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Phuck Is Not a Four-Letter Word

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Posted on Apr 1, 2011
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

(Page 2)

Walking back across my bedroom to kick, for the millionth time in a row, at the exploded sleeping bag and tent that had been dragged from the hall closet and heaped in the corner, I considered going into the kitchen and grabbing a couple cans of Dr Pepper and shoving them into my backpack. Then I remembered the NO CARBONATED DRINKS! rule, which, according to my brother, had been implemented after his friend Hugo Jaffee, after carrying a liter of Mountain Dew over rocky terrain in the Poconos, opened the bottle and ended up spending the better part of the following autumn in a physical therapy program having his part painfully retrained to appear on the proper side of his head.

Figuring fuck it, I flumped down onto my little brother’s bed, accidentally sitting on Sam, forcing a stream of stale tap water to arc majestically into the air from the tiny piss hole at the tip of his cashew-sized shaft. As triumphantly as a choir-led amen at the close of a prayer, the stream rose and fell beside me like a ribbon loosened and flung from a virgin’s dress. 

I was saved.

None of the other Boy Scouts seemed to notice, or at least they didn’t seem to care, that there was a toy baby leg protruding from the top flap of my backpack. Sure, I’d gotten to the trail late and had to run about two miles to catch up with everybody else in my troop and, sure, nobody talked to me when I caught up with them because nobody in the troop liked me, but you’d think that at least the scoutmaster, Mr. Jinx, would feel obligated to say something to me after witnessing me burst through a grove of trees choking and spitting on my own exhaustion like a werewolf. Then again, I thought back to the beginning of the month when Podgie Benigno, who was the hairiest 11-year-old that I’d ever seen in my life, while rubbing two sticks together furiously for 45 minutes to start a campfire for his cooking merit badge, had his elbows catch fire and how Mr. Jinx, when asked where the first aid kit was, suggested, without getting out of his beach chair or putting down his gin and tonic, that we respect the significance of the cooking merit badge and honor its intent by eating Podgie’s arms. In essence, Mr. Jinx was the sort of absolute sonuvabitch that lazy parents revered, not because he completed the parenting that they, the parents, were too lazy to commit to, but rather because he justified their disregard for the well-being of their sons by being a shitty parent to them as well. It was Jinx’s job to turn little boys into little men since nurturing them as adolescents required patience, compassion and something brighter than a dimwit.

With Sam’s naked leg sticking out of my backpack and a growing concern that I might never find the privacy necessary for me to drink soda from him like a Saigon whore, I fell in with the herd of 20 other hikers and started walking. Having interrupted no conversation with my arrival, none continued, eyes meeting eyes only as confirmation that I was something to be mentally stepped around. It was then that I considered the virtue of camaraderie over isolation. After all, it was during long stretches of self-imposed mental exile without the distraction of other voices when men were forced into conversations with themselves and faced with the terrifying possibility that they were not worth knowing. 

I remembered reading in school about dog sled racers in the Alaskan Iditarod and how they frequently suffered hallucinations as a result of their isolation, their brains thrown into sudden panic no doubt at the realization that they were spending the best years of their lives riding in what amounted to a shopping cart on skis behind a pack of dogs slaphappy enough to recognize the word Mush! as an excuse to run headlong into the woods, their eyes like pinwheels. Of course, any brain faced with such a bizarre portrait of itself will attempt to create an entirely different reality in which to place itself, damning the one that it’s actually in. I feared that I might be beginning this hike with a terrific personality and ending it with absolutely none to speak of, having ingested it during the course of the day like a box of Cracker Jack, my self-destruction predicated on the false notion that there was a prize to be claimed at the center of my soul. 

It was then that Mr. Jinx turned around to face us and command, “Canteen/piss break, five minutes!” Dutifully responding like pennies released from a fist, Scouts fanned out in all directions, rolling behind trees and boulders and shrubs and into gullies to pour scant amounts of ammonia and lemonade into tiny foam puddles before regrouping themselves into grumbling pairs and threesomes and quartets to sit and pull canteens from their packs and to upend them against their lips. Finding a tree of my own, one too skinny to provide complete invisibility, I took 49 seconds to take a three-second piss and to shake absolutely nothing off my very modest modesty, contemplating the whole time how I was going to get Sam’s plastic meatus out of my backpack and into my mouth without drawing the attention of all the normal kids around me, figuring that lynch mobs weren’t so much rehearsed as they were spontaneously inspired.

