Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Clever Girl and Dumptruck Fell in Love

I am taking a week "vacation" from the 200 Things List, due to a heck of a lot of insane traveling that I am doing this week that will take me far out of cellphone range from Monday through Wednesday. This nuts week will be concluding on Friday with a 24-hour, 200 mile "Reach the Beach" relay race I am running from Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to the ocean. I am running 24 miles for my team. I will definitely give you a run-down of the crazy race afterward!

In the meanwhile, to entertain you, I will still be updating this week, but with some fun essays about ridiculous things that have happened to me. I hope you enjoy.

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This is the story of how I became an accessory to animal murder during a rather formative time of Dumptruck and I's relationship... and why I feel extremely uncomfortable every time I make eye contact with anyone from PETA. If fishing, or killing a fish is something that would bother you, please don't read this post. YE HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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"We caught one!!"

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I looked up from the campfire, and peered down towards the small dock in the lake. Dumptruck and our friend Brett were down there with a fishing pole and a net. Several other friends were sitting around the campfire, sharing stories, oblivious to the whooping cries of delight. I, however, was not oblivious. This was in 2007, before Dumptruck and I had even acknowledged a mutual attraction. We'd only known each other a few weeks. I didn't even think he liked me (spoiler alert: we got married and hiked the AT together and now his name is Dumptruck instead of Mike). 

I was furiously crushing on him, and intent on proving that I was the pinnacle of modern cool. Thus, my ears were piqued to the sound of his voice, trying desperately to find that balance between being involved without appearing too eager. It was our night off from the overnight summer camp where we were all counselors, and we were spending the night at Brett's family's remote cabin on a lake in the middle of the woods. Upon arrival at the cabin, Dumptruck and Brett had set to fishing, just to see if they could do it.

Apparently, they could.  

I heard the clattering of the wooden stairs that led down to the lake, as Dumptruck and Brett came romping up to the cabin with their prize. I waited patiently (again, trying my best to come across as aloof yet devastatingly attractive), but they did not come to the campfire. Instead, they remained on the other side of the cabin, completely separate. Battling with myself, I decided it wouldn't be weird if I got up to investigate. They were huzzah-ing all over the place. Anyone would be curious.

I quietly got up from the campfire and walked around to the other side of the cabin, where Dumptruck and Brett were doing little victory dances. There was a large fish, a little over a foot long, flopping around in the net, which Dumptruck was holding aloft by its handle. Brett was also holding the fishing pole, the line leading down into the fish's mouth.

"Are you guys going to release it or keep it?" I asked, walking over to them and examining the creature in its net, letting out a low whistle.  

This is not going to end well.

Brett and Dumptruck exchanged glances.

"Well..." murmured Brett, "...we can't get the hook out."

"It swallowed it!" cried Dumptruck, by way of excuse.

I reached into the net, grasped the fish and looked at the damage. The line disappeared completely into its mouth, the hook was nowhere to be seen. I attempted to tug gently on the line, which sent the fish flopping nightmarishly around in pain.

"Could we just cut the line and set it free?" I suggested.

"No," replied Brett, "it's not just a hook. It's a 3-inch lure, feathers and everything. It'll die anyway."

"Well. That sucks," I stated, categorically.

"Wait here," said Brett, handing the fishing pole off to me.  

He disappeared into the cabin, leaving me and Dumptruck alone in the dark yard... nothing but a mutilated and dying animal suspended in the air between us. We made eye contact and then both quickly looked away. I was thankful for the darkness of the yard, obscuring the fact that I was blushing a brilliant scarlet. I rocked up and down on the balls of my feet, trying desperately to think of something clever to say. There were honest-to-god crickets chirping.

The fish flopped around.

"Soooo..." started Dumptruck.

He was cut off by the abrupt return of Brett, who was carrying a bucket half-full of water. He placed the bucket under the net, and we gently lowered the fish into the water, to give it the breath of life while we tried to get the hook out. The bucket, however, was not full enough to completely submerge the fish, which meant that it still couldn't breathe and was now bent at an angle.  

"Whatever!" cried Brett desperately, "We just have to get the hook out!" He put his hands into the net and tugged on the line. Brett tugged and tugged, the fish flopped and flopped, and slowly the dirty water began filling with blood. After a few minutes of pointless struggle, Brett stood up, his hands on his hips. The three of us looked down at the gasping animal, and the silence stretched out between us. 

"This is horrible. We can't just let it suffer like this. We have to put it out of its misery," I said. 

The boys nodded gravely. 

