I’d like to thank my daughter for finding Nemo — then eating him

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As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m one of 11 nominees for Performance of the Year at The Public Blogger. While I’d like to believe it’s based on my body of work as a humorist (not the first time I’ve been told I have a funny looking body) I must recognize the fact that, had my daughter not eaten “Nemo,” I probably wouldn’t be here today. It was my third Freshly Pressed post and, by far, got the most responses. And not just from PETA. It helped put me on the Public Blogger radar — which is why I chose to include it as part of my first submission requirement to be voted on by the general public this Monday, Oct. 12 (details to come.)

We were also asked to explain, in one paragraph or less, what our art means to us (above). In truth, it really just says, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah… plus I get cookies.” I threw in the other stuff to sound intellectual.

Later today and throughout the weekend, I’m also going to post submissions from other nominees. It’s not required. But after seeing, listening to and reading their work, I just want to share with you some of their amazing performances. If you can’t wait, I’m including a link at the end of this post to a page that lists all 11 nominees, with links to their blogs, Soundcloud accounts or websites.

Whether you vote for me, for someone else or not at all, I appreciate you being here and hope you’ll share this journey with me for as long as it lasts. If I happen to make it to the finals Dec. 30, I say we all go out to eat at a nice seafood restaurant…

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image To say you could catch a fish from the kiddie pool at our local Outdoor Festival several years ago is like saying you could turn a few heads if you backed your SUV into a Harley during the Sturgis Rally.

My oldest daughter had just turned seven, and the pool was literally brimming with farm-raised trout that would’ve just as quickly latched onto a Milkdud as Powerbait. Given a window of 15 minutes of fishing for every dollar, most kids old enough to hold their own poles were standing gawk-eyed with a fish in their sack after less than five minutes. So, when my daughter landed her seven-incher, I asked if she wanted to keep it or throw it back in — hoping against hope that she would opt for the throw-back.

I think my exact words were something along the lines of, “Sweetie, do you want to keep the baby trout until he runs out of air, or put him back in the water with his family?”

“I want to keep him,” she said firmly, then turned to her mother and asked for another dollar.

At this point, as a parent, you come to that critical moment where you must decide between the following:

1) Forgo the obvious teachable-moment opportunity and just settle for another hot dog.
2) Exert your “Dad” authority and forbid the action completely (after asking your wife, of course).
Or 3) Clearly state the consequences to your child and be prepared to follow through with the consequences and valuable life lesson.

Taking a breath, I chose number three and explained to my daughter that whatever fish she caught she would also have to carry, clean and — most importantly — eat.

“OK, Dad.”

And with that, she dipped her pole and reeled in what proved to be a crucial lesson.

* * * * *

“They’re not moving anymore, Dad.”

Driving back home, I looked at my daughter in the rear-view mirror as she peeked into both sacks.

I could build on this.

“That’s right, dear. If you take them out of the water, they can’t live.”

She met my eye, then checked the sacks again. “Oh.”

I remained silent, letting her process this unsettling development on her own as I prepared myself for her response, which would probably involve some tears.

She’s a very sensitive child.

After a few minutes, she looked up and found me in the mirror.

“Dad?”

“Hmm?”

Her expression was clearly troubled as she leaned forward and asked, “How do you cook ‘em?”

* * * * * *

The guts would get her.

Wrapping an apron around my daughter, I had her stand next to me on a stepstool as I made a long, dramatic incision down the belly of her first fish. As I did, glossy, multicolored things spilled out onto the cutting board and settled into a runny heap. I sliced through the head and tail, and added them to the mix before starting on fish number two.

“Go ahead and scoop that stuff up and put it in this,” I said, and handed her a clear, plastic sack.

She did so without hesitation, except for the heads, which were staring slack-jawed at the both of us.

“What about those?” I asked.

“I don’t want to.”

Ah-HA! I nearly exclaimed, but managed to control myself. Finally, the lesson was about to be learned. A bit smugly, I asked, “You told me you’d help clean these fish.”

She twisted the sack-o-entrails nervously. “I know.”

“Well, then pick these up and throw them away,” I said, brushing the heads toward her with the back of my knife.

“I don’t want to.”

It was time.

