in three acts.

We begin in the weeds:

FISH: Mother! Oh, mother, I am to graduate!

MOTHER: Who are you?

FISH: It is I, your 5,783rd born!

MOTHER: Oh. You’re lucky I’m full. You look delicious.

FISH: Mother, I am leaving school forever.

MOTHER: That’s not a good idea. Fish who leave the school get hooked on slugs.

FISH: But I must. I’m 22 days old. I know how to structure an essay in three parts: Head, Fillet, Tail. I’m ready for what comes next.

MOTHER: If you say so, but don’t come crying to me if it doesn’t work out. I’ll eat anything that’s shiny.

Later, at the fish school:

DEAN: Today we gather to celebrate a special time in your short, brutal life: graduation. Not every fish makes it this far. Most are consumed in egg form or devoured shortly after birth. But thanks to your hard work and the instruction you received at our institution, you are not dead yet. That’s cause for celebration!

FISH (to fellow graduate): Oh, joy! Are you not excited?

FELLOW FISH: Are you kidding? I’m up to my gills in student loans.

FISH: Oh, sure. But a fresh start, isn’t it thrilling?

FELLOW FISH: I think I’m pregnant. And I can’t eat the eggs because I’m religious.

FISH: Well, still. I’m happy.

Out in the deep water:

FISH: My destiny unfolds before me like a bountiful weed bed!

HOOK 1: Look at me, I’m offering a future in worms!

FISH: Worms! How exciting. Night crawlers or angle worms?

HOOK 1: Night crawlers. The good stuff. Thick and juicy.

FISH: My that sounds wonderful. Well, I am looking to start the next chapter in life. Maybe this is it!

OTHER FISH: Excuse me, I’ll be taking this one. I’ve got a master’s degree.

FISH: Neptune, I can’t compete with that!

HOOK 1: Come along, son. (OTHER FISH takes worm, disappears above).

FISH: Oh, well. There are other Land Creatures on the Land.

HOOK 2: There sure are! Plastics! Your future is in plastics.

FISH: I see. You seem quite appealing. Shiny and striped, spinning all about. You are most colorful.

HOOK 2: You bet I am, and I’m offering full medical coverage.

FISH: Amazing! Dental? Oh, I see a therapist. And I have a preexisting condition.

HOOK 2: Sure, sure. All that, plus beheading, scaling, gut removal. The works. Totally compliant with the new health care bill.

FISH: I never saw myself in plastics.

HOOK 2: No one ever does, but it’s a good option. I mean, you could be rooting around here in the weeds for years before you get another chance like this.

FISH: I suppose. It’s not like I have many other options. I’ll take it! (Bites hook, gets reeled in) OW! This hurts!!

HOOK 2: No it doesn’t. Fish can’t feel pain.

FISH: That’s insane! I am in a tremendous amount of pain right now! Where are we going?

HOOK 2: H.R. Just some paperwork.

FISHERMAN (reels in FISH): Look at this, Fred! What an ambitious little fella. (removes FISH from hook). Why don’t you go grow a little bit and I’ll get you next time. (Throws fish back)

HOOK 2: Sorry kid, didn’t work out. We’ll be hiring bait later this summer. Check in then.

FISH (returning to school): I thought I was done here. But an M.F.A. might improve my options. Creative writing, perhaps? Yes, that’s it. I’ve always wanted to write a crappie novel.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, May 14, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


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