Frank pulled the silver chicken wire trap from the stream, and his heart thumped when he felt the weight. Inside, a long grey–black 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.”
“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 charcoal–grey 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.