Worm. Hook. The cast. Ripples over water. Cork aching for a tug. The boy already says he’s bored. But I can’t tell him that bored is just another word for wanting. A state he thinks will last forever, like him, bobbing along in the water, no care what’s below, what might bite. The first time I caught a bass, my father freed it from the hook and slapped its scales across my pale face, playfully, like you tickle a baby just wanting to hear it giggle. But I won’t do the same to him because his phone is a witness, and he’ll post about it and I’ll once again face the fact of my own cruelty, when all I want to do is smother him with fish love and show him all the things in life that are worth waiting for. The cork is alive, but he’s not even paying attention, and I can’t help him because he has to feel this for himself, feel the force of what’s beneath the surface, struggling to come up. Fish long to be caught, to share survival stories, the choking blue sky, the dizzying grass, rising from ignorance into light. Yanked from one side to the other side they finally know the truth. That God does not look like a fish. He’s a murderer named boy. Watch the cork, son. It’s diving now. So? Reel.
Jeremy T. Wilson is the author of the short story collection Adult Teeth (Tortoise Books). He is a former winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award for short fiction and was named one of 30 Writers to Watch by the Guild Literary Complex. His work has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, The Florida Review, Hobart, The Masters Review, Sonora Review, Third Coast, The Best Small Fictions 2020, and other publications. He teaches creative writing at The Chicago High School for the Arts.
“A Fish Story” placed 3rd in our 2022 Blurred Genre Flash Contest, judged by Lynn Steger Strong.