Last Saturday I wrote this post about revealing the process of beginning a story to finishing it. This is a story that I have been working on for some time. I’m really invested in it, and really want it to be good. I’ve already begun the process in this story, but I think it still counts as “revealing my process” because of my attachment to it, and the fact that it’s still under construction.
I am open to suggestions and comments. If you’ve read this in an earlier version, let me know.
Don’t be nice. Be helpful.
Grandpa’s fingers were separating the edible parts of a frog. The frog was only kind of dead. His fingers bent and popped its sinewy limbs, separating the body from its parts. The nearly departed performed a table marionette’s dance for me, wasting its breathless performance on a child who had not yet learned to appreciate nuance.
The kitchen walls were old smoker’s teeth. Age and abuse made them sweat yellow. I ignored a small splashing sound coming from an old bucket next to the refrigerator.
“Don’t trust them boys out there, little girl. They ain’t worth shit, and they don’t know shit.”
Grandpa spat the words onto a stunned frog’s half open body. If it had been more alive, I wouldn’t have been certain he was speaking to me. This was the beginning of another story to get hung up inside me. It would dry against my ribs. Another story I couldn’t repeat.
My grandparents fought hard when they were together. If I closed my eyes when he spoke, I saw my grandmother wielding a cast iron skillet in one hand, a pot of boiling water in the other. He rocks away from the water and is bludgeoned by eight pounds of Calphalon weaponry. These stories made me sad the way a woman is sad.
“She’d knock me on my ass then yell at me for making too much noise.”
Grandpa shook his head, looked to his walls. He remembered when these walls were white. I wondered when yellow happened, how yellow happened. Dead frogs don’t read your mind, and sometimes grandpas are only kind of alive.
SPLASH. The bucket turned over feeding the floor a small flood of lake water and a live catfish. The water raced outward toward dirt-filled crannies, cleaning places that caught what no one else could reach. We watched the catfish struggle for air or the opposite of air, spastically flipping from side to side, end to end. When it stopped moving, gills still fluttering, Grandpa picked it up with both hands, sat it in front of me.
He bent the fish into itself until there was an audible pop. I continued to hear a phantom splash.
I was angry with my grandfather the way a learned child is angry. These animals had eyes, and far as I knew, ears. Why did I have to listen? Grandpa broke and ate everything that might love him. I didn’t want to learn to do the same.
I was gutting a fish like a man, and it was another thing I had to know. Knowing was a thread stitching you to a moment. I would always know how to gut a catfish in a frog’s grave. I was sewn into his regrets. I would always be angry about it.
When he laced his fingers and turned his elbows out, ready to release tension and air built up between his knuckles and palms, I covered my ears and begged him not to.
I couldn’t take another pop.