UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
In deference to the humble potato
They's freak happenins in this part of the world the like of which rich folks
elsewhere knows not. They's my Ma's words, not mine. She's been thinkin that way
ever since we got the rain of fish fell on our house. Ma's be callin it a miracle
'cause it's happenin in the middle of July an' all, but I's thinkin it be a miracle
at any time, until what happened done happen.
When I sees the fish rainin down I runs back inside and calls Ma to come take a
look. There's ten pounders hittin the porch. They's fallin so hard and fast they
could easily take a grownt man down if'n he weren't careful like.
Now Ma's a little crazy. She's one of them what some folks be callin "fanatical
religious", and a widow too, since we be sayin dust to dust over Pappy a couple of
years back now. Most times, like now, her hair be stickin up like a crazy-ass
prophet, and she's talkin that way too. When Ma sees that rain of fish, she's turnin
up her big round face to the sky with big ole tears in her eyes and praisin Gawd
Amighty shoutin Hallelujah.
She's lookin like she ain't carin one hoot 'bout bein slapped asleep by a
twenty-pound Trout. Her eyes is wide open and scary with the love o' Gawd in 'em.
"The Lawd's seen our poverty, boy, and he's sendin these fine fishes so that we
might eat in abundance like they rich folks. Gather 'em up quick now."
I's duckin and weavin fish on the porch with Ma's basket from the kitchen, and Ma's
got a sack. In 'bout twenty minutes til the rain stopped we musta taken three sack
loads of 'em flappety-flappin fish.
We's stuffed the fridge, stackin one on top t'other, then the bath-tub, the sink,
and crammed all Ma's containers to overflowin, until we's had nowhere left. When
we's done, I's had to carry sack loads of 'em stinkin' fishes on my sled down to the
lake half-mile away and toss 'em back.
The house smelled so bad after a time that it's startin gettin hard to breath, but
Ma refuses to believe that the rain of fish is a curse.
"A blessin on they poor it be boy, and don't ya be forgettin that," she says. We's
crammin fish inta our mouths at the supper table for the 4th day runnin.
I's gettin sick of the fish afore too long. Everythin reeks enuff to make you gag
afore you even bite. And for days I's cain't be eatin anythin' at all, wot with even
the sight of one more fish eye makin me puke an' all and terrible cramps like I been
afflicted. My appetite is dang shot to hell, as my Pappy woulda says. I's be tryin
to sneak off at every meal time after that, but Ma'd catch me soon enuff, and drag
me back by my ear, hollerin black livers, cussin me out and callin me ungrateful of
Our Lawd Gawd. She'd beat on me, too, til I gets the message.
Ain't long afore we's stinkin so evil that all the wildlife in the precinctity is
steerin clear of the house. Even the racoons ain't botherin theyselves with our
trash nomore. And the mice we's had runnin 'bout, they's packed they vacation bags
and left home, like I shoulda done. On 'em days when the walls be sweatin' likes a
cathouse ho, Ma cain't even see me through the thick clouds of rottin fish guts.
"Where ya at, boy?" she's be callin from the back of the house, and I's be hidin
from the fish supper. "Yo come out now an be sayin grace over yo fish provided by
our lawd afore I beat ya blue."
When school started back up, cats they's be chasin me all the way on the first day
back. I's havin to take a detour passed old Saul's back fence where his big ole dumb
Alsation be roamin free, jest to get them cats off'n my tail. But there ain't no let
up even in school with folks callin me Stanky The Fish Boy all day.
I makes up my mind to do somethin 'bout it. I's cain't be eatin that dang fish fast
enuff to get rid, and Ma too. But soon enuff none's fit to be eatin.
I's gaggin on a Largemouth Bass at the supper table, when I notices some parts of
the fish is all slimy and green, like seaweed. "Pity Gawd didn't rain salt down, Ma,
to preserve what we done already got."
Ma gives me the wickedest glare ever, like her eyes can pure shrink a boy's soul.
"The Lawd Gawd cain't be thinkin of everythin'," she says.
It ain't until we's be gettin real sick with food poisonin when Ma's blowin chunks
twenty-four-seven and I's be shitin like a diseased dawg that Ma admits defeat.
She makes me drag my sled back down to the lake loaded up with 'em rottin fish and
guts. I's stoppin more times than I care to, crappin behint bushes. The lake's
shinin like it's captured a hundrit rainbows when I gets there, but I ain't dumb
enuff to think it ain't anythin but them fish-oil's pollution and no magic.
When I's get back home, Ma's feelin and lookin better. She ain't sayin nuthin much
though as she serves up steamin potatas for my supper 'ceptin she's wearin a stoney
face and mutterin a new grace to Gawd over the potatas we's never throwed out from
the cellar. After crappin ma guts out all the way to the lake, I's hungry as hell
for anythin 'cept fish, and anyhow Ma's humble potatas never tasted so good.
"If havin nuthin 'cept these potatas for supper every day like usual means we's
poor, then I's prefer bein' poor," I says to Ma. "All them rich folks, they can keep
they stinkin fish."
And they's really my words this time, not Ma's.
Sophie Bachard lives in South London, UK, where she was raised as a feral
child by stray dogs on a council housing estate. Her fiction has appeared in
numerous publications, in print and online. She is looking for a publisher
for her recently completed novellas.
© 2007 Underground Voices