Peter from the Woods:
Just a Fish
By Christopher Powell
In that part of the world, the churches in those towns, many of them, are still made of brick. There are still lots and lots of trees, and to see them in the half light of fall and evening is something that is still loved by us out here that see it. We live out here with those trees and the animals that live in ‘em.
There is a lake and it is still known for being just so big and shining in the moon or sun. People’ve been talking about a big fish that knocked two men out of a boat when they were fishing. Thing is, he bit one of them in the leg, bit him and would’ve kept on if they hadn’t jumped back in that boat and paddled back. These stories are usually told to Peter or, if not, they are told to someone and then they tell Peter. And then Peter usually goes to do something about it. That’s how things usually are in town. Peter walks through tall wet grass that gets taller then he’s walking through small puddle pockets and mud that lead to the beginnings of the lake. Coming up behind is Tommy:
‘You gonna try and catch it, bruh? You comin’ out here ta try?’
Peter kept walking and tried to ignore him as best he could. He thought it was better this way for Tommy. This is my job. I do this and its better off if nobody else comes. Peter thought this.
The lake still shines when the sun hits it and there was that smell and that feeling of coolness that reminded him of late summer nights. Peter thought about old times and it hurt a little, still. He set his bag down, and the stick that he carried too, before he went to the water. He knew Tommy wouldn’t steal anything. Tommy says,
‘What you doin? Are you walkin’ quiet? Do I need to be quiet?’
Then Peter said,
‘Look. I need you to stay right here or go away. Back up the path. Yeah I do need it quiet and…this is something I gotta do ok? You could get hurt too so, just, I need you to stand back.’
Peter was a little mad when he said it but didn’t mean harm, part of that was true; he could have been hurt and probably was gonna. Peter usually got hurt and he’d never done a catch or a walk in these woods with anyone else. Didnt mean harm. And Tommy agreed, he was nice about it too which really made Peter feel real bad. He said,
‘Ok..o…ok bro, Ill wait here. Be careful out there and…and Ill pray..!’
Peter said Thank you and walked up a little farther past him and past a dirty white boat that he and the kids use sometimes. It was so ugly and heavy nobody would steal it but he wasn’t using that today. He went up farther still and walked a good half mile to another edge of the lake; this part was elevated up a little bit with some rocks and high stumps of grass. There was a thick tree near that edge. The thing about this fish is, he liked meat. He liked that taste of other fish and ir seems like he had some teeth. Peter knew he was out here, too. He had heard enough from the kids that swim and use the boat. It was a big shadow under’ there! Prob’ly a big ol fish! Stories were enough for a while and he kept listening but then the stories were about how he was bumping boats, then they were about that man getting bit. Now Peter needed to see him.
Peter tied a rope around that tree the best he could. He never learned real fancy knots, just keep tying around with those layers till you know its tight. He had a nice bundle of baloney wrapped tight by some rope and he heaved it in there as far as he could with his heavy hands and arms and it made a deep big splash. Peter took a look over and Tommy was still over there looking, kneeling down. What the heck is he doin out there? That’s what Peter thought. Didn’t understand why anybody would wanna do this, out here with him. They’re better off away from him. Peter thought that too. Sun would be going down soon. If he didn’t get a bite today, would have to try later on or maybe early tomorrow – that’s what else Peter was thinking when he got a heavy pull on that rope that almost pulled him in, cause even though the rope was tied to that tree it was in his hand and he almost toppled in there when that fish pulled.
He was big. The rope was pulled tight and straight down into the water just like he thought it would be. Peter started to pull. At first he thought he might be able to grab it with both hands and pull him in like a baby but he wasn’t strong enough or the fish was just too big or had too much room to swim down there. He started to take the rope sideways, try to use the momentum to pull him in slowly onto land until he flopped, either way he was gonna have to pull him in. That’s when Tommy came up and he’s pulling on the rope with him. Peter only had time to let out a hey - ! before they were both pulling up and up until that fish began to slosh onto the land – He was a fat, mean looking, shiny and strange fish flopping on that mud. Both boys were able to get him far enough away so he couldn’t roll back in that water. They breathed heavy cause they worked hard to pull him out there.
‘Is h- Is he a monster or a demon- ?’
‘No!’ Peter said real strong. ‘Stand back over there!’
Then Peter walked over to the fish on the ground. He stopped first and looked at it, had to make sure of some things. Then sorta quickly with a knife that was at his side but now in his hand, he sliced the fish through its middle so that it was no longer alive. Peter was on his knees and he let out a sigh. Didn’t always enjoy it.
Peter began cutting pieces. Tommy walked over slowly, at first, he didn’t know what to say so he didn’t. Then:
‘Just a fish. One of those kind that’ll actually bite somebody. He’s a big fish but just a regular fish! He aint no demon or no gargoyle or whatever. People don’t know what they’re talkin’ about. Just a big fish. Don’t know why he’s so big. Just is. ‘
Peter was still cutting and throwing guts into the lake. People call him the Demon Hunter or The Magic Man. Peter would just say: People don’t know what they’re talkin’ about. He wasn’t a Demon Hunter. He knew people couldn’t fight demons, not with a knife anyway. He knew that people couldn’t fight monsters or pull ghosts out of the sky, God sent him out for other reasons.
Sometimes it just gets bad in these woods. A patch of poison plants come up or wolves start crossing into where people live or a dangerous fish starts biting men. Peter knows these woods, so God says to him: Help these people. So he does, he tries.
‘-And you shouldn’t have run out there like that. Coulda’ got hurt. This fish bit somebody. Here. Take some fish home if you want to.’
Peter began to pick up his rope. He threw the rest of the bologna in the lake and started walking back to where his backpack and stick were. Tommy followed him and they walked away from the lake and back up the road to where town was.
Then, a little ways up, Peter said:
‘Thank you, for helping.’
Tommy didn’t say as much, like he did before, but he did say:
‘Youre welcome bruh.’
Then Peter left Tommy and followed his path back home. He walked and thought and looked up at the trees all over, and he still didn’t understand somebody like Tommy. Why would anybody wanna help me? Peter thought this.
And Tommy, he went home.