This is an excerpt.
She increased the time she spent kayaking on the lake, mostly because she could kayak up the river away from the dirt bikes, the backhoe, the screaming kids, and for the two weeks the people in the next cove were up, the jetslams.
There were still many stretches of nothing but forest (though also, increasingly, styrofoam bait cups, cigarette packaging, and beer cans) (all of which she’d pick up and put into the small garbage bag she now kept in her kayak), and she thoroughly enjoyed—no that’s not the right word—she blissed out on the beauty of it all: the wind, the sun on the water, on her face, rippling through the trees… It made her neurons hum with peace and joy and serotonin.
It was especially amazing in the evening, when the water became glass and everything was just so—still.
Then a little fishing boat motor would start up. She would be able to hear it, a mile away, no matter where she was on the lake. It would be a very loud motor. Probably a very old motor. Definitely a two-stroke motor. The boat would start out, at a snail’s pace. She’d sigh, reach for her drybag, and pull out her earplugs, headphones, and ipod (she’d replaced the CD player in her kayak with an ipod). The boat would take half an hour to get half way around the lake. By then, she would have paddled half way up the river and be in blessed silence again.
Until another fishing boat would appear, coming toward her. They’d pass each other, and then she’d have to paddle in his trail of exhaust fumes for a good fifteen minutes. Long enough to get a headache that would last the rest of the day.
So often, an hour later, she’d be back at her dock. She’d get a cup of tea, some ibuprofen, and a good book. Then settle on her dockraft to watch the late afternoon sun set the trees alight.
Until yet another fishing boat came toward her place from across the lake. And parked just twenty feet away.
Two guys were in it, fishing. Or getting away from their wives and the kids they’d made.
The one guy lit a cigarette. She could tell even though she had her eyes closed in exhausted rage and frustration. Because, of course, she could smell it.
They started talking. It was the most inane conversation in the world.
She joined in. “Why do you enjoy inflicting gratuitous torture on living creatures?”
Okay, it’s a bit off-topic, she acknowledged, but then, really, it was hard to tell. And actually, given what they were doing, it was spot-on.
But they both looked at her as if they were just now seeing her. Sitting there a mere twenty feet away.
Probably they were. Just now seeing her. It never ceased to amaze her how invisible middle-aged women are. To men.
“You trick a fish into biting at a hidden hook,” she continued, “by which you then pull it up into the air. Have you ever had a fish hook through your lip? And then had your whole body pulled up by it?”
“It doesn’t feel it,” the one guy said.
“Sure it does,” she said. “When a fish gets stung by a bee, it rubs its mouth on something. Obviously it’s feeling it. They grunt when they’re given an electric shock. They have a nervous system, and neurons fire in their brain same as ours when they’re subjected to painful stimuli.
“On top of that, they start suffocating once you pull them out of the water. What do you think all that thrashing is about? Think they’re doing a little dance for you?
“And then you handle the thing so much trying to get the hook out—you use barbed hooks, I’ll bet—that you end up with half of its slime on you. Slime it needs to protect itself from infection.
“Then you throw it back, instead of gently submerging it, and cradling it, until it swims away.
“So it’ll probably die. Up to sixty percent do.
“And then, in an obvious display of psychopathology, which is normal for males, you call it sport.”
They think about all of that. Or not.
“Why don’t you mind your own business?” the other guy finally said, annoyed. But not quite sure why.
“I’d love to,” she replied. “But you keep shoving your business in my face! In my ears! In my head!”
They stared at her.
“So your business becomes my business whether I want it to or not!”
Okay, that probably confused them.
“And I don’t!”
They were silent.
“Don’t what?” the first guy said.
She’d tried. You see that, right?
“Here, catch!” She threw the dirty ball she’d been fiddling with.
The guy’s right hand reached out and caught it.
“Not bad,” she said, then quickly closed the book she’d wrapped the fishing line around, and gave it a yank.
The hook had also been among that afternoon’s lake litter pick-up. She yanked again.
“FUCK!” He practically lurched out of the boat.
He tried to grab the line, succeeded, and got the worst paper cut ever. “OW—SHIT!”
She kept yanking, as his buddy scrambled for the knife to cut the line.
“GODDAMMIT! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” he yelled at her.
She thought it was pretty clear what she was doing, so she didn’t answer.
“HURRY THE FUCK UP!” he hollered at his buddy, who finally managed to cut the line.
“FUCKING BITCH!” he screamed at her then as his buddy started up the motor. “YOU’RE FUCKING CRAZY, YOU KNOW THAT?!” he added, as they roared away from her. Far, far away from her. She smiled.