Today, I'll Clean Fish

He stood at the counter with five boxes of plastic baggies. The cashier knew him and told the fisherman to “have a good day” as he walked out the door.

“Any day I can clean fish is a good day,” he replied with a smile.

Then I smiled.
It’s that simple.

I’ve been looking for the secret to happiness and all along it was as simple as that: cleaning fish.

Cleaning fish meant he’d been successful in his endeavor for that day; his stringer was full; his work had not been for nothing.

Cleaning fish meant he’d been rewarded for hard work and determination.

Cleaning fish meant he’d have food for supper (and suppers to come from the number of baggies he bought).

This man was happy, content. He had figured it all out.

I envied him. If only it could be as simple as that, I thought.
If only cleaning fish held the key to happiness.

I thought about the simple comment over and over.
“Why can’t it be that simple?” I asked.

“It can,” I answered myself. It can when you look at all the things you “get to do,” instead of complaining about the things you “have to do.”

I’m an old fisherman from way back, and I can tell you that, to me, cleaning fish ain’t fun. Back in my Minnesota fishing days, dad would tell me to hit the fish in the head so they didn’t feel anything, but I’m pretty sure they still felt it when I cut their heads off—especially since their gills still went in and out. I remember it all—the scales, the smell, the slimy film over their bodies, and the way their eyes stared at you no matter where you stood in the fish shack. I “got to” catch fish,” but I “had to” clean them.

Maybe the secret of life isn’t cleaning fish . . . maybe the secret lies in knowing the difference between “having to” clean fish and “getting to” clean fish.

Maybe it’s just that simple.
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Judy Mae Bingman
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