Chris Clarke callously infected me with a meme. I’m supposed to answer these five questions.
An interesting animal I had
An interesting animal I ate
An interesting animal in the Museum
An interesting thing I did with or to an animal
An interesting animal in its natural habitat
My first thought was, “Dude! These are awfully personal questions. Why are you asking for these intimate details of my sex life?” But then I noticed that he brought up my little friend Snowball (you may not want to read that), and all of his stories were about non-human animals. Oh. Never mind. That’s completely different.
Or maybe not so different…
They would bring them to me, one at a time, and I would hold her close. She would quiver a little, and sometimes even struggle wildly, but I would reach out my hand to her smooth, slick flank and stroke gently, then more firmly. She would be wet and slippery, and would respond to a strong grip as I held her across my knees and stroked her belly, down towards that private, secret place, and then with a tremble, she would spill, and the beautiful fluids and golden treasure would tumble into the bucket. And then there’d be another beauty, and another, and another, all giving up to me. Finally, a slender, muscular male, who’d also respond to my attentions and spurt his milky stream into the bucket…and then I’d reach in with my hand, give the lovely eggs and milt a stir, and carry them into the hatchery.
Another time, hiking in the hills, I came across a shallow, gravelly stretch of the river, and there they all were, in a frenzy of lust. They were all flushed scarlet, hook-jawed and thrashing, straining to squeeze that last drop of life out in those last few moments, and then they’d drift, gasp a few last times in the shallows, and die. Their bodies draped the rocks on the edges of the stream, some torn and partially eaten, others rotting and stinking, some few lying with jaws and gills feebly working, waiting for death. It was all worth it, I’m sure.
First, cut a deep notch in the back of the head, down to the tops of the opercula. There will be a crunch as you go through the bone. Then, insert the tip of the knife into the vent, and slit forward through the thin soft flesh of the belly, up to the ventral “V” at the throat. Grab the head firmly, snap and twist downwards, and it will pop off cleanly, bringing the whole of the guts along with it in one smooth, quick operation. And there they’d lie, pale and dark and smooth and liverish and glistening, streaked with a little blood, and from the females you’d sometimes find spectacular orange-gold plates of eggs snugged down in a thin membrane…and those you’d set aside. Good bait. A final treachery extracted from a killing, useful in catching more of her kind.
I’d hold her headless body across my knees — so much like those days in the hatchery — and with a razor-sharp filleting knife, cut deeply across each side, the trick being to slice just a hair above ribs and vertebrae to minimize wastage, and I’d free two thick slabs of rich red boneless muscle, leaving behind a cartoon skeleton of a fish. The slabs were weighty and supple, a purified extract of perfect strength and motion, and I’d slide them into tubs of ice-cold brine, the salt thicker than sea water and dark with molasses. A few days of soaking, and then the fillets would be laid out in racks in the smoke house, and the cherry wood would smolder, and the meat would cure.
Mmmmmm. Salty and sweet, dark and smoky, strong-flavored and meaty. I tasted cold dark Pacific chases, crunchy marine invertebrates broken down and distilled into firm flesh; I tasted the freedom of the sea, and the fearful flight from orca and seal; I tasted the river-borne surge, the drive up familiar home waters in the company of fellow fish. It was good.
Now that’s an animal. “Interesting” is such a pallid descriptor, we need better. Glorious. Strong. Beautiful. Fierce. Free. I like those better.
Now by the rules I’m supposed to pluck out nine other blogs and inflict this meme on them. I have some handy tools here to use cruel randomness to pick from my blogroll, so with that I make nine casts, and dangle the hook before these few:
Whether they choose to take the bait is their choice. I’ll wait on shore with net, gaff and club, and long thin blade. But don’t be afraid. It’s worth it, I’m sure.