Mud Fish

Those muddy river fish that us brothers used to catch out of the muddy river that runs its way through this muddy river town, those fish were muddy river fish that always tasted of mud. Us brothers, we liked mud and liked the taste that was mud, we liked to eat mud and liked to eat too these muddy river fish. These fish from our muddy river, if it was up to us brothers, we’d let those fish sit overnight in buckets full of the river’s muddy water. To us brothers, to our muddy brother eyes, in our mud-eating boy mouths, fish can never be, fish can never taste, muddy enough. If it was us brothers who were the ones in our house doing the cooking up of these muddy river fish, we’d fry those fish up in mud instead of in butter, what our father always liked to call lard. But in our house it was our mother who was the one always doing the cooking. The kitchen inside our house, it belonged to our mother. But our mother, unlike us brothers and unlike our father too, she never liked the taste of mud, or liked the look of mud. She didn’t like it, our mother, when us brothers walked into her kitchen with mud caked on the bottoms of our boots. So what our mother would always do to the fish, before she would cook up the fish was, she’d soak them in cold salt water. This, she liked to tell us brothers, would get rid of the fish’s muddiness. Mud, our mother liked to say, it was in these fishes’ blood. Yes, yes, exactly, was what us brothers wanted to say to our mother. That, we wanted to say, was what made the fish taste, to us brothers, so good. Even if we’d said to our mother what we wanted to say, our mother, she wouldn’t have listened. Instead, our mother, she would do to the fish what she always did to our fish. She’d hold our fish under the cold tap water the way she used to take hold of us brothers’ muddy hands and tell us brothers to scrub, to wash the dirt of the mud off. Us brothers, we loved mud. No matter how much our mother made us brothers scrub, the mud, it wouldn't come washing off. It was the same with the fish. No matter what our mother did to try to rid those fish of their fishy, muddy taste, she could not take the mud of the river out of those muddy river fish. Our river, it was a muddy river. Our river, it was the muddiest river ever made. And those muddy river fish that us brothers used to catch out of this muddy river that runs its way through this muddy river town, those fish were muddy river fish with a muddy river running through the inside of each muddy river fish. In our river, in our muddy river town, there were so many muddy fishes, there was so much mud in our muddy river, that if you took all of those muddy river fish and if you held these fish all together, fish after fish after fish after fish—this, are you picturing this: all of these fish, with the mud of the river running through these fish, these fish, these fish, these fish: they would have made a mud-fish sea.

Peter Markus is the author of three short books of short fiction, Good, Brother, The Moon is a Lighthouse, and The Singing Fish. His stories have appeared in 3rd Bed, Post Road, Massachusetts Review, Black Warrior Review, Quarterly West, Northwest Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Third Coast, Willow Springs, Seattle Review, Sleeping Fish, and Unsaid, as well as online at 5_Trope, Pindeldyboz, elimae, failbetter, and taint.