Biscuit Eater could sense something big was about to happen.??There was a nervous electricity in the water and all the others of his kind seemed to be jittery. A low,
metallic sound was emanating from the far end of the concrete lane he’d called home for his entire life. The sound was soft at first but it was getting louder by the second. Something unfamiliar…
Biscuit Eater was used to the sounds of the automatic feeder that twice daily ran the length of his trough and sprayed tasty fish pellets onto the surface of the water, but this was different. The noisy mechanical crowding gate moved slowly down the lane and, like a fishy snow plow, it pushed along an ever-growing mass of thrashing trout toward B.E. and the back of the pen. As the gate closed within 10 feet of the raceway’s back wall, it suddenly stopped.
In unison, the hundreds of trout, now confined to a much smaller space than they were used to, got panicky and began rushing back and forth and thrashing on the surface. In the confusion, B.E. was oblivious to the splash and the stream of bubbles the leading edge of the net made as it was thrust into the water from above. As the mesh closed under his belly, he tried to struggle. But it was too late.
Without the water’s protective coating, B.E.’s eyes stung and his vision blurred as he was lifted out of his element. His mouth pumped feverishly to push water over his gills, but all he felt was the hot burning of air over his rakers. His pain was only momentary, however, as B.E. was soon released into a bubbly tank of cool water.
He joined several hundred of his relatives at the bottom, where they all sulked for several minutes as the shock of the incident wore off. Soon, though, the trout adjusted to their new environs and for the next hour and a half, they finned comfortably about the tank as the fish truck worked its way up the interstate.
Once, when the driver had to stomp on the brakes to avoid a collision, the sudden force shoved them toward the front of the tank, but, overall, the ride to the lake was a smooth one.
Eventually, the driver backed down to the water’s edge at the boat ramp and attached a 12-inch tube to the back of the tank. When he opened the valve, water rushed from the tanker, sucking trout with it at a rapid clip.??B.E. watched as many of his kind disappeared down the tube. He swam to the opposite end of the tank, but soon the water was all but gone and he felt the irresistible pull of the current. As he neared the dark opening of the pipe, he fought to swim upstream and away from it with every ounce of strength his rounded, concrete-worn tail could muster. But the force was too strong and he was swallowed by the insatiable, round hole.??A dark, lightning-speed freefall ensued and ended as quickly as it began when B.E. hit the warm surface water of the lake.
Disoriented, he lay motionless for a few moments. Brightly colored shapes started hitting the water all around him. Flecks of silver spun past his face. Orange and chartreuse and gold bits of metal wobbled through his field of vision. Strange silver and black fish, similar to him but smaller stiffly wiggled past.??One of B.E.’s relatives lunged at the weird fish and immediately started twisting and turning and thrashing about in an attempt to rid herself of it. Another trout inhaled a flashy object sporting red dots and was quickly whisked to the surface and out of the water.
Still in a drug-like stupor, B.E. ignored the technicolor array of morsels buzzing around him and joined a group of other dazed trout that were swimming in a lazy circle 10 feet off the boat ramp. Occasionally, one of the fish would seem to snap to and then gobble up one of the bits of color as it passed. After chomping down on it, the fish would feel the hooks and then spin wildly as the unseen force on the other end of the line cranked it unceremoniously to the beach.
As more and more trout woke from their travel-induced fog, they snatched at the continuous barrage of lures being pitched at them by the two dozen anglers on the shore and many quickly ended up on stringers. In an hour’s time, their ranks were thinned considerably, and the remaining trout moved out of the launch cove.
Biscuit Eater was at the back of the school when a marauding pack of largemouth bass hit them from the side. Under attack, the trout scattered and what little natural survival instinct he’d garnered in his concrete life before told Biscut Eater to flee as well. Through a blizzard of sparkling silver scales of his recently devoured comrades, B.E. streaked for a rocky sanctuary on the bottom. He tucked up tight against the largest rock and then relaxed. None of the attackers had followed.
Unfortunately, the rock was not a rock at all, but a mammoth 17-pound largemouth bass…