“Well,” I whispered to my brother, standing three feet away from the lifeless doll that was our mother, “that’s her, all right.” He agreed with a whispered yep. Then, with neither one of us trusting the authenticity of the oh-so-popular five stages of grief, we stood dry-eyed and said nothing more, him because he wanted to remember our mother looking so much less agonized than she had appeared to him three days earlier and me because I believed, with absolute certainty, that if I made a sound I’d wake her up, which would embarrass both of us, each overcome with average tears and made ordinary by a warm and all-too-comforting embrace.


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By John P., April 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My sister saw the coroners wheel out my moms body. My dad could not bear to
see and stayed in the house with his head in his palms. When she told me about
it, she had this distaste of it all, and the shock of the yellow color, I think she
related it to herself and what she was (for all of us) to become, when that time
came.

And then she asked me to be the one to sign the papers for her body, when that time came. We had always been close, closer than the other brothers and sisters. And I said of course I would. Call me when you think the time is near. I’ll be there. I will get you to the furnace.

The best thing, and there is one, about my moms passing was the makeshift
directions that she had written out and asked us to do;

Anyone who wants to celebrate whom I was, please gather at Barview jetty. You
will be required to drink a shot and talk about a moment that I shared with you. If thats too deep for you to do, then please don’t go, because I will be there, in spirit, and it better be the truth, or else!

There was roughly a little over a dozen people there. Gathered around one
huge dark gray boulder, its upside was flat, looking like some mid-evil knights
table. Two dark brown bottles were sitting there, Jagermeister I think,
it was her favorite, and a little sail cloth bag holding the shot glasses. My dad gave my brother and I the ashes, sealed in clear cellophane bag.

We jogged out over the huge black boulders as close to the end as we could get
to the mouth of Tillamook bay. We were slowed by spaces between the boulders, the
wind was awkward, the sky was overcast as always it seemed, and the seas
were crashing hard, I remember the thundering bass that you could feel
through the rock and into your soles. When we stopped are faces were wet,
from the mist.

You do it, he said, and I did, and of course the wind shifted a little and ash blew
into our faces, we smiled though, we had seen that movie too.

We got back to the circle around the big rock and helped finish off the bottle
with the rest of the party. The mist got heavier, and we disbanded, a line of cars
driving to Moe’s clam chowder, up the coastline. The party continued there and
we all had great food and talked about my mom.

To this day I feel like that little ritual, if you want to call it that, has helped me
find closure with my mom. I think its a great idea to have some type of closure
for the passing of a family member.

This came out of me because of Mr. Fish, his loss, and his wonderful ability to
find the irony in human actions with his story and his wonderful cartoons.

To all bloggers at this site, I wish you happy times and happier endings.

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By kerryrose, April 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm Link to this comment

Empathy laced with distancing disdain.

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culheath's avatar

By culheath, April 2, 2011 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

Very vivid and poignant writing. You have a very high and admirable empathy quotient and your ability to synthesize metaphors and similes provides an excellent tang to the mix. Kudos.

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By Vickie Patik, April 1, 2011 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well! That was quite a trip into the soul of someone I usually just watch through his drawings. Who knew he could talk real English, and suffer aloud like a poet?

As I spend these Spring days in 2011 assisting my own Mother through her prolonged death, I can feel Fish’s pain. Acutely. My Mother, too, wants to be cremated. Oh! Wow! Dust to dust. Do we have to be so literal???

Okay. Maybe so, but so unsavory. But isn’t it all? Death sucks.

I have wondered, too, if I would cry when my Mother dies. There is so much crying, of the eyes and soul, before that day arrives. I blubbered like an idiot when my Dad died… I watched his jugular vein stop pulsing and informed the present family members, “He’s gone.” Brilliant, Vic! You never know what you might say in such a moment, and what you say is never, in retrospect, any damn good.

So, Mr. Fish, I hear you. How cutely quaint is that expression for our times. But what I mean is what that expression means. Don’t know how else to say it.

Death sucks.

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