• Jocasta Shakespeare

Marriage and Catfish

Ernesto came out of the water like an armed warrior: rubber boots, weatherproof trousers, lightweight plastic hoody, visored cap with neck protecting webbing and a bloodstained machete. Not necessarily my type. But then, first impressions can be misleading. As he unbuckled outside the fishing shack, a wild and muscled man of the sea emerged. An energy that shone long-distance through ice-grey eyes. Huge hands handling the shark, seabass and corvina like sleeping babies, laying them gently on the washed slab, ready for evisceration. And when he sharpened his gutting knives, clicking against eachother in a silver whirl, he did so with a cool precision.

I watched him hang the catfish on a spike outside the shack, to advertise the day's catch. 'Ernesto needs a wife' his partner Martin said sliely in Spanish. My Spanish is not good, but I got that. 'She would have to speak very good Spanish' said Ernesto, with a smile. 'But perhaps it would be better if your wife could not always understand what you're saying', I replied.

Of course, this was all Latino banter. I am already married. Separated. Boyfriended. Manned up. And although I remain open-minded, aware that life can offer surprising gifts at surprising moments, in this case first impressions were correct. Now Ernesto's knives entered the slippery, wet bodies of the fish and blood poured down onto the sand floor.

When I am working, I usually take a whole fish. The scales are important. I want the fish intact not butchered. But Theo and I were going to eat this one later. So I allowed it to be gutted only. 'Deja le' I say: leave it. Leave the head on, eyes open, tail spread, fresh from confronting death. The Corvina was too big to fit inside Ernesto's plastic bag. My son carried it back for me to our cottage in a small garden behind the dunes. Gilded scales glinting in hot morning light. This was going to be a good one.


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