Early Thursday morning I went for my usual walk. Me and the dog. A good forty minutes from home and despite my earphones I could hear something sloshing around. Strange. The dog pulled me to the side of a narrow river that had been dammed up. There was less than an inch of water, a whole lot of muck and at least two dozen enormous carp flopping frantically around trying to breath. Damn.
I see some old men getting ready to start plowing to plant rice so I run over and yell something like, My god! Look at the fish, release the water! They chuckle and point to a bulldozer way down at the other end of the river. Can't. They're doing work and if we let the water go it'll wash the people away. A nice big group chuckle. I don't give up, People suck. Save the fish! Oh, the laughter. You wouldn't believe. Okay, fine, give me a net. Do you guys have a net? Something I can use for net? Your shirt maybe? I'll pull out the damn fish. No net. Not one old man makes to remove his shirt.
Plan B. I jog down to the fellows working near the bulldozer. Hey, you guys, the fish! Did you see the poor fish? You have to stop what you're doing now. There were five guys but only one was actually doing anything. A water snake slid across his boot and he brought his shovel up and made to slice it in two when another older man said, You better not or she'll really jump all over you. He withstrained himself. One snake saved.
They try to convince me that the fish won't die. I say, Are you shitting me? One or two are on their sides. How long are you going to be at this? About half a day. They're going to die. Sorry. We gotta work. Dammit, then, give me a net. No net. A shirt? Now who's shitting who?
Plan C. I am forty minutes from home. That's a long time with no water. I look at my dog and we take a chance. We decide to stop by the school -- a five minute walk -- and see if they have a net. I hesitate about asking the office ladies because they don't like getting up out of their chairs much less doing anything. But I was in luck, a teacher I'd never seen before was coming out of the school. Sensei! I yell. I explain my situation. I'm all hot and sweaty and seriously gross (and I imagine) crazed looking. My dog is tied to a fence across the street and barking like a loon. The teacher looks briefly confused and then disappears.
Bless his heart ten minutes later he comes back with two nets (with holes in them) and a plastic tray. He informs me that the nets are in bad shape but maybe I can scoop them out with the tray. I almost ask for help from some class. Japan is cool like that. Teachers can pretty much do whatever they want with their classes. Like, if they feel like have all day gym class, so be it. I decided I would be pressing my luck to request the entire sixth grade to save the fish. I took the goods with many bows and thank yous and went to free the dog.
On further inspection there is no way these nets would hold the fish. So we decide to hurry home and get J's net, a camera (evidence) and some water, 'cause I'm hot! Run home, I'm dying here. Get the goods, leave the dog and hop in the car. I consider getting neighbors and other people outside to help me. I imagine that I'll become the hero of my town. Maybe I'll make it into the paper.
I arrive back to the scene of the massacre and park illegally but I'm beyond common sense at this point. I've wasted too much time. I stuff the camera in a pocket and grab three nets of differing lengths and strengths and head down the river. I note that only one man remains of the group of old farts. He is playing with some dirt.
I walk and walk and walk and get to the point where the fish were so tragically flailing about and ... odd, there is water, not a lot mind you but enough so that the carp are now swimming happily, slurping green moss from the rocks, and smiling oblivious to my cause. Huh?
I go to the old man, Remember me? Chuckles. What happened? Did you guys release the water? Did you realize that I was right, that those poor fish wouldn't survive? No, once the water got too high for the dam it just went over top. You mean? Yes, we tried to tell you but you were so excited and kept running off to talk to those guys over there. If you had waited like five more minutes...
It was a bitter sweet moment. The good news is now I see those same old men on my walk everyday and I'm kinda famous in a crazy way. They wave and smile and chuckle. I wink and say you take care of them fish now. Yea, right.
I did save a snake though.
The Fish Saving Nets
The Fish No Longer in Need of Saving
The Dam Running Over