Monday, July 9, 2012


by Anita Babcock

I stare down at the cutting board. The dead fish that my girlfriend caught lies waiting for me to clean it out. The second fish that I caught is some how still alive. I can sense it is watching me, begging me to end its life already so the suffering stops. I shudder at the thought and then a quick flash happens; I see blue eyes begging me in the same way. I take a deep breath and hold the knife tightly in my hand then place the blade against the neck of the slain fish. I ignore the trick my mind just played on me. My hand is trembling.

“Come on,” I command myself. “Suck it up and just cut the fish!”

            The fish reflects the light coming through the window and the scales shine with rainbows. It is strange to me how even in death, the fish could be so lovely with its bejeweled body. I feel very uneasy at the sight. The knife falls with a clatter to the table as I drop it. Both frustration and sorrow fill me. I slowly count to 10, and take the knife up.

            “Just do it already!” I tell myself, speaking out loud. 

            “You can do it,” my girlfriend tells me as she stands by watching.

            I look at her. I can feel how wet my eyes are.

            “I can’t,” I whisper and put the knife on the table before I turn and walk into the living room and sit on the couch and let my head flop down into my hands.

            “You are just very sensitive,” she tries to reassure me.

            I feel the tears welling up in my eyes. One escapes and rolls down my cheek, but I don’t bother to wipe it away. I feel my girlfriend's hand as she runs it through my hair. I shift away from her unable to stand her comfort.

            “I am such a failure,” I say softly.

            I hear her sigh before she lets her hands drop from my head. The couch sinks in a bit as she sits beside me and takes my hand, I know how desperately she wants to comfort me; my dark moods always make her uneasy.

            It is hopeless Will. The fish is just like dad suffering before its death. You couldn’t help him then, you can’t help the fish now.

            I sigh hard thinking of my dad's final months alive. Cancer had spread so fast through him and I had been helpless to help.

            “Son, I don’t want to die like this; please help me.”

            I looked at him wide eyed. What am I supposed to do? I am still just a kid.

“Will, you can help your old man out. Go get my hunting knife and slash my throat. People will assume that I did it.”

I can’t say no to him. When everyone is in bed, I slip into the attic where the knife is kept. It feels heavy in my small hands. I listen for sounds in the house and finding it still silent with the night, I make my way downstairs. 

            Dad is awake on the couch, his favorite place to be. He sees me coming and smiles.
“Thank you son, I knew I could count on you.” He says.

I stand nervously, listening as he gives the instructions. I raise the knife just as he is hit with a coughing spasm and I pause holding the knife in the air. I meet dad's’ eyes, which are glossy and his mouth opens and closes like a fish that is gasping for air.

            “Babe are you ok? You got green around the gills there,” my girlfriend breaks into my memory with a bad fish pun.

            “Yeah, I’m fine,” I wave her off and get back to my feet going back to the kitchen.

            The catfish is still struggling next to the dead fish. I stare into its eyes, imagining its pleading to take it out of suffering.

            “I won’t let you down again dad,” I mutter to the fish and raised the knife determinedly.

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