"The question is how," I continued, looking around for something immediately evident that could be used to slaughter a large struggling fish. Dumptruck handed off the handle of the net to Brett, and disappeared into the cabin. A few moments later, he emerged with an object in each hand. Brett and I looked over at Dumptruck, waiting for him to deliver us out of this devastating situation.  

"We can either stab it in the head with this knife," he held up a 8-inch serrated bread knife, "Or hit it with this board," he concluded, holding up a 2x4.  

Brett and I regarded Dumptruck, seriously weighing our options. I would like to take this moment to give you some perspective. Dumptruck, Brett and my ages at the time were 23, 22 and 21. Brett and Dumptruck held college degrees, and though I had not yet graduated, I had an extremely high GPA. We have absolutely no excuse for this travesty of intellect.

"How about we tug on the line, and if the fish flops once, we'll stab it in the head, and if it flops twice, we'll hit it with the board," offered Dumptruck.

Brett and I agreed to this plan immediately. The three of us surrounded the bucket, I reached down and tugged on the line, and the fish flopped about 6 or 7 times. "I guess that means the board," surmised Dumptruck.

Brett and I hoisted the fish out of the bucket and back into the air, its stubbornly alive body suspended in the net. Dumptruck dropped the knife to the ground, then went around to the net to set himself up like a baseball player with the 2x4. He lined up his shot and wound back.  

"3...2...1," Brett and I closed our eyes and tilted our heads the other way, as Dumptruck whipped the board around with terrifying speed and force, and absolutely no accuracy. He missed completely. Brett let out a little involuntary squeak.

"Sorry guys," murmured Dumptruck, who immediately readjusted, lined up for the strike, and brought the board swinging around to bring this story of horror to a swift close. This time there was successful connection, signaled by the loud, visceral, wet and crunchy SLAP sound. By all appearances that fish was dead, dead, dead.

We all stared at the creature, trying to decide whether to celebrate or mourn.

"I guess we may as well get the lure back," Brett offered, half-heartedly. We ambled over to the front stoop of the cabin, and lay the fish's deathly still body on the ground. All three of us leaned in very close, Brett and Dumptruck held the fish down with their hands, while I tugged full-force on the line. All of our faces were within a foot of the fish, staring intently at our project, when, quite suddenly,

it breathed.  

Dumptruck and Brett leapt up like cats who'd just been dropped into tubs full of water. They went spiraling away from the zombie fish, screaming and flailing, dancing around on their toes and clutching at each other. I was so completely caught up in playing my role of tres cool that I was able to look like a totally calm badass, while inside I was screaming and screaming and screaming. I slowly stood up, allowing them to completely get it out of their system. As the two of them eventually calmed, gasping for air with the hands on their knees, I cleared my throat, pointed to the fish, and declared,

"We have to hit it again."

We loaded the fish back into the net, set it up for the strike, and Dumptruck whacked it again with full force. This time the fish's neck snapped and its head was bent at a gruesome angle. If that fish was still alive we could no longer be held accountable. We'd done all we could. We successfully removed the lure, and Dumptruck inexplicably decided to wrap the corpse in aluminum foil and stick it in the fridge in the cabin "for breakfast."

We three joined the group around the campfire, and told our story. The other people were aghast, completely baffled that this idiotically performed slaughter had occurred mere feet from their merry gathering.

Early the next morning, true to his word, Dumptruck rebuilt the campfire and threw the fish into the flames, wrapped in its aluminum foil. I emerged from the cabin to see him sitting alone on a rock in the early morning fog, clutching a jar of salsa, waiting for the fish to cook.

"Did you gut it?" I asked, as politely as possible.

"Did I what?" responded Dumptruck, poking at the aluminum package in the flames with a stick.

"Oh, nothing... You're going to put salsa on it?"

"There wasn't anything else, you see," replied Dumptruck, conversationally. Determining that enough time had passed, he dragged the aluminum out of the embers and opened it to reveal the stinking black-charred fish. He poured some of the Tostitos Thick n' Chunky on the creature, stabbed it with a fork, and took a bite. He immediately spat it out, coughing. I raised my eyebrows and bit my tongue so hard that it hurt.

"No... no good?" I asked. Dumptruck shook his head in disgust, picked up the foil, walked into the woods, and flung the fish off of the foil into the dense undergrowth.

"I hope bears don't mind spicy food," he said cheerfully, returning to the campfire, sitting down next to me and subtly resting his hand on the ground next to mine, such that our fingers were lightly touching. I got a little flutter. We sat in silence, watching the campfire blaze merrily, as the morning fog rolled away across the still lake to reveal a beautiful, summer day.

Love,
Clever Girl

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