Things are not always as they appear.
For example, and contrary to appearances, I am not a fisherman. In the twenty or so times that I have been fishing in my life, only once has a fish managed to wind up on a lure that was in any way associated with me. You're looking at it. A striped bass, of indeterminate weight and size; a beauty, my fishermen friends assured me at the time.
As you can see, the bass and I are on a lovely little island off the coast of Maine, just outside of a cabin that I used to like going to quite a lot but no longer. You might also have noticed that it is a beautiful summer's day, the kind of day that can shield a Mainer's thoughts from the winter that is coming.
All in all, one very fine afternoon in the northland. Made more so by the merciful end to a long and frustrating run of failed fishing expeditions spanning (literally) decades.
But here is what you do not see.
There is the thrown and broken beer bottle, of course (a full one if memory serves). And the newly reddened blue shirtsleeve, made so by the blood flowed out of my newly mangled right hand. Oh, and let's not forget the writhing-on-the-grass-in-excruciating-pain display that I so generously staged for the local island dwellers. Yes, that was fun.
So far as I know no pictures exist of any of those things. But would you really want to see that poor bass struggling to break free of the hook lodged inside its body so that it could just get back to what it was doing before I came along? Would you like to witness the moment when the fish jerked so quickly that all those dangling hooks not lodged inside it went piercing straight through one side of my hand and back out the other?
It wasn't pretty. I haven't held a fishing rod in my hand since. And, though I probably consume a lot more seafood than the average bear, I haven't eaten a striper either.
So, what are we doing here then?
The plan, you see, was to head over to my local fishmonger, pick out a couple whole stripers, douse them in plenty of extra virgin and a few fresh herbs, and quick roast them at about 650 degrees in the wood oven out back of the house. A simple enough plan, and one that might finally put the whole messy matter of this bass and me to rest. (It wasn't. At rest, I mean.) Hell, I even made it to the fish market and scoped out the talent. Not nearly as big and meaty and beautiful as my striped bass, but nice.
Except that after way too long a time pacing around the store (long enough for a very nice couple from New Jersey to mistake me for a person who worked at the fish market), I decided to not go through with it after all.
I'm not going all soft on you here. Creatures large and small, from land and sea, are no safer from my desires than they were before. It's just the stripers that appear to be. I caught one. It caught me right back. We're even. I'm just not as determined to get back on the winning side as I thought I was.
Maybe it wasn't just the fish hook that got inside me that day.
Oh, and I stopped by the butcher on the way home from the fish market. The oven was already fired up, and I had promised some people a special meal. I couldn't just come home with a fish story, could I?