Small Shiny Fish

Broken Pencil - - Table Contents - by Dou­glas W. Mil­liken …


Boys are stupid. And here’s the proof. Be­cause maybe three Tues­days ago, right, I was float­ing an in­ner tube down the Guadalupe since it’s sum­mer and ev­ery­one tubes down the river in the sum­mer­time and who cares if they’re all in groups and I’m by my­self, what­ever, I like the wa­ter and the sandy banks and all the lean­ing trees and the sunny flashes on the river’s rip­ples and be­low the rip­ples, too, what might be fish or might be empty bot­tles of Lone Star or Mich­e­lob or Fire­man 4 half­way buried in the bot­tom.

My gram says it’s healthy for a girl to be alone some­times. And fuck it, it’s nice hav­ing a break from be­ing seen for a change, with my old bikini bot­toms saggy and my ass hid­den any­way be­neath the wa­ter. It’s like be­ing at home in your favourite played-out robe. Only out­doors. And with wa­ter.

So any­way, part­way down the river I saw this rocky sand­bar pok­ing out to make some kind of bend, so I beached my­self to pee in the bushes be­cause pee­ing in the wa­ter is gross — you’re still pee­ing in your swim­suit, you know, still

piss­ing your­self — and af­ter I peed, I de­cided that since here I was with all these stones ev­ery­where, I ought to build a lit­tle mon­u­ment for my­self, mark my pres­ence in the world like a lit­tle check­mark in the his­tory books. You know the sort of thing I mean. It’s kind of a hip­pie thing, yeah, but fuck it, maybe I’m a hip­pie. And any­way, if you act like a hip­pie and no one’s around to see, does that even count? Who cares.

I know some peo­ple get real ar­chi­tec­tural with their mon­u­ments, mak­ing arches or scales or so they look like they defy grav­ity when in fact what they’re do­ing is demon­strat­ing grav­ity, but I wanted to keep mine sim­ple. Just three. Big. Rocks. In a stack. It felt mean­ing­ful with­out my hav­ing to jus­tify the mean­ing. You have no idea what a gift that is, to for just one minute, not have to ex­plain your­self.

A big square rock was al­ready dug in by the wa­ter’s edge, so that was easy enough. And I was able to roll over a sec­ond rock that looked like a squashed meat­ball, so that wasn’t bad ei­ther. But the third one was part buried in the silt with wa­ter swoosh­ing in white fins over all its nice straight lines. It was shaped like some­thing maybe Pi­casso would have painted. It was heavy. And the suc­tion from the river was fight­ing back, slurp­ing the rock tightly into the silt. But I was do­ing it! I al­most had it.

So of course, it had to be right then — while I’m squat­ting knee-deep in the wa­ter and wrestling with a rock — that this flotilla of bro-dudes came tub­ing by, which I’m sure must’ve looked real fuck­ing at­trac­tive to them. First they all whooped and hollered, and then one dude with blonde corn­rows pad­dled over and was all like, “Miss, let me help you with that,” like he was some fuck­ing gen­tle­man or some­thing. And you know, I tried to tell him no. I mean, I straight-up told him, “No, thank you. I got this,” but he just tossed his in­ner tube up onto the sand­bar and bent down across from me and put his hands over my hands where I had hold of the rock, so it looked like we were lift­ing it to­gether. But re­ally, he was do­ing the lift­ing. And crush­ing my fin­gers.

When he fi­nally pulled that weird art-rock out of the silt and bal­anced it on the meat­ball rock, the dude stepped back and ad­mired “our” work and said as much, like, “Now that’s a sweet mon­u­ment, wouldn’t you say?”

And yeah, the boy was cute and his abs were nice to look at and I liked the tat­too he had up by his clav­i­cle — it looked like a tribal X with a Z scoot­ing out of it — but fuck that guy, this wasn’t my mon­u­ment any­more. It was only part mine now, and part his, too. And I didn’t want my part any­more. It was stupid and round and it would al­ways be un­der­neath his. The whole point was to be here and to be alone and this gor­geous but­t­hole had ru­ined it. I wanted to erase him, rub him out ‘til there was noth­ing left, but he stayed stand­ing there, chest puffed out with a Rover-dog grin plas­tered all over his face. He wasn’t go­ing to leave un­til I re­sponded.

So I said yes, and said thank you and showed him my teeth as if it meant the same as smil­ing — be­cause it wasn’t enough that he’d fucked up my day, I had to thank him for it, too, I had to be gra­cious—and Sir Gala­had beamed and said, “Plea­sure was all mine,” and only then did he re­join his pla­toon of hoot­ing, Bud-chug­ging mo­rons bob­bing down the river and fi­nally — fi­nally — leave me alone.

But, I sup­pose this could be con­sid­ered some kind of in­stant ret­ri­bu­tion. You know? Serves. me. right. That’s some­thing my gram would say, too. Leave the mon­u­ments to the men, Honey­bear. Stay home and cover up. Right. Of course. And they say you shouldn’t make stacks like that any­more any­way. It fucks with the ecosys­tem. Distresses and con­fuses the teensy minds of small shiny fish. And I’ve al­ways had a soft spot for those flit­ting sil­ver no­bod­ies, un­der­bit­ten and walleyed and never know­ing if this — this right now — is the mo­ment when some­thing much big­ger and hun­grier than them might de­cide it’s time for a bite.

IT was stupid and round and it would al­ways be un­der­neath his..

The whole point was to be here and to be alone and this gor­geous but­t­hole had ru­ined it..

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