The speech was ready, prepared slowly over the last hour in anticipation of this moment; a parent’s sweet victory. “You know, if you’re going to catch fish, you have to take responsibility for… ”

“Can I keep the heads, Dad?”

“… making the choice to — WHAT?

She looked up at me, smiling. “Can I keep them?” she asked, then slipped them onto her fingers like olives at Thanksgiving. “I don’t want to throw them away.”

* * * * * *

When she helped season and broil the three-ounce fillets, then sat down to eat it, I knew I was beaten. My lesson — so carefully manipulated and contrived — was now being dipped in tarter sauce.

“How’s the fish?” I asked flatly.

“Good.”

I offered a cursory head nod and nibbled at a burger, which I was no longer hungry for. I shoved it aside and swirled my milk glass.

“Dad, where do hamburgers come from?”

“Cows,” I answered, watching as she forked another bite of trout into her mouth.

She then placed her fork on the table and crossed her arms, staring at me with no small amount of displeasure in her eyes.

“What’s with you?” I asked.

She reached over and slid my half-eaten burger back in front of me.

After a long pause, I picked up my burger and began finishing it, realizing that the important lesson I had been trying to teach about respecting and valuing life — especially when it lands on your plate — had actually been learned.

Mostly by me.

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To see the works of the other 10 nominees, I’ve included a complete list with links to their art. You won’t regret clicking HERE

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35 thoughts on “I’d like to thank my daughter for finding Nemo — then eating him

  1. Nemo is one of my favorite pieces – it was about a year ago that you let me feature it on my site, too!
    Cookies aside, you are the real treat! I’m most impressed by your upcoming features on the other bloggers…not that you were trying to impress me. You’ve been doing this long enough to know that writers need to support other writers rather than view them as competition. You’ve done that from the day I met you with your open, honest, and insightful feedback and advice. Thank you for all that you do for this community.
    I am looking forward to reading these very talented writers, but you already know who has my vote 😉

    • Thank you, Michelle 😉 It’s one of my personal favorites, too — in memory and in words.

      And as excited as I am to be a part of this group, sharing their work is even more exciting. In fact I’m so excited, I should probably be wearing pants…

    • Thanks so much, Tara. That means a lot. If it helps, I’d be willing to do an interpretive dance of the other nominees’ work to save you time. It won’t be pretty, though…

  2. When I first started blogging, which I know was not that long ago..I do have a point- hang on. YOU were one of the first bloggers I started following , I found you and the Bloggess on my first day, it was like your first day at high school and hanging out with Amy Schumer and Robin Williams in the lunch room. Yes, I just compared you to Robin Williams and put you in the same class ( or at the same lunch room table anyway ) as Amy Schumer- I hope you share your french fries with me after you win this award. This is me, taking the VERY long way around trying to tell you- you have my vote.

  3. Kids will humble you in a heartbeat.

    I love this story, especially when she puts the heads on her fingers. Hahahaha! I hope you do well with the competition. Good luck!

  4. Awesome – I love this story Ned – every time I read it I get a bigger kick out of it. You know I am a science fiction fan and Mark Laumer first introduced a self-aware tank called a “Bolo” in his stories(picked up by David Weber). The most advanced ones (as the stories went along) were humongous – 32,000 tons with a top speed of over 500 mph -and could be backed into special transports and act as the armament in space for special missions or transport to needed planets. They had artificial intelligence that was advanced enough that it could not be distinguished from a human and yet had sensors and missiles that could detect enemy actions thousands of miles away. They had severe heavy armament .https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolo_(tank) and one (Lazarus)was commanded by Captain Maneka Trevor. The tanks only needed one human crew person for guidance – other wise they were autonomous. It was considered the highest honor to be chosen to command a Bolo. In “Old Soldiers” the story line followed Cpt Trevor and her squad in battle. The commanders had an internal wifi link in their brains to their Bolos. In one scene in the book, the soldiers are resting during a quiet time around Lazarus while Cpt Trevor is sunning herself on the front missile deck with her lawn chair and a sun umbrella along with a cold beverage.

    The juxtaposition of the most powerful military machine ever built and the woman commander delicately sunning herself on top of the missiles stuck with me through the years.

    When I read the Nemo story about your daughter. Ned, this image popped to my mind – this young woman knows where reality lies.

    .

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