‘I watched the stream alone. That day everything had changed’

Fighting Words 2020: Slipperfish, a story by Álanna Hammel

Name: Álanna Hammel
Age: 18
School: Coláiste an Átha, Kilmuckridge, Gorey, Co Wexford


The stream was mesmerising. Whenever I hear the burble of a river, I instantly think of this clear water flowing freely with no shape or solidity to block its path. I remember never knowing where this rivulet came from, the water seemed to disappear into the faraway hills. Somehow, that made it even more enchanting.

When I was a child, my Grandad Eddie would bring me to this stream. The two of us would climb through his back garden, passing huge baubles of blue hydrangea and wobbling over uneven steps, until we passed a wrought-iron gate flecked with green paint. Grandad and I would watch the tiny tributary spurt over every stone that blocked its path as we perched on the flat face of sharp-edged rocks.

Grandad would regularly suggest we go fishing in the stream. We would tug gigantic salmon and rainbow trout disguised as leaves from the narrow creak. Grandad would break a twig from an old alder tree, then untie blue wire to make our fishing rods. One particular day the stream was slow, and I could not picture a single fish. Grandad asked me to close the gate and when I came back, he had tied his slipper to the rod.


“You’ve caught something,” he informed me with delight.

“What type of fish is that?” I asked between waves of laughter, staring at a soggy slipper hanging from the piece of wire.

“Slipperfish!” He replied, wearing a goofy smile.

A year ago, I visited the stream again. I made my own way past the farmyard, climbing the same uneven steps and past the gate. I watched the stream alone. That day everything had changed. The pools of black and grey stayed still between rocks, never to move again. Just like me, the water had lost its greatest strength.