My father told me if I wanted to catch fish I had to think like a fish except he said it with an r like frish and an extra s and h like frisshh and maybe a third h if you can stand it.
We were floating in a barely curved boat. I sat on a six pack and he sat on a bigger box of beer which eventually collapsed. I noticed, among other things, that his bladder had the same capacity as a bottle of beer, and I imagined it was also the approximate shape. I was surprised how clear his pee was, nearly invisible like the fishing line, the tint likely stuck somewhere in the vicinity of his liver.
He smoked cigarettes, one after the other, and spewed nonsense the rest of the time, kept offering me beer when he knew I was only eleven. When he pressed his bottle against my bottom lip, I took a bubbly sip, half terrified and half hoping it would turn me into a frisshhh. I was already thinking like one, deep under the boat where it was calm and cool and silent mostly, nicely alternating ribbons of light and shadow, a few echoes that pulled me briefly their way.
That was a long time ago. My father staggered to death early which is what he seemed to want.
My mother remarried quickly, and my new dad didn’t drink at all, just strange juice what came out of the machine he stuck carrots and beets and parsley into, a little thick and bubbly almost like a chocolate milkshake but rank. His name was Craig—she met him at Al-anon—and we were sort of friends, buddies he said, although he called me son at my sister’s wedding and five minutes later he also called her new husband son so it took some of the weight off or maybe put some back on I don’t know which.
But what I want to tell you is the thinking-like-a-fish part, the round about way my father is responsible for turning me into a writer, because all my life I’ve been hiding between words, deep in stories, following echoes, carefully not making a splash.
I write in a bright room that glows when the sun comes through the window all bits and pieces because of the leaves and shadows. I swim into this place, out of the usual gloom, and I write sometimes thoughtfully and other times it’s like a spell, with my eyes closed typing like mad—I’m doing it right now—my usual mistakes easy0to0spot, a zero where there should be a hyphen and other weaknesses like double letters as in frisshh.
My stories are short and plentiful.
I am passionately involved in many make-believe lives, important lives—relevant and purposeful lives of substance—like the life beyond this closed red room, my pretend wife setting the table for dinner, knives and forks flashing in the light, my fake kids laughing from far away, the paw of my imaginary white cat waving beneath my door.