It wasn’t like she could wrangle the hook from its mouth. It was still alive, after all, unlike those Biology specimens, those dissected fish, frogs, rabbits, and pigs. Each time the knife sliced through the fish-skin, the scales sometimes stuck to her ungloved hands, and when she got home she saw them all over her face, which she touched a thousand times a day, wiping and scratching her forehead and eyes. The glint of them as she tilted her face in sunlight, the prisms of color reminiscent of mermaids, her grandmother’s living room, the crystals lustrous in the riverside window.
She made sticky strings between her fingers with the slick mucus from the trout’s belly, its fuchsia stripe sparkling with each turn toward the sun, like pools of gasoline that stain concrete driveways. She enjoyed toying with the fish now that it was out of water, its gaping mouth opening in a rhythm of breath, its eyes like a doll’s pulled out of its head. But the hook presented a bigger predicament like catching the fleshy part of her index finger, causing tetanus to set up, the horror of lockjaw, of rust in her blood.
She stroked the trout against a rock, angling the mouth open, sliding the hook into a crevice worn by water and time. The hook slipped from the mouth, paused in wide position, a mute gesture resembling surprise, delight, consent.
She knew hooks, like dissections, were involuntary.
She knew what it took to never get caught.