I knew it would come – someday -- I would see with my own eyes what I knew was going on behind closed doors, when I wasn't around. I suppose it must be what parents feel like when their teenagers begin to date -- to "see" people. I didn't date in high school -- thus, didn't cause my parents this grief. Yet I can imagine it's still there when the child is in her twenties and has a house of her own.
Since June, I've lived in a small space adjoining blissful ignorance – although it’s really neither of the two because I've never been that blissful a person, and I know full well what’s happening – but still I've stuck my head in the sand, admiring the shiny grains and granules, and pretending not to feel the heat on my back.
The door has been opened up a crack, a time or two -- I’ve seen other men there next to her. She makes them work hard….for nothing. But she likes me…she has from the first. I took hours with her -- learning her depths and shallows, where she habitates her secrets, what she’ll tell, and what she won’t. I know her. When she forgets, she even tells me some secrets twice. I don’t correct her though. I guard them. I keep her trust.
And so it goes that during my last visit to her, I saw what I didn’t want to – what I didn’t want to admit was happening. One of her secrets, told. One of her stories, ended.
Here I should state that I’m not against the killing and eating of fish -- I do it myself from time to time, but bucketfuls of browns from a small pond wafts a nauseous reek. I knew it was happening….it had to be. But I didn't want to see it.
That afternoon I stood, admiring the autumn day and how the wind had died down and how I could see the browns circle and take my size 24 dry fly, two men came walking up behind me. I had seen them coming – their olive drab external frame Jansport packs had spinning rods and shot-guns strapped to the sides. Instinctively, I didn’t like them but for the sole reason they were breaking my silence.
Animals are the greatest judges of a person’s character. I don’t write that as my thoughts on the matter. I write that as the truth. And as the men got closer, Banjo started to growl. He has never growled at anyone before like this, and so my hackles rose with his.
“Hey lady….that dog safe?”
I mumbled, somewhat taken aback by Banjo’s behavior, and preoccupied by trying to manage a strike at my dry.
Then the wind started blowing again.
The men rigged and plopped – both bodies and bobbers – while I kept catching, and releasing. One of the men took off with his shotgun, and one stayed put…"to catch supper,” or so he was instructed to do. After some time, I heard a yell and a splash and saw his pole bend. I stared at him from across the pond – like a car accident, or fire, or other scene of misery...I couldn’t look away. I could see the lure in the brown’s mouth from across the way, probably 1/3 the size of it, and it was a decent sized fish. He dug out some pliers and removed the lure. I waited. I watched. He watched me back. Then he bent down, and gently released the trout back into the water.
I breathed again.
But minutes later, his buddy came back. “Catch anything?”
“Only one….but it was too small to keep.”
Sure. I smiled. Too small -- or, my stare was as convicting as a Baptist grandmother’s -- and I do have experience with those.
Another hour passed, and then it happened again. Same man, different trout, smaller than the first.
“Kill it!” the man’s friend yelled, still shouldering the shot gun.
The man paused and looked at me; then, turned his back.
Soon after that I left, not wanting to see another. I couldn’t plug my ears and sing row-row-row-your boat anymore, ignoring the soft sounds coming from the other room. I’d seen with my own eyes. And I walked the dirt path home quietly -- somberly -- knowing in detail what goes on behind closed doors…..wishing I didn’t.