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Holidays and Murder

Every year at the end of November or the beginning of December, Chuck T goes down to South Durras with Gangy and Grumble Bum Kav, her maternal grandparents.  Four hours drive down to Batemans Bay, it’s been a yearly holiday that everyone looks forward to, including myself.  In previous years, I’ve done nothing different but worked hard and ignored all standard motherly duties for one blissful week.  Jerkface, Goose, and their sister, Revolto, often go down for the weekend and spend some time jetskiing and having general fun in the sun.  I can’t swim and my hair burns in the sun, so it hasn’t ever been a point of envy for me. 

This year, Gangy asked if we could (The Cub and I, but mostly The Cub, seeing as I can’t) drive her and Chuck T back on the Sunday so Chuck T could attend her last week of school for the year.  While I’m loath to offer any sort of opportunity for Gangy and The Cub to spend any prolonged period of time in a very small space together, it’s given us an opportunity to hire a cottage nearby to get away and still fulfill an obligation that is no doubt expected by Gangy, as part of the Eternal Damnation Clause of once being (and still legally) her Daughter-In-Law.  There has never been any animosity between them and she has been more than welcoming, but the awkward and hilarious story pretty much writes itself here.

So, I’m actually getting away and I am so looking forward to it.  Everything adventurous and outdoorsy I’ve done has been within an hour’s drive within the city of Sydney, and has never been a proper holiday, and more than a small patch of my brain is always wired to maternal and work obligations that are always there.  The last time I did something like this, I was 18 and Jerkface surprised me with a weekend down in Thredbo, where I discovered that newly pregnant women’s lifestyles are incredibly boring, and I hate both the snow and the cold before the snow.  It was a great time, but my head and my wallet were in a different place back then… and I was told I was going on a fishing trip, which I was thoroughly looking forward to.  Um… so yes, I’m getting away with my head intact (barely!) and the ability to go and max out my physical limitations.  Which means, despite the opportunity to max, relax, kayak, canoe, bushwalk, or indulge in all sorts of watersports (heh), I am planning on spending the bulk of my time rock fishing. 

My parents used to go fishing off Redcliffe’s Hornibrook Bridge, up in Queensland.  We used to get the wake-up call at 2am to get up and beat the people and the sun while we caught bream and whiting amidst a mosquito and jellyfish-ridden high tide.  The smell of fish would permeate through the car and into the upholstery for the weekend, and my sister and I were used to negotiating our seating according to the eskies, crab pots and rods that wouldn’t fit in the boot of the car.  It would end with fish and chips nearby, and a sleepy drive home at around midday.  It happened so frequently that it became a chore.  It was also the setting for the beginning of the Last Fight with my mother, before I ran away from home. 

Still, that’s not where my love of fishing started.  It was fishing with my grandfather, on the docks of some industrial fishing bay, and usually off a low raised bridge in a secret fishing place I can’t remember the name of.  He would use one hand reel and one bucket, and bring in the biggest flathead I’d ever seen in my life.  I remember falling asleep in the back seat of his car, with one of my thumbs in my mouth and the other thumb in the mouth of a gigantic fish half-immersed in mucky sea water, gasping for breath, eyes staring blankly at me.  The smell of Peppermint Tic Tacs and the Old Man Car smell soothed me as much as it did to comfort myself and that dying fish.  I would’ve only been about 5 years old then and I barely remember it, but it remains one of the happiest memories of my childhood.

Anyway.

I told The Cub that I was looking forward to the rock fishing, and my mind wandered to those memories.  Then, it settled on the memory of a particularly long morning at Hornibrook.  My sister and I were each given bait rations, and mine was nearly out.  Everyone in the family had caught bream and whiting, and I wasn’t catching anything.  This was unusual, as I was the one who was fidgetty and a bit ADHD and would extend to my fishing… I always figured that I jiggled my bait in the water that tiny bit more realistically than all the other fishermen because I was a little bit of a nutbag.  So after being told that we had about an hour left, I decided to really put everything into it and concentrate on catching fish.  I moved away from the family and sat in my fold-up chair, frowning into water that glistened with a million green diamonds. 

Oh, and how I started to catch the fish.  One after the freaking other, toadfish!  After about four of them in a row, my mother started to mock me.  Teasing me and mocking me, she started throwing my dead toadfish back into the ocean without any acknowledgement of how much I had focused and, believe me, it was an effort.  I took the last lame toadfish and said I’d throw it myself, and she walked away from me.  I took it, cut the line about a hand’s length from the mouth and, mouth gaping and body heaving, I kicked it as hard as I could.  I kicked it back and forth along the bridge, watching it collect gravel and dirt in the cuts in its body.  I kicked it and kicked it and it swelled and swelled and then, when it was ragged and broken to my satisfaction, I picked up the line and dangled its swelling body over a hole in the bridge.  It swelled so much that it jammed itself tight in the hole, unable to fall to a peaceful death in the crashing waves below.  It was pathetic and universally unloved, so I dignified its death by kicking dirt over its face so nobody else had to look at its hideous head.  Covered in that hole, it was gone.  Then I walked away.

I felt nothing then and, on remembering it every so often, I still feel nothing except maybe a twinge of remorse from killing a fish so inhumanely.  Infishly?  Actually, without getting all psychoanalytical about it, I felt more of an affinity with the fish than I did with my own family.  Still do.  Although, I am glad that nobody put me out like I did that poor fish, otherwise I wouldn’t have a chance to go rock fishing in a couple of weeks, where I solemnly promise to love and appreciate my catch.  I hope it’s plentiful and not aware of karma.

PS.  I didn’t go to that housewarming.  What were the odds of that happening?!

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Categories: Personal
  1. November 18, 2009 at 5:05 am

    That fish would have glassed you if it had the chance. You did the right thing.

  2. Amy
    November 19, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Ah the good old Hornibrook bridge. Memories, man. The Redcliffe smell. I hate the Redcliffe smell. Just sayin’.

    I feel bad for the fish. I feel more bad about the reasons that led you to kill it. I have an over-developed guilt complex, though. It makes fishing difficult.

  3. BourbonBird
    January 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Ott: I know. There are new grey and black mottled ones with demon red eyes. I’d have killed them too if I felt like I was karmically safe.

    Amy: While better now than earlier, I still have a severe lack of guilt.

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