Oldie but goodie…

12Jun08

I wrote the creative nonfiction piece below several years ago, but it explains better than my previous post why fish are sometimes just not okay.  Why am I fixated on fish (again)? Maybe there’s some strange psychological symbolism to it all…

What’s so scary about fish, anyway?

1. Fish in your cereal. I’m not talking about brightly colored, lightly sweetened geez-isn’t-it-fun-to-see-fish-swimming-in-my-breakfast fish shapes, though I’ve never understood those either. Imagine instead a little school of minnows—let’s make them little bullheads—squirming around in your bowl, fighting each other to stay beneath the surface, some jumping out and slapping onto the kitchen table in their panic.

2. Fish decorum. Fish do gross things to each other in the name of maintaining their society, especially if they’re confined in close quarters. Really repulsive things. Like eat each other. Or eat each other’s babies. Or eat their own babies. The biggest and healthiest prune the tank, nibbling away at weak or diseased members slowly, chunk by fish-fleshy chunk. Imagine being that littlest fish, continually pursued and chomped on by your bigger, badder cousins, resting a moment to find your mom barreling at you, looking to take out an eye or worse…

3. Fish squared. On the subject of fish moms, fish multiplication is entirely problematic. One fish, two fish—no matter what color, all of the sudden the tank is filled with a dozen little fishlets that won’t serve any purpose but to feed their parents and freak out the humans that take care of the tank. Imagine being born only to be consumed by those who brought you forth. Then stop, and try again. It’s worse than you think.

4. Fishing. Imagine your favorite food—stop and take time to really imagine it; the smell as it reaches your nose, what it feels like on your tongue, its temperature, the interplay of its flavors, what you think as you consume it. Now imagine it sprouting a giant, murderous barbed spike that stabs at your cheek; your tongue dodges it, fleeing, but the roof of your mouth has no where to go. If you’re a carp, see #8. If not, get thrown in a bucket and wait for the knife. They’ll call what they do to you “cleaning.”

5. Fish loaf. Now, I’ve never had to endure fish loaf, but the stories I’ve heard are enough. Fish loaf involves plain gelatin, a can of salmon or other bones-in-the-mix fish, and a bundt cake pan. When finished, it’s sliced and placed jiggling onto your plate. Imagine it sliding off your fork and onto your tongue; you have to chew it before letting it slither down your throat so that the little bones are sufficiently ground and ready for further digestion. This is a holiday treat for many North Dakotan families.

6. Fish fungus. Maybe you’ve had ringworm, athlete’s foot, toenail fungus. Imagine a fungus that grows fully over half your body, sapping your life force, and eventually falling off, tearing loose the flesh beneath it. Refer back to #2 for an extended forecast.

7. Vacant fish stares and gaping fish mouths. Imagine being a public speaker delivering a motivational speech to a school of gawping, ogling fish-headed fish. Now, just for fun, make it worse by imagining them all with liberally gooping pinkeye and lolling human tongues. Also, refer to numbers 8 and 9.

8. Fish out of water. Back at home, some anglers believe carp are culprits in the increasing unhealthiness of our lakes. If they snare a carp, they throw it onto the beach to die. Imagine shores filled with silvery, lung-like carp, writhing and flexing, flopping on the distended ruins of their kin, the picked-clean bones of their mothers.

9. Fish sleep. Imagine their lidless slumber as they twitch away from the watery specters that swim through their dreams; they can’t squint, can’t close their eyes, even in nightmares; they can’t even imagine shutting off their sight. Every dream becomes a waking horror, a seamless splicing of reason and fear. A minnow becomes a hook; a stone, a drain. And you—your puffed face as you hold your breath, diving and thrashing through its watery bed—what are you in a fish’s dream?

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One Response to “Oldie but goodie…”

  1. 1 L

    Dude, do I have a picture for you. Ahahaha you’ll hate me.

    Um, I don’t have it right now, I guess. It’s somewherez on Chris’s computer or camera or phone or something electronic.

    Oh, for goodness sakes. I’ll just call you.


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