When I was six years old, my Uncle Andy taught me how to fish (It was the last thing Uncle Andy and I ever did together; he died of a heart attack a few years later). That was the only time I ever went fishing, and I don’t really remember any of the technique or anything. But I do remember what we caught. That is, I remember what it looked like: It was about the size of your thumb, and it was black with a white belly. In spite of it’s small size, Uncle Andy still took the fish to his cabin and proudly mounted it anyhow. We somehow still managed to bring the little thing back to the cabin even after the canoe tipped over.
Yes, at one point, the canoe tipped over. I was scared at first (and holy crap that water was cold), but luckily we happened to have our life-preservers with us. I thought that we would drown. I experienced a curious mixture of pleasant-surprise and relief when I found myself floating instead of sinking. That was, in fact, the day when I learned what a life-preserver was. My mind had equated deep water with drowning up until then. “Unca!” I exclaimed. “We’re safe!” “We’re not drowning!” “Well we’d better not,” Uncle Andy quipped, “I payed dxmn good money for these life-preservers!” And he laughed.
I was quiet for the rest of the morning, filled with a sense of wonder and awe. I gazed into the beauty of the cloudless blue sunny sky that we were still alive to see, and I gazed into the murky foreboding darkness of the deep lake. We could have drowned. We actually could have drowned. But we didn’t. We actually didn’t.