Wanting the Fish (Excerpt)
by T. Lee Harris
The fish were laughing at me. They gathered in the shadow of my papyrus boat, waiting for the next entertainment. I situated my feet on the sides of the canoe, and gripped the spear firmly – which must’ve twitched the attached cord, because it suddenly jerked backwards. Turning, I disengaged the cord from the teeth and claws of the large, playfully growling cat. “Neffi! Get off!” Rippling spotted fur in satisfaction, he sauntered to the back of the boat and flattened himself over the bundled stems where he watched the gathered fish, tail lashing. “Nefer-Djenou-Bastet! You have got to be the most unhelpful animal in the two lands. I’ll never catch a fish if you keep doing that.”
It took some effort to put the cord right, but at last, I was standing again, spear poised, reviewing the morning’s instructions: Hold it firmly, but not too tightly, let the shaft be an extension of your arm, and most of all, want that fish!
In the distance, a shout of triumph rang out, a reminder of why I was upstream from the rest of the hunting party where only the fish laughed at me. Rekhi-mi-re, grandson of the divine Ramesses II (Life, Prosperity and Health for a million years), priest of Amun and all around fathead, had obviously speared a prize. I gritted my teeth, concentrated on the biggest, most obnoxious fish below and hove the weapon. It splashed into the water clumsily and the fish scattered.
“Sitehuti, that was the most piss-poor spear throw I’ve ever witnessed. If you were in the army, you wouldn’t be for long.”
I looked toward the riverbank where the shout originated. Djedmose, captain of Crown Prince Merenptah’s Medjay contingent stood there, arms folded, grinning. I reeled in my empty fishing spear. “Then it’s a good thing I’m not a soldier, isn’t it? I seem to be constantly reminding people I’m a scribe, not what they think I ought to be.”
He laughed. “Well, you win your argument for not being a fisherman.”
“If you want a fish written about or drawn and painted, I’m your man. If you want one caught–”My tirade was interrupted by a splash and sudden flopping in the bottom of the boat. Glancing around in surprise I found Neffi licking a wet paw standing over a large fish thrashing against the papyrus.
“–you’ll have your magic cat do it.” If Djedmose’s grin had gotten any wider, the top of his head would have fallen off.