Apalone Ferox – Soft shelled Turtle
The myth of the Kraken
Twelve months of moon phases have passed
since I began fishing this lake of Lethe,
each day the circadian rhythm suspends
and I am granted 2 hours for fishing
in my Zen dimension.
I stand like a Moses poised over the lake,
commanding with a mighty rod –
I WILL change the dynamics today
by interrupting fish schedules,
all catches to be released
and no ill will between the species.
Even a slow fishing day
does not diminish the essence of clean mind absorption
of taking in the saturation of the lake,
birds coasting overhead,
and even the red belly of Flyglobespan
leaving Sanford and traveling due north to Scotland at 6pm
is only one more pair of beautiful wings over the horizon.
Mysterious forces swirl just beneath the sheath of water
a magnified-mottled softshell skirting the depths
like an armed floating leather shield.
“The Kracken”, I dubbed it –
Avatar with largess guarding over this territory –
turtle of intimidation,
respecting that we both have a purpose here.
I cast my bait away from it,
watching for the hooded head with
two circular orbs revealing its’ position.
Sometimes obvious masses of bubbles surfaced,
expelled by both ends of it’s reptile alimentary canal.
Cretaceous ‘Kracken’ and its’ ilk
belonging to this planet millions of years prior to man,
still in basic uniform adapting better than most.
The dark waters mysteriously stifle the pattern
of brown and olive
all monochromatic and symbiotic as one unit –
it is the red and white bobber that’s grossly out of place here.
Suddenly two winking eyes
and massive soft plastron breaks the water
attached to a thick body breaching two diverse worlds
of wet and dry.
These are the largest soft shell turtles in the New World,
sea monsters scanning the lakes from their secret aquatic depths,
making the neighbor children squirm and shout
when the swift-pattern shell passes by.
Many times I was startled by it’s sudden appearance
and I did not want to hook it,
did not want its’ hissing and snapping mouth near my
fingers and toes.
This liquid warrior,
soft frigate fighting vigorously for it’s space,
and it was me who was the invader,
the unwelcomed ‘occupier’
On land there is no faster turtle
and in the lake it’s wet lightning,
I continued to see him as more than a simple species
this turtle was the embodiment of MY modern myth,
voiding the edges of reality to become
a leviathan we all feared would latch onto our lines,
chase us down and eat us whole.
Bringing in bream or shiners too slowly was always a risk,
the Kracken sometimes trailed my catch.
This reptile has a nose made for sniffing death and
is quick to nab anything moving erratic,
like wounded fish or even small ducks-
This day there was an edgy wind
and wide rippling of the lake.
It was late afternoon,
the sun had been sacked by a wall of gray clouds,
the tannin water did not have the clarity of
sunlight illuminating behind it,
preventing my normal aquatic acuity
from reaching its sight into
the water’s most intimate wet spaces.
I cast out and felt the pull-
just from that tug my adrenalin spilled,
I had hooked something large!
Turtles jerk at a hook differently than fish
and suddenly my line was heading out toward the weeds,
but not sharply down as with a hooked bass.
There was a struggle coming,
from a risky looking sky above
and the waves and reptile fighting against me,
I fought with an invisible power upon the line
as it thrust against the pain of impalement
from a new, sharp hook.
I let it have more line hoping maybe it would loosen,
maybe free itself and swim away,
only to reel and find it still fighting-
fighting against the hook,
fighting against domination,
fighting to preserve its’ turtle dignity.
For a while the line stretched taut,
the rod bending in contortions I didn’t think possible
until finally it was exhausted
as I pulled it closer to shore –
tangling through massive thick hydrilla,
water cutting against it slowing its surrender.
I knew his temper would be ill
his mouth tender and injured
and susceptible to infections-
that hook could prove as lethal as a wounding bullet
to both of us,
one stick and the smallest of deadly bacteria
takes precedent over the largest of beings.
We both struggled for control,
the weeds thickened around him,
the rain began beating down,
but I could not abandon the fight-
my line was still jerking.
I jumped down from the sea wall
to the waters sandy shore
anticipating the worst
thinking how using needle nose pliers,
would be like tackling a minotaur with a safety pin.
As I reeled while standing braced on the shore,
rain saturating my every fiber from head to toe,
the massive beast came into view,
it was not the behemoth I had so imagined
the carapace about 2 feet long — not 5 or greater-
as magnified by the mocking water,
it certainly lacked in Karken proportions.
It’s long neck and legs flailing-
a hook swallowed – the line inside the mouth
it bled red – it’s agony and instinct intact.
My Kracken –
myth of the lake,
myth of my mind –
swimming against the storm tide,
struggling against the pain,
bubbles trailing a route to panic-
animal brought down to scale.
I reached out to try and net him,
but he jerked and pulled
there was no restraining
a very mad, agitated turtle.
As I pulled to get it closer to shore,
it’s feet gave one last thrust of traction
breaking the weakened line then lurching down,
the bobber floating up
riding long the choppy waves.
I watched as a torpedo hurled back to the deep
past the weeds,
past the thick walled and banging water,
past the now fractured tale.
I worried my hook would cost Kracken it’s life,
would it bleed to death, infect and rot?
Sadly, I looked at my pole with dangling,
worn 12 lb. test line,
my head down and battered by rain,
I picked up the wet tackle box and left.
The rain yelled at me,
I had clearly violated the tenets of the lake –
lightning forked above my head,
bent branches whipped me hard with water
as I passed beneath them.
The storm screamed and cried and moaned
for it’s loss,
I listened to it’s anger that whole night,
and thought of nothing else except
how it would feel to be hooked and reeled in,
skin pierced and ripped as vessels burst,
I too cried along with the howling storm…