The Fish

On the surface my maternal grandparents differed little from my paternal grandparents, except that my mother's parents were Baptist. Grandpa Kenneth worked at Ethyl for most of his life, just like my grandfather John. He also created streamlines to the oil refining process. However, John Samuel Day worked for Ethyl exclusively in Baton Rouge, but Kenneth Rollins spent many years working in Odessa, Texas. Both of my grandmothers, Irene Rollins and Wilma Day, were homemakers. Both sets of grandparents lived in really nice homes my grandfathers designed and built. Their personalities contrasted sharply, however.

While John passed his free time painting and working around the house, Kenneth preferred to be in the great outdoors. Irene worked with ceramics, for which she won Best of Show repeatedly at the largest ceramics club exhibitions here. She also read novels voraciously. Wilma always wanted to go into business. She was somewhat bitter about the treatment of women in the Southern United States, treatment that prevented her from attending college and fulfilling her dreams. She spent her free time socializing, keeping an immaculate house, and praying. Kenneth and Wilma were the two most devout people I have ever known, but all of my grandparents were really good people.

John and Wilma took care of me for years when I was a small child. I stayed with Kenneth and Irene a fraction of the time, but because of that I was always wildly happy at the opportunity to do so. Kenneth had a camp on the southern portion of the Amite River. Originally the camp was on land, but eventually, because of flooding, he built a house boat. We often went tot he camp and stayed the weekend in the house boat when I got to stay with he and Irene.

A few years ago I thought I encountered a panther in some deep woods in the Felicianas. Research indicated all the panthers died out or were driven away before I was born. I found that information extremely odd considering my experiences staying in the house boat. Late at night, now and then, one could hear what sounded like the scream of a husky woman. My grandpa told me that was a panther howl. I can't imagine he lied to me, and if that's not what it was then I can't imagine what it could have been.

The development of South Louisiana had yet to take off when I was still young. Vast forests covered large portions of what is now called Baton Rouge and is covered with parking lots and strip malls. The area around the house boat was as wild as it gets. These days the only places left like that are in the Atchafalaya, but back then we could fly down the river for miles in a boat and never see any sign of another human being. Grandpa Kenneth believed in the old ways. He picked a great place to keep the old ways alive.

We always fished for what we ate when we spent time at the camp. Irene loved saccalait. She fished for those for many hours from the edge of the house boat, and she must have had a good idea of peak hours because she hauled in quite a few. Unfortunately she was very good at catching eels too, and we both hated those. My grandpa set trout lines in the late afternoon as soon as we got to the camp, and again the next day. We'd go out in the boat and check those not long after daylight. The haul from those lines kept the freezers in Baton Rouge filled with catfish.

I spent enough time on the river to know when we had fish on the line, and when we had snagged a log or something else undesirable. One morning we were checking lines and I grabbed one that felt nothing like I had felt before. We pulled the boat out along the line until we discovered what it was. It was a catfish, one like I have never seen since except in photographs. My grandfather and I had a hard time getting this fish in the boat. I believe I was eight years old at the time. This catfish was bigger than I was. We knew nobody would believe it if we just told them, so we took lots of pictures. I don't think it could have swallowed me whole, but it definitely could have taken my leg.

I will always have great memories of the times I spent fishing on the Amite River. Those days came to an end within a few years. Besides my mother, my maternal grandparents also had two sons, my uncles. One night my younger uncle, Douglas, was out on the river and drowned. I very nearly drowned in the super fast current of that river myself, so I know that it was no difficult thing for the river to take someone's life.

To make a sad event even sadder, nobody knew Doug was out on the river. It took almost a week for his body to be found. I was with Irene and Kenneth when the news came; grief is a palpable pain. Kenneth sold the camp and the house boat and the boat and all their fishing gear, and never went fishing again. Irene had a sadness in her eyes the rest of her life.

Doug always called me Chopper. It was because I loved guns and spent so much time shooting. He wasn't a big man, but he was very strong. He managed to lift that fish Kenneth and I landed up into the air behind me all by himself, so we could take a picture, he and I and the fish. The fish really stole the focus of the shot away from us, it being nearly as big as Doug even. Curiously, I remember Doug more for all the people he knew in Austin, but we'll always have the picture with that fish.


I apologize to any readers who have caught my posts before every error was eradicated. In the past I never let any errors slip through, or caught them right away. I am off the grid right now, so when I figure out I have posted something with a mistake I can't fix it right away. It feels sloppy posting an error. It makes me feel dirty, in a bad way. I think I'm going to try to be more careful in the future, and read what I have written before I post it. I never had to do that in the past, but things change, and so must I.


