Catfish Lessons



One day in the fall they tried to haul a catfish of gigantic size. But when they reeled him in they did him, in no matter what anyone tried.

Jim caught his best on a twenty pound test and it weight one forty-two. Enough to rate best in the state, number one in ‘ole Mizzou.

In the mud the big cat hud and Jim hunted him like no sissy. He pulled for miles then he had to smile, the cat was mighty and Mississippi.

Jim knew he’d caught what can’t be bought, greatness for which he did not strive. He knew right then what he had to do, which was keep that cat alive.

Above all cost the fish can’t be lost, Jim cried, dragging it to shore. It’ll bring me green on the exhibition scene, I’ll have a double-wide no more.

On the dock it was a shock, Jim yanked it in a tank. He heaved and hoved and then he drove, thinking money in the bank.

But he only got a few then things fell through, the big cat’s gills could take no more. It was too huge to deluge in a tub that Bud is for.

Jim saw that cat’s fins turn flat and had his pay day muffed. But he paid no mind, because he’d signed a deal to have it stuffed.

With its dead they mounted its head, making whiskers stiff instead of squirmy. When they were done and had their fun, the big cat was taxidermy.

Jim kept it for awhile then it seemed out of style, so he got a crazy thought. He’d sell the brute for a little quick loot, that’s how the fish was bought.

What’s true and blue and indispu, is where the big cat can be seen. He’s on a wall in a strip mall, surrounded by TV screens.

Now Jim had to do what he head to do, that fish was worth some dough. With it stuffed it fetched enough, so he could not just say no.

But over the years and over the beers, Jim gradually regretted it. Cashing in the fin seemed like a sin, and he wished he could forget it.

Now the nature of fishin’ is the nature of wishin’ and Jim hoped for too much glory. But now when Jim fishes all that he wishes is for nothing more than a story.

-from Donuts & Wine, demo forthcoming