The One That Got Away.
By Omilla Mungroo.
“Is only in Trinidad people does say man turnin into thing eh!”
So the talk went around Maracas Valley after that river expedition. But one had to be in the right place at the right time to tell the story…
Uncle B laughed his usual laugh while carrying the fish net made out of wire in his left hand. He held a cutlass in his right hand, as the six of us waded up the river in the cool dark of day.
Uncle Shaun and Aunty Janice waded along with the basket and other cooking items. My father held a sack of fish and my mother could only steups as I slipped a million times on the cold slippery, mossy stones in the water. My brother, only eight years old, a year younger than me, made walking on those stones look so easy. He never slipped! What an expert, I thought, as I winced at my grazed ankles and soles.
The exciting thing about this river lime was the fact that Uncle B vowed to catch a fish he said had eluded him the last time he visited Morang river. Morang had the best, cleanest water in all the rivers in Maracas Valley at the time.
“Man if you see that thing! It big! But what scared the daylight outa me was how the fish watch me when I miss him with the poya!” Uncle B’s face scowled, “I never see a fish look so in all the years I walk up this river catching fish. The thing look like it was laughing at me!”
Uncle Shaun had chuckled, “Well you have a real imagination boy Bolo. You mus’ be see a man that turn into a fish yes!”
“No joke,” Uncle B said seriously, as he swung his cutlass to cut a branch that dangled precariously in front of us.
The whole group burst out laughing, but I thought I heard a little quiver in their voices.
“Bolo you better forget that fish yes. We have enough coski and tayta here to cook under the bridge and to carry home,” Uncle Shaun did not like to entertain such superstitious thoughts of a man turning into a fish. However, Uncle Bolo dismissed his advice and prepared to get that fish.
Aunty Janice had looked behind to see how far my brother and I were, as I kept getting cut from the stones.
“Is better we did leave alyuh home oui! Look how you get cut up.” She spoke so loudly I was sure the big fish they talked about had heard her.
As we settled under the bridge and the ladies got a fire going, Uncle B waded into the deep part of the pool. “Is right by that bank I hit the culprit last week, and he turn and watch me as if to say ‘who you feel you is?’ But alyuh fix up, I goin’ and look for him.” And he dove into the water, cutlass in hand.
I counted eight beer bottles my mother had put in the river water to chill for the men, and four soft drinks. No wonder, I thought. The water was ice cold! There was no way I was going in that water to bathe!
The smell of curry wafted around and the dumplings were done already but Uncle Bolo did not return to our spot. Uncle Shaun shaded his eyes with his left hand as he called out over the pond to Uncle Bolo. Not a sound.
“You see how harden that man is? I tell him we have enough fish but he want that one.”
No one saw Uncle B walk around from the river bank on the opposite side. There were too many trees and bush and bamboo stools, but he appeared like a ghost wiping his cutlass with an old piece of cloth. I thought I saw some blood on it, and he fell to the ground in a heap, as everyone went to him.
All I heard was a loud swish in the water, and I turned to see something big and greyish, making a loud splash. The eerie laughing sound still lingers on my mind sometimes whenever people talk about a river lime. It reminds me that it was never the cuts and bruises I got from the sharp mossy stones that made me despise bathing in any river. I don’t know if anyone else saw what I saw that day, but that was one huge wabine that no man could ever catch!
February 2015 – Issue 14 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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