He said, Catfish can’t hurt you ’cause you can cook ’em after

You know how sometimes you think you’re goin’ crazy?
OK, OK, but I don’t mean, Oh I’m goin’ crazy ‘cause I can’t find my car keys and the kids are yellin’ so loud you can’t think.
I mean, really crazy.
Like someone came along and took that brain right out of your head, crazy.
Like nothing seems to be in the right place anymore.
Not the streets, not the little lines on the road, not even your toes. That kind.

I was at the grocery store the other day. Had to buy somethin’ I don’t remember. I don’t remember what I was gonna buy, probably for one of the kids.
That’s the point.

‘Cause I was standin’ there in the meat section, lookin’ down at the words pork and poultry. Pork and poultry.
And in my head I knew one of ‘em was pig and one of ‘em was bird, but which ones?

And the harder I thought about it, the more I thought about fish. I mean, big fish, like catfish, oversized heads and whiskers and wanderin’ eyes in a lake when I was a kid.

And I thought, pork and poultry, pork and poultry.
Just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around it.

People kept pushin’ by and someone said somethin’ on the loudspeaker about milk and I got all hot and cold at once like I was swimmin’ in a lake with a bunch of catfish.
Cat.
Fish.
Weird, don’t you think?
Whiskers and all.

And it shouldn’t be scary, but it is.

Somehow someone kept sayin’ something about milk right over my head and I didn’t know where I was, ‘cept my feet were getting cold. Toes didn’t look like my toes. Started to turn blue at the tips.

I was wearin’ sandals ‘cause I ran outta the house to get to the store before pickin’ up the kids from school.
And I looked at my toes and I thought about those catfish.
And swimmin’ in the lake when I was a kid, terrified they’d bite my toes.
And feelin’ that tightness in the chest, like you can’t breathe. Can’t swim.
Like all the water starts pushin’ against you in a way like a ton of weight.

Pork and poultry.
Pork.
Poultry.

One was a pig and one was a bird. Or was it a fish?

Someone kept sayin’ something about milk and I tried to check my head.
Milk was from a cow.

People kept pushin’ by.
Someone said, Ma’am, could you move so I can get some chicken breasts?

I was lookin’ at my toes, thinkin about the catfish. Someone just stepped on my toe, tryin’ to get by. Tryin’ to get a chicken breast.

Since I was wearin’ sandals, it hurt like hell. Snapped me out of the lake.

I thought, Oh shit, I gotta pick up the kids. Then it was like,
do I really have kids?
Where’d my brain go?

And I didn’t want to buy pork or poultry, didn’t want to buy milk. I mean, hell, I’d trade all of it for that heavy feelin’ in the lake.

I mean, catfish. I was so scared of catfish when I was a kid.

And dad’d make me go in there, laughing at the edge. Said,
Get in the water! Get in!

And I didn’t want to. I mean., I thought I was gonna get eaten. And he’d just stand there on the edge and laugh.
Ten more minutes! He’d yell. Then you can get out!

And I’d just hold my breath. I mean,
I’d just wish they’d go ahead and eat me. But then he’d say
alright, alright.

And I’d be breathin’ so hard.
So hard.
Said we sounded the same when we breathed.
Said I should just keep the swimsuit on.
Said the catfish can’t hurt you, ‘cause you can cook ‘em.

I mean, I haven’t felt that weight in a while. And here I am, late pickin’ up kids I never wanted, not yet. Just to get the weight off my chest.

But I’d go back.
I mean to the lake.
Instead of this grocery store.
Instead of buyin’ chicken.

I’d go back to swimmin’ until he’s finished all his beer.

Catfish aren’t so scary ‘cause you can eat ’em after.
He was right.

I mean, sometimes you just feel crazy.
Like you’re somewhere else.
The real you is.

And somehow you got mixed up and are standing in the meat section with someone else’s brain.

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Filed under poetic-prose, poetry

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