Frank pulled the silver chicken wire trap from the stream, and his heart thumped when he felt the weight. Inside, a long greyblack eel curled, unable to find its way out after slithering down the funnel after the pink bait.

Frank brought the trap through the burnt orange woods to the field where his father was harvesting red potatoes.

“Dad!” he shouted. ‘I’ve finally got one!”

His father placed a fork in dark brown earth, lit a pipe, and considered the eel.

“Looks like she’s a longfin.”

“How can you tell it’s a she?”

“Longest ones are females. Probably lived in that stream near 100 years until you happened along.”

“How do you eat them, Dad?”

“Boiled, pickled. Cold like a jelly. With a green herb sauce. Reckon if you hadn’t caught her, she’d be off on her amazing journey soon.”

“Where?”

“If she hadn’t wandered into your trap, she’d soon sense it’s time to swim downstream, into the sea, thousands of miles up the deep blue Pacific before she has her babies.”  His father puffed royal-blue smoke. “Thought how you are going to kill her, son?”

The boy was silent.

“She could live for days in that trap. Guess you’ll work it out.”

His father put the pipe in his pocket and picked up the fork. Frank lifted the trap and walked up the hill towards the farmhouse with the charcoalgrey roof. He paused as he passed the mound with freshly cut grass and two white wooden crosses, one smaller than the other. Frank looked back at his father digging up potatoes and down at the eel coiled in the chicken wire.

After a while, he carried the cage back to the stream, opened the square end, and released the eel into the turquoise water.

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Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
10 months ago

This is a wonderful, understated story, Cecil. Your use of colors is so descriptive. It reminds me how much life is added to a story by clearly describing the colors. Chicken wire I hear with my mind; silver chicken wire I actually see. The same with pink bait, and royal-blue pipe smoke. I love the fact that the entire story is rather matter-of-fact, no drama. And yet so much is said between the lines. We get a glimpse into the character of the father, the son, and even the family sorrow. One question – can eels really live for one hundred years? Tell us more!

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Cecil Beckett
10 months ago

I was so surprised to know that the New Zealand longfin eel can live for 100 years. Your story is very educational and colorful. I enjoyed it so much.

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Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
9 months ago

I enjoyed the dialogue between father and son as much as the description of nature and farm-work, but maybe most of all the conclusion of the story. It shows that the matter-of-fact information given by the father has a deep impact on the boy.
Did you know about the Swedish, award-winning book “The Gospel of Eels” by Patrick Svensson? There are some similarities between your story and that book, among others the father-son relationship.

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