fish stories #1

Right before I went to sleep, I had to whisper “fish stories” three times, just so I wouldn’t forget. My mind always races, like most of ours does, right before I shut off, and I remembered what Shawn’s dad said to him in Psych, that fish stories are always embellished. This isn’t something new, just something I thought of, something that gave me an idea.

It’s been hard for me to write lately, so instead of forcing contrived scenes, I’m going to write fish stories, as in I’m going to tell stories of my past, near or further back, but embellished. I think this will help my magical realism as well as my fiction writing. So here’s the first, something that I can’t stop writing about for some reason, with a surprise (to me as well as to you) dig at climate change at the end.


Wisdom must first come from knowledge, but not always. Sometimes it comes from just listening, watching, the wind, waters, or people’s sinkhole eyes. This is what she told me when I sat in her arms, blackened by storms, hardened and rough, flakes falling off when I touched her, but there was no denying that this wasn’t an image of weakness like us, who we are when we are rough. She had many arms, still does, but then, I swung on each of them, crawled into her heart, fears of slivers in my palm fleeting until later when mama would put peanut butter in my hair to pick out the little black vampire critters. I remembered what truth was when I counted my mosquito bites and bruises, and this is when we need wisdom the most.

I think she was the one who told me when my papaw was going to die. She told me long ago, when the goats were still around and I still had dreams of archery. She was lonely sitting next to a carved, purely painted version of herself, chunks of rocks shaped into a path squeezed her shut, like God poured out the ice chips from his Big Slush and made her an island. There were others like her, just not with all her spunk and vigor. Her arms and hair, her security. I could touch others, but since she couldn’t, I think sometimes they cried little spurs which landed on her when the water vapor of our white space became a current, saturating our oxygen like a bridge in a song, the real, hidden heart, and hummed right on over to her big, green afro hair. She shook all over, the dew tickled her rooted, stubbed toes like a wet kiss.

One thing she never told me, though, was what she saw thirty years ago, but maybe she blocked it out. A little girl, just like me, and I am her clone. Her life stood still behind panes – silica in the form of sand, limestone, and soda ash, hot fire – it holds no light and it cannot help but administer sight because we do not choose our bodies, they are just what we fight to keep living like a planet whose inhabitants forgot to need the sun. The little eyes, peripherals on her, but only until my breath, soft little limbs, I saw her for what she is: a quiet ancestor, a wisdom outside the bounds of flesh and sound waves.

How dare she not tell me? I had to hear it from my own. The portals of pain I could never learn to sympathize, for my own good. Maybe this piece of wisdom was outside her boundaries, sin wasn’t part of her chosen body. She only knew what the unspoken ones know, and she could only see what’s to come. The past, she didn’t know how to share because empathy only works if you have ever been human.

And yet, we still wear little trees around our necks and build bombs, and the wind will grow tired and old, no longer willing to put up with our ashy, oiled sin.


Published by celinamcmanus

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