Still Life: A Frenchman with Fishes

“That fucking bird! I’ll kill him!” Joseph ran into the cabin, grabbed his gun and ran outside to fire off a single round.

We were staying with Joseph and his wife for the weekend, eating a late breakfast in front of the large window with a wide view of their land where it sloped down to his fishpond.

The cormorant he’d aimed at flapped its wings and took flight across the dam, down the valley and out of sight and range. We watched in bleary disbelief, the calm of our sun drenched morning in the beautiful countryside completely shattered.

Joseph was the first French person I ever met. He was bearded, and in the age of Jesus Christ Superstar, I was always half waiting for him to break into song. He was immensely shy, and normally almost Buddha like in his calmness. But he had a great passion, (beyond his wife of course) and that was fishing. His English was great, but he still struggled with the notion that more than one fish was still fish. It made him nearly as angry as the cormorant that was stealing his fishes.

He and Jo had worked and saved hard to buy this land with its dam and stocked it with trout. They had just finished building the cosy wooden cabin where we were staying, but Joseph’s nerves were being frayed by the sight of the Cormorant that kept stealing his trout. It sat on a branch in the middle of the dam as if he owned it. Joseph believed he was taunting him. There were plenty of other branches to sit on.

Before we had got up that morning, Joseph had been fishing, hoping for fresh trout for our breakfast. But he had no luck, and was convinced the bird had stolen them all.

After the cormorant had flown off, Joseph threw his gun down in frustration, then  joined us for a fish free breakfast.

Later that day we strolled past the dam, trying to console Joseph and make suggestions as to how he could be rid of the cormorant and restock the dam.

Then we saw it: something shiny, floating near the bank. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Joseph wept. It was a trout. A dead trout, probably the last one.
It had been shot through the middle.



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