Growing up on a fishing boat docked in this small northwest coastal town brought stares from townspeople and jeers from classmates. She desperately wanted to escape but, with competitors driving down charter prices, she knew her dad would never be able to afford a replacement. As she sliced open the belly of yet another Salmon, her eyes widened and she dropped her knife…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)

Brooke never liked her job, working for her father. If there was the possibility of it, she would leave him and his business to find a life somewhere else. But she knew she couldn’t leave him. The job was dangerous and her father would never find someone to replace her. They weren’t exactly assassins. More like arrangers. If somebody needed help getting rid of an unsavory person, Brooke and her father were the ones to call.

Most of their customers knew exactly where we would go. Actually, Brooke and her father demanded that they knew where we were going. If we ended up in the wrong place, the wrong person would end up dead. But Brooke and her father didn’t know what it was like to be the fish. To be the one hacked into while still alive, injected with a foreign object, sewn back up and released. Then, when you least expect it, bang! You’re dead and you have killed someone.

So many of my family have died like this. Just last weekend my little sister was swimming around the creek, minding her own business. Brooke leaked her stinky hand into the water and snatched little Sunny out. I never saw my sister again.

We live in fear that Brooke – stubby, chewed fingernails and greasy hair – will capture us. None of us want to die. But what do Brooke and her father care? Except for the fact that Brooke would rather not do it – probably just because she doesn’t get paid enough – they don’t. Her father doesn’t even do any of the fishing.

Friday is the one day of the week that we are careless for a bit. My babies and I venture a little farther out than normally comfortable. I wouldn’t go if it weren’t for the kids. They like to twirl around the rapids at The Rock. I just float off to the side until they are tired out. I know I should have been paying more attention, you don’t need to tell me that twice. But the sun was beating down just right – not too hot, not too cold. I dozed off. When I came back to it, my babies were gone. No bubbles of laughter and fun, no sand-note to let me know where they had gone. Nothing. Just gone. The sun was setting and I would soon have to return home. They weren’t in the rapids, not in the feeding hole – not even in the Crevice, which was a guilty “Dad-says-no” pleasure if I wasn’t paying attention.
“Willow! Paka! Rain!” No answers. If I could cry, the water would be spoiled with my tears. Brooke had stolen my babies and there was nothing that I could do about it.

As I tried to think of anywhere else they may have gone, a sound alerted me. Not a fish sound. Not a bear sound. I turned vertical to see what was above me and my eyes met those of a monster. A killer. Her black eyes, though young, had little wrinkles at their corners. Her lips tilted down in a heinous way. There was no escaping her and I knew it. Brooke’s hand reached down into the water to grab me. I couldn’t get away from her speedy movements, and was soon held to her chest. The pain of drowning was nothing like I had imagined. There was no water to alleviate the pain in my gills, no liquid to ease my dry eyes.

I was jostled as Brooke pinned my fins to the ground and searched for her knife in her black bag. I wasn’t dead but I was close. Brooke pulled the knife from her bag. The blood of my babies and family members set on the blade – stinking of death. As she lowered the knife towards me, I knew she wouldn’t expect what she would find. As she made that first cut, she stumbled back, dropping the knife. As briskly as I could, I heaved my middle section at her – hurtling at her the bomb she had implanted in me years before. The bomb that I had been so careful not to detonate. The little device drifted through the air towards Brooke. With a small tick, it smacked into her right shoulder and exploded.

I wriggled for a while before I could escape the pins, and flopped back into the river. My wounds, in time, would heal. Brooke could no longer wreak havoc on my little community. Brooke’s father’s business would fail without her help. If Brooke was smarter, she would have recognized the long, almost invisible cut that she had sewn in me years prior. When I had escaped, she had cussed so loud I was afraid my family’s innocence would be stolen by such foul language. Though I could never rest at what she had taken from me, at least it wouldn’t happen again. People like Brooke and her father were far and few. My little fish family would be okay.

A word of wisdom from an old, wise fish? Don’t mess with us, because we are smarter than you think.