FISHSWEAT by Francine Witte


All over the counter in our bungalow kitchen. My mother, bandanna tying up her tired hair. My mother asking me how bad I want to eat. These fish are a mess, she says, all slime and goo and fishsweat. No such thing as fishsweat, I think, but my mother has never, not once in her life, called a thing what it really is.

Every so often she stops to stare out of the gingham window to see if my father’s car is pulling up. He said he was going back to that fishing shack we stopped at last night to pick up some bait. Where he asked the young woman, who ran it, what was the best spot to fish on the lake. How we all of us heard her saying how she’s running the shack by herself since her husband died, her tan belly showing out from her midriff top.

And then my father going out by himself early this morning, coming back with five whole fish, each one slimier and smellier than the one before it, and me having exactly no appetite. Not after watching the sweat trickle out of my mother’s bandanna, her wiping it off with the back of her rubber-gloved hand, her thwacking the heads off the fish one by one and tossing them into a bucket like they were somebody’s father, somebody’s husband. And me standing there next to her, wondering exactly how many fish this is going to take.



Photo used under CC.