Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Fish

It was the Monsoon Season, a spell of two or three weeks when central Arizona received nearly all the rain it would it get the whole year. Today it had rained for three hours in a neighborhood with no storm drains, and the streets ran like rivers.

"What are you doing?" his older brother asked him. For a moment he considered the question, sitting on the edge of the curb, his pink hand submerged in the fast, filthy water, and wondered the same thing. Certainly his Mother would wonder, later, when she learned he'd spent the day with his hands and eventually feet in floodwaters thick with garbage and pulverized worms. She'd look at him like he was the dog from that urban legend, the one about the woman who rescues a stray only to learn later that it's a Tijuana street rat. Why had she thought this was her son, when it was clearly some sort of hairless trash monkey?

"I'm fishing," he said finally. "I'm going to catch a fish." He then turned his attention back to the river, cupping his hand in the current.

"There's no fish," said his brother. "You're not going to catch anything. Just 'cause the street looks like a river doesn't mean there's suddenly fish in it now."

He silently agreed that this was probably true, though the constant barrage of tiny objects (pebble, twig, something soft, pull-tab) against his hand in the cloudy water kept his hopes alive and then bump, his fingers closed suddenly around something big, the biggest thing yet, and he pulled it from the water.

It was a fish. A plastic fish, blue, a toy from something. He turned it over and over in his hand.

"I told you," he said, holding the fish up for inspection. "I said I would."

His brother leaned over, then looked unbalanced, like he'd leaned too far. His mouth opened and shut.

"That's not a real fish," he said finally. "It's just a toy fish. Not a real one. That's just a toy."

The younger brother thought this was a fantastically petty thing to say. He knew it wasn't real. But he'd said he was fishing and not ten seconds later had a plastic fish and wasn't that amazing? Didn't that deserve something? Something more than this poisonous spite? His brother was petty, and he wanted to tell him so, but he didn't know that word yet. So he said:

"You're a turd-boy. You smell like turds."

Then he left, feeling just like God, and looked for a bowl of water to put his fish in.

3 comments:

Heidi said...

Hi, Adam!
I am also from Phoenix and went to high school with you. We had art classes together (ah, Mrs. Knowles..). Is this story a real one? Did you really get a platic fish? When I was little I used to put my Little People boat in the gutter during monsoon season. Good times.
I bought your Frankenstein book the other day. Very cute. My boys are a bit too small for it yet (5 & 3) but soon. I am looking forward to PSST! It looks more their speed.
Thanks for the great books. It's nice to see someone do something wonderful with their art talent.

Adam Rex said...

Ms. Knowles. Haven't thought about her in a while. I wonder how she's doing. I suppose she may no longer be with us. You were in the same art class as I when that older guy who preceded her was the teacher, weren't you? I cant remember his name and I'm not at home at the moment.

Anyway, thanks so much for picking up some of my books. I hope your kids like PSSST!, and that they grow into Frankenstein. Frankenstein is one of my proudest achievements so far, though I agree it's best for older kids, say 7 and up.

The Fish story really did happen to me, more or less. I made my brother come off as a bit more of a jerk than he probably was, and I don't honestly remember anything specific that was said that day. But I really did catch a (plastic) blue fish only minutes after announcing I would.

Scott Rex said...

I can vouch that it's a true story - I'm his brother. It was indeed a blue plastic fish that he caught shortly after announcing that he would.

Can't say I remember being such a turd, though...