Flash Fiction by Justin Nicholes

Drunk Fish

by Justin Nicholes

Our daughter liked this game we played called feed the fish.

From the edge of the pool, with her feet pruned and clawing into the ridged aluminum edge meant to offer traction, she dangled bleach-soggy chicken McNuggets. My role in the game was to leap from the water while I pinned my arms to my sides like fins. The nuggets were sometimes dipped in barbecue sauce, sometimes honey mustard, dipped so deep they covered her fingers. My lips sucked oil and chicken and sunscreen. The cry she let out every time chimed in my ears just before I plummeted back down, blowing out air as I chewed, letting my body sink, letting my back, heavy with my empty lungs, thud to the pool floor. Bubbles gurgled from my mouth and burst in silence at the surface.

In Tibet there’s this lake, and the story goes a goddess slipped and dropped her looking glass from the heavens. And that looking glass became the lake. In summer, around the real lake, rhododendron petals, blown in drifts, cruise like tiny boats on the water, and the really beautiful thing is that codfish eat those petals and get shit-faced. They float along with pale-white bellies skyward, so calm you could dip a hand and scoop one into your lap, where they’d barely wriggle, barely breathe.

The white, plastic chairs around the swimming pool, from this distance, look like headstones.

 

Justin Nicholes is the author of the novels River Dragon Sky (2012) and Ash Dogs (2008). His stories have appeared in Cleaver, Slice, The Saint Ann's Review, and elsewhere.