Our Own Worst Enemy

As technology gets better, and industry gets bigger, I often wonder if we should be happy about the whole affair. For example, computers make our life easier, supposedly, yet how often do you see someone lose their temper, yelling at the inanimate screen, expecting a favorable response?

We can be our own worst enemies, at times.

So I tried something different today. This isn’t a detective story. Not a mystery or a thriller. Really a short vignette, I guess. It has many levels of meaning and it’s a bit dark. Let me know what you think.

Oh, yes. One more thing. It has been suggested that I try a pen name, and truth be told, I was thinking about it anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

Just the Toad Fish

by Douglas John © January 2012

The old, white and blue freighter, rusting at the waterline from many years on the open sea and too few coats of paint, slowly glided past the two fishermen. The ship, loaded with a cache of new automobiles manufactured in some far off country, left a subtle wake, just enough to cause their poles to bend downward at the tip. The two old men knew the movement was being caused by the transient behemoth, so they didn’t give their lines a second thought.  After the water had calmed, one the poles dipped sharply at the tip. Perhaps, one said, this was a sign of good things to come.

“Damn.  Just another toad fish.”

“Don’t be so pessimistic, brother.  You get enough of them, you’ll have yourself dinner.”

The toad fish was an ugly fish. Anyone with common sense would not even think about eating one, let alone a pan full of the god forsaken fish. They both laughed at the comment.

“I suppose you’re right.  It just seems like we used to catch a lot better out here. Kind of disappointing, you know?”

“I hear you. Sometimes you win and sometimes…well, you just lose. That’s life.”

The man unhooked the small fish, a four incher, about the size of a large sardine you might find in a can of tomato sauce,  a can the two men might have stockpiled years ago when people had to duck and cover to escape the impending  A-bomb blast.  He tossed it back.

“Speaking of losing, did you hear we have the only port on the east coast that’s deep enough for those new supersized freighters?  Ports in Florida are having to dredge their harbors deeper and the environmentalists are up in arms about it. I guess we “win” as far as that goes.”

“I heard about them. Good for the folks down at the terminals, I suppose. They can’t complain about the extra work, that’s for sure. My brother’s driving big trucks down there. He said they may have to start another shift.”

The men nodded in agreement with each other, occasionally watching their day-glow orange, nylon monofilament lines, hoping a striped bass would be hungry enough to try their bait.

“Your brother, has he always worked at the terminal? I thought he did something else.”

“He started out at the Ford plant, delivering parts. When they shut down, he was out of work for about two years. Lost his house. Kids had to join the army because they couldn’t afford college. One of his boys died over there.   Anyway, now he works eight on, eight off down at the terminal. The more ships, the more money, he always says.”

Another freighter slowly passed the two men as they spent another hour enjoying their retirement.

“That’s a lot of hours. What about his family? His wife good with him being gone all that time?”

“She left after their son died. It’s just him now. I see him about once a month; we have lunch. He tells everyone that our lunch is the brightest part of his day. That’s nice, I think. Makes me feel good that I have the time to see him.”

The men caught a few more toad fish before deciding to call it a day. As lines were being reeled in, they noticed someone from a third cargo ship, tossing a bag of trash overboard.

“You know, that’s the problem these days – no one really cares. They say they do, but not really. I mean, that guy could have waited until his ship docked and then disposed of the trash properly. Now the water’s just a bit more polluted than yesterday. They just don’t think.  No wonder we aren’t seeing the big fish anymore.“

“Probably a money issue. All those new ‘green’ environmental fees are killing business around here and he took the less expensive route, I guess.  People just don’t think about the long term consequences of their actions. It’s a pity.”

The 35 foot boat’s twin outboard engines roared to life as the two men headed back.  It would be a short trip, the marina was just a few miles away. A light rain started to fall, forcing the duo into the cabin as the skipper steered the craft home.

“Well, no luck today. Next week we can take my boat if you want.”

“Can’t go next week. I’ll be on a cruise down to the Bahamas with a some of my old colleagues from the bank. You should go with some time.  It’s a fund raiser for non-profits, but everything is paid for by an investment company. A great deal, and with a small donation, I can deduct the travel cost off the taxes.”

As they eased into the slip, one of their wives stood on the dock, waiting to see the catch of the day.

“Who won? Who caught the biggest fish?”

“No winners today, honey, just the toad fish. ”



2 thoughts on “Our Own Worst Enemy

  1. Good question! The short, slice of life story about the toad fish came from me hearing about how happy everyone is about our port getting the new super big cargo ships. Yes, it’s good for the economy here and boy, can we use the help, but no one is considering the environmental aftershock to the waters, the fisheries, and also the air as more cargo means more trucks on the local roads. Okay, off the soapbox now. Thanks for listening to an old guy’s rant. Back to being the good guy.

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