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by Jan Sand
2006-11-12 09:12:42
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For a small fishing village the crowd was astoundingly large. Due, I suppose, to the internet that had buzzed about the event for over a week. It was now impossible to get close to the dock. The crowd had started to gather three days before, composed of people who had come long distances to witness the historic event. The officials ignored the situation and there was only a bit of media representation.

Things were just too depressing for wide coverage. The arrivals from distant places had set up bright-colored tents up and down the beach in between the grey and brown rotting hulls of the old fishing fleet, boats that had not seen the open sea for years since the lack of fish had made the voyages unprofitable.

The sky was a clear blue, light at the horizon and dark at the zenith where the bright sunlight was only occasionally interrupted by few puffs of cumulus clouds scudding by in the stiff breeze. High above that a veil or two of cirrus clouds caught the sun and glowed against the ultramarine blue.

It was late afternoon and a few fires built from the tarred wood of broken boats blew acrid smoke into the edge of the crowd and a few people coughed now and then. The rumor had got around that the boat had been sighted several miles away but at the moment the horizon was a clear line delineating the prussian blue of the sea against the sky. Closer to shore, the sea blended into a deep green with white caps and rollers marching gently onto the beach.

A group of teenagers were raucously batting out the old bawdy song “Roll Me Over in the Clover” while, on the other side of the crowd a bearded man in a plaid shirt and jeans surrounded by admirers skilfully strummed his guitar and sang old folk songs about the sea. They were very sad songs and they resounded emotionally with the dark mood of the crowd.

The sun had moved over halfway down the sky preparing to fall into the ocean before someone noticed a small interruption on the horizon line. A low buzz ran through the crowd and people at the rear arose and moved closer to the sea. The boat was very far away and it took the better part of an hour before it was even discernable as a boat. It was obviously a very small boat and it approached slowly. But its appearance was magnetic and the few TV cameramen positioned themselves for a better view.

One had built a raised platform and the jostling crowd bumped against it evoking loud exclamations from the cameraman. Another reporter had climbed on the shoulders of a hefty assistant while he tried to steady his camera on the approaching boat. Overhead a helicopter steadily banged its blade noise against the sky as it swung in large arcs between the clearly seen boat and the beach.

The closer the boat approached, the quieter the crowd became. It was a very small boat driven by an outboard motor and there was a single man guiding it to the dock. The man had obviously not expected to see such a large crowd. And it first shocked him. He cut his engine and the man sat in his quietly rocking boat staring at the crowd. The crowd stared silently stared back and all was completely without sound except for the wash of the sea against the beach and the dock. Then someone shouted, “The fish! Where’s the fish?”

The crowd quickly echoed the cry, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, the fish. Show the fish!” This broke the spell. A great smile broke across the face of the man in the boat. He wore fisherman’s overalls and a broad brimmed straw hat and he got unsteadily to his feet in the small rocking boat. He raised his two arms in victory, bent down and picked up the fish and held it over his head. It was not a large fish. All those had disappeared years before. Only about six inches, fifteen centimetres long. But it was the last fish. Authorities were pretty sure that the ocean, all the oceans, were now empty.

A few in the crowd raised a mutual growl of disapproval but all the rest raised a great cheer, “The fish!” They all yelled, “The last fish!”

This had a startling effect on the fisherman. He realized he was something of a hero and he did a little dance in his unsteady boat, repeatedly raising the little fish over his head and jumping up and down. Then he became so delighted with his welcome that he threw the fish straight up in the air in his enthusiasm and held out his arms to catch it. But a startling thing happened.

A high-pitched scream split the air above the crowd. In a smooth graceful swoop the last seagull neatly intercepted the parabolic arc of the flying fish and with happy, happy flaps bore its great prize smoothly off into the evening sky, gulping down that last final fish.

A huge moan erupted from the crowd. The fisherman, open mouthed, merely gaped and rocked unsteadily in his boat.

Nature had retrieved its own.

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Asa2006-11-12 10:32:21
Haven't weekend fishermen already learnt to deal with the fact there are no fish? I bet even a depleted ocean won't stop some men heading out to 'fish' with a few beers and friends.

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