Abating: English term for anesis: adding a concluding sentence that diminishes the effect of what has been said previously. The opposite of epitasis (the addition of a concluding sentence that merely emphasizes what has already been stated. A kind of amplification).

I was 9 and I wanted to go fishing. In between the dead Bears, Mountain Goats, and Deer, Outdoor Life magazine was loaded with pictures of people holding up dead fish, or ropes tied around the tails of hoisted-up dead fish—Sharks, Marlin, Tuna, and more. The fishermen and women stood there by their hanging fish, with big-billed hats and super-dark sun glasses, holding fishing poles that looked like small trees with “reels” mounted on the poles that were used to crank in the fish; caught in the mouth by a giant hook that looked like one of the shower curtain holders in our bathroom, except it was barbed and it punctured the fish’s lip, which, in the pictures, was dripping blood, and which, had caught the fish so it could be cranked in and pulled from the water by a gaff hook—an even bigger, but barbless hook with a handle like a fat broomstick.

I knew I would never catch a giant fish. As far as I knew, they all lived in the ocean. I didn’t live anywhere near the ocean. But, I pestered my Dad until he bought me a fishing pole. It wasn’t what I expected. It was a Mickey Mouse fishing pole. The pole was about 3 feet long and the reel was push-button. The reel was a replica of Micky’s head with the fishing line coming out of his mouth. I didn’t care. I just wanted to go fishing. We lived in a small city with a “park.” It had a lake in the middle that people laughingly called “Dire Lake.” Every once in a while it would catch on fire and burn for days. Dad decided we were going fishing at Dire Lake. Nobody had caught a fish there in a long time—I thought “Thanks Dad—there’s something wrong with you.”

But I was determined. We got up at 6:00 am and walked to Dire Lake. It was surprisingly quiet. I shoved a squirming worm on my little hook. I reached back and threw my line about 5 feet from shore where it sank slowly to the bottom. I learned later (no help from my father) that I should have had a bobber to alert me of fish nibbles and a weight on the line to make it cast farther. Anyway, Dad sat down on the muddy bank and lit a joint—I could smell it. I turned to tell him he was on his way to jail, when boom! I got a bite! Boom! I reeled in the fish on the end of my line! It had blond hair and was making a chirping sound. A man took a picture. Just as I was ready to lay the fish down on the ground, it fell off the hook, flopped back into Dire Lake and swam away, still chirping. The man sold the picture to The Daily Record and I was interviewed for a story about the fish. All I could say was it was some kind of “scary mutant.” The next thing I know, the Admissions Deans from Princeton and Rutgers offered me “a seat” and a scholarship in Environmental Biology when I graduated from high school—I had no idea why they made the offer, but when the time came, I went to Princeton, eventually earning a Ph.D.

The “Mystery Fish of Dire Lake” is still a mystery. Countless hundreds of people have tried to catch the fish, now called “Blondie,” but to no avail. My current scholarly research takes place from a shack on Dire Lake’s shore, where I’m trying to communicate with Blondie by chirping like she did all those years ago. When I found strands of blond wig hair floating off the shore, I started to think there’s nothing ‘fishy’ about Blondie, but rather, she’s some kind of remote-controlled automaton. But, the life changing thrill I felt when I almost caught her won’t let me believe she’s a lie. Sometimes I think I hear the chirping sound when the dogs living on the other side of the lake finally shut the hell up around 2:00 am.

My Dad is still alive. He has my Mickey Mouse fishing pole mounted on his tiny apartment’s living room wall, along with the news clipping from the Daily Record and our family portrait. The fist thing he says when I come to visit is “Did you get him yet?” I say, “No.” He yells, “You goddamn moron. All these years, you can’t catch the fish.” Then, we have lunch: tuna-fish sandwiches on white bread with a pickle, potato chips, and a cold root beer. We reminisce about Mom for awhile, then, I drive back to my shack on Dire Lake.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu).

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