Fish that bite

 

The water here as an icy chill and I step into it gingerly, bracing against the cold and wondering how it could be so chilly when we are in the middle of July.

Iím also scared about the fish that bite.

A girl shows me a round red spot on her upper thigh she claims she got from a fish.

I think I see teeth marks, then shudder and look away.

I have bad nerves and have come here to relax.

Iím 12 years old but feel ten times that age.

Momís in the hospital again for being crazy, and Iíve no way to tell when she comes out again or if sheíll be the same.

Those places change people even if they canít find a cure.

You donít always get your moneyís worth, even with charity cases like my motherís.

My grandfather keeps bring her back as if she has a warrantee, then sends me off to the country to calm down.

My uncle always tells me to go for a swim so he and grandpa can discuss what to do with mom if the cure doesnít take this time either.

They are practical me. They see the world as one large outboard motor and assume they can fix any problem simply by switching parts.

I step into the lake with a towel over my shoulder, my bare feet feeling the grit of the sand on the bottom. Iím cold from the shins down while the rest of me swelters.

From here, I can see the road I just walked down, a rutted trail with grass up its middle and the marks of wagon wheels more than 100 years old.

I see my uncle staring down at me from the porch as grim as he must have looked when he returned home from Korea. He is worried about the conflict going on in my mind, wondering if I will follow in my motherís footsteps and how he might stop me in time if I do.

I think about death Ė his war and mind.

About the cold water.

About what it might feel like to drown.

What exactly do you feel between that last gasp of breathing and oblivion?

The children on the beach taunt me for moving so slowly.

They think Iím scared of being bitten by a fish or I dislike the chill spreading up from my shins to my thighs.

I am think of my uncleís cold in Korea and feel that cold in my toes.

I am feeling of the heat of his brother who is at this moment stumbling through the rice paddies of a war in Vietnam.

I am thinking of my mother locked in the prison of her mind, hot and cold flashes sending her into suicidal tantrums only luck has kept from succeeding.

I am thinking of that last breath and the gasp I will take before the silence fills me up.

Then, I feel the bit of a fish on the side of my leg, and I am internally grateful for it, even as I holler out in pain.

 

 


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