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Catch and Release
by Josh Sampson

Marty walked along the shore of the Turgana river with his pants rolled up. The sun was out in the early morning, and he strolled easily, wading through the water at times. He took off his sunglasses, and rubbed his eyes. When he put them back on, he spotted the research team far off down along the shore with a big catch.

He walked up, and Jericho was irrigating the shark with a gardening hose. He sprayed the nozzle into the shark's open mouth, and the other hose end was in the water. The riverboat man stood knee deep in the river watching Jericho; he occasionally smiled at the man's movements.

There were other researchers there too, and they held the enormous fins down, and one man sat on its back. The shark didn't move much, but its eyes blinked slowly; there was a thin layer of gray film protecting its lens. The shark had small gills, but they were long, and flexed uncomfortably in the morning air.
“Grab me that cable cutter,” said Jericho holding his hand out.

A disheveled female, with her sunglasses propped unevenly on her head, handed him the tool. Jericho stuck his right arm, elbow deep, in the shark's mouth while another man held the razor sharp jaws wide open. He dug around in the shark's mouth for a while, and the man holding the mouth grunted and his face turned red.

Jericho pulled out a foot of corded steel wire, and smiled, “I think I got it.”

Some of the researchers laughed, and the female sighed, and put her hands on her hips.

“I hear sometimes they find treasure in the belly of a shark,” said the riverboat man, “God knows I haven't found any yet.”

He looked at Marty, and nodded. Marty walked over to him, and stood in the cold Turgana river. The sun was rising toward noon, but Marty checked his watch anyway; it was eleven-thirty.

“You see that lad?” and the riverboat man pointed, “She helps Jericho, and that man there carries equipment, and sits on sharks.” he pointed at the large man sitting on the shark's back who was stretching a wet towel over its eyes.

“Me, I'm an angler, and I drive that riverboat.”

Marty nodded.

“What do you do?”

Marty patted his camera bag, “Photographer.”

The river-boat man snorted. He looked a little under six feet tall, and he had gray hair. His stomach was chubby, but he was thick and strong. His shoulders and arms attested to it, and his hands were beaten like a burlap sac, and his facial hair was sharp Brillo. He had a deep voice too, but it wasn't American.

“That's the biggest shark I ever caught,” he pointed at the flopping fish, “Angled the damn thing nearly an hour.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Marty pulled out his camera, and shot a picture of Jericho holding the shark's head up, and then Jericho shoved the hose back in its mouth.

“You tell me that ain't a shame to do something like that.”

Marty looked at him with a questioning glance.

“I angled him an hour's worth of time, and now they're going to give him back to the water.”

Marty shrugged, and snapped a picture of the shark laid out on its side with a towel over its head. The female ran a bucket of water over the length of the shark's body.

“Figure I broke a reel too, that'll cost me. Personally, I'd rather take the fish home, and eat it.”

The riverboat man took out a rolled cigarette, and snapped a match with his thumbnail.

“I'd get dinner for a week outta that,” and he let out a short laugh.

The scientists lined up on both sides of the shark, and lifted it up on a light bed; the shark flopped once, but then fell still. The scientist's feet shifted in the sand, compensating for the weight of the heavy fish. After a minute, the riverboat man came out of the water slowly to help them. Marty took pictures of the scene while moving around them carefully.

When it was all said and done, the shark swam into the muddy water freely. The riverboat man stood in the river knee deep again, and watched it go. He rubbed the back of his neck feeling slightly annoyed at missing out on such a big catch. He lost his interest and took took an envelope from Jericho, and then the research team headed for the sandy bluff where their van was parked.

The sun had risen, and Marty undid his shirt buttons while rolling back through his film.

“Hey, Mr. photographer, do you want to see thirty pound piranhas?” asked the riverboat man.

Marty grinned, and nodded. The two men walked slowly down the beach toward the riverboat that bobbed slowly in the water. It was turning out to be a great day in Africa.

Josh Sampson is a journalist, and an aspiring short story writer. He lives far north in Michigan where the snow comes early.  Contact Josh.