“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Monday, July 4, 2011

SHORT STORY "On Frying Fish" By George Eyre Masters

On Frying Fish

It is the middle of March in Maine. Snowed yesterday, raining today. The afternoon sky is the color of dirty socks. Waiting for a telephone call from a woman I do push-ups. I make cornbread. I want to thank her for the two pounds of San Francisco coffee that arrived yesterday. More push-ups. I drink a cup of her coffee and try to read. I try to write. The house is quiet. I go out to the kitchen and make a pot of rice and peas. She usually calls twice a day. It’s been two days since I heard from her. I’m not leaving any more messages on her machine. The last five were just to hear her voice. I know what’s missing.

First thing I need is good fish. The half mile walk up Ocean Avenue is salt air, and seagulls. I pass a big grey hotel closed for the winter. Across the street, fishing boats at anchor strain against the inbound tide, their bows pointing to the mouth of the Kennebunk River and the open ocean beyond.

Inside the fish store three men wearing bloody aprons fillet cod with blades you could shave with. Wet red hands, tough and sure, smooth the way they work. They, themselves haven’t shaved in a few days. The old chocolate lab that belongs to the store sleeps on his blanket near the wall. When I go to him and kneel he opens his one good eye. I stroke his sweet broad head; he gives me a tail flap of recognition.

I walk home with a pound and a third of cod so fresh it doesn’t smell. No messages on my answering machine. I build a fire in the living room, watch how the flames work into the logs and warm my hands.

In the kitchen I make the preparations. Skillet, flour, bread crumbs, cornmeal, cornstarch, seasonings, eggs, milk, Tabasco sauce, cooking oil, rice and peas. Outside it’s beginning to get dark. I open a bottle of red wine.

When frying fish it’s best to be mostly sober. I put on a Chieftains album. Irish music is how I’m feeling. I take a drink of wine and give a long look at the photograph on the window sill of Jack, my dog. Jack died last June. I buried his ashes in the flower bed outside my bedroom. Jack loved fried fish. Don Williams is singing “Wild Mountain Thyme”. The song starts at my feet and travels straight up the middle.

This story says what it means without anything extra.  I love the smells, sounds, and feelings it conveys.  In my mind's eye I can see those aprons and the brown dog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What's on your mind?