--HERE’S WHAT I’M THINKING; YOU’LL SAVE ME, AND I’LL SAVE YOU
Catch and Release
“Here, take my hand, just do it, do it now.”
It is warm and slick and a bit slimy like a belly full of steaming fish guts. She hates herself for thinking thoughts like this but it’s her mind, her little girl mind. She tells herself when she’s older she won’t think nonsense, all her destructive and violent ideas will disappear or belong to another girl.
Her father says where they’re going is a surprise, but she doesn’t like surprises. Her mother’s boyfriend, his naked buttocks flashing sweaty and pale, angry buttocks, busy buttocks moving over her mother, trying to eat her mother, that was a surprise and she did not like it one bit.
“But school’s not out yet,” she says. He’s walking too fast and tugging her hand as if it’s a wagon handle. “I called for an early release, what do you think?” he says. His words are blunt, flyswatter slaps, smacking her cheeks. She feels her face flush. She is always embarrassed or ashamed, is there a difference, all these secrets she’s forced to keep, stuffed inside her, like eating bugs alive for a reality show, eat a pan full and swallow and don’t get sick is how you win.
Her face feels billowy now, now that they’re in the car and her father is speeding past another town which is far from their town and her school and her mother. She leans her head out the window, her blonde hair a scarf a sheet a vanilla flag a towel of surrender. “Where are we going?” she asks. “You’ll see,” he says. “You’ll like it.”
A day or a week later she asks him again where they are going. This time he says, “Here.”
The worm is sticky in her fingers, like balled-up snot. “Hook it through the eye, or where the eye would be.”
The sun hides behind a sheath of big-bottomed clouds. The fish strikes and the girl is almost dragged off the dock. For the first time her father looks happy, excited. “It’s a big one,” he tells her.
The fish has eyes, swiveling carny tarot card eyes, eyes that want fists so they can fight back, eyes that crave language so it can tell you to pick on someone your own fucking size.
When his back is turned she kicks the fish and it plops into the water and swishes away. The lake water looks dark and dirty, somewhere it wears her reflection.