My Father Happily Hums

My Father Happily Hums

MY FATHER HAPPILY HUMS

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My Father happily hums as we reach the water
I’m 6
standing on a dock
he says I am ready to go fishing
all I want to do is to please him

A contorted worm is spliced by a barb
My father says the worm feels nothing
and hands me the worn cane pole
The worm cannot scream – but I feel it’s agony
My father instructs me to throw my line in
and with his wide, firm hand upon mine
we guide the worm to a watery grave

He assures me that I will catch a fish today –
I will make him proud
I am secretly hoping that no fish are hungry

Father busies himself with his gear
I bring the worm up to the surface
for a quick breath
my father glances at me and
sternly warns – put the worm in the water
I oblige to keep the peace
I feel my own soul drowning with the worm
holding my breath until my lungs ache – I gasp for air

I cough, my father asks if I’m ok,
I smile and nod

My line tugs
NO NO NO
my father’s excitement is immediate as he instructs me
bring the fish up
and when I hesitate
he smacks my arm and grabs the pole as the fish breaks through the surface mirror
he smiles and pats my back

 Father roughly removes the hook
clumsily tearing at the gaping mouth
I bleed inside

The sunfish is shiny like red and yellow vinyl-
scales gleaming under clear, blue, spring skies
it flexes back and forth
resisting the grip of the human vise
as it  vibrates on the weathered cutting board

Gills expanding and contracting
my breathing too is now erratic
wondering if I will see it draw in its’ last breath
must I watch it die

Father talks about frying it up for dinner
and how happy mother will be

I beg my father through tears to throw it back
he tells me, quit acting like a sissy
this is how God made humans to dominate over animals and fish
and how Father’s are the bosses of their family
his filet knife slashes off
the still breathing head with purpose
the tail-fin bows, the gills inflate
and then full submission and surrender –
Did that hurt?

Father says no – quit asking stupid questions
the scales stick to the blade and his hands like wet,
shiny confetti –
delicate rib bones crunch
belly opened, exposed and filleted
he cleans his murderous hands in the lake
and tosses the delicate white meat into a cooler on ice
as he baits my hook again he tells me – good job

My fresh worm goes down
I frown
get used to it he says – we aren’t leaving for hours
saying one day many years from now I will
tell my children what it is like catching my first fish

I watch as he walks down further
on the opposite side of the dock
yes, I will remember
and look at father’s back to mine
I bring up my dead worm and hurry to remove it
pricking my index finger on the sharp hook
I don’t dare cry out
but watch as
drops of blood mingle with water and run onto the limp worm
letting it fall into the water

And once again I lower my rod
I lick away the rusty tasting guilt of blood
no complaining
my father looks over and I smile back
my real thoughts and feelings will always remain as concrete silences
filling the gaps of the space breathing  between us

My Father happily hums
My Father Happily hums…

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