A Silver Trout

Just after sunrise, the light hit the water freshly, leaving a white-hot sheen over its whole surface like a blessing. Ripples pushed the light up and around, making it jump and dance. Fish jumped happily out of the water at this time more than any other, as if trying to greet their father the sun and thank him for another day. They splashed as they landed on the blanket that the sun's light made over the water's surface. The blanket was broken for a moment, only to return a moment later to its blissful calm.

When Senin looked at the light in the water, he felt something deep inside. Looking at it gave him the feeling that he could see a little part of his future, and that the future would be good. He wondered whether he would have children someday who would look at the shining water with him in the mornings. He wondered whether he would have a life as bright and brilliant as the water on the lake.

"Senin, oy," someone said. Senin turned and saw his sister behind him. "Daydreaming again? Why aren't you loading the boat? They're all about to go out."

Senin blinked, and remembered that he was supposed to be helping his older brothers catch fish. He broke himself out of his reverie and got up, slowly walking along the lake's edge to where his brothers kept the boat.

As he looked at his three older brothers in the boat, he couldn't help but be impressed. They were a team of three but they worked as one, always perfectly aligned in their movements, always knowing what the others were doing even without looking. As he approached them it seemed like they scarcely noticed him.

"Senin, oy," his third brother said. "Get, well, get the hooks and load them."

Hooks, Senin thought, laughing a little. They had started to rely on net fishing almost entirely, and almost never used hooks anymore. His three brothers were clearly just making up work for him. The team of three didn't need a fourth. He walked slowly to get the hooks, his mind elsewhere.

The day was warm and fair. Senin sat at the front while his brothers handled the net in the middle and steered in the back. The catch was good as usual: his family was lucky to have the only fishing boat running on the big lake. He saw crabs and catfish and even a local swordfish in his brother's nets.

When the morning was over, they turned the ship back to unload the morning catch. His brothers rowed energetically, and Senin enjoyed the feeling of the light breeze on his face and the sight of the prow of the boat slicing through the calm water in front of him.

He looked down into the clear water. At first, he saw only the wine-dark green and blue of the kelp below. But for a moment, he saw a light in the depths, silver and flashing. Something about the light enthralled Senin, and without thinking, he dived off the front right side of the boat towards it.

In the water, he saw the silver light he wanted, but he also saw other lights: reflections of pieces of kelp and beams from the sun above and even the glow of little firefly-fish. Though he was wet and immersed just like the kelp around him, he felt like all of the lights were sparks from a sacred fire.

He swam deeper, and finally got close to the silver light that had made want to jump in. It moved, and finally he saw that it was only the scales of a particularly shiny trout. The trout swam towards him and Senin, feeling foolish for jumping and swimming so far for nothing but a little trout, closed his eyes and tried to forget where he was.

For a moment, all was stillness and calm. Senin felt the warmth of the water and wished he could stay among the kelp and the trout and the firefly-fish forever. But the silence was broken by a word. As clear as day, though he was alone in the kelp, Senin heard a single word, spoken forcefully and deliberately: "Go."

Senin wanted to hear more, and he opened his eyes to look around for where the voice had come from. He saw only the silver trout and the firefly-fish and the beams of sun and sparkling kelp around him. He heard muffled voices on the boat above him, as his brothers yelled for him to come back to the surface. Presently his third brother jumped off the back of the boat, swam directly towards him and started dragging him towards the surface. Senin didn't make his brother drag him all the way up. He took a few strokes, surfaced, took a huge breath and climbed back into his spot at the front of the boat.

His brothers, after they were sure that he was alright, started laughing. "We put the nets in the water, not ourselves!" the oldest one said. "Did you see a mermaid?" the second one asked, clearly pleased with himself as he could scarcely say it clearly through his own laughter.

Senin smiled back at them, not worried about their jeering. They arrived back at home quickly, unloading their catch, cleaning their gear and preparing for the afternoon fishing. Senin excused himself to sit inside and rest instead of going out with them.

Senin put his hand over his eyes, hoping to sleep off the afternoon. It was only a few minutes before he heard his mother's quiet footsteps walking towards him. He opened his eyes and sat up.

"Pa," she said quietly, summoning his father. His father walked in too. "Sen," she said, touching his shoulder. She paused and looked at him, and he knew what she meant before she said anything else. "How is your heart?" she finally said softly.

Senin smiled and looked downwards, unsure how to reply. He looked at his mother and the concern in her eyes. He looked at his father, who looked mostly confused.

"I need to go," Senin said simply.

His mother took a sharp breath. "Go?" she said. "Go where? And why?"

"There is not room for me on the boat, nor in this village. I... need to go," he repeated.

His father looked thoughtful. "What will you do?" he asked.

Without thinking, Senin already knew the answer. "I will be a tinker," he said. I'll travel from town to town, and fix things."

His mother frowned. "A tinker?" she said. "Tinkers have but little honor in the world."

Senin frowned too. "I only want honor from you," he said to her sincerely. "Let the world honor who it wishes."

His father nodded. "All honest work is honorable," he added quietly. "But son," he said, barely above a whisper. "We can find a place for you here. We can make a bigger boat, or find work in the village. You don't need to leave."

Senin shook his head. "I can't explain it," he said. "But I do. I have to go."

His father seemed to understand. "When you go," he said, "remember us. Remember that you always have a home here." His mother said nothing, but embraced him, her tears falling on his shoulder.


"Why would you leave at night?" his father asked when he caught Senin on the way out the door after the rest of the family had already slept.

Senin hesitated. "Goodbyes are hard," he said simply.

His father nodded. "True," he said. "But returns are joyful. Go now and carry us with you in your heart. Come back to us before too long." They hugged, and then his father stood in the doorway with his hand raised as Senin started to walk away.

The moonlight shone down, its reflections glimmering on the lake, on Senin's house, on his tool bag, on the dark forest in front of him and on his hot tears.