#YEG: Hooked

The biggest fish this author ever caught.

Illustration by Breanne Beckie.

The triage nurse at the city’s busiest emergency room took one look at me and laughed for such a long time it became awkward. But awkward only for me, as I stood gingerly holding the fishing hook and trying not to catch more flesh in its barbs. When she caught her breath, she wheezed, “Biggest fish you ever caught, hey?”

Holding my cheek, I recalled with some regret the conversation with my son an hour earlier. “Mommy!” he’d shrieked from the backseat of the van, strapped into his five-point-harness car seat. “Take that thing off the mirror.”

Swinging from the rear-view mirror was a four-inch long red fishing lure from which dangled three triple-barbed hooks. It had won “Best Find” in the river valley treasure hunt the kids had completed the day before. They’d travelled up and down the thawing North Saskatchewan searching for riches and found bits of tire, parts of bikes and a tangle of tackle. They’d carefully freed the dollar-store lure from a mess of line then hung this trophy proudly on the mirror.

“It’s going to get you!” Ali yelled as he watched it freely swing with the stop motion of the vehicle.

“No honey, it can’t get me. It’s physically impossible,” I said and swung the hook widely. At its highest point in the arch, it was a foot away from my face. “See, it can’t get me!” He was still fussing so I passed him my phone as a distraction.

We came to a stop and, if I were to do it again, well, I’d have thought harder about the trajectory of that arch because, while the hook couldn’t reach me tightly fastened in the seat, as I reached forward and down for my purse on the floor… my head came to an abrupt stop. The flesh in my cheek pulled like my wounds being threaded closed after childbirth.

The angle of my head blocked Ali’s view of the buried barbs threatening to rip up my face, but I could see in the mirror and there was no neat way to pull out the hook. Fiddling with the line that held me 20 centimetres from the mirror, there was no visible way to untie it, so I called for help on my work phone, with Ali oblivious that his fear had come true.

Help arrived with piles of rags to dab the small amount of blood from the wound. While my friend untethered me from the mirror, he refused to be responsible for ripping up my face so, in the emergency room, the doctors used large metal snips to cut the hook from the lure and, for five minutes in my life, I sported an unusual curved cheek piercing. As the doctor pushed the barbed hook out a new hole in my cheek, he said, “Now don’t worry, the tetanus shot will deal with the worst of the diseases from this kind of piercing.” And honestly, it was the shot in the arm that would hurt the most from the whole ordeal.

Carissa Halton moved to Edmonton because of her extended family and stayed because of how few natural disasters threaten the city. Her first book, Little Yellow House: Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood, is about all the other reasons she found to love Edmonton.

This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.

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