The Fisherman's Delimma

Ezra Azra


Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by Thomas Andrew (1855-1939) via Wikimedia Commons
by Cole Keister:
Thomas Andrew (1855-1939 via Wikimedia CommonsPhoto
by Cole Keister:

by 100 files:

Poor brothers, Jiggs and Mohan, were returning from another unsuccessful illegal hand-line fishing trip by the river.

They were not the only ones in the Village who did that regularly. They were making their way home through the forest. It was a roundabout way, more than twice as long the distance the direct way. That longer way was preferable because the Law Enforcement persons had not yet discovered it. Not yet. Not for much longer; the brothers were resigned to that.

This route was the last resort of eluding discovery by the police. Over the years, the water police had become so proficient in the chase, that only a few Villagers went illegal fishing anymore. The large number of Villagers who teamed up and bought licences to fish, was the main cause police patrols became seldom.

On the one hand, this had made it less risky for the poorest of the poor, like brothers Jiggs and Mohan, who could not afford either to pay for a licence to fish, nor for store-bought fishing gear. Their handlines were homemade.

On the other hand, among those who bought licences there was dangerous resentment growing against the poorest of the poor who were fishing illegally without licences. The brothers expected that sooner or later a licensed fisherman was going to collaborate with Law Enforcement officers.

The brothers lived in continual desperate hope that by some miracle they would find a river place that would provide them with enough fish to catch to sell in order to afford to buy a licence.

Long before the danger from the growing resentment among licensed fishermen, there had been the danger from the Chief of Police.

The Chief had been on an especially personal mission for over thirty years trying to arrest someone who was fishing illegally. He had never been successful; not even once. He was keenly aware of the hurt to his reputation. Every other officer in the Precinct had made at least one arrest in offences relating to fishing infractions. Arresting an illegal fisherman had become, among the police, a challenge and an honour equal to winning an Olympic gold medal. None had won, so far.

The Chief was approaching retirement. He made it loudly clear that before he retired he would arrest a handline fisherman. He was so determined to make a successful arrest before he retired that he continually accompanied junior officers on water patrols.

With a vengeance, he would scrutinize licences, on the spot where and while fishermen rod-fished. Fishermen, ever fearful of being victims of police-planted incriminating evidence, had, years ago, ceased carrying lunch boxes and other containers that could not fit into the few pockets on their clothing.

Handline fishing was completely and utterly illegal. The Chief had heard of it, but had never witnessed it. Nor had he known of an arrest of a culprit. He was determined to be the first arresting officer, before he retired. During examinations of licenses where and while men rod-fished, he never let up on rummaging through boxes of fishing equipment for incriminating evidence.

Lately, he had been continually making references to some of his family members in the Police Force continuing his career mission; some City authorities were calling it a vendetta.

Some higher-up officials were unhappy with the Chief's relentless harassment of the poor Village fisherfolk because the Chief's vendetta was costing the City more money than was necessary, in patrolling hours and wages.

This longer way Jiggs and Mohan were on, crossed a country road. It was a little-used out-of-the-way country road. Nonetheless, the brothers hid their hand-lines in their clothes as they neared the road.

They saw the bare feet of a person sticking out through some thick undergrowth. The brothers stopped, abruptly. They looked at each other. They whispered to each other.

Let's get out of here! That person could be alive. Best reason for us to get away. Best reason to help if they are one of us from the village, Jiggs. A lot of us use this way. Okay. Just a slight peek. If it is not one of us, we run. If it is not one of us, and dead, we run, Jiggs.

Jiggs glared, wide-eyed at his brother, Mohan! Why hang around if it is alive but not one of us? If that person is alive, and sees us, we are its first suspects.

They heard muffled sounds. They looked at the bare feet. The bare feet moved!

In shock, Jiggs pressed his palms against his eyes as he collapsed to his knees to the ground. He turned clumsily on the ground and began to crawl away, hastily, through the weeds and other undergrowth.

Mohan did not move; he glared at the bare feet. When Jiggs noticed Mohan not budging, Jiggs stopped, and crouched, and grit his teeth in a failing attempt to not pee himself.

The feet struggled. Gradually the rest of the body came into view. It was a young woman. Except for her bare feet, she was clothed in shirt and dungarees. Her hair was tangled in leaves and sticks. She struggled through branches. Mohan instinctively went and helped her. She sat on the ground.

Jiggs remained far off, taking cover behind foliage.

Mohan asked her, softly, Can we help you? She was wide-eyed in fear; she did not reply him. He spoke, kindly, Lady, we found you. We want to help. If you prefer, we will leave.

She cried silently. It was clear she was trying desperately to not cry. She repeatedly wiped away her tears, messily, with her hands. She shook her head at Mohan. He was relieved, Okay. We will wait. Take your time.

He peered around to see if his brother was still around. Before he located Jiggs, Jiggs slowly moved into view, and walked to his brother whom he silently regarded as being incredibly foolish, dangerously.

The woman tried to stand. She could not, on her own. Mohan helped her. When she was on her feet, she asked,
Where are my shoes? We do not know, lady. Help me look for them. Yes. Of course.

Mohan flicked a gesture to Jiggs to search; Jiggs, in consternation flicked back a gesture of despair that screamed, Where do I begin?

She asked, Did you find the car? Mohan shook his head. She looked around. He gently asked, Were you driving it when the accident happened, lady? She glared at him with a look he interpreted as demanding, What kind of a question is that?

Her tone was nearly obnoxious, How did I get here? I don't know, lady. My brother and I found you unconscious. What do you remember?

She was silent. She showed signs of dizziness. Mohan helped her sit, again.

Jiggs whispered to Mohan, Keep asking her about her car. You stay with her and I will go look for the car. That could take a long time. Let's just ask her if she wants to come home with us.

His brother's mouth dropped open in incredulous dismay at the suggestion. Mohan took a few steps to the lady.

Lady, do you remember where you left your car? She glared at him. Her eyes grew wider in fright. He hastily backed away. She pressed her hands to her mouth and stifled her screams. Jiggs ran away. He did not look back.

Mohan crouched on the ground. He kept looking at the lady. He felt utterly helpless, and terrified. A small but very real thought urged him to follow his brother; and not look back. The thought was too small to have enough strength to become an action.

She was exhausted from crying and stifling her violent screams. She lay still on the ground. Mohan approached her cautiously. He spoke softly, Lady, I am leaving. I am sorry we cannot help you. He backed away slowly, but paused to listen when she spoke.

She spoke mechanically, facing the ground, When you find my car, the keys will be in it, and I will be able to drive home.

Mohan did not comment as he continued to slowly back away.

Abruptly, she sat up. You have to help me! My father is Chief of Police!

Mohan's knees collapsed. He tumbled; landed flat on his back on the ground.  

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