čtvrtek 10. března 2011
Here's one on fishing squid. Did it for the first time this winter in Croatia and am full of everlasting impressions!
It gets dark early. At four, you can’t see a thing anymore and the lack of public lighting in the village lets you finally see what’s been hidden to you in the city: there are stars on the sky. Not the occasional display of a constellation here and there, which you see when you drive off town. When you are lucky to run into a really quality darkness like the one we have here, you realize that there are zillions of stars and every five seconds, one of them falls in a quick arrowy sweep across the universe and you can make a wish. The sea is calm like a pane of glass tonight. The reflections of the starlit skies on the water make it look like the universe and the ocean became one, because you can’t see the horizon. Another star falls and I wish this moment to last forever.
It doesn’t. – The idyll is interrupted by a male voice which spits and shouts: I just f*cking lost another one, for f*ck’s sake!
The voice comes from the middle of the bay. One of the star reflections turns its engine on and making a rusty noise, which can be heard miles away, it heads back to the shore.
The stars floating on the water surface are fishing boats, their gas lamps on, because it is the squid season and this is what you do every damn dusk (and dawn, if you mean it really seriously): you gather your lignjara – the hook for squid, put on all the clothes you own, furnish yourself with a pint of travarica, situate your boat somewhere near the shore, giving the other boats hostile and superior looks like they have no clue where the right place is, you let the hook sink to the bottom and start moving the line up and down.
Up and down. Up again. And again. And – uh… After a while, it gets very boring. My hand aches. A whole hour passes and I have caught nothing, if I don’t count a generous sore throat, while the three expert fishermen on board keep pulling out at least fat fish called lokarda every five minutes, circulating drinks, telling filthy jokes, farting and taking turns in maneuvering my hand, explaining to me what’s the proper way of fishing squid and arguing what is the true reason of me catching nothing, but a branch of seaweed tonight.
“Women don’t have the proper feeling for the line,” coughs Ante.
“Bollocks,” Marko jumps in, trying to balance out unfounded sexist reasoning. “It’s the fluorescent hook you, guys, gave to her. Bloody turquoise. If I were a squid, I would avoid anything of that color by ten miles.” I smile at him thankfully.
“I caught fifteen pieces on that line last time,” Ante counters, blows his nose into the sea and takes a half-pint gulp from the travarica bottle.
Ivo, the third squid specialist on board, nods. “She’s nervous, that’s it. Squid are sensitive. They feel the tiniest bit of anxiety and pressure through the line like it was a worrying phone call. So they don’t pick it up.”
“Squid not stupid,” Ante informs, wiping the top of the bottle with the sleeve of his fishing hood that I guess is the legacy of his great-grandfather, so he just doesn’t feel like washing the nostalgia off with something as appalling as detergent. “Unlike my wife who answered the phone yesterday when the tax office called,” Ante concludes and he passes the wet bottle to me. “Take a drink, darling, and relax.”
Before I have the chance to relax, something heavy suddenly pulls my line down.
It’s not a branch. It moves.
I panic. All of the three men are suddenly above me, shouting instructions how (not) to pull the line out.
“You mustn’t stop, for god’s sake!”
“Yeah – don’t stop pulling or the squid will go!”
“Not like this, honey! - Like that.”
“Pazi! – Careful! The squid is near now!”
“Yeah, yeah – it’s comin’! Don’t touch the edge of the boat with the line or you’ll lose the fish!”
As the alleged squid approaches from the depth of dark water, the feeling of the line gets heavier. I barely breath. How big can such squid be? – I wonder. Is it more than half meter? Does it have teeth? Will it touch me with one of the long sticky legs? And above all: what does a squid look like, in fact? I browse through the catalogue of various sea creatures we learnt about in biology classes about twenty years ago and I can’t attach any of the images to the term “squid”. Whenever I used to eat calamari, I thought it must be some genetically modified fraud, deep-fried in lots of oil, so that you could never find out that it’s actually rings of plastic.
Which turns out to be nearly true: squid is a plastic bag filled with water that got misinterpreted for an animal at the very beginning and people still stick to it. At least that’s what I see at the first glance when the end of my line triumphantly reaches the boat.
“Grab it!” Ante shouts. “Quick!”
But I know it’s always worthwhile to give things a second glance, too: I suddenly see that the plastic bag is shivering and it coughs out water, while two enormous eyes warn me that if I touch it, it will strangle me with the long stripes of plastic legs and bite my head off.
I start dancing samba around the boat, faultlessly stepping into everybody’s lines and making one damn mess of it.
“Come on! Throw it into the bucket before it – !”
The squid makes a particularly scary noise. A second later, Ivo’s jacket and face look like the fur of a Dalmatiner dog: it’s full of black marks and dots. I laugh. Ante laughs too. Marko extracts the squid from the hook and throws it into the bucket, giving me a look which makes it clear that if I am not embarrassed, then he is.
Ivo is cursing his jebigas and u pičkus materis and he tries to wipe off the black blotches off his face.
I stare at my squid that crawls in spasms around the bucket and feel sorry about it.
“Next time, you have to squeeze it right when it enters the boat,” Marko explains. “The black color is what we put into the crni rizot. No way to wash it off.”
(Uh. I know very well about that one since the time our friend's kid threw a handful of black rice right into my lap, incidentally wrapped in my precious Donna Karan beige pants.)
Suddenly, a mobile rings.
It is Oliver Dragojevic, or at least his song Moj Lipi Andjele, that starts pouring out of Marko’s mobile.
He slips his hand into the pocket to answer, but before he manages to hit any button, the mobile miraculously swings across the boat and like a bright green, neon-blinking star, it jumps into water.
All of the crew hiss, sincerely relieved that it is not their phone and all precious notes and contacts sinking deep into the Adriatic.
Marko hesitates for a critical one second.
Then, dressed up to his ears in woollen sweaters & co., he jumps off the boat like an arrow in pursuit of the diving mobile.
The boat rocks on waves created by the splashy jump. For a while, there is nothing, but I don’t panic, because I know that Marko enjoys long dives.
Suddenly, a wet head, followed by a good cent of soaked clothes, pops out of the water.
He managed to grab it, - the diver reports, - but it slipped. Jebiga.
Poor man. Lost all his contacts. And his messages!
Ivo looks at the scenery with satisfaction: at least he is not the only humiliated victim on board.
Ante is amused and he wipes rakija off his moustache before he hands the bottle to shivering Marko: “Evoga. Now the squid can call you when it’s home."
I look up to the skies, locate another falling star – a true one – and make a wish.