I recently wrote about some sort of altercation that occurred with the front of the house as the epicenter. If you are reading this, then Off to the Races may have been taken down. I'm still pondering it's worth. Before I had written that I had decided that while there were certainly a number of fights, what I saw and what happened were completely different. I was unwittingly baked beyond all human comprehension at the time. Maybe the things I saw were the result of feeling the vibe in the air between certain people. Maybe here's a darkness in me so large it could swallow the Eastern seaboard. There's no way to be certain. I am certain that what I saw did not take place in the earthly realm, so let's just call it imagination.

The altercation that took place happened quickly and unexpectedly. None of the parties involved struck any sort of cord of recognition, however, shortly after it commenced it became clear it was a fight between good and evil. Maybe that should have clued me in that my mind was not functioning normally. But I have always been one to see and experience as much of life as possible. So I was outside, where it was dangerous, and that fact had to be true on every level.

There was a beautiful Asian woman squatting down amid a long row of blooming butterfly ginger. Every few seconds one of the gibbering underlings I identified as fighting for evil ran down the sidewalk, and past the butterfly ginger. The Asian woman sprang to her feet each time, and with a hand held crescent moon blade beheaded each and every one of them, which took three or four seconds. There was a pile of heads collecting neatly between the sidewalk and the street.

I walked down the sidewalk, but did not notice the heads or the woman until I was right on top of it all. She smiled at me right before she beheaded another. The man's head fell into a mud puddle. His mouth open and closed, vainly sucking for air for a second or two, before it rolled face down into the shallow water. The ginger flowers smelled delicious. 

There was blood on my shirt from from the violence. I have not washed the shirt yet. The blood is still there.

Witnessing that, whatever it was, dream, hallucination, message from God, message from a devil, sent me into sort of a trance. I can't fight at all, but when somebody stepped in front of me as I walked back to the driveway I caught him around the neck with my elbow and threw my body forward and squatted. I heard his head hit the pavement with a sickening thump. People were yelling at me, “He was trying to protect you!!”

I felt nauseous down to my toes and headed for my front door. Across the street a kid I know (somebody in his younger twenties), must have had a small knife. He broke down somebody's defenses and cut holes in the man's cheeks before blinding him in one eye. I've never seen a beheading before, but that sort of nasty street fighting is something I did witness numerous times when I was in college. Thankfully the mean streets of Baton Rouge are a thousand times safer these days than when I was young; young people don't deserve to see such things.

I'm never going to write about all the things I saw. For one thing, I knew most of it wasn't real, and I have no interest in relaying stupid games my subconscious might play. For another thing, even I got bored, and if it bored me I can't imagine what sort of negative reaction a reader might have. Lastly, I tried to tune a lot of it out, and so I missed a lot of details that would have made the following events into a coherent story. I tried to paint a vague outline, but the details all strike me as stupid, and so I deleted it. There is one thing I'd like to mention though.

My paternal grandfather died when I was six years old. He and my grandmother were raisin me at the time. He taught me how to speak, how to whistle like birds, how to make my bed, straighten up, get cleaned up and brush my teeth, from the age of two. He taught me how to read, and was teaching me to draw when he passed away. He was a brilliant artist, although he worked in the petrochemical industry here most of his life (work for which he received numerous awards for innovation). I think my ability to draw was stunted because of his abrupt absence; my abilities never progressed beyond what they were at the age of six.

There was a chair in our living room on Archery Drive that grandfather would sit in early in the morning. After I would wake up, make the bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, I would walk into the living room. I would walk straight to the chair to see him. I could not see him sitting in the chair as I approached from the bedrooms. He was a small man, and it was a large chair, but he would always be there when I woke up. And we would begin the experiences of another wonderful day on God's green earth, as such is every day when one is a child.

After grandfather passed away, for a long time I walked to the chair in the living room hoping he would be there again, but he never was. It was just an empty chair. Whenever I passed crowds of people I would look for him, but I never saw him again. I never forgot him. I never forgot his face or the way he walked.

On the night of October 4th I received a message from my father and grandfather. It was not a message in the conventional sense. I have no desire to relate the manner in which I received the message, nor the contents thereof. I will say that there was one overriding, imperative theme. Life is power. Life is power. Everything else I experienced that night stands out like a hollow tall tale told by jaded old men sitting around a campfire whiling away the time until sleep comes to clean the slate.

Life is power. I'll probably write an explanation as to why that phrase holds special meaning for me, but for now it is enough just to say it. There is no power in death. Life is the only show in town.

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Related written works at Angelfire, Sex Symbols, Cymbals of Silence.Repent or Die