Fish story: “Where is the fifth estate as the Delta smelt nears extinction?” So asks Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, in the wake of the media madness engulfing the wayward whales that strayed into, of all places, West Sacramento last week.
Bites is pretty certain Jennings meant the fourth estate, the press, rather than the Fifth Estate, North America’s longest running anarchist periodical. But no matter. Jennings can rest assured that last week this reporter was doggedly searching the Delta’s labyrinth channels for the threatened fingerling, the numbers of which appear to be rapidly diminishing, according to the Department of Fish and Game’s latest survey.
Indeed, the smelt’s disappearing act was in part responsible for a Superior Court judge’s order in April commanding the Department of Water Resources to cease pumping from the Delta into the California Aqueduct, which provides crucial water to the Central Valley’s growing population. Bites admits that the search for the missing minnow was conducted entirely out of self-interest. More people equals more readers, and if those pumps are shut down, you can kiss any future development goodbye.
Alas, no smelt were to be found. In a desperate attempt to cover as much territory as possible, Bites ran the gate at the drawbridge north of Locke, plunging the Bitesmobile into the murky pesticide-laden soup known as the Sacramento River, where Bites was promptly swallowed up by Delta, the mother of all humpbacks.
Blubbering fool: It was dark in there, readers, and needless to say, moist. Even more disturbing, Bites was not alone. A mysterious figure materialized out of the darkness, clutching a book, 101 Ways to Serve Whales. At first Bites figured him for a meandering member of Greenpeace who’d also been gulped down by the lost leviathan.
“Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist,” he said, proffering a hand slimy with whale mucous. “Pleased to meet you—that is, if you’re a legal resident.” Bites assured Gilchrist that was the case, and inquired why the militia commander wasn’t in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to give the boot to the 12 million or so Latinos living and working in the country illegally.
“I’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Gilchrist said. “Where do you think these whales were born? I’ll tell you where: Baja! Last time I checked, that’s in Mexico, chum. These here are illegal cetaceans, and I aim to run them out of California.”
It turned out that Gilchrist had positioned himself, Ahab-like, atop a levee with a harpoon, attempting to spear the whales as they passed by. The harpoon plunged into Delta’s blubbery flesh, but Gilchrist neglected to stand clear of the rope, which wrapped around his leg and pulled him into the water.
“If you hate whales so much, why are you reading a book about serving them?” Bites asked.
“It’s a cookbook, you idiot!” Gilchrist said.
Whale tail: Bites slid down the slippery slope of the whale’s esophagus, leaving Gilchrist clinging to Delta’s enormous, undulating uvula. Halfway through the digestive tract, yet another human was encountered: Beckler, purveyor of the popular local blog Heckasac.
“I made a bunch of whale T-shirts and was selling them to the crowd that had gathered to watch the whales when I slipped and fell in,” Beckler said. “Heck, I was just trying to make a buck. Why not? Everybody else is.”
As many as 10,000 people gathered daily to catch a glimpse of Delta and her baby, Dawn, and if a little cheese was to be made hocking them scrimshaw, well, that’s the American way, even if it does violate the Endangered Species Act. Fortunately, Bites is fairly indigestible, and after what seemed liked an infinity, was excreted from the whale. Bites will spare you the details on just which orifice your intrepid correspondent was ejected from, but you can be certain it wasn’t the blowhole.