“A brook trout wouldn’t last five minutes in this water,” I say to Haroldo as he leans over the gunwale and washes the slime off his knife. “Never mind the water temperature he’d be dead before he ever felt the heat.”

Haroldo looked up, smiled, and nodded like he understood. “You believe in natural selection?” I ask.

Another smile, perplexed, and then a blank stare.

“You know…Charles Darwin—survival of the fittest?”


“Never mind.”

Though I saw no pockmarks or missing toes, this young Brazilian must’ve had an unpleasant piranha experience early in life. We had spent the morning tossing poppers at a swarm of little peacocks until I opened the chops of one particular jungle bass and found a horrifying creature attached to its tongue. “Jesus! What is that thing?” I asked in disgust.

Haroldo sprang to his feet and peered down the fish’s maw as I held it open with forceps. “Es no bad,” he replied with nonchalance, as he whipped out his Leatherman and dislodged the six-legged maggot. He placed it on his palm and studied it for a moment, and then he turned and booger-flicked the little alien back into the river. “Not good to eat?” I asked, making the universally accepted hand-to-mouth gesture.

“Nah. No eat,” he laughed, with a hint of ignorant gringo in his expression. The little peacock had two red pincer marks on its tongue, but otherwise appeared unfazed. “You’re welcome,” I say, after placing it back in the water and watching it kick away from the boat.

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