Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dead Fish Swimming

a Davey's Family story

500 words based on a sentence selected by Dive.  Click here for more info.

This week’s sentence is from Willa Cather's Death Comes For The Archbishop:  'Muerto,' he whispered.


Davey trailed his family as they walked back to the car across the beach parking lot.  Davey stopped frequently to check on the black goldfish circling in the plastic bag clutched in his hand.  All of Davey’s previous fish had been orange – Coke and Pepsi, Seven and Seven, Jack and Bobby.  This was his first singleton and he was determined to keep it alive for more than the usual week or two.

When they’d arrived at Bayville this morning Pop set up the beach umbrella for Ma, who needed shade for her pale, freckled skin.

“Redheads burn easily,” Ma said, sitting upright in a chair, wearing big sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, her book resting atop the cooler that held lunch and drinks and the two bags of ice that Pop had bought at the corner gas station at the start of their short drive to the North Shore.

Pop and Juicy watched the sun for a few minutes before setting their lounge chairs at the perfect angle to maximize rays and minimize the need to move as the sun tracked across the sky.  They took off their shirts and plopped down for a good long bake.  Even though it was early in the season, each was well on the way to the deep walnut tan they maintained through the summer.

Davey carefully spread his beach towel upwind of the grownups to avoid the inevitable cloud of smoke.  Sure enough, as soon as everyone settled in Ma reached for her pack of Newports, Pop for his Luckies and Juicy fired up the cigar stump that hadn’t left his mouth all morning.

Davey walked the waterline, collecting shells and stones for his collection, but only after he suffered Ma to slather him in suntan lotion.  Pop and Juicy swam in the Sound, racing each other from one lifeguard stand to the next.  They all returned for lunch as Ma handed out salami sandwiches on rye with mustard, potato chips and fruit.  There was beer for Ma and Juicy and Coke for Davey and Pop.  After lunch the adults dozed while Davey read a few chapters in his library book.

On the way back to the car, Juicy suggested they stop at the arcade and play a few midway games.  Davey looked longingly at the goldfish toss where a single black fish swam amongst the endless globes of orange.

‘You like that fella?” Juicy asked. Davey nodded.  “I’ll win him for ya.”

Now Juicy fell back to walk with Davey.

“Got a name for that handsome fish?” Juicy asked.  “He’s a special fish, so he needs a special name.”

“They die so quick,” said Davey.

“Maybe not, if he has a powerful name,” said Juicy.

Ma looked over her shoulder and motioned for Davey to hurry up.

Juicy bent to whisper in Davey’s ear.  “Know what that means?”

Davey shook his head.

Juicy bent and spoke again behind his hand.

Davey raised the fish to eye level.

“Muerto,” he whispered, smiling widely.


copyright (c) 2010 Lulubelle B


dive said...

Oh, that Juicy!
Lulu, this is just too real. It took me right back to my own childhood. Wonderful writing.
Such an idyllic day and yet death foretold stalks all over it, from Muerto the goldfish and Davey's fatalistic outlook to the gratuitous sunbathing and icky smoking.
You really are scarily good!

Scout said...

First, what a clever title. I really like the recurring characters here, and this is such a great slice of a story.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

Wow, Lulu! This is good stuff. I love the names "Pop and Juicy." They sound so beverage-like yet somehow criminal at the same time.

I also like how you gave us the names of the former fish. Those names really give us a flavor for the whole family.

Juicy's final name suggestion is just sinister. I love it!

MarkL42 said...

This brings back memories or the Rockaways, Playland and Skee Ball. I can almost taste the salami!