IN THE LATE SUMMER by Angie Curneal Palsak

Kenny, my cousin, thumbed through his baseball cards
as I spun my jacks around.
Then Grandpa came home from fishing.
He brought in a green cooler
and a bucket filled with water.
The cooler was empty,
but not the bucket.
Reaching in with both hands
he lifted the most enormous catfish I’d ever seen.
The catfish twitched and flinched.
He looked mad
Grandpa plopped him back
in the bucket splashing water
on Kenny’s cards.
Grandma and Grandpa began to argue in Polish
as Kenny dried Nolan Ryan’s face
and I poked my palm with a jack.
Grandma hated fish,
she really hated cooking fish.
Grandpa gave up and left with his cooler
and his beers.
Grandma yanked open the kitchen drawer.
Kenny and I looked at each other.
She grabbed the hammer,
the bucket,
and walked on out the backdoor
all the way to the alley,
to the metal trash barrel.
She laid that big bloated fish on top of the rusty lid
and then raised the hammer above her head.
We jumped when the trashcan echoed.
Grandma came marching back to the house,
Kenny and I hid behind the shanty door.
We held our breath and listened to her curse
as she walked by.
Then we ran out to the alley.
We could see a dent in the trashcan lid
and a strange slimy stain.
On the ground, the leathery catfish lay,
still squirming.
Kenny and I raced back to the house.
Things were quiet.
We had eggs and hot dogs for dinner
but Grandpa didn’t eat.
Later that night,
when the air in the house
started to cool
and the lacey curtains started to move,
we crept to the alley once more.
We found the catfish, dull and still,
except for the whiskers;
they waved in the late summer night breeze

ANGIE CURNEAL PALSAK co-edits Ugly Cousin (an online journal for those who consider themselves “literary rejects”) and posts weekly on her blog about trying to balance “real” life and time for writing and art at angiecpalsak.blogspot.com .

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