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It was an Honest Mistake: A Tidbit of Truth from Chapter One of UNDER THE BANYAN TREE

Updated: Mar 3

Photo credit Em J. Knowles. RK at dawn. New Year's Eve 2020 (this was minutes before the incident)

In the opening scene of Under the Banyan Tree, Snow is fishing on the seawall in St. Petersburg, Florida. He's an experienced fisherman, but still one time, everything lines up perfectly, or rather imperfectly, when he casts his bait. A pelican flies by, and the hook embeds in the bird.

Our leading lady, Layla, hears Snow's dog frantically barking, and she's a dog lover, so she straps her own tiny pup to her chest (carrying her dog in a carrier meant for babies because she's that kind of dog mom) and runs across the park to rescue the dog and to yell at the fisherman for hurting the bird.

Cue their Meet Cute. Instantly, Snow and Layla become enemies, even though they're very attracted to each other.

Will they ever see the error in their ways? You'll have to read the book to find out!

In real life, about three years ago, my husband, RK, and I were hanging out at this very seawall in downtown St. Petersburg. It was dawn, and the sun was barely up. The dark sky had fired up pink and orange and glittered over the rippling water. RK cast his line. Right then, a pelican flew by. From past experience and from hearing horror stories from other fisherman, he knew the potential repercussions of this accident.

No fisherman ever wants to hook a bird. Besides the fact that the bird is hurt and wildly flapping, he has to somehow free the bird with a potentially hysterical stranger, just like Layla, who just witnessed the incident, telling him what a cruel and stupid person he is.

Much like Snow in the story, my husband tried to pull the bird in, but it was a pretty big bird. As it got closer and calmed down, RK grabbed the fishing line with his bare hands, as an angler often does with a fish, and the pelican jerked and switched, trying to fly away.

Immediately, the line sliced into the pads of RK's fingers, and the blood flowed. He may have said a few choice words in this instance because, man that hurt. The bird dove down to the water, and RK knelt on the seawall and tried to haul the bird up. In the process, his sunglasses (the expensive prescription kind) fell off his head and into the water.

To help you understand the gravity of this situation, the surface is at least ten feet below the top of the seawall, and we have no idea how deep it is there as the bottom is not visible, especially without the aid of polarized sun glasses. So, there is no chance of seeing where they landed. The glasses were gone, his hand was battled and bruised, and the bird takes flight once again. This time snapping the line.

From start to finish, this incident all took about sixty seconds, maybe ninety.

Fortunately, Rk uses hooks that will biodegrade, so the poor bird won't have to be pierced for life. Also, this time, even though the park was filled with early morning walkers and joggers, no one approached to give him their unsolicited advice.

RK didn't catch a fish on the seawall that day, and he hopes the bird was okay as it appeared to be.

After writing this scene, one of my beta readers reminded me when she'd been attending a writer's retreat at my house in Florida, she had encountered a fisherman who had not only hooked a bird but also found himself in a situation where the bird also flapped so frantically that it tangled itself in the fishing line. My friend was the stranger who was terribly upset by the events unfolding in front of her. Before, having a fisherman for a husband, I would've been a savior too.

After she and I discussed the scene, and I told her what happened to RK, she was happy to hear about the biodegradable/rust away fishing hooks.

Another one of my beta readers is married to a fisherman as well, and one time he accidentally hooked a seagull on a beach in Maine. His story wasn't as gruesome as RK's, but he did have an encounter with a stranger, similar to the one in the story. He also read the opening scene and as a fisherman could totally relate.

So while you are out and about, please keep in mind that fisherman do not ever want a bird to fly into their line. If you witness this and find it necessary to yell at them, please wait until after the bird is free. The birds and the anglers are already terribly stressed, and all they both want is for the bird fly away, probably even more than you do.

If you are the fisherman, please understand that we compassionate animal lovers can't stand to see any animal being harmed for whatever the reason. Something triggers in our brains, and we go into fight, flight, or freeze. If it were ourselves who were being hurt, we may be the type to freeze, but when it's an animal, we, pardon the pun, fly into a rage because we're angry, so angry. We don't understand the whole situation, but we're peaceful people who don't want any harm to come to any living creature, especially the defenseless.

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