I am not a fish, but I belong under water. I hold my breath until I feel the expanse of my lungs and the rush of carbon dioxide urges me to surface, surface. I ignore the initial panic and remain submerged.

I will eventually have to return or my molecules will unify with the ocean, and I will become the waves, blue crashing on blue.

* * *

I watch my father plunge the hook into the worm. The shine goes through its body clean.

“It’s like temptation, son.”

I think about my penis, how deep the Mississippi is, and what lurks at the bottom.

* * *

I open my mouth and air escapes upward, a moment where I am between blues. I begin to sink from the tiny bubbles rising toward the circular view of light.

Toes point downward and I ascend to chase my last breath. I break the calm and bend past refraction. Head emerges at water level, but my body remains underneath the horizon, bonded to the water.

* * *

We are but a small boat on the horizon. Both water and sky were placid. My father hasn’t said anything in hours. The only sounds are the gulps of beer going down his beak. I watch the apple in his throat bob with each chug. There are no fish at our feet, just crushed cans of Hamm’s. I peer over the side and try to look past my reflection.

* * *

Arms wave at me from the beach with the wingspan of a stork. It’s my wife. Her bathing suit blends with the sand, but the bump is clearly visible. Her mouth is open, but I cannot make out anything over the crashing, the crashing.

Come back to land, her body suggests.

* * *

Before my father got full of beer and too inside himself, he would say, “Put your DNA in something.” And almost always after, he’d wrangle a fish. Still on the line, alive and bending, he’d bite into it, grinding his jaw back and forth.

“Just like that,” he would say, as he flashed a gummy smile, fish parts between his remaining teeth.

* * *

I am waterlogged.

I am the tide going out.

I am the debris yet to be beached.

I am bobbing, bobbing in the water.

* * *

My father always put his feet up on the port side of the boat. He’d lean back and tell yarns about all the women he tangoed with. Mom was never mentioned when we were out on the river, but only in the truck while on the way home.

“What’s said in the boat stays on boat.”

We’d zoom home, riverbank a blur. My hand always out the window, mimicking the jumps and dives of a carp.

* * *

I will sink like a rock and let time and water pare me down until I’m polished, until my fossils are visible under the dissolving light.

* * *

My father always said he wanted a Viking funeral. When he passed, Mom said to just throw his body into the river.

* * *

My wife only sees my head floating on the surface, but there is immense weight underneath, gut swollen with regret. Hers will be much the same once she finds out I’ve become my father.

* * *

I once told my father I wanted to be a fish. He rocked the boat with a hearty guffaw. He cracked another beer and said, “Fish are meant to be caught, to be eaten. Men aren’t fish, son.”

* * *

I am not trying to return.

I am not kicking my legs.

I am not above surface.

We should not hold our breath


Parrish
Rob Parrish’s work can be found in Gravel, The Harpoon Review, and The Airgonaut, among others. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a dog named Coltrane.

 

SaveSave