“What is it?” Iris asked. “A snake?”
“It’s the thing that’s been living under the dock,” Adam said sarcastically.
“Well yeah. But what is it?”
“An eel,” Josh explained. He was holding the line at arm’s length as the long and slimy creature writhed at the end of the hook. A small amount of blood trickled down the dark, slick body and was mixing with the slime coating the dock. The end of the hook protruded from just beyond the gills. Its jaws opened and closed slowly, giving the impression of silenced screams.
“Let it go,” Iris pleaded.
“It’s not gonna make it,” Josh said, looking down at the tiring eel. “There’s no way for me to get that hook without doing more damage. He’s a gonner.”
“Just, let it go.” Iris was adamant.
“It doesn’t look that menacing anymore,” Adam admitted.
“Fine, but I’m gonna need one of you to hold this for a minute,” Josh held the line out for someone else to take. Iris and Adam exchanged a brief look before Iris reached out and reluctantly took the line.
Josh crept over to his tackle box and pulled out a small but sharp knife. He got as close to the eel’s gaping maw as he dared before folding tugging some of the line through Iris’ fingers and creating slack. Folding it over against the blade of the knife, he worked his way through the tough monofilament. The full length of the eel flopped onto the sun-heated dock and continued to thrash.
Josh stood and walked over to the suffering creature, nudging it with the edge of his sandal. The nudge gave the eel the necessary momentum to squirm the rest of the way across the dock, where gravity assisted in restoring it to the lake below. Their three heads strained to watch as the eel struggled away through the water, listing to one side and remaining close to shore. They lost sight of it as the eel slipped in amongst a cluster of branches dangling into the lake at the water’s edge. A small ripple across the surface was the last indication that the eel had been there. That and the slime that coated the weather proofed dock.
Josh slid as he returned the knife to his tackle box. He re-spooled the line and set the rod aside with the rest of his gear where the stone steps met the dock. Iris fetched a bucket that Josh had hoped to fill with a fish or two and filled it from the lake. Splashing it across the dock, she rubbed at the slime with her foot and managed to clear off some of the blood, but most of the mucus continued to cling to the surface. A second attempt with more water and some sand worked a little better but when she stepped barefoot onto the dock the following morning for a quick swim, the feel of the slick surface raised goosebumps along the skin of her legs.