When Little Sis Drowned, Mama Turned Into A Fish And Papa Turned To A Coal Train – David Henson [Fiction]

Granny says Mama meant to turn herself into a mermaid so she could still hug me after my little sister drowned, but Mama’s guilt was so big, she accidentally went too far and became a goldfish. 

Mama was in bed with all the shades tight cause of one of her grains. Granny said it wasn’t Mama’s fault what happened. It was God’s will the sky cracked and swelled the creek out back. I’m not old enough yet to understand God’s will. Why it would have something in it like Little Sis drowning is a puzzle. Uncle Otis didn’t have anything like that in his will. All it said was Papa got the truck. 

Mama lives in a little bowl now. Papa keeps it on his bed stand at night. Mornings he sets it on the kitchen table and sprinkles in a pinch of food before he goes to the salt mines. Every day he tells me not to give Mama any more food, or she’ll eat herself to death. Don’t ask me why a fish’ll eat itself to death, but not drink itself to death. Granny says she prays every day that Mama won’t. 

Granny says Papa always wanted to be a musician. He started working at the salt mines so he could get a sacks phone. Then I came along, then Little Sis. By the time Papa got his horn, he was knee deep in salt because of us.

We used to have fun when Papa played. My favorite was Here Come The Saints or something like that. Papa’d blast it out while Mama held onto his waist, and I gripped Mama’s, and Little Sis looped her fingers in my belt. We’d snake around the house whooping, singing and kicking. 

Papa don’t make that kind of music anymore. Wouldn’t be as much fun anyways. You can’t do much of a snake with three. Not even three cause of Granny’s hip.

Nowadays Papa only blows songs by a Coal Train. Just the slow ones that shimmer blue. John Coal Train seems like a strange name to me, but I’m little. Like I said, I don’t even understand God’s will yet. 

Granny says fish can’t hear, but they can feel the water vibrate. I reckon that means when Papa plays, Mama’s whole world quivers. 



By David Henson



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