On one of our weekend trips to the ocean we met up with some neighbors and my brother and I played on the pier. In South Florida every ship that came in had the potential to house a giant dinosaur fish or other mystery of the deep. We would gather around ships that came in, their passengers and crew red and ebullient. Near the shore the most we could hope to see was a stray barracuda but these ships could bring in almost anything – sharks, marlin, a huge colorful fish confusingly called a dolphin.

On this late afternoon one ship brought in a bucket and inside the bucket was an octopus they had accidentally caught. The body and head of the octopus was at the bottom of the bucket so from the side all you could see was the tentacles of the octopus curling and unfurling, feeling the outside of the bucket, probably trying to figure out what had happened to it.

The fisherman had no use for an octopus and seeing our excitement said we could have it. Our families piled into the trucks with our octopus bucket and headed back inland. We went to our neighbors house, a low dark house with giant fish tanks  and trophy fish lining the walls like a museum. They wouldn’t let us bring the octopus into the house and there was no way they wanted it in their pristine fish tanks.

Later when we moved north to New England we never saw houses like this again. People in New England never had fish tanks or walls lined with trophy fish, they are more focused on displaying the tools used to catch the fish than the fish themselves. New Englanders seem to feel that displaying the fish would be wasteful; the entirety of the fish should be eaten or properly discarded.

The octopus itself was becoming increasingly stressed and finally did something that surprised us completely – it turned itself inside out. We could barely look it was so strange and unexpected. We got sticks from the woods and poked the octopus inside the bucket to see if it had other crazy tricks but it just became more lethargic and finally stopped moving at all.

Eventually one of the adults came out and made us dump out the dead octopus and we watched as it slid down the driveway and was eventually eaten by some of the neighborhood dogs.