The morning is blinding. The light cuts harshly into my eyes. An intensity arises in my family’s bodies, making me move in small motions. I lean close to Father, always right, always teaching. Excitement giggles up in my cold extremities. The pole begins to shake, the line tightens.
“Get Ready”, says Father. A splash comes from the dark circular hole. The stark white surrounding the dark circle seems endless. Father grunts, as the line tightens further. My thoughts are racing, my heart pounding.
Brother’s large boots are beating up the snowy lakeside. He leaves a deep trail in the fresh snow, carrying his gun. “No pheasants or deer”, he reports. Seeing the tight-wiggling line he grabs the bat sitting next to Father, preparing.
Father smiles. He seems happy. The labour of pulling and reeling the line takes forever. Finally, a shout of triumph. The dark hole births a massive fish. About the size of my arm, maybe my head. Mr. Fish is swinging wildly making a scene. The scales glimmer, reflecting the light of the harsh world.
Fear grips me. Mr. Fish comes seemingly from nowhere, but the dark hole. I jump back, needing distance between the hole and I. Brother chuckles at my reaction. I flush. I need to be tough. So, I smile back bravely.
A fast nervous glance creeps in me - watch the hole.
“Put the bat down. Today is daughter’s day.” Father announces. I look up confused. He motions for me to follow, away from the hole. I follow. Escaping, gaining distance with short legs. The hole is a portal, of endless depth. It gazes.
Mr. Fish is dancing joyously. Finally free from the dark circle. I smile. Attempting to run up to Mr. Fish, fumbling in the deep snow. Father stops in front of the tent trailer. He asks Brother to grab the Knife. “daughter is going to learn, the tradition, of how to prepare our food.” Brother nods grimly. He must be sad to lose his task.
Joy leaches into my being. I get to be! I get to do! A task causes pride to swell within me. I leave my position of observer behind. The observer was left at the hole.
Brother passes Father the Knife. Father carefully takes Mr. Fish off of the retriever. Mr. Fish is not dancing as Father holds Mr. Fish’s body to the snow. “Come”, says Father, kneeling in the snow.
I lean in closer. Still not as tall as kneeling Father. Father passes me the Knife, pointing towards Mr. Fish’s belly.
Gripping the Knife, I say “Here?” Tracing Father’s movement. Father nods, with a small smile on his mouth.
Father takes my hand with the Knife. He changes my grip and guides my arm towards Mr. Fish. The Knife slides in and sticks. Father pushes harder and a snap is felt. The Knife glides through mr. fish, with a click. Click. CLICK.
mr. fish begins to leak. I try to pull away. Father’s arms and hands keep me locked in. Red spills onto the freshly packed snow. Terror fills my body fiercely. I thrash and Father lets go. Father groans with annoyance. Brother laughs.
Tears fill my eyes as I stare at mr. fish and the red snow. I run towards the tent trailer wildly. Abandoning mr. fish. Sadness, Guilt, and Fear overwhelm me, too much to process.
“Daughter, come back!”
The Knife by Stephanie Wilson