Fish & Fairy Tales
By Erin Lee
I hope there’s no God. ‘Cause if there’s God, it’s forever winter. He knows ‘bout my two lives: My two wives. The time I stomped a kitten’s head into concrete ‘cause I couldn’t decide. He’s counted notches on my bed. Me? I lost track in ‘73.
Memories come alive: The Vietnamese whores I paid to save: Helped survive. Just that kind of guy. The crumbly girl I wrapped round my leather belt to feel alive. I can still smell her – apple pie and peppermint: A girl scout. Mine. She wore knee socks in July.
The IV leaks into my hand.
I remember rainstorms and the fried dough taste of summer. Fireworks. The pier. Playing chicken on the lake: Double dare. I wonder, is there heaven for them other kind? They go to church on Sundays, not just when mother or the grand kids stop by. They never swear or lie. Eating shortcake, roast beef, sweet peas.
“Sir? We need to call you wife.”
Wives. I turn away, telling myself God is only make-believe. A fairy tale for the weak. “Don’t need a wife to die.”
“But Sir…” She cries.
I stare past her, through the blinds. Icicles grip the windows’ edge, tight like gifts for grand kids on my dime. I look away. It’s wintertime. A snowball fight. Can’t be more than nine. He throws me in a snowbank. Ice bites my cheek. Blood trickles from my nose. I can’t taste it. I stand, rubbing the gritty cold from my eyes, and chase him. “That’s right! …Run! You’re mine.”
The door opens. People walk in. Go away.
“Papa? It’s me. Can you hear me?”
Kid, leave me alone, I’m tryin’ here to die!
“Jimmy,” my name falls off his lips, squeezing his hand tight.
“Papa, please don’t die!”
Papa and his leather skin: The time he taught me how to fish, proud of my 4 inch pike. And “Boy, bait your own hook!” The time he taught me how to fight: “Keep um thumbs tucked in. Break um and they no good.”
“Papa, don’t go! I need you to teach me how to drive!” I beg of him.
He sighs, opening his eyes.
He looks at me, terrified, then through me. I cannot understand why.
He stares past me out the window. Snowflakes flutter by, reminding me of the time we built a snow fort so big it didn’t melt til May and “that’s my boy!”
I hope there’s a God. If there’s God, it’s forever fishin' time. Where Papa can fish and brag to the other guys, adding extra inches: “Room to grow, Boy.” I’m five feet, five. I hope Papa’s right. And I wonder, what will I do when it comes time to ask a girl out? How will I survive, without…
“What, Boy?” God dammed kid.
He’s with me now. I think, if he could, he’d hit me. (Thumbs in just right).
“Please don’